Midterm issues: Part XII – Crunch time: High hopes, expectations and uncertainty


One day before our consequential election we are reduced almost to reading tea leaves, engaging in speculation, and listening to gossip. We have a sense that the House will most likely become Democratic and the Senate remain Republican. However, in New Jersey while significant early voting has already taken place, we don’t know its results. Here rating agencies and polls are contradictory, so turnout, alway hard to predict, will make the crucial difference.  


The Cook Political Report says, a consensus is emerging among Democratic and Republican strategists — based on public and private polling, early voting and likely turnout — that Democrats are on track to pick up about 35 seats in the House. Republicans now have a 23-seat House majority. However, there’s anxiety about that number on both sides. Nonetheless, Democrats need to capture only 24 Republican-held seats to gain control of the House. New Jersey plays a leading role in this contest with the possibility of flipping at least four seats. There is still a path to take control of the Senate, and while it’s a long shot, NJ also has a key roll here by re-electing Senator Menendez (D).


In New Jersey 305,561 early ballots have been cast over 39 days. This represents 16% of all votes cast in the last 2014 midterms. As long as election officials don’t count the votes until Election Day, early voting is legal in the USA, so we don’t yet know the results. Because of the additional time/effort of counting these ballots, close races may not be determined until one or more days afterward.  


Don’t look for clarity from the rating groups. None of our key contested races are sure-fire winners. The ratings  provide an inkling into what the result might be, but what they indicate for each seat in play often differs from one group to another. Here are what four rating groups say about our NJ candidates in this order: Real Clear Politics, Cook ReportInside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. 

U. S. Senate 

Leans D; Toss Up; Likely D; Likely D.

House of Representatives

  • CD 02 Likely D; Likely D; Likely D; Safe D.
  • CD 03 Toss Up R; Toss Up; Tilt D; Toss Up R.
  • CD 04  (not in play – Safe R).
  • CD 05 Likely D; Likely D; Safe D; Likely D.
  • CD 07 Leans D; Toss Up R, Toss Up; Toss Up R.
  • CD11 Leans D; Leans D; Leans D; Leans D.


As with the rating agencies, polls also provide differing results, and typically a differences below 5 is within the margin of error.  There are no public polls in CD 4 where Chris Smith (R) has the upper hand, and in CD 5 where the race might be close but incumbent Josh Gottheimer is favored to win.

Senate (most recent poll first)

Menendez: (Quinnipiac) +15; (Stockton) +12; (Rutgers) +5.

House (most recent poll first) 

  • CD 02: Van Drew (Stockton) +17; (Stockton) +23.
  • CD 03: Kim (NYTimes) -1; (Monmouth) +2.
  • CD 04: Josh Welle (D) no public polls.
  • CD 05: Josh Gottheimer (D) no public polls.
  • CD 07: Malinowski: (NYTimes) +8; (Monmouth) +3
  • CD 11: Sherrill: (NYTimes) +11; (Monmouth) +4


Dems start with the advantage of of having 921,531 more registered voters than Republicans and having registered 45,031 more Dems in the past year.                

DATE            UNAFFILATED     DEM             REP                  D minus R 

9/30/2018       2,361,046                  2,199,322      1,277,791             921,531 

9/30/2017       2,348,973                  2,115,344      1,238,844             876,500 

Difference:        + 12,073                   + 83,978        + 38,947                +45,031

Nonetheless, the D and R registration difference does not equal the final result. The largest voting block is the Unaffiliated, which can shift the direction. Plus, it’s turn out that affects the bottom line. Trump is rallying his most fervent supporters with fear-mongering. Democrats are generally angered at Trump.  Although Trump is unpopular in New Jersey, in CD 2, 3, and 5 there are more registered D’s than R’s, and in CD 4, 7, and 11 there are more registered R’s than D’s.

Midterms traditionally are low-turnout affairs. Perhaps the best sign that voter interest could be more intense this year is that turnout in the June primary was 74 percent higher than it was in last 2014 midterms.

Despite the uncertainties in the polls and from rating agencies, NJ Dems will have banner election results if we turn out in large numbers. The possibility of continued dominance of Republicans in both the House & Senate is too horrible to contemplate. So turn out we must.

You can read other parts in this midterm issues series by clicking on the apprp[riate front-page midterm slider or entering in the SEARCH box on the front-page: 2018 midterm issues

Prior issues in this series are SALT (Part I), Healthcare (Part II), Climate Change (Part III), The Trump Factor (Part IV), Immigration (Part V), “Follow the Money” (Part VI), Gun Control, Festering and Frustrating (Part VII), Menendez has beliefs; Hugin has none (Part VIII), Recent issues to sway voters and incentivize turn out (Part IX), The tsunami of outside spending including “dark money” (Part X), and Important legislative races and a Public Question (Part XI).


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