The Skywriter

Policy update 11/2/10: Election Day


Policy update 11/2/10: Election Day


Today's elections will have major implications for our work on federal climate and energy policy. Elections are being held for all 435 House seats, 37 Senate seats, and 37 governorships. With many races polling at slim margins, voter turnout is expected to make or break the election for many candidates.

Election Day: Tuesday, November 2nd

Overall Election Outlook:

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight model projects the following election day outcomes based on recent polling:

  • A 91% chance that the Senate will remain in Democratic control. Polls suggest the most likely outcome is a seven-seat swing, resulting in a 52-48 Democratic Senate;
  • An 84% chance that the House will flip toward Republican control. Polls suggest the most likely outcome is a 52-seat swing (Republicans need 38 for a majority) resulting in a 232-203 Republican House (the House is currently 255-178).

Stressing uncertainty in the models, and the competitiveness of this year's races, Nate Silver notes a number of caveats in his forecasts, stressing uncertainty on both sides of the equation:

  • If polls are off by just a couple of percentage points, the Democrats may keep the House and a substantial Senate majority;
  • However, for a number of reasons Republicans could possibly make larger gains than predicted, also due to uncertainty in polling.

Polling aside, turnout will be a major factor in determining the outcome of this year's election. In the last midterm election (2006) turnout was only 36.8%, compared to 61.7% in 2008. Most polls look at "likely voters" who typically vote in midterm elections, so much of today's outcome will be based on which side turns out the most "unlikely" voters such as young people, newly-registered voters from 2008, and tea-party activists.

The Tea Party has certainly impacted the media narrative of this year's election, but it's unclear what role the loosely organized Tea Party supporters will play in getting out the vote. Young voters will also be a key factor in this year's election. In 2008 voters under 30 made up 17% of the vote, but this cycle Gallup predicts they will make up a mere 7%, less than half of what they were last year.

Dirty Money Keeps Flowing:

Overall, 2010 elections are seeing an unprecedented amount of outside spending for a midterm race, with a far greater increase in funds from conservative-leaning outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics:

  • Conservative: $189.3 million, up from $19.6 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 9.7)
  • Liberal: $89.5 million, up from $39 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 2.3)
  • Total outside spending: $280 million up from $59 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 4.7)

Analysis from the Center for American Progress notes that more than $69.5 million in outside political spending is coming from dirty energy industries like big oil and coal-heavy electric utilities.

Tom Toles' take on dirty money:

Tom Toles

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear drew hundreds of thousands of Americans to Washington, D.C. this weekend for a non-partisan yet politically charged event. The general slant of the crowd was admittedly progressive, but the tone of the event was more about critiquing cable news media than it was about getting out the vote.

According to aerial estimates, the Rally drew a crowd of approximately 215,000 people (+/- 10%), making it over twice the size of Glen Beck's recent "Restoring Honor" rally, which CBS estimated at 87,000 people (+/- 10%). Organizers were only prepared for 150,000, so many rally-goers were unable to participate. Politico saw the rally as political theater that won't help the Democrats turn out their base.

New York Times pundits are split, some agreeing with Politico and others seeing it as a productive way for disengaged voters to reconnect with the political system. Joe Romm from critiques Stewart's rhetoric equating liberal and conservative pundits.

Satellite rallies were held in 957 cities and over 12 countries, many organized via Facebook and, and aggregated by the site

An Eye on California:

California's dirty energy-supported Prop 23 will likely be defeated thanks to a strong coalition of environmentalists, labor organizers, and members of the business community. However, the lesser-known Prop 26 also has negative implications for California's clean energy policy. Prop 26 is disguised as a good-government tax measure that will require a two-thirds vote to change taxes on businesses, but the effect would be to freeze tax breaks currently enjoyed by oil and tobacco companies. One analysis suggests it would interfere with the implementation of California's new Climate law, AB 32.

Please direct questions or comments to

Share |