It’s incredibly annoying that politics is as complicated as it is. It would be nice to be able to apply broad formulas to past and upcoming elections to define American legislatures with simple mathematical formulas. Something like, “The president is viewed favorably by only 36 percent of the country, which translates into a shift of 10 points to the Democrats, which means a swing of 30 seats to the Democrats, not enough to gain the majority.”
We sort of do things like that all the time, of course, since there is a correlation between presidential approval ratings and House results (albeit closer to Election Day) and the generic ballot — that is, the national opinion on who people would rather see control the House — does bear some relationship to how the vote will turn out. But those relationships are loose and imprecise, given that control of the House is a function of 435 different elections featuring hundreds of different people in hundreds of different places. The throughline is dotted.
But to — I’m not sure what word I’m allowed to use here, so — heck with it. We went ahead and made a tool that simply lets you see how the House would shift if there were a universal shift in every seat from the 2016 House results. (We’ve set aside the 29 uncontested races from last year, 15 of which were won by Republicans, though we’ve added them to the tallies.)
We’ve preloaded some scenarios. They include the results of the four close House special elections this year, races won by the Republicans in each case, but by margins lower than the party won the seats in 2016. (This shift is in part a function of the incumbents from those seats getting tapped to work in the Trump administration, meaning that voters were becoming acquainted with a new Republican candidate, but we’re ignoring all such nuances, right? Right.)
So without further ado: our tool, allowing you to control the House of Representatives like a god controlling a small village. Want to lay waste to the body with a tsunami of Republican votes? Go for it. Want to crank the Democrats up to 100? All yours.
In this deeply partisan moment, what could be more cathartic than the illusion that changing one simple thing would reshape American politics in one direction or the other?
Reality, annoyingly enough, is not so simple.