First Cut: 7 Polling and Elections Lessons From 2014

2000 Gore Florida

Well, Dear Readers, that went well. If you’re like me, you are probably a little sleep-deprived from a truly epic Election Night, and a detailed walk through the data will have to wait a bit (votes are still being counted, so margins of victory will be a bit of a moving target for the next week). But I have expended a lot of time and energy reading and analyzing polls for you these last six weeks, and a little bit of a victory lap is in order.

My final elections column predicted that Republicans would gain (net) 8 Senate seats and 2 Governorships, and at this writing we are at R+8 in the Senate (likely R+9 after the Louisiana runoff, with a theoretical but probably not real possibility that a recount flips Virginia to Ed Gillespie) and R+2 in the Governorships (they’re still counting votes in Alaska, but Sean Parnell seems to have joined Tom Corbett as the only GOP incumbents to lose). My guiding theory over the course of the campaign (with a hat tip to Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics for many of the key insights) was that Democratic candidates – especially in the Senate – would lose badly with undecided voters and be drawn down towards Obama’s low approval ratings, and with the partial exception of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Jeanne Shaheen6%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard6%‘s survival in New Hampshire, that’s mostly what happened. I thought Kansas voters stood a good chance of coming home to save Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Pat Roberts93%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard93% and Sam Brownback despite their low poll standing, and they did. I flagged the Virginia Senate and Maryland Governor’s races as the most likely to surprise outside the usual margin of error due to late momentum, and they were the biggest shockers of the night, with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mark Warner2%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard2% not pulling narrowly ahead of Gillespie until the wee hours after having a double digit lead for the whole campaign, and Larry Hogan beating Anthony Brown after also trailing by double digits …read more    

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