Dems Raise Record Amount, Bagging a 96.6 Percent Chance of Retaking the House

Dems Raise Record Amount, Bagging a 96.6 Percent Chance of Retaking the House

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the media during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on September 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.

SourceMark Wilson/Getty

Why you should care

Because the odds of a Speaker Pelosi redux are growing.

Like a rolling thunder, the fundraising reports delivered a loud statement for Democratic House contenders: Sharice Davids in Kansas with $2.7 million, Lauren Underwood in Illinois had $1.9 million, Leslie Cockburn in Virginia with $2.4 million, and on and on.

The wide campaign cash advantage means Democrats now have a 96.6 percent chance of retaking the House of Representatives — their strongest position yet, according to OZY’s exclusive election forecasting model in partnership with Republican data and technology firm 0ptimus. Democrats are projected to take 234 seats, a six-seat improvement over last week.

The Q3 reports are included in this update, and boy did they leave a dent.

Alex Alduncin, 0ptimus data scientist

“The Q3 reports are included in this update, and boy did they leave a dent,” says Alex Alduncin, data scientist for 0ptimus. “House Democrats had their best midterm fundraising quarter ever. They outraised Republicans by more than a 2-to-1 margin. There are still plausible simulations in our confidence interval with Republicans maintaining the House by one or two seats, but they are very unlikely as of now.”

But money isn’t everything. Republicans’ hold on the Senate took a bit of a dent, as they now have an 86.5 percent chance of capturing at least 50 seats for a majority, but we still project them to come away with 52 GOP senators come January. For example, Beto O’Rourke raised a stunning $38 million in Texas but still has just a 38.5 percent chance of taking out Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

In partnership with Washington-based consulting firm 0ptimus, we crunched more than 100 factors that helped predict past elections, with extra weighting for unique aspects of this political year, to produce these forecasts. For more on how these numbers were derived, scroll down to the box below. For more exclusive election coverage, subscribe to our Midterms in a Minute newsletter.

When compared with some other forecasting models, OZY and 0ptimus are more bullish on Democratic chances to seize the House in part because we give extra weight to small-dollar donations (a sign of a candidate’s grassroots enthusiasm) and put less emphasis on outside money (where Republicans continue to hold an advantage).

In addition to the money chase, generic ballot polls also improved this week for Democrats. The national political environment now favors them by 7.8 percentage points — Democrats’ first improvement after more than a month of Republican gains that coincided with the brutal fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

But this week’s movement was mostly about following the money. In all, 68 House seats moved by more than 5 percentage points and 21 moved by more than 10 percent — nearly all toward Democrats. With two weeks to go, there is still time for the political math to shift. In Republicans’ favor is an increasingly popular President Donald Trump, who, at 47 percent approval in the most recent NBC News poll, is in better political shape than Barack Obama at this point in 2010. And if we’ve learned anything in the past three years, it’s to expect the unexpected.

As part of our extensive on-the-ground coverage of races across the U.S. this year, OZY wanted to build a better product to analyze the national political picture — given the failure of such forecasts in the past. So we decided to team up with Washington-based 0ptimus, a Republican firm that developed an unbiased, nonpartisan prediction model to show its clients in both politics and finance where the winds appear to be blowing.

0ptimus’ data team created and tested countless models, crunching publicly available data against past results in House and Senate races. They take into account more than 100 variables, including past vote totals, generic ballot surveys of which party voters prefer in Congress, the unemployment rate, fundraising data and public polling. The firm developed an artificial intelligence system to “smartly” average together several models to produce the strongest prediction numbers for the 2018 elections, automatically testing against past elections to assess quality. You can read more about the 0ptimus methodology here.

Given the unique factors in 2018, we asked 0ptimus to tweak its calculations, adding weight to:

  • The number of small donations — a sign of energy for candidates from Trump to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • Gender — women are doing exceptionally well this year, and we expect that trend to continue.
  • Trump’s approval rating — he hangs over the political and media scene with a heavier presence than past presidents.

Meanwhile, we asked 0ptimus to reduce the weight for:

  • Candidate ideology — its calculations rewarded more moderate candidates, while we think this election year is all about firing up the base.
  • Outside money — as OZY has reported, advertising is less persuasive coming from a super PAC than from a candidate.

Because 0ptimus averages several models, it agreed to introduce a new Bayesian model into the mix just for OZY that includes Trump’s approval, gender and unitemized donations while removing one that included ideology and independent expenditures. The result is the numbers we update for you each week.

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