As I’m writing this, we’ve just come off Halloween, the second-scariest holiday of the year. Now it’s time to move on to the first: Election Day. Yes, as those of you who watch cable news, browse online media, or stare at any screen for more than eight seconds a day probably know, America’s next annual election will be held November 6th. It is a “midterm” election, a term I assume is designed to diminish the already low voter turnout of college students.
My friends, colleagues, and door-knocking strangers have repeatedly informed me that next week will be the most important midterm election in nearly half a decade. And they’re correct: This election is important. Not for the voting, because that’s mostly just something old people do on Tuesday nights when NCIS is a rerun. No, this election is important because of all the high-stakes gambling surrounding it.
To which I first say: No. Wrong. Gambling is bad. But to which I furtively add: I understand. Gambling is an exciting part of life, as evidenced by films like Casino Royale, 21, and the less-annoying Ocean movies. And given how much folks love to bet on sporting events, it’s no surprise that many of us have gravitated to betting on elections, the most nail-biting and bloodthirsty sporting event of all.
But that leads us to the most important question: Who should you bet on? Luckily for you all, I’m here to answer that question. While I don’t like to brag (more than usual), I wrote about the midterms back in 2014 (sort of), so I’m arguably something of an expert in the field. And now, at last, I shall pass that expertise on to you.
(Before we begin, I want to remind you all that, if you make money off any of the following tips, I think I legally deserve at least 50% of your winnings. However, if you lose money off these tips, I will generously allow you to deal with that yourselves.)
There are 35 Senate races this year, which is slightly above the average. But that’s probably indicative of how much America loves its Senate races. In fact, Minnesota loves Senate races so much that they’re having two of them this year! (Although one of them may be happening because Stuart Smalley resigned. Guess he had to go save his family.) Mississippi also has two elections this year, one of which is a “jungle primary” – and sadly, this does not mean that the winner gets to swing up to the podium on a vine, nor pound his or her chest in victory while Phil Collins music blasts in the background. (Not necessarily, anyhow.)
But despite the multitude of elections, most of the outcomes are fairly easy to predict. There are only a handful of true coin-flips (a term underscored by the fact that many voters will choose between the candidates by flipping an actual coin). Essentially, five states will determine which party controls the Senate (and, if CNN is to be believed, the fate of the world) for the next two years.
The five battleground states (“battleground” being a metaphorical term, although don’t be surprised if some actual battles break out on November 7th) are as follows:
1. The red state which looks like it may finally turn blue (or purple?) this year.
2. The state where everyone has a Southern accent, even though it’s in the northern half of the country.
3. The state which looks sort of like a box, except the person drawing it got drunk halfway through.
4. The state which no one pays any attention to except when it’s election time.
5. The fifth one.
Pollsters don’t know which way the races will swing. But that’s only because they haven’t asked me. My (probably correct) prediction:
1. The red-to-blue-or-purple state will stay red, but it will be less red than it was before. We will thus spend the weeks after the election hearing that, despite the fact that the state hasn’t elected a Democrat since the Mad Men era, it is now technically a purple state. Or maybe a reddish-purple state. Magenta state? Yeah, that works.
2. The northern state with the Southern accents will flip from red to blue. Shortly after, many of the state’s residents will start speaking with Northern accents. Communist plot, I tell ya.
3. The half-drunk boxy state will flip from blue to red. The supposed “blue wave” does not affect it, as it is nowhere near the coastline.
4. The state which no one pays any… eh, who cares.
5. The fifth one will stay blue, since the Senator has spent the last several months acting like a lower-d democrat. Once the election is over, she will return to being an upper-D Democrat, thus inadvertently making a complete mockery of the capitalization process.
(Side Note: Those of you who live in states without any Senate elections this year should take a moment to appreciate how lucky you are. Once you’ve done that, please continue reading.)
House of Representatives
There are 435 people in the House, and every single one of them is up for reelection this year. This means that any one of them could be voted out.
Do you believe that? If so, you’ve been getting too much of your news from Facebook. In reality, most of these House seats will remain the same, because the vast majority of politics is really boring. However, somewhere between 60 and 80 of the seats are up for grabs. Essentially, these seats will determine which party controls the House (and, if Fox News is to be believed, the fate of the world) for the next two years.
I don’t have enough space, time, energy, or advertising space to go into all these different races. But it’s worth noting that the House of Representatives is very much like that fussy kid who can’t decide if he wants pizza or ice cream – as soon as you give him one, he prefers the other. (Which is why his mother tends to give up eventually and just feed him boiled cabbage. Incidentally, I fear that America is quite close to entering the Boiled Cabbage Era.)
So, by virtue of the Fussy Kid Paradigm, when one party has control for a while, the other one tends to pick up plenty of available seats in the midterms. This is the rubric most pollsters use, and it’s only been proven wrong several times.
If you’re planning to bet on individual House races, though, things can get dicey. My recommendation is to set up a series of betting pools. Each pool should contain a mixture of mostly safe seats and a few tossups. Then, convince some of your less politically-savvy friends to vote against you in all the pools. The key to the system is that if you win a majority of bets in a single pool, you automatically win the entire pool. That way, even if most of your tossup predictions are wrong, you can still win the overall pool vote!
Did you understand all that? If so, congratulations – you have a good grasp of the American electoral system.
There are lots of other people running for office this year, too – Governors and Attorney Generals and State Senators (which are not to be confused with actual Senators, even though plenty of people will inevitably do so). Most of these races are not as widely-publicized, though, since they’re not directly affiliated with Congress. Rumor has it, in fact, that while plenty of Congressmen will make photo ops with their state Governor, they must often resist the compulsion to flash the donkey ears while doing so.
Which way will these races swing? It’s tough to tell, since they’re judged on an even more state-by-state basis than Congressional elections. In cases like that, I tend to apply this helpful rule of thumb: In swing elections, the more terrible candidate will usually win. (The more terribler, the poorly-worded rule says, the better.)
And this brings me to my final point: While I encourage all my readers to get out and vote, it is absolutely crucial that you only vote for terrible candidates.
Hear me out. You want to win elections, don’t you? You want to smile at your candidate and declare that you helped him or her get into office. The solution, then, is simple: Vote for terrible candidates. Because, if the polls I’ve seen each election are correct, they’re more likely to win than the good ones.
I’m actually surprised that so few people have latched onto this idea.
I guess I’m just ahead of my time.
Anyway, happy voting. And remember, 50% is only a suggestion. I will happily accept more.