Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar score high on electability; Elizabeth Warren, not so much

Now that the race for the ...

Posted: Jan 2, 2019 2:27 PM
Updated: Jan 2, 2019 2:27 PM

Now that the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination has officially started, one of the big issues that will likely come up is which candidate is the most electable.

One way to find that out is to see how the different possible candidates have done in the past. Of course, it's difficult to compare candidates when they run for different offices in different years.

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There are, however, six potential 2020 Democratic contenders ran who ran for the US Senate in 2018.

The big takeaway from those results: Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are above-average candidates on the question of electability, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts -- who announced Monday that she's formed a committee to explore a 2020 presidential run -- is below average.

To come to that conclusion, I followed a pretty simple formula. I looked at how Brown, Klobuchar, Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Texas' Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont did in their 2018 Senate races. Then I examined how Democratic US House candidates in those same states performed. Thanks to Catalist, a data company that works with Democrats and others, we can calculate how unopposed House candidates would have done in races had they had opponents.

Klobuchar won her race by 24 points. Democratic House candidates in Minnesota won by 11 points, which is the same margin Klobuchar's home state colleague, Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, won her special election by. So Klobuchar had a 13-point overperformance.

Klobuchar's win is particularly impressive when you look at all Democratic Senate candidates running in 2018. Only Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia did better than Klobuchar compared with the US House candidates in their states.

Now, you might think Klobuchar, Heitkamp and Manchin were able to do so relatively well because they don't have particularly liberal voting records. That may be the case, though Brown's Ohio performance suggests well-known progressives can also score well.

Brown won his Ohio race by 7 points. That may not seem like a lot, but Ohio Democrats struggled in House races. All told, Republican House candidates in Ohio beat Democratic House candidates by 5 points. In other words, Brown did 12 points better than the baseline.

Brown can rightfully claim that he flipped a red-leaning state blue in the midterms. That's a fairly powerful message given that Hillary Clinton would have won in 2016 had she taken the states that she did plus Ohio and next-door Pennsylvania (which she lost by less than a point).

Warren, on the other hand, comes from a very different state, politically speaking. Warren won in Massachusetts by 24 points. House Democrats, though, swept all the congressional races in the Bay State. Had all the Democratic US House candidates in Massachusetts had Republican opponents, it is calculated Democrats would have won the cumulative statewide House vote by 36 points.

So Warren underperformed the House Democratic baseline in Massachusetts by 12 points. That's the worst of any Senate candidate in 2018. Even scandal-ridden Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey did a little better compared with the US House vote in his home state than Warren did in hers. Warren's 2018 performance is one of the big reasons to question her electability.

The story is not as clear for the other potential 2020 Democratic candidates who ran for the Senate in 2018. Gillibrand and O'Rourke did slightly better than Democratic House candidates in their states, while Sanders did slightly worse."

It could be that New York and Vermont are so blue that there wasn't much room for improvement for Gillibrand or Sanders. Indeed, I'm not sure there is much to glean on electability for Gillibrand or Sanders from this data. Still, Gillibrand comes out ahead of Sanders on this score.

For O'Rourke, there's a bit of a complication in making a comparison. He is the only non-incumbent investigated here. Usually, incumbents do better than non-incumbents in Senate races. That means O'Rourke's slight overperformance may be more impressive than meets the eye at first glance. That said, there are more Republican US House incumbents in Texas than incumbent Democrats, so the House baseline may be artificially pro-Republican as well. Additionally, the incumbency effect was low in 2018.

The bottom line is that the case for O'Rourke being an above-average candidate on electability is not as strong as it is for Brown or Klobuchar. Even if their above-average electability translates just to their home regions, Brown and Klobuchar have fairly easy cases to make.

Both handily won in states that President Donald Trump did better in than the average Republican in 2016. They may be able to eat into the President's Midwest support in ways that could prove to be decisive in 2020, just as Trump's strength in the region proved decisive in 2016.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 486434

Reported Deaths: 6575
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1009131586
Ramsey43165803
Dakota36375392
Anoka33335388
Washington22121258
Stearns18752201
St. Louis14822263
Scott13308107
Wright12538116
Olmsted1181788
Sherburne874172
Carver775640
Clay692387
Rice670791
Blue Earth596635
Kandiyohi579674
Crow Wing521282
Chisago499545
Otter Tail483270
Benton447790
Winona418549
Mower405731
Douglas393368
Nobles387247
Goodhue386269
Polk343763
McLeod340049
Beltrami338651
Morrison324747
Itasca313646
Lyon313644
Becker312542
Isanti306756
Steele301511
Carlton300149
Freeborn282623
Pine282016
Nicollet259241
Todd248330
Brown245537
Le Sueur235720
Mille Lacs227947
Cass220424
Waseca209317
Meeker207434
Martin189928
Wabasha18673
Roseau180317
Hubbard160740
Houston157414
Dodge15294
Renville150340
Redwood147027
Fillmore13768
Chippewa136735
Pennington136316
Cottonwood135020
Wadena131020
Faribault123417
Aitkin119033
Watonwan11758
Sibley117310
Rock115914
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101624
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9488
Jackson93610
Swift87918
Pope8075
Marshall78015
Lake74218
Stevens7418
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68516
Wilkin67411
Koochiching61911
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5092
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned44568
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3075
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 335218

Reported Deaths: 5443
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk51785551
Linn19463313
Scott17080210
Black Hawk14924292
Woodbury13778212
Johnson1312174
Dubuque12416194
Dallas1019092
Pottawattamie9828143
Story959345
Warren511674
Clinton500784
Cerro Gordo498882
Webster494487
Sioux479169
Marshall463072
Des Moines427161
Muscatine424191
Buena Vista412237
Wapello4025108
Jasper386266
Plymouth367478
Lee354252
Marion339869
Jones284654
Henry279637
Bremer268754
Carroll266349
Crawford252235
Boone242830
Benton240354
Washington239047
Mahaska215246
Jackson209738
Dickinson202440
Tama202365
Kossuth198055
Delaware185540
Clay183825
Winneshiek182827
Fayette178635
Page177819
Buchanan176929
Wright173831
Hamilton173742
Cedar171523
Hardin169439
Harrison167169
Clayton159854
Butler158831
Mills147920
Floyd147741
Poweshiek147730
Lyon145541
Cherokee145336
Allamakee142347
Madison141918
Iowa139423
Hancock137630
Grundy132030
Winnebago130231
Calhoun129311
Cass128751
Jefferson128334
Appanoose123147
Louisa122341
Mitchell120440
Chickasaw119615
Union118731
Sac118318
Shelby116433
Emmet115040
Humboldt113525
Franklin109019
Guthrie108928
Palo Alto100921
Howard99021
Montgomery96736
Clarke94720
Keokuk92029
Monroe89428
Adair81028
Ida81032
Pocahontas80919
Davis76323
Monona76327
Greene72910
Lucas71421
Osceola68215
Worth6667
Taylor64112
Decatur5699
Fremont5599
Van Buren53718
Ringgold50520
Audubon4739
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