New Hampshire is tiny and quite weird. It might help Maggie Hassan.

We remain in something of a summer slump for the polls, and the overall outlook for November remains much the same as in recent weeks. But polls on the congressional race continued to edge slightly toward the Democrats, which may reflect the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In the Deluxe version of our Midterm Election Prediction, Republicans have an 85% chance of winning the House and a 51% chance of winning the Senate, both largely unchanged from the model’s launch three years ago. weeks. Meanwhile, in the classic version of the model, which sticks to purely quantitative factors and omits expert race assessments published by the Cook Political Report and other similar groups, Republicans are actually the underdogs. to take control of the Senate, with a 39% chance. .

Part of the reason Republicans aren’t better off in the Senate is that they don’t have many easy pickup opportunities, but one race where Republicans could gain ground is the New Hampshire Senate race. . Democratic incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan has led in all but one poll this year against a string of potential Republican opponents, but the GOP is not expected to call off the race. Hassan’s lead is slim in most of these polls, and it’s still early days with the primary not scheduled until September 13.

New Hampshire is also an unusual state in that it has some factors that should make it relatively fertile ground to defeat an incumbent, and others that should make it tough ground. So let’s take a look under the hood.

Americans are pessimistic, and that changes our politics

The factor that could help Republicans the most is that New Hampshire — famous for polls that seem to evaporate overnight, like Barack Obama’s against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary there in 2008 — is notoriously swingy. I don’t just mean it’s a oscillating state, even if it is often a general election. I also mean he has a lot of swing voters: moderate and independent voters who split their tickets. Consider that in 2020, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen won re-election there by 16 percentage points, while Republican Governor Chris Sununu won re-election by 32 points on the same ballot.

FiveThirtyEight measures this with our Elasticity Index, which is derived from voter-level survey data to reflect a state’s sensitivity to national trends. New Hampshire has an elasticity index of 1.21 — the fourth highest in the nation — which means that for every one point change in the national environment, we expect New Hampshire to change. about 1.2 points instead. So, for example, a 5 point swing to Republicans nationally would produce a 6 point swing there. This makes Hassan a bit more vulnerable.

What makes a state swingy? Generally speaking, the most reliable group of Democratic voters are black voters, and the most reliable group of Republican voters are white evangelical Christians. New Hampshire is fairly secular and fairly white, so neither party’s base there is very large.

Similarly, most other high elasticity states are relatively non-religious and have relatively few black voters, although states with large numbers of Latino voters box be pretty swingy, as Democrats find out to their dismay.

New Hampshire is a dynamic state

FiveThirtyEight State Elasticity Scores in 2022

StateElasticity score
Rhode Island1.29
Hawaii1.23
Alaska1.22
New Hampshire1.21
Vermont1.15
Massachusetts1.14
Maine1.14
Utah1.11
Connecticut1.10
North Dakota1.09
Colorado1.09
Wyoming1.08
New Mexico1.08
Iowa1.07
Arizona1.07
Washington1.06
Nevada1.06
Wisconsin1.05
West Virginia1.04
Indiana1.04
Michigan1.03
Nebraska1.03
Kansas1.03
South Dakota1.03
Ohio1.02
Florida1.02
Idaho1.02
Arkansas1.02
Texas1.01
New Jersey1.01
Minnesota1.00
California1.00
Pennsylvania0.99
Oregon0.98
New York0.97
Illinois0.96
Montana0.96
Caroline from the south0.96
Oklahoma0.96
Kentucky0.95
Missouri0.94
Tennessee0.94
Virginia0.94
North Carolina0.93
Louisiana0.92
Georgia0.90
Maryland0.87
Delaware0.86
Mississippi0.85
Alabama0.83

Elasticity, however, is not the only factor taken into account by the model. Another is the population of a state. And in smaller states, the incumbent advantage is greater.

If you’re a Senate history buff, consider states that have a handful of electoral votes, like Vermont, West Virginia, Hawaii, or North Dakota. They tend to have fairly long term senators. Only four senators (Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Jim Jeffords and Robert Stafford) have represented Vermont since 1975, for example. (Although Leahy is retiring and not seeking re-election this year.)

