Reason Podcast

How Much Don't We Know About the Midterms?: Podcast

Polling uncertainty and a surge in voter enthusiasm could make tomorrow an embarrassing day for many in the political class.


#ItBegins ||| Texas Secretary of State
Texas Secretary of State

Are you ready for the next 30 hours or so of political hysteria, spoiler-hunting, and supremely confident innumeracy? Then you're in the right place! Today's editor-roundtable midterms-preview edition of the Reason Podcast includes, thank Jeebus, Managing Editor Stephanie Slade, who has forgotten more about polling than most of us will ever know. Slade leads us in walking through the numbers and potential meanings of massive early-voting turnout, shaky state-level polls, and the built-in uncertainty of (justifiably!) basing this year's election forecasts on last cycle's voter behavior. It's unknowable out there, kids, so don't fall for early exit polls.

The usual crew of Katherine Mangu-Ward, Nick Gillespie, and yours truly also pick out races of note, discuss the implications of President Donald Trump's hard pivot to caravan/immigration politics in the homestretch, talk smack about Daylight Saving Time, and in open defiance of Slade make a series of probably disastrous predictions for Election Day.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

'Three Stories' by Blue Dot Sessions is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Relevant links from the show:

"Tomorrow Is the Most Important Election of Our Lifetime. Don't Let Trump Denialists Tell You Otherwise," by Shikha Dalmia

"This Isn't the Most Important Election of Your Lifetime. Not Even Close," by David Harsanyi

"The Most Important Election of Our Lives?" by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"It's OK Not to Vote," by Katherine Mangu-Ward

"Control of the Senate Could Depend on These 10 Races," by Joe Setyon

"10 House Races Libertarians Should Watch on Election Night," by Eric Boehm & Zuri Davis

"Donald Trump Fails to Confront the Truth About the Migrant Caravan," by Shikha Dalmia

"Trump's Executive Order Ending Birthright Citizenship Is All About the Midterms," by Eric Boehm

"Republicans Whip Up Pre-Midterm Fears With Lies About Invading Migrant Caravan," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"How Third Parties Are Getting Screwed This Election Season," by Matt Welch & Alexis Garcia

"Indiana Democrats Encourage Conservatives to Vote for Libertarian Lucy Brenton for Senate," by Matt Welch

"4 More States Could Legalize Medical or Recreational Marijuana Next Week," by Jacob Sullum

"Let Daylight Saving Time Die Already," by Zuri Davis

"Why We Have Daylight Saving Time and Why We Should Scrap It," by Andrew Heaton

Don't miss a single Reason Podcast! (Archive here.)

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  1. How Much Don’t We Know About the Midterms?:
    Polling uncertainty and a surge in voter enthusiasm could make tomorrow an embarrassing day for many in the political class.

    Like the Democrat certainly of election 2016, they know that they are gonna lose big in election 2018. The Lefties just wont admit it. Even after the Lefties lost big in election 2016, they still would not admit it.

  2. If Rasmussan isn’t smoking crack, the Democrats are in big trouble.…

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds that 46% would choose the Republican candidate if the elections for Congress were held today. Forty-five percent (45%) would vote for the Democrat. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) remain undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

    1. RCP Average 10/13 – 11/3 — 49.7 (D) 42.4 (R) Democrats +7.3

      It will be close due to gerrymandering and election hijinks

      1. The RCP average includes polls that are completely wrong. The dearth of good polling at the district level makes it virtually worthless.

        The Demcorats are certain to lose four or more seats in the Senate. At best they might get a small minority in the House, which will buy them nothing except making crazy screaming monkeys like you the face of the Democratic Party and ensure Trump’s re-election.

        1. The RCP average includes polls that are completely wrong.

          Says the TEAM RED! jackass touting Rasmussen who uses land lines for calls.

          1. And when Rasmussan had the Demcorats up by seven a few weeks ago, i am sure you were claiming it was illegit.

            Back to your enlightening us about Obama releasing terrorists that you claimed were not. Tell us more about that.

