Scholar Who Predicted Democrats Would Win Back House In 2018 Shares Thoughts About 2020 Election

Elections staff load ballots into machines as recounting begins at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office.
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In July 2018, analysts and statisticians were uncertain whether the Democratic Party could win back the House of Representatives, with some predicting a tight race, and some a slim electoral victory for the Democrats.

However, Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, predicted a 42-seat blue wave. Her prediction turned out to be staggeringly accurate, and now — as the 2020 presidential election approaches — she is being given “the recognition she deserves,” according to Salon.

According to Bitecofer, although members of the media tend to suggest that the Midwest carried Donald Trump to victory in 2016, that is not entirely accurate because the Republicans cracked 50 percent in only two states — Iowa and Ohio. In Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the president won between 46 and 47 percent of the vote.

As further explained by the scholar, this was due to a large number of so-called protest ballots, which means that third parties played a significant role in Trump’s victory, helping Trump win the Midwest while not cracking 50 percent of the vote in three of the five Midwestern states.

Bitecofer explained that the strategy that worked for the Republican Party in 2016 may not work in 2020, because Trump will not be running against Hillary Clinton. According to the scholar, Trump “was up against not just a Democrat, but that particular Democrat the GOP had managed to cause a public opinion backlash toward.”

“That’s certainly not going to be the case in the 2020 cycle,” she predicted.

“My model for 2020 starts off with Democrats at 278 Electoral College votes, and that’s a problem for Trump, because of course you need 270 to win,” Bitecofer revealed, explaining that her model’s predictions are based on turnout and voter share.

Although Trump might be able to win Ohio, she explained that Democrats will likely win Pennsylvania and Michigan.

This leaves four “tossup” states — Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Arizona.

“Even if he wins all four of them, the Democrats have already won the election — and the idea that he would win all four is pretty unlikely,” she said.

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Bitecofer also shared her thoughts about the Democratic primary race, explaining that although primary election voters typically follow politics more closely than general election voters and average Americans, they are not nearly as engaged in politics as members of the media and pundits, which can create a skewed picture of reality.

“They’re not paying attention at all, not watching the debates, they’re not reading news stories, they’re not on political Twitter, reading political news sites, but they will vote,” she said of primary voters.

The scholar added that polls conducted months before a primary election mainly measure name recognition, offering an incomplete picture of the electorate.