On the “Flip List:” Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock

The Wason Center’s Rachel Bitecofer has published a new paper that will hearten Virginia Democrats.

Nationally, the party is “primed to pick up enough seats to control the House.”

In Virginia, Bitecofer pulls no punches: Republican Reps. Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock will lose. And the state’s other race to watch, the 2nd District, is a pure toss-up.

And for Republicans, the bad news looks like it will continue for as long as Donald Trump is in the White House.

Part of the reason is “negative partisanship” — the negative attitudes, even extending outside of politics that members of the major political parties have toward the other party’s candidates. The negative feelings are stronger among those supporting the party out of power. All that negativity keeps them motivated.

Republicans employed that negativity to great advantage during the Obama years. As Bitecofer notes, Democratic complacency combined with GOP outrage allowed the GOP to “over perform their share of the electorate by 5 points in the 2010 midterms and 10 points in 2014 in midterms.”

And independents really aren’t the prime movers they are thought to be.  “It is negative partisanship among opposition party voters that drives the midterm effect,” Bitecofer says, “not movement of independent voters back and forth between the parties.”

All that negativity keeps them motivated.

The deciding factor for Democrats is getting their own partisans to the polls:

Democrats lose Independents quite often, and in elections they win and they lose because they have a population advantage in many places and when their partisans turn out in high numbers, it trumps the combined loss of Republicans and Independents, assuming they don’t lose the latter group by wide margins.

A fascinating point, and one that should send campaign consultants back to the drawing board.

Because, if it’s true, it could mean that races that were already going to be expensive and rough, such as Virginia’s 10th, will be even costlier and much rougher than we imagined.

The reason? Democrats will do everything possible to raise turnout among their base voters and to capture a good share of the true independents.

According to the Monmouth University poll of the 10th — the only data we have so far –Democrats are already doing what’s necessary to reach both goals, long before the mud starts flying. In Monmouth’s “turnout surge” model, in areas where “Trump is unpopular,” Democratic nominee Jennifer Wexton leads Comstock 51 percent to 40 percent.

Continue reading here.

Cover photo: Map from Wason Center for Public Policy website, courtesy of 270ToWin (make your own here)