Political Pulse: Charlie Cook calls the elections

Charlie CookThis year’s elections will shape the way our nation approaches trade, tax reform and other issues vital to business. Gain insight into the next administration and the 115th Congress; prepare for the post-Nov. 8 political environment with a reading of likely outcomes by a leading authority on American politics.

Editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report and columnist for the National Journal Charlie Cook summarized current polls and electoral trends, and shares his unique view on what lies ahead.

He answered four key questions on top of everyone’s mind:

Q: “How tight is the presidential race?” A: Cook said that assuming Trump carries all 24 states that Republican candidate Mitt Romney won in 2012, he still won’t have enough electoral votes. To win, he or Hillary Clinton must have at least 270 electoral votes on Election Day. According to Cook, “even at the best point in the campaign, he was very close but a little bit short of the 270 electoral votes.”

Visit The number to hit: 270, and check out the RealClearPolitics interactive map for regularly updated polling results by state.
Q: “What net-seat changes are expected in the Senate?” A: Predicting a switch to a Democratic majority in the Senate on Nov. 8, Cook envisions a Clinton win with Tim Kaine in the position of tie breaker and his Senate replacement a Democrat appointed by Democratic Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. Cook’s vision of 2017 and 2018 is a return to a Republican hold. “That appointed Senator would only be there for a year,” Cook said, “until the next general election at the same time as the governor’s race. So conceivably, Democrats could have a 50-50 tie and a majority because of the vice presidential vote, and lose that majority in November 2017. And then keep in mind in 2018, it’s a midterm election. Midterm elections are generally bad for whichever party has the White House. And there are 25 Democratic seats up that year — only eight Republican seats — so that asymmetric risk that works against Republicans will be working against Democrats in 2018.”

See an illustration of the tug of war in Will the Senate majority flip…and flop?

Q: “What is the outlook for the House?” A: Cook’s assertion is that there won’t be a majority change. “It would take a pretty draconian outcome for the House to turn over,” he said. The Democrats need to gain 30 seats, perhaps not a large number up against the total 435. But a turnover usually occurs in a midterm election in the form of, Cook said, “a referendum up or down on the incumbent president. But when it does happen in a presidential year, it happens with a landslide. And we’re not going to see a landslide here. Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have such enormous negatives that each one has high floors and low ceilings, so you could say if they were a stock, they’d have a narrow trading range.

“I really, really don’t think we’re going to see Republicans losing their majority of the House. Very unlikely the Democrats will take the majority.”

View changes to House races as women and undecided voters decide its fate: Majorities in question: Which political party will cross the finish line first?

Q: “What are swing voters thinking?” A: “These voters are particularly unenthusiastic about the selection,” noted Cook. They judge Hilary Clinton as experienced and competent but also cold and secretive. Gauges of her favorability reflect this overall opinion, with percentages in the negative range. “Generally speaking,” said Cook, “if you’re at negative 10, negative 11, with two weeks to go before the election, you’re pretty much toast. And you would be if this election were simply a referendum up or down on Hilary Clinton; she would lose. But she’s up against someone who is minus 22 in”

Cook described swing voters’ appreciation that Donald Trump is outside the political inner circle, which they view as an elite group that cares little for the rest of us, and that he’s outspoken rather than cautious. “And maybe they agree with him on immigration or handling terrorists, or his anti-Washington, anti-political establishment stands,” said Cook. “But at the same time, there are real reservations among these swing voters about his maturity, his temperament, his judgment, his knowledge about various issues. So these voters in the middle are torn. They would rather be voting for someone else, almost anybody else, rather than these two people.”

One of these two unpopular candidates will indeed take the White House. The new president will be facing his or her engaged base and a dissatisfied populace. Business leaders will need to monitor a new political landscape. Learn more about growing global populism trends, a movement in which average citizens seek to take control of their government from the political elite. Read Stay politically connected — in spite of populism to learn more.