The Odds on November

Things are trending the wrong way for Democrats in every respect. Polls show generic Republicans with an advantage, Ron Johnson has a comfortable lead over Mandela Barnes while Tony Evers is in a dead heat with Tim Michels. It seems like the Democrats are likely to lose in the La Crosse area Congressional seat held for decades by Ron Kind. Inflation just won’t go away or even ease up. Mortgage rates are rising fast and the stock market is volatile, but trending down. The issues voters care about most — inflation, the economy, crime, immigration — are ones on which the Republicans hold the upper hand. Democrats’ attempt to make the election about abortion seem to have fallen flat.

So, while we’re a long way from any definitive outcome, it looks like the possibilities are narrowing. Here’s my best guess, now three weeks out, as to what the odds might be for various scenarios.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

The Amazing Scenario. Democrats lose the House, but only by a net loss of less than two dozen seats. They add a seat or two to their margin in the Senate. Gov. Tony Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul and Secretary of State Doug La Follette win reelection. Democrat Brad Pfaff eeks out a win in the Third Congressional District. I’d put chances of this at less than 5%. I only even list this as a possibility because of an odd result in the latest Marquette poll. That poll showed Evers and Barnes with commanding double digit leads among less likely voters. If turnout is higher than expected, the results might be a good deal happier for Democrats.

The Good Scenario. Democrats lose the House by more than two dozen seats. They hang on to the Senate by the same thin margin they have now. Evers is reelected along with the other statewide officers, but Ron Johnson is reelected and the Third CD goes red. I’ll say the odds for this are about 30%.

The Disastrous Scenario. Democrats lose the House by more than three dozen seats. They lose the Senate. Evers and all the constitutional officers go down to their Republican opponents. I’m guessing this scenario is about as likely as the previous one at 30%.

The In-Between Scenario. Democrats lose the House by a couple dozen seats, lose the Senate, RoJo is reelected, but Evers and Democrats keep their statewide offices. I’d put the likelihood of this outcome at around 35%.

So, it looks from here like the range of likely outcomes for Democrats goes from bad to worse to awful. I don’t see any scenario under which they maintain a House majority and it feels like the odds are slightly less than even that they hold onto the Senate. I still think Evers has the edge, but not by much. So, the question really is, just how bad will it be?

And on another matter… it’s looking like efforts to stop the student debt forgiveness giveaway are fading fast. Yesterday, Justice Amy Coney Barrett refused a request to put the program on hold pending resolution of a lawsuit brought by Brown County taxpayers. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty brought the suit on their behalf and now three federal courts have refused to stop the Biden administration from moving forward. But I give Barrett some props, even though I think the loan forgiveness program is just awful public policy. The legal problem is that it’s hard for WILL to establish standing because nobody is specifically harmed by the policy. It’s not enough that taxpayers in general could claim that they’re being ripped off, which they are. Barrett is a conservative who may well personally be against the giveaway, but she acted in accordance with legal standards.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

5 thoughts on “The Odds on November

  1. Since you brought up debt forgiveness, now do the farm debt forgiveness no one is talking about. Do it on the merits and not on the amount/number of people helped (there are less farmers than students) and also not on the manner, meaning executive order vs. IRA legislation. I get the differences but the same arguments about “moral hazard” and taxpayer giveaway applies.

    Really annoyed at everyone exhausting there supply of virtual ink over student debt forgiveness and no one caring about another form of debt forgiveness.


  2. I’d give higher odds for your good scenario. I see Democrats pretty much trading Arizona for Pennsylvania in the Senate.

    But I’m more interested in your take on Tim Ryan. I would think he would be the sort of Democrat that is most in line with your politics, yes? There’s a good article in the today’s NYT written by Alec MacGillis. (It’s funny that MacGillis goes with the tried-and-true phrase “industrial policy” rather than the zesty and scintillating “public-market accelerated incrementalism”. I guess he didn’t want to pay the royalty.)

    What advice would you give Ryan at this late stage?


    1. I’ve been ready with invoices and/or cease and desist orders for PMAI, but haven’t had to use them yet. Yes, Ryan’s my kind of Dem. I fear he’ll lose and people will say that moderate Dems can’t with either, but his problem is his party label. Put him up against Vance in a nonpartisan race and he wins going away.


  3. Scenarios seem about on target as of October 22nd.

    Evers holding on to the wall as the red wave hits is a testament to the following.

    – Bland governing style.
    – Those of us wonk’s belief in divided government.
    – A sense something just isn’t legit or proper with Michels – his weakness as a candidate – we’ve seen the “I’m a businessman and so I know” shtick before.
    – The stunning silence from his primary opponents.
    – The lack of clear plans for solving problems and taking on issues other than putting smart people in a room. He alone will push and accept the emerging solutions that he thinks are right.

    As for MB – he should have done another tour as LT Governor… Even a tidal wave turnout may not be enough to save him.

    I keep asking:

    Why was the primary field cleared so Barnes was the last candidate standing and what will the powers that be learn if Evers squeaks out a win and MB goes down?


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