The Midterm Barometer: How New Jersey and Virginia can set the stage for 2018 elections

in Editorial/Opinion by

I know midterms aren’t for another year. I’m sorry, I can’t resist. The reason I point this out is that Virginia and New Jersey have their gubernatorial elections, while the Utah 3rd District is up for grabs. Recently, I’ve written articles about Alabama and early projections, but Virginia, and to a lesser extent New Jersey, are bellwether states that usually give an indicator as to how well parties may do in the midterms. 

I would like to stress that reading too much into these races is foolhardy. These are not standalone elections but should be read as part of the grand narrative that 2017 special elections have written. Democrats have outperformed their polling averages by about eight percentage points. Currently, the Real Clear Politics polling average has Lt. Governor Northam defeating challenger Ed Gillespie by two points in Virginia, while challenger Phil Murphy is crushing Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno by fifteen points. If the outperforming trend continues, Northam will win by ten and Murphy by twenty-three. 

Again, these aren’t perfect. Unless New Jersey is won by less than ten points, it isn’t as notable as Virginia. Governor Chris Christie is barely in double digits for approval and Guadagno hasn’t been able to escape the Christie label and guilt by association. Virginia, on the other hand, is much more telling. If Northam wins by less than five or six points, that could indicate that Republicans are able to fight back in certain states. If Northam wins by thirteen or fourteen, this could signal an excellent year for the Democrats. 

I wish political forecasting was much easier and that I had more information. At the very least, that House districts were not gerrymandered to such a horrific degree. The best chance for the Democrats to increase their chances for a majority is tracking polling averages state-by-state with high enthusiasm.  

I am going to again spotlight Alabama, for two reasons. Firstly, Jones is running the campaign that Democrats need to run in unfriendly states with disturbing candidates. This under-the-radar approach fires up the Democratic base minimizes the risk of motivating the Republicans and can win over independents. Organizing at the grassroots level should be at a premium for campaign strategists. 

Secondly, Democratic hopes are not at all lost in Alabama. Is a Jones victory possible? Yes, but not probable. Support from the DNC and emphasizing his impressive civil rights record will be mandatory. If Murphy wins by twenty and Northam wins by fifteen, then Jones will win in Alabama.