Voices: Polls got it wrong about the midterm election results. Here’s why


Both the US House of Representatives and the Senate are too close to call on Wednesday morning, with final results not expected for weeks. But there is a loser declared for the midterms by Republicans and Democrats alike: Donald Trump.

“Trump blasted across media spectrum over Republicans’ midterms performance: ‘Biggest loser tonight,’”blared the Fox News headline on Wednesday.

CNN’s Jim Acostareported via Twitter, after speaking with a Trump adviser, that “Trump is livid” and “screaming at everyone” after last night’s disappointing midterm results for the GOP. The adviser went on to slam the former president’s hand-picked contenders: “They were all bad candidates.”

The House of Representatives — and who has a majority within it — is important. It controls the nation’s purse strings and has the power to impeach a president, as well as to investigate the Executive Branch controlled by President Joe Biden. The Senate — which is currently 50/50 Democrat and Republican, but with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote — has the power to confirm (or reject or ignore) all judicial appointments, including on the US Supreme Court. Last night, it was predicted that control of both the House and the Senate would be in the hands of the Republican party by now, and by a fairly comfortable margin.

So, how were the polls so wrong?

CNN’s Senior Political Analyst John Avalonfocuses on independent voters when explaining the discrepancy between prediction and results: “Democrats narrowly won independent voters 49-47 according to exit polls. That’s unheard of in midterms, where typically the opposition party wins by double digits. Trump’s election-deniers were too extreme.”

Additionally, younger voters turned out in numbers higher than expected and overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates in battleground states.

Abortion was also a bigger issue than was forecasted, especially with women generally but specifically suburban women.

But perhaps the biggest factor was those “bad candidates”,many picked by Trump himself and many of whom parroted his false claims of 2020 election fraud.

Candidate quality was a grave issue for the GOP in Pennsylvania, where an open Senate seat flipped to Democratic control. Trump gambled with his endorsement that celebrity television doctor Mehmet Oz, who actually lives in New Jersey, would sway suburban women. “Hard to think of a worse Senate endorsement in recent memory than Dr Oz. And [Trump] is … not happy.. also views Oz as disloyal. Has been privately trashing ‘MEHMET Oz,’”reported Jonathan Swan of Axios.

Elsewhere, the flip of Pennsylvania for Democratic candidate John Fetterman — too ill while recovering from a stroke to campaign for most of the race — was called on Election Night.

The New York Times, which stopped updating its forecast at 4 a.m. EST,gave the Democrats a 66% of maintaining Senate control.

Democrats are leading in Georgia but the consensus is that there is not enough outstanding vote to push incumbent Raphael Warnock over the 50% threshold he needs to avoid a two-candidate-only runoff against Herschel Walker on December 6. (The Libertarian candidate in Georgia, Chase Oliver, received about 2% of the vote.)

Nevada has incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto trailing by 22,595 votes — butan estimated 100,000 mail votes are outstanding inDemocratic-leaning Clark County plus about 16,000 in Washoe County,which also voted for Joe Biden in 2020. Since mail-in voting is so heavily Democratic,Cortez Masto is still favored to hold that seat, though it is likely going to be days before anyone knows for sure, especially since mailed ballots postmarked by Election Day will continue to be counted through Saturday.

Arizona is more heavily favored to remain in Democratic hands, with incumbent Mark Kelly holding a 106,938 vote lead with 67% of the vote in. The New York Times puts those chances at 66% (compared with just 55% for Cortez Masto).

The Elections Department in Maricopa County,where most of the Arizona vote takes place, told CNN on Wednesday morning that there are 17,000 Election Day votes that remain to be counted, plus about 90,000 mail ballots that came in after Friday but before Election Day. The spokesperson for the department also told CNN that he did not know how many additional ballots came in on Election Day (under Arizona law, mail-in ballots can be dropped off on Election Day). “We do know estimates, probably about 200,000 more votes,” that spokesperson said. The department said it will know “mid-morning” Wednesday the exact number of outstanding votes (though not the results).

Wisconsin has not been called yet for incumbent GOP Senator Ron Johnson.While Johnson held a 27,374-vote lead with about 95% of ballots cast, there are enough outstanding in Democratic strongholds to give challenger Mandela Barnes a chance to win (estimated by the New York Times at 13% as of Wednesday morning).

The House is unlikely to be called for days, though Republicans are expected to ultimately prevail by a narrow margin that, according to the NBC News Decision Desk, could be as small as a few seats in the 435-seat chamber. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, who is a data cruncher for NBC News on Election Night,tweeted: “Republicans wouldn’t be slight favorites to win House control right now if they hadn’t been able to gerrymander far more states than Dems.”

Kyle Kondik, of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics,added: “Republicans got their Supreme Court victories in OH and NC. Likely has consequences for redistricting next year — Democrats had a good night in each state for House but worse maps may be on horizon as Republicans build defenses to protect what looks like a fairly small majority.”

Wassermanconcluded: “Well, that was the craziest Election Night I’ve ever seen.”