Yes, we’re already into the second week of 2014. Too late for predictions? Why, because that first week gives away the game? I suppose it’s a bit of a game, because making predictions is hard. Actually, predicting is easy. Being right is hard. But hey, it’s a community blog, so feel free to join in.
So here is what will happen in 2014, judged by this grading system:
100% correct: Hello Nate Silver!
75%: Somebody’s been paying attention.
50%: Coin flipper.
25%: Should have stuck with the coin.
0%: Professional psychic. (if you’re a psychic, you might not find that humorous, but you should have seen it coming)
These will be predictions of a political bent, not much in the way of predicting which celebrity marriages will end. Hopefully that’s not too dismaying on a political blog, though I predict my marriage will get through the year just fine. That means that I just gave myself an extra incentive to make it work, and I have a poor grasp of the meaning of “celebrity”.
OK, first serious prediction: the legalization of marijuana will result in only a small increase in the percentage of people who use it. By small, I mean a percentage increase in the single digits. My thinking is few people wanting to try it have been deterred by illegality, and most non-users have other reasons for declining to use, like thinking legal marijuana still stinks, it tastes foul, or has unacceptable health risks. Of course, if the statistics on usage aren’t all that reliable, then maybe we’ll never know for sure, so I’ll just plan on claiming I was right.
I predict both Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton win reelection. If someone wants to argue that the polls, the prospective opponents, and their fundraising make those a bit too easy to predict, I can only say I can’t really ignore the top of the ticket. I’ll be a touch more daring though about our other DFL statewide incumbents seeking reelection. There’s no hard data and probably won’t be until the votes are counted election night, but I predict State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Attorney General Lori Swanson win reelection.
Am I wimping out by not predicting secretary of state? Maybe. I’m seeing that as a coin flip because although the DFL has the stronger ground game and maybe will be overall better funded between now an election day, even including independent expenditures, I predict the MNGOP will focus on the SOS race. My reason for thinking so is that they want to win something statewide pretty badly, and the vacant seat offers the best chance. By “focus”, I mean putting more resources into that race than AG or auditor, again including independent expenditures. So here’s hoping the Democrats overcome a disturbing tendency to take these constitutional offices too lightly.
I predict this is the year we finally see a large amount of money spent on a Minnesota judicial race, and the race or races made more clearly partisan, and I predict independent conservative groups will be the ones trying to make Minnesota like Wisconsin or Texas, where judicial elections are effectively partisan. I have no immediate reason for expecting this, but it seems we’ve been on borrowed time and we’re bound to get hit some year. I guess that’s more a fear than a prediction, but there we go.
All five DFL congressional incumbents will win, and only Rick Nolan in the 8th has a serious challenge. Erik Paulsen in the 3rd is the only Republican who cruises. John Kline in the 2nd has a challenge for both the nomination (not sure how serious) and general election from Mike Obermueller, who seems to have the DFL nomination in hand, and this 50-50 district is one of the best pickup opportunities Democrats have in the whole country. So the 2nd is a coin flip, but I’m making predictions, so I’ll use incumbency as the tie breaker and predict Kline wins, but pardon me if I may seek to make the prediction prove wrong (which actually just means some doorknocking in that district). The one open seat is the 6th, the reddest district in the state, so easy to predict the Republican wins. Not that we shouldn’t try, because as Bachmann’s meltdowns showed, you never know when opportunity will pop up. I have no real idea who will win the MNGOP nomination, though my gut tells me Rhonda Sivarajah wins the nomination. I’m still working on rationalizations for thinking that.
In terms of the whole US House, when you hear that the president’s party always loses in midterms, that usually refers to US House seats. I’m not sure how well that applies to the Senate, governors, or on down the ballot, but for House seats, it’s sadly true, with three exceptions. Those exceptions are 1934, 1998, and 2002, which were weird years. It’s not true that second midterms are worse than first. Go back over the midterms of two-term presidents, and they all suffered a real shellacking, but it was as often the first midterm as the second. This mean if Democrats lose just a few seats, that’s an OK result. If Democrats net zero seats, they will have bucked history. To actually pick up a few is a bonus, and I’m going out on a limb: I think the Democrats buck history and actually pick up a few seats. I’ll go further and include governors and state legislators in that. Alas, I predict with high confidence that Republicans keep the House majority, but blowing away precedent, that majority shrinks a bit.
Holding the US Senate is a toss-up. Math and history say the Republicans are bound to flip it in 2014, but their recent insistence on selecting nutty candidates to blow sure-thing Senate races makes me hesitate to predict that. If forced to predict, I’d say Republicans pick up just enough seats to win it 51-49. However, it will be short-lived, as the number of seats they have to defend in 2016, along with the improvement in Democratic turnout in presidential years, makes a flip back to the Democrats seem sure.
Back to Minnesota, the DFL will hold the majority in the State Senate. What, it isn’t up for reelection this year? I know. See how deftly I padded my accuracy percentage? The State House is a toss up. I might predict the MNGOP to flip that small DFL majority given that it’s a midterm, but I think the DFL still feels the shock of so many unexpectedly lost seats in 2010 that complacency will not be an issue. If my coin is taken away, I predict diminished DFL majority.
Back to national, the congressional Republicans learned their lesson on the shutdown so no repeat of that this year, but they still think the debt ceiling gives them leverage, so I predict another debt ceiling crisis. The economy will take a hit that slows growth, but it will still grow, so Republicans will still refuse to believe crashing into the debt ceiling causes problems. They’ll just figure since Democrats think it’s a crisis, then might as well cause a crisis.
On more issues, some sort of unemployment extension will pass, because Republicans will realize they’re taking damage to no useful purpose. Immigration reform is going nowhere thanks to the House Republicans. A federal minimum wage increase is going nowhere, though the state wage will rise. Not to a livable level ($9 at most, because there are always some Democrats who think weakening good ideas is the road to centrist cred), but higher. Federal disaster relief will be a big fight again because our climate is more volatile now, Republicans have spending off-sets on the brain, and no freaking clue about economics. Speaking of climate, nothing major will be done that requires federal legislation. By “major”, I mean some tax breaks or credits might be retained, and some technical fixes to regulatory authority might get through, but no new big investments in new energy technologies or conservation, no carbon tax or cap and trade system. On civil rights, Republican state governments will pass yet more voting restrictions, congressional Republicans will prevent any movement on ENDA or a fix to the Voting Rights Act, but here in Minnesota, our legislature will pass the anti-bullying bill.
Anyone else notice a pattern of predictions based on Republicans refusing to pass anything?
The news media will spend as much of October on the presidential election as on the midterms. I’m not sure how to measure that, but that was sure my impression in October 2006, and here we are with another open seat. Maybe they were just tired of Bush. I don’t know if we measure column inches or minutes of air time, but if there is a measure, that’s my prediction on the coverage. And of course, after the midterms, the news media will think there’s nothing going on except the presidential election. Maybe that’s more cynicism than prediction.
So tune in next year and see how right I was, unless I got it all wrong, in which case I predict this post will somehow get lost.