Posted by Dick Hall

Rusty Atwood (L-R in photo at left: Rusty Atwood and L. Sandy Maisel) gave an extensive introduction of our speaker so we were all very aware of his background and expertise in the field of political analysis. When he took the podium, Portland Rotary was again treated to the insights of Colby professor and noted author, L. Sandy Maisel. Sandy started by telling us he was surprised to be invited back after so many of his predictions in 2016 did not come true. He did remind us several times, that even if there is a significant chance of winning, there is still insignificant chances of losing.

Sandy discussed the present Republican majority in the House and the expected changes in the upcoming election. Based on a review of history, he told us not to expect a large change after the midterms, as the predictions are that 27-44 seats will change, leaving the house with a Democratic majority of four seats. He explained that there are two basic theories in this election, the first being it is a referendum on Donald Trump and the second being a typical reversion to the mean, from the extremes. Key issues in the election are Trump, health care & drug prices, immigration, taxes and jobs. Depending on the location in the country, the priority shifts dramatically.

Trump’s strategy of supporting senators in areas he was strong, is a perfectly rational strategy and has a strong chance of resulting in a Republican Senate, thereby giving him the ability to claim he was the reason for the win. Trump probably realizes that Republicans cannot hold the House, and he does not want to be associated with a loss.

Sandy told us that the Democrats have an 87% chance of winning the House and the Republicans have an 86% chance of winning the Senate. He again cautioned that this means there is a 1 in 7 chance that either of those predictions will be wrong. Democrats are in trouble in the Senate because small states have equal power to big states, and small rural states poll as having immigration and the Kavanaugh nomination being top issues for them. Trump campaigning on those issues will probably be a winning strategy.

Most of the current political prognosticators are giving House predictions of 204 wins for Democrats, 197 wins for Republicans and 34 races still considered toss-ups. The expectation is that Democrats will win a few more toss-ups, resulting in taking control of the House. Sandy’s prediction is the Democrats will win the House by 10 and the Republicans will end with 53 in the Senate.

Sandy moved on to the governors races, which he predicted will move toward the Democrats, with potential major changes in Alabama and Florida. He told us that the reason that governors races are important is that the states control the creation of districts. Gerrymandering, manipulating the electoral boundaries to favor one party, has become a very significant factor in elections. It creates winning districts, and also tends to increase polarization of the electorate. With a 2020 census, districts will be redrawn by the governors elected this time.


(Photo L-R: Rusty Atwood, L. Sandy Maisel and President John Curran.)