Politics

Midterm Canaries: Races to Watch for Early Trends


On Politics With Lisa Lerer

Midterm Canaries: Races to Watch for Early Trends

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  • Nov. 5, 2018

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

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I’m writing today’s newsletter from a cross-country flight, which seems oddly fitting given that we’re less than 24 hours (!) from Election Day.

I’m coming back to New York Times HQ after spending a couple days in Arizona, chatting with voters, loving me some 80-degree days and digging into the Senate race, which has grown really tight in the final days.

Of course, we won’t know the results in Arizona until pretty late (polls close at 9 p.m. EST), but we will have an idea of how the country is going much earlier. How? Welcome to a little secret of political analysis, something I’m going to call "canary races.” (You know, like the canary in the coal mine. So clever, right?)

These are the places we’ll be watching to get an idea, even before much of the country finishes voting, of the answers to all the big political questions we’ve been asking for well over a year. Generally, they’re eastern states with polls that close relatively early in the evening.

The canary races are the first time — after so much speculation — that we will get actual facts about the outcome of these elections.

So, let’s get down to it. Here are our canaries:

The blue wave? Both Kentucky’s Sixth District and the Seventh District in Virginia are pretty red places where Republicans should cruise to victory. But “should” is the key word here. On Election Day eve, our polls show both races nearly tied. If the Republicans lose, that will give us an early sign that Democrats just might pull off their blue wave.

Whither the Senate? The Senate has gotten surprisingly tight in the final days, with neck-and-neck races in Nevada, Arizona, Missouri and Indiana. The first to close is Indiana, at 6 p.m. EST. But polls in parts of the state close an hour later, including the historically Democratic southwest section. (Some of the state is in the Central time zone. Nothing can ever be easy, right?)

Given that several of the biggest Senate races are out west, we could be in for a long night. So, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the size of the Republican turnout in the early Indiana results to get a sense of how the Senate may be trending.

Did health care matter? Democrats have staked much their electoral success on health care, arguing with near singular focus that they would protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. New Jersey’s Third District provides an excellent distillation of that debate, with the Republican Representative Tom MacArthur, a former insurance company executive and an author of the House’s health care bill, up for re-election. Results in the tight race will give us clues to the effectiveness of the Democratic line.

Will women rule? Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican in Virginia’s 10th District, is expected to lose her re-election bid. What we want to see is by how much. Her Northern Virginia district is home to many of the affluent, college-educated suburban women who’ve powered the Democrats throughout these elections. If they come out in force to defeat Ms. Comstock, Republicans could be in for a rough evening.

And with that, I’m signing off until polls close.

Our reporters are fanned out across the country covering the final moments of the election. I’ll be helming our running story on election night, so follow along for all the breaking news. Also, don’t freak out, but the election night needle — yes, that one — will be back!

I’ve really loved following these midterms with you all. Thank you so much for all your questions, stories and suggestions.

O.K., now I’m starting to get emotional. But this isn’t goodbye. I’ll see you all on the other side. xoxo!

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Did you volunteer for a campaign last weekend? Are you working the polls Election Day? Tell us about it! Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com. We’ll pick a few stories to share tomorrow.

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In the past few weeks, we’ve featured daily updates from The Times’s live polling project. Now that the big day is nearly here, Nate Cohn and the Upshot team sent us a few closing thoughts:

Occasionally, I like imagining that our polls are *exactly* right. They’re not, obviously. But let’s say they were: Over all, Democrats would gain 32 House seats, assuming form held in the places we didn’t poll. And you’d have four races within 1,000 votes: New Mexico’s Second, Utah’s Fourth, Kentucky’s Sixth and Maine’s Second, including a 130-vote margin in the New Mexico race.

We polled many places twice. On average across our surveys, Democrats did three percentage points better in the second go-rounds than in the initial polls.

But it’s so close over all: Across our 28 polls in districts rated as tossups by the Cook Political Report, we have the Democrats leading by around half a point in aggregate.

[Here’s the inside story on how The Upshot’s live polling project came about, and what it took to run it.]

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Two vastly different outcomes remain plausible for the House. There could be a Democratic blowout. Or there could be a district-by-district battle that goes very, very late.

Be careful of rumors and hoaxes about the voting and polling places. Here are six types of misinformation to beware on Election Day.

Florida’s two biggest Democrats are a centrist and a progressive. How they do could tell us a lot about the party’s future.

President Trump is closing out a campaign built on dark themes of fear, anger, division, nationalism and racial animosity.

Nearly 1 in 10 of Kentucky adults — and 1 in 3 African-American men — is banned from voting for life because of a past felony. It’s the nation’s highest rate of black disenfranchisement.

And from Opinion …

Unpacking why Americans don’t vote, how blockchain technology could boost voter participation and why you should pay attention to ballot initiatives (they may be even more powerful than you thought).

Voting in New York or New Jersey? Let us help. Here’s a rundown of New York Times endorsements.

Now that you’ve seen how we feel about the candidates, we want to know how you feel. We’ve created an interactive map that allows you to record your feelings in real time during Election Day. Share your reaction tomorrow and see how others across the country feel.

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Vote! Vote! Vote! (Did we mention? Don’t forget to vote.)

Here are our guides on how to vote, and how to throw an election night party (if you dare). Nice work, by the way, to the millions of you who’ve already cast ballots!

You can listen to one of these election playlists on your way to the polls. (Spotify has one for every state!) My Election Day jam? Mr. November by The National.

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Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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