            1. Even I admit that that trend is shocking. The trend of a single poll over time is much more meaningful than comparing this poll to that one on absolute margins.

          2. People without land lines don’t vote.

        2. Which four, John? I have them losing in MO, AZ, and NV, and I’m really not sure about those last two. OTOH, it’s not like FL, IN, or hell, MT or WV are set in stone either.

          What would really be hilarious is if that hebephebophile Menendez got his ass handed to him in Jersey.

          1. Manchin came out this weekend and said he was against a state question that would make it illegal to use state funds for abortion. That tells me that he knows he is toast and is just angling for a job after the Senate, because that is political suicide in that state. So I think WV is a certain Republican win.

            I think the Rs hold in Florida, Tennesse and Arizona, then win in Missouri, West Virginia, Indiana, and North Dakota. If they get lucky, they pick up Montana, Nevada and New Jersey or one or two of them. So I think it is from four to seven seats gained.

            1. TN, yep. AZ, they should—Sinema is this side of a Communist—but the polls have been mostly favoring her by 3-4 points. FL, Scott really pissed off a lot of Republican gun enthusiasts with his overreaction in the wake of their school shooting. The logic I’d heard, beyond “Fuck that guy,” was that Nelson could lose in 6 years, and the Senate is unlikely to be as knife-edged as this one was. Whereas once Scott got in office, he’d never be primaried out. Besides, Nelson is older than dirt, and he could easily die in office before his term is up. With a GOP Governor (which isn’t looking likely either) a GOP replacement for Nelson could be appointed.

              Anyway, Nelson has been a consistent 2-4 points ahead in most polls I’ve seen. It could be sampling error, but a more likely explanation IMHO, is that the hurricane, and the resulting influx of Puerto Ricans, really did a number on FL politics.

              I’m surprised that Manchin’s support has evaporated as quickly as you and RCP, which threw him back into the toss-up pile, have indicated. IN should be a GOP win; it will depend on how big a spoiler the Libertarian candidate becomes.

              If it is a seven seat gain for the Republicans in the Senate, then it’ll be a bloodbath for the Democrats in the House races.

              1. The other race that might shock people is Michigan. The black dude is within like five points of the Democrat up there and is a really good candidate.

                1. His name is John James, and yes, he is good.
                  If he wins, my sister-in-law in Ann Arbor is going to go full TDS!

            2. Nevada is already a Republican seat.

        3. The RCP average is generic ballot – it’s polls asking people nationally what party they intend to vote for. It’s not aggregating district level polls.

          They still have issues – they don’t directly tell you how they translate to number of seats won (though you can make reasonable estimates based on the margin), margin of error, bad methodology, etc. But district-level polling isn’t relevant to the accuracy of generic ballot polls.

      2. From around 2009 to 2013, the U.S. intelligence community experienced crippling intelligence failures related to the secret internet-based communications system, a key means for remote messaging between CIA officers and their sources on the ground worldwide. The previously unreported global problem originated in Iran and spiderwebbed to other countries, and was left unrepaired ? despite warnings about what was happening ? until more than two dozen sources died in China in 2011 and 2012 as a result, according to 11 former intelligence and national security officials.

        The disaster ensnared every corner of the national security bureaucracy ? from multiple intelligence agencies, congressional intelligence committees and independent contractors to internal government watchdogs ? forcing a slow-moving, complex government machine to grapple with the deadly dangers of emerging technologies.

        Hell of a job Barry. Hell of a job

        1. Yeah, the intelligence community thrived under the Bushpigs around 9/11 and the “slam dunk” of Iraqi WMD.

          1. And Obama fixed that right? You told us how competent he was and what a great President. Again, hell of a job Barry.

          2. “As good as Bush” is faint praise indeed.

      3. Shrieky-poo the burner email-using hack whines about gerrymandering when it hurts his fellow Democrats.

    2. But they are smoking crack.

      Seeking confirmation bias is no way to go through life.