Why might the tenure advantage be greater in smaller states? I can think of a few theories. The first is that, in a small state, it is easier for a senator to maintain a strong personal relationship with influential voters and to be visible in her community. A second theory concerns competition: in a smaller state, there are fewer highly talented politicians with national aspirations, so an incumbent will face weaker opponents, on average.

A third hypothesis: everything revolves around pork. Since each state has the same number of senators, a senator from a small state is more likely to win concessions in return for outlandish spending, which can make them more popular with voters of all parties (think Senator Lisa Murkowski). from Alaska or Joe Manchin from West Virginia). Whatever the reason, the statistical tendency for small state Senate incumbents to outperform is quite robust, and this is captured by our model.

What else helps a holder? The stranger a state is, the greater the incumbent’s advantage. OK, I should probably clarify what I mean by “weird”. A more precise term would be “dissimilar” or “distinctive”.

As part of our forecasting, we apply a process called CANTOR that determines which states and congressional districts are most similar to each other based on various demographic, geographic and political variables – such as race, religion, income and education, population density, latitude and longitude, and voting behavior in recent presidential elections. A state like Hawaii is called distinctive by this process, for example. It has a much larger Asian American and Hawaiian population than other states, it’s very Democratic, it’s very expensive, and it’s really out there in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean.

New Hampshire counts for somewhat distinctive, on the contrary. Like I mentioned, it’s pretty white and pretty non-religious compared to the rest of the country. It also has above-average income and education levels, but a below-average population density (in how FiveThirtyEight measures it). On the other hand, it’s about the middle of the road politically. Overall, it ranks as the 25th most distinctive state. Michigan is the state that most closely resembles the rest of the country, however.

New England stands out

Least similar states to other states, according to FiveThirtyEight’s CANTOR

RankState
1Hawaii
2California
3Utah
4Alaska
5Vermont
6Massachusetts
sevenWyoming
8New York
9Maryland
tenWest Virginia
11New Jersey
12Mississippi
13North Dakota
14Rhode Island
15South Dakota
16Idaho
17Maine
18Arkansas
19New Mexico
20Connecticut
21Washington
22Texas
23Alabama
24Oklahoma
25New Hampshire
26Nevada
27Montana
28Louisiana
29Florida
30Delaware
31Oregon
32Tennessee
33Kentucky
34Illinois
35Caroline from the south
36Colorado
37Georgia
38Arizona
39Nebraska
40Virginia
41Iowa
42Minnesota
43North Carolina
44Kansas
45Missouri
46Pennsylvania
47Indiana
48Wisconsin
49Ohio
50Michigan

Factors taken into account by CANTOR include race, religion, age, gender, household income, level of education, voting behavior in recent presidential and legislative elections, percentage of residents born in , population density, geographic region, latitude and longitude.

How could distinctiveness provide an advantage to an incumbent? In some ways, the answers are similar to why small states have a head start. If a state has a population with unique concerns — for example, religious minorities like Mormon or Jewish voters, or a racial minority like Native Hawaiians — incumbents can demonstrate competence by serving those populations in a way that goes beyond somewhat along party lines and are less subject to the vagaries of the national political environment.

Another related theory is that there might be a stronger connection between voters and politicians in separate states. The politician may be a member of the minority group or have ties to an industry that is particularly important in the state. In the same sense that you probably know a married couple who are “perfect for each other”, there may be a stronger match in these cases.

But a statistical measure of distinctiveness is only as good as its inputs, and there are some things that CANTOR omits. Being home to an industry like gambling in Nevada or coal production in West Virginia is potentially politically significant, for example, but CANTOR doesn’t take that into consideration.

Overall, New England is a culturally distinct region that’s hard to pin down statistically, but is visible in everything from its cuisine to its intense loyalty to the Boston Red Sox. My subjective experience is that New England is considerably weirder – excuse me, “more distinctive” – ​​than our metric describes it, and that means New England tends to be quite loyal to its incumbents. Hassan hopes this pattern will continue.

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