For those less familiar with forecasting, you might take a moment and read this Politico article on the person who accurately predicted the 2018 Blue Wave numbers.

The problem of “It didn’t matter who was running; it mattered who was voting.” is that it needs much more testing especially in the context of swing states, since that labeling has the curse of “swing-voter” attached to it. There may be no swing voters at all even as that might be simply a matter of how one designs one’s analysis. 

Leaning and trending demographics require scale. Because as Rachel Bitecofer says, “The pool of who shows up changes.” Hence GOTV counts (a lot more).

For example, The Boston Globe’s decision not to endorse any candidates in the New Hampshire primary because its place in the primary process resembles a 19th Century view of America, demonstrates some theoretical progress is being made.

When 2018 rolled around, she saw what was coming: “College educated white men, and especially college educated white women,” she said, “were going to be on fucking fire.”


Bitecofer, a 42-year-old professor at Christopher Newport University in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, was little known in the extremely online, extremely male-dominated world of political forecasting until November 2018. That’s when she nailed almost to the number the nature and size of the Democrats’ win in the House, even as other forecasters went wobbly in the race’s final days. Not only that, but she put out her forecast back in July, and then stuck by it while polling shifted throughout the summer and fall.

And today her model tells her the Democrats are a near lock for the presidency in 2020, and are likely to gain House seats and have a decent shot at retaking the Senate. If she’s right, we are now in a post-economy, post-incumbency, post record-while-in-office era of politics. Her analysis, as Bitecofer puts it with characteristic immodesty, amounts to nothing less than “flipping giant paradigms of electoral theory upside down.”

Bitecofer’s theory, when you boil it down, is that modern American elections are rarely shaped by voters changing their minds, but rather by shifts in who decides to vote in the first place. To her critics, she’s an extreme apostle of the old saw that “turnout explains everything,” taking a long victory lap after getting lucky one time. She sees things slightly differently: That the last few elections show that American politics really has changed, and other experts have been slow to process what it means.


But still, the results bore out her theory: For Democrats to win, they need to fire up Democratic-minded voters. The Blue Dogs who tried to narrow the difference between themselves and Trump did worse, overall, than the Stacey Abramses and Beto O’Rourkes, whose progressive ideas and inspirational campaigns drove turnout in their own parties and brought them to the cusp of victory.



  • February 7, 2020