      1. Yeah tony, Tell us more about Hillary’s blowout win for the Presidency.

        You do realize there is no blue wave? The Democrats are certain to lose four or more seats in the Senate and at best have the chance to get a slim majority in the House. And even that is looking iffy depending on what polls you want to believe. But no one has them winning anymore than that.

        1. Says the person who links only to redstate its ilk without any apparent realization that it all comes with an extremely pro-Republican bias. That one even has it in its name.

          I don’t know what’s gonna happen, and I prefer to be a pessimist. But I don’t get why you think your doing your psyche any favors by only consuming right-wing propaganda bullcrap. Eventually the election actually does happen. I suppose you’ll just ghost for a while and come back with the next round of John wankery.

          1. Facts are a pesky thing. The Democrats are losing ground in the Senate and may or may not take the House by a small margin. I don’t think they are taking the House but I wouldn’t be shocked if they did.

            There will be no blue wave. There will be no repudiation of Trump. He will not be impeached. He will continue to repeal regulations and confirm judges at a blistering pace. And will likely be re-elected in 2020 and continue that for four years after.

            That is the worst case. The best case is that the Democrats don’t take the House and with a larger majority in the Senate, Trump becomes the 800 lbs gorilla of American politics and gets whatever he wants for the next two years and likely beyond.

  3. For you Peanuts that missed it:

    Sarah Palin’s Buttplug|11.5.18 @ 9:55AM|#

    Buttplug Opinion-

    This might be the LEAST important election in recent memory. Why?

    1) The GOP is in such an identity crisis that there is no legislative agenda or conservative threat to concern us
    2) Democrats are a terrible opposition party even if they did capture the House
    3) The Dotard has not completely destroyed the economy yet like the Bushpigs did in 2006-08.
    4) Democrats have no important legislative agenda anyway
    5) When we finally sink into a financial debt crisis let the party in power take the blame

    The Buttplug Letter Nov 2018 issue


      Tell us more about what a bang up job Obama did as President.

    2. Are those five guys Obama let out of GUITMO a concern? Since they have become terrorists again?

    3. One thing we can all bet the farm on: if the democrats do end up taking the House, lying scumbags like you and your buddy Suderman will spend the next couple of years arguing that Nancy Pelosi is the real leader of America and the republicans should just cave in and her whatever she wants.

      1. If the Democrats get a two vote majority in the House, this dipshit will be on here Wednesday arguing that it was the biggest repudiation of a President in history!!

        He is such a waste of space.

        1. We will not be able to see it as Buttplugger’s computer/cell/device washes away from all the tears of not gaining a majority in the House or Senate.

        2. Can’t you people go to some place that is especially reserved for jacking off to the Republican party? All those ridiculous sites you link to, perhaps?

          Your party is in the throes of a white nationalistic fever dream led by an orange lunatic. What the fuck is libertarian about any of that? The fucking tax cuts?

          1. Trump got 30% of the Hispanic vote and currently has a 40% approval rating in the black community.

            Worst white nationalist ever!! Is there anything whiter than an Antia rally Tony?

            1. Now you’re rounding up your bullshit 36% to 40%. He has single-digit approval among blacks. You read bullshit propaganda John. Rasmussen has a terrible track record and a well-known pro-Republican bias, and from what I can tell it’s only included in aggregates to placate people like you. I’ve already linked you to facts about this.

              1. Yes he does


                Stop lying Tony.

                1. You don’t even understand the concept of not seeking confirmation bias, do you? I already linked to a debunking of that crap poll. Or you could just your common fucking sense, if you have any.

  4. >>>It’s unknowable out there

    yet over and over I see here your love for Nate Silver, Prognosticator Extraordinare or Something

    1. There is an 85% chance Katherine Winnick will show up and demand to have sex with me tonight. If that doens’t happen, well long shots happen sometimes.

      This is Nate Silver’s entire carreer in a nutshell.

      1. word. also that Dark Tower movie was atrocious. waited almost 30 years for that?

