5 predictions for Election Day 2023

States across the country are holding pivotal elections Tuesday for governor, state legislature and more, offering a gauge of the national mood heading into 2024. 

Virginia and New Jersey are among the states where voters will determine partisan control of their state’s legislature, while Kentucky and Mississippi are holding gubernatorial races. 

Ohio, meanwhile, is the latest battleground for the fight over abortion rights as voters weigh a ballot measure seeking to enshrine protections into the state constitution.

Here are five predictions from experts on how Tuesday will shake out.

Clean sweep for Republicans in Virginia would be surprising 

Republicans are unlikely to turn both chambers of the Virginia state Legislature red Tuesday, according to Miles Coleman, an associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. 

“A Republican sweep would be surprising. I say that because I would say the state Senate, if I was issuing formal ratings … probably leans democratic, but the [House of Delegates] is more of a toss up,” Coleman said.

All 140 state Legislature seats are up for election, including 100 seats in the House of Delegates and 40 in the state Senate. Democrats hold a 22-18 edge in the state Senate while Republicans hold a 52-48 edge in the House of Delegates. 

Sabato’s Crystal Ball noted in September that control of both chambers would boil down to a handful of battleground districts, especially ones that went for President Biden in 2020 but went for Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) in 2021. 

“To me the kind of key data point there was … Younkin would have only carried 20 of the 40 districts in the Senate. So you kind of figure that, okay, well, Youngkin’s numbers are like the Republican’s ceiling almost and, you know, this year seems like it’s just a less Republican year than 2021,” Coleman added.

Some experts do see a better night for Republicans. David Barker, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, believes Republicans would gain both the state Senate and House of Delegates. 

“I don’t, by the way, think that it necessarily portends anything for 2024, but you know as we speak right now, it’s a bad moment for Democrats, right?” he said, pointing to internal divisions over the Israel-Hamas war and lack of enthusiasm for top-of-the-ticket candidates.

Kentucky, Mississippi governors anticipated to win reelection

Experts anticipate that Govs. Andy Beshear (D) of Kentucky and Tate Reeves (R) of Mississippi will hold onto their offices.

Beshear is vying for another term against Republican Daniel Cameron while Reeves is running against Democrat Brandon Presley. 

“We just don’t have enough [polling] to make me bet … to bet against the history, which is Republicans win statewide races here,” said Marvin P. King Jr., an associate professor in the political science department at the University of Mississippi, who noted a lack of consistent polling showing Presley outpacing Reeves. 

“For Reeves here and Beshear up in Kentucky, you know, the power of incumbency matters quite a bit,” he added. “So I think [Beshear will] hold on and win there. It does tell me that voters can separate local incumbents from the national picture.”

Glenn Antizzo, an associate professor in the department of history and political science at Mississippi College, said he couldn’t confidently predict that Reeves would win reelection but said the election could hinge on two issues: the issue of health care as Presley leans into Medicaid expansion in the state and Reeves not being a popular governor in the state.

“I think a lot of that is personality, not policy,” explained Antizzo. 

Ohio abortion ballot measure expected to pass

A proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion protections in Ohio’s state constitution appears likely to pass Tuesday.

“From what we’ve been able to tell, it looks like it’s on track to pass, although … I maybe expect it to be closer than the referendum there earlier this year. I think part of that may be the pro-life side … has a good messenger in [Gov. Mike DeWine (R)],” explained Coleman.

Coleman was alluding to the special August election in which Ohioans were asked to weigh in on a separate proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised the threshold to amend the state Constitution from a simple majority to 60 percent. 

The measure ultimately failed, but if it had passed, it would have made it harder for Democrats and abortion rights groups to have passed their own measure Tuesday.

Biden could face blowback if Democrats perform poorly in Virginia, Ohio 

President Biden could face blowback if Democrats perform worse than expected in key states, including Virginia and Ohio, some experts believe. 

“Yes he will, but it’ll be a little unfounded,” said Barker of American University, adding later that “people do carry their perceptions of the national party into these races.”

Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball agreed, saying Biden could also see blame if Republicans establish a trifecta in Virginia 

“If the Republicans end up taking both chambers of the Legislature, yeah, that would be — I would expect Biden to get a lot of the blame there just because, you know, in Virginia … there are a lot of things [that] seem to be informed by whatever’s happening across the Potomac River,” he explained. 

Experts aren’t expecting any surprising upsets

Though the races Tuesday are expected to be tight in many cases, Barker said he doesn’t expect any surprising upsets.

“I think all these things that we’ve been talking about are close enough that they won’t be [a] surprise,” Barker explained. 

“The biggest surprise would be if the abortion rights referendum doesn’t pass in Ohio. I mean, that’s the one that we do have a significant amount of polling on. It’s been, you know, for a while the pro-choice side has been in the lead on that for a while. And so if that were to go the other way, right, that would be a little bit of a shocker,” he added. 

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