      2. Stock up on whiskey John, or whatever it is you drink to forget.

        1. Yeah tony I am so concerned. Even if the Democrats do somehow manage to take the House, they won’t have any power to do anything except remind the country just how crazy and stupid they are. Making Maxine Waters the most recognizable Democrat in America ought to work out real well for you crazy fuckers.

          1. Subpoena power ain’t nothing.

            1. Yes it is. Trump wiull just ignore it the way Obama did. The Republicans took the House in 2010 and it got them nothing. Obama ignored their subpeoans and DOJ ignored the requests to enforce them. Eric Holder was declared in contempt of Congress after perjuring himself and it meant exactly jack shit.

              Trump will just follow Obama’s precident. And there will be nothing you can do about it.

              1. Do you think Trump will take a deal to resign if Democrats promise not to expose his tax papers to the public?

            2. “And how many divisions does that subpoena have?”

            3. A Democrat victory in the House does mean that one of theirs steps into third in line of succession. Maybe not Pelosi, or Minority Whip Hoyer though. Both of them were born before WW2 started for the US, for crying out loud. (Aside, where are the young leaders of this party? To borrow from Jeffrey Ross, I’ve seen younger faces on cash.)

              Anyway, thinking of who’s newly eligible in the line of succession sounds crazy, but the way political rhetoric has been heating up the last few years, maybe not impossible to believe.

              1. I don’t know who Jeffrey Ross is, but that is a good line: “I’ve seen younger faces on cash”

  5. Here’s what I know about the midterms from personal observation.

    First, my progressive friends are more motivated to vote than I’ve ever seen them. The outrage we’ve been feeling since Kavanaugh’s confirmation was rushed through? It hasn’t subsided at all. If anything, we’re even more energized than we were a month ago.

    Second, I have never seen as much enthusiasm for an out of state candidate as I have for Beto. His lawn signs and bumper stickers are everywhere! That’s why I’m confident he’ll beat Cruz even though many observers say that race is too close to call since recent polling “only” has him within the margin of error.

    In closing, I urge all libertarians to remember what Shikha Dalmia wrote this morning. Don’t dismiss the importance of this election. The President of the United States is a white nationalist Kremlin asset who’s trying to turn this country into The Handmaid’s Tale. The only acceptable libertarian course of action is to vote in a Democratic Congress that can #Resist him and, hopefully, remove him from office once Mueller concludes his investigation.


    1. When you’re hot, you’re hot, OBLT

      1. Yea, he’s killing it today

    2. Except each person only gets one vote, no matter how outraged they are.

  6. “Are you ready for the next 30 hours or so of political hysteria, spoiler-hunting, and supremely confident innumeracy?”

    Butt hurt, I want to see lots and lots and lots of butt hurt.

    1. I want to see the Democrats lose three or four close Senate races and be left to wonder why they wasted all of that money and coverage time on Beto that could have been spent on candidates who had a chance to win.

      1. No way Democrats go -4 in the Senate.

        ND is lost, MO is the only toss-up.

        FL and IN slightly favor the Dem.

        But Dems are a toss up in AZ and NV to beat incumbent GOPers.

        1. Arizona is not a toss up you moron. Simena has been falling like a rock for months. The only polls that show it a toss up are lagging indicators. She is toast. Missouri is lost for the Dems as well.

          The Democrats are going to lose a minimum of four seats and maybe as many as 8.

          1. The Democrats are going to lose a minimum of four seats and maybe as many as 8.


            And Drumpf will get a Nobel Peace Prize, right?

            1. They did give one to Obama. So, it is not like they are hard to win or require any accomplishments.

          2. RCP Average 10/24 – 11/3 — — 47.6 47.6 Tie
            ABC 15/OH Predictive Insights* 11/2 – 11/3 631 LV 4.0 49 48 McSally +1
            Emerson* 11/1 – 11/3 758 LV 3.7 48 49 Sinema +1
            HarrisX 10/28 – 11/3 1400 LV — 49 43 McSally +6
            Trafalgar Group (R) 10/30 – 11/1 2166 LV 2.1 47 50 Sinema +3


            John, will you go away for a month if the GOP doesn’t pick up four seats in the Senate?

            1. Will you go away forever if they don’t? And the RCP is a collection of aging polls. It is the ultimate lagging indicator. Three fo the last four polls done last weekend have the Republican up including one by six points.

              Your are just fucking retarded. You are too stupid to even post the right talking points.

            2. The average includes older polls you idiot. Look at that Harris poll done this weekend that has McSally up by 6. Only one poll has Sinema up and it is by a single point. Sinema has been falling like a rock for a month now.

              RCP is a laggin indicator, you fucking retard. God you are stupid.

              1. You’re the idiot that guaranteed a Romney win in 2012, John.

                Have you no shame?

                1. Your are the idiot who gairenteed the Democrat seems would hold we sentate in 2014 and a Hillary win I bet 2016. Remember how you thought Trump was going to lose in a landslide?

                  1. You’re lying.

                    I distinctly recall saying that whoever won the NC Senate seat (Hagan) would win the Senate. I never said shit about Hillary.

                    You like like the Con Man does.

  7. MAGA!

    1. If the Con Man costs the GOP the House will you go on a shooting spree?

      1. The blue wave has become “we are going to get a two vote majority in the House and lose ground in the Senate!!!”

  8. Well, it must be looking bad for the Ds if Mangu Ward is writing a “don’t vote” article and Welchie talking about results being unknowable.
    I’m guessing Boehm stocked up on cases of Mike’s hard lemonade to deal with the office wide depression come Wednesday

    1. They probably have already made reservations to check Suderman into whatever facility they checked him into after the 2016 election.

  9. I’m really surprised the migrant caravan hasn’t made it to San Diego or El Paso by now. It doesn’t take that long to bus a few thousand people up from Oaxaca to the border. It would have been a perfect tar baby for the Trump administration to wrestle with: let them in, and piss off his base, or use some degree of violence to stop the “women and children” and look like a modern Bull Connor.

    But they aren’t going to make it in front of cameras in time for this election, and that’s really interesting.

    1. I’d guess it wasn’t polling well, so the orchestrators slowed it up a bit

  10. I’m really surprised the migrant caravan hasn’t made it to San Diego or El Paso by now. It doesn’t take that long to bus a few thousand people up from Oaxaca to the border. It would have been a perfect tar baby for the Trump administration to wrestle with: let them in, and piss off his base, or use some degree of violence to stop the “women and children” and look like a modern Bull Connor.

    But they aren’t going to make it in front of cameras in time for this election, and that’s really interesting.

  11. I’m really surprised the migrant caravan hasn’t made it to San Diego or El Paso by now. It doesn’t take that long to bus a few thousand people up from Oaxaca to the border. It would have been a perfect tar baby for the Trump administration to wrestle with: let them in, and piss off his base, or use some degree of violence to stop the “women and children” and look like a modern Bull Connor.

    But they aren’t going to make it in front of cameras in time for this election, and that’s really interesting.

  12. Ezra Klein and Chris Chizilla are both out touting the dangers of the Democrats “winning the House popular vote but not getting a majority”. Now who the hell ever heard of the “house popular vote”? No one.

    These idiots always give the proscribed talking points. And Klein and Chizilla are near the top of the list of who gets them. So, if they are putting this out, then the talking point is “sure we didn’t get the majority but we won the popular vote”. That the talking point is that and not “a House majority means America has rejected Trump” tells me that the Democrat internal polling is not good and those who know don’t expect them to do very well tomorrow.

    1. >>>winning the House popular vote but not getting a majority

      like “Pelosi got 400 billion votes in her district but Sessions only 38,000 in his, so impeachment!”?

    2. But let’s be precise in our language. Obviously the less popular party can win the power of the presidency. (No worries, it always delivers real gems like W. and Trump). And Democrats get more votes but lose the House. So you can say “Neener neener we won,” but you don’t get to say that a majority of Americans want what Republicans are shoving down our throats.

      1. No, but we do get to say, “why don’t the Dems try a message that works outside of their inner-city slums?”

      2. Nobody should ever say definitively “a majority of Americans,” because we have not a single election (or any group of them taken together) remotely designed to measure such a thing. It is a concept that the Framers saw no particular use for–indeed, explicitly sought to avoid. We should excise this majority fetishist language from our vocabulary; it is not only nonsense but actively harmful to our political culture.

    3. The only upside to the impending children voting for president trend I point out will be adopted by every blue state, is that its blatancy puts the final nail in the coffin (the coffin built by Clinton-Trump) in the idiotic (but perhaps Constitutional) “Interstate Popular Vote Election Compact” or whatever it is called. Previously, only blue states have adopted (we are very close) but many prominent Republicans have supported, such as Newt Gingrich; in heretofore wacky NY, though it happens to be deep blue, it was the Republicans who led skeptical Democrats there.

      If we are to adopt a nationwide popular vote (we should not), we must do it in earnest, by passing a Constitutional amendment creating a national election system like every other country with a popular vote for national executive. Right now we are not equipped for that; we have only 51 state elections with 51 states administering their own elections and setting their own standards as they see fit. To jerry rig a popular vote by throwing all those votes from state elections into one national pot is insanity, though few seem to have considered that for two minutes. The specter of children voting should make it obvious to everyone.

    4. More specifically to John’s point about the “Congressional popular vote” rhetoric which is really no sillier than the “Presidential popular vote” talk that has been tossed about casually (and now not so casually) forever, though it is certainly more obviously so…

      Two UK general elections ago UKIP, the winner of the previous European elections, was by a wide margin the third-most popular party in the UK. The SNP got a third of their votes but fifty-six times their seats, a matter so egregious that the press actually covered it a little and suggested it was “unfair,” and you can hardly accuse them of being in the bag for UKIP.

      1. …Shortly before that, the press in both countries had been forwarding around the “definitive” guide to gerrymandering written by the Washington Post. This indeed was brilliant and clear in clarifying concepts and demonstrating how gerrymandering works, but it added the infantile presumption of labeling a perfectly ungerrymandered, unbiased system “compact but unfair.” This simply begs the question that the moral status of a representation system is to be measured by how closely it reflect overall popular-vote proportions. The press themselves prattle on about other desiderata in other circumstances, such as the always-favorite “competitive districts” for the sake of moderate and job-insecure politicians. (Likewise, explicit proportional representation systems increase party boss influence and decreases constituent services and local-issue responsiveness. And so forth.)

        I don’t really have a strong ideological opinion on these things, frankly; my ideological beliefs about the voting process are strong but meager in scope (I mostly care about liberalism in policy emerging victorious). I just wish everyone would stop talking nonsense.

        1. If you’re going to have a proportional system, I think the way Germany does it is pretty good – they combine the proportional party list vote with constituency elections to make sure that every district has a local representative (there are overhang seats so that the overall composition of the chamber roughly matches the party list vote regardless of the constituency elections). I still have reservations about a party list vote, but that system is definitely better IMO than a pure proportional party list vote like the Netherlands, for example.

  13. Lol. There is a definitive poll tomorrow. Can’t we wait for that?

    1. Shut up you; I am trying to stress here!

    2. That was my first thought. Horserace bs just gives politicos something to talk about and a wedge to encourage their supporters. What point is there in discussing the horse race in generic terms 1 day before the actual specific results will be known?

  14. Who’s going to win? The Progressive Socialist Marxist Dems, or the Progressive Socialist Marxist Repubs? The suspense is killing me.

    1. The Progressive Conservatives. They are going to come back from the dead, cross the border, and coast to dark-horse write-in landslide on their anodyne, nondescript ideological platform.

  15. Yeah, the President of the United States is a white nationalist Kremlin asset who’s trying to turn this country into The Handmaid’s Tale!!!

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