From Our Contributors
Ten Classic Ads That Campaigns Should (or Shouldn't) Use
In American politics, everything old can be made new again, including the themes and attacks in candidates' campaign ads. Some of the most notable presidential ads of the past few cycles were basically just copies of old ads. For instance, Hillary Clinton’s most famous ad in her 2008 Democratic primary campaign against Barack Obama featured the “3 a.m.” phone call, which emphasized her experience. Well, 24 years earlier, Walter Mondale used a similar ad, featuring a phone, in his primary race against Gary Hart -- “Mondale: This president will know what he’s doing, and that’s the difference between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale.”
In 2004, George W. Bush ran a tough ad against John Kerry featuring wolves gathering in a forest, a symbol of terrorist threats in the first post-Sept. 11presidential election. That ad was similar to a Ronald Reagan commercialfrom his 1984 campaign, in which a bear symbolizing the Soviet Union threatened an armed American hunter. Both ads have a similar look and feel, and they were both run by Republicans who were trying to make their Democratic opponents look weak.
As we survey the developing House, Senate and governors races, we thought it would be fun -- and, hopefully, instructive -- to recall some classic ads from past races (we excluded presidential commercials) that contained themes, images and ideas that today’s candidates might consider borrowing. Our list is below, and we hope that after you read it, you’ll e-mail or tweet us with more suggestions, which we’ll list in a follow-up Crystal Ball piece.
A note: Because of technical considerations, it’s not possible to embed YouTube clips into our e-mailedCrystal Ball. However, this same story is posted here with the campaign ads embedded directly in the story. If you want to see the ads using this version of the story, just click on the images below, which link to the ads on YouTube.
"Fast Paced Paul”
Description: Facing an incumbent with a huge war chest, future Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) had to find ways to attract support. He found that witty and memorable ads, such as this one emphasizing the fast-paced, committed approach Wellstone would bring to the U.S. Senate, were a great way to overcome his financial disadvantage. Despite facing long odds, Wellstone won this race in 1990 against Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R). It was the only Senate seat to change party hands that cycle. This was just one of the great ads Wellstone ran in this race; another featured him “Looking for Rudy” in order to get a debate with the incumbent.
Who could use the ad: Rick Weiland (D) of South Dakota is another northern Midwestern Democrat who will likely be outraised and outgunned in his race against ex-Gov. Mike Rounds (R), the likely GOP nominee. It will take something special for Weiland to get the upper hand in the contest, and some clever campaign ads could help his chances. In fact, Weiland has already taken a Wellstone-esque tackby asking Rounds to limit the size of campaign contributions in the race; Rounds, as one would expect, declined.
“The Great Straddler”
Description: Republican challenger Florence Sullivan accused Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of refusing to take stands on big issues and depicted Moynihan riding a fence post. The funny ad didn’t do much for Sullivan -- Moynihan won comfortably in this 1982 contest -- but the ad’s amusing imagery gets at a common argument about politicians who might be trying to have it both ways.
Who could use it: Embattled Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) will surely try to accuse his potential opponent, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D), of being on both sides of many issues, especially because Crist has run for office as a Republican (as governor), an independent (in his 2010 Senate bid) and, now, as a Democrat running for governor again. Maybe Scott could shoot the ad with Crist trying to straddle a Y-intersecting fencepost given his three different party affiliations in recent years.
“Lifestyles of the rich and famous”
Description: Just like “The Great Straddler,” this ad targeted another longtime Democratic senator -- in this case, Fritz Hollings of South Carolina in 1986 -- but instead of attacking the incumbent over his issue positions, Republican Henry McMaster’s campaign took him to task over a perceived jet-setting lifestyle. Also similar to the ad used against Moynihan, it was fun but ultimately ineffective: Hollings won in a rout.
Who could use it: Rep. Chris Gibson (R, NY-19) is facing a strong challenge from Sean Eldridge (D), a wealthy investor and activist who is married to Facebook co-founder and New Republic publisher Chris Hughes. Amusingly, the National Republican Congressional Committee has already borrowedfrom the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” theme in an online ad in this race. Other possible targets could be any wealthy politician: possibilities this cycle include Terry McA uliffe (D), the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Bill Clinton fundraiser running for the Virginia governorship, and Bruce Rauner (R), a venture capitalist running for Illinois governor.
(Speaking of Rauner, we are told he is a very serious candidate to win the Republican nomination in Illinois, although there is a crowded field. With Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan taking a pass on the race and unpopular incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn facing a primary challenge from former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, we have moved this race to a TOSS-UP from leans Democratic, despite the state’s Blue lean. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)
Description: Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura (Reform Party) unexpectedly won the Minnesota governor’s race as a third-party candidate in 1998. In this ad, Ventura wasn’t afraid to spoof his wrestling career -- the Jesse Ventura action figure battles special interests while fighting for lower taxes and better government services. This helped get across his message to voters: “Don’t waste your vote on politics as usual.” This is the second ad on our list from Minnesota's North Woods Advertising, which also made Paul Wellstone's ads in 1990.
Who could use it: Maine independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler will need to think outside the box to win over voters who may be inclined to vote for either of the two major parties. As Ventura proved, in the right electoral atmosphere, humor and a strong reform message can take down Democrats and Republicans.
“The Wallop Senate Drive”
Description: Republican challenger Malcolm Wallop cut an outsider profile in his 1976 victory over longtime Sen. Gale McGee (D) in Wyoming. In one of the Crystal Ball’s all-time favorite ads, Wallop paints himself as a stereotypical cowboy running for Senate in the Cowboy State. Wallop’s roughrider image was not without its softer spots, though: While Wallop had grown up on a ranch, he was born in New York City, he had a degree from Yale and his grandfather served in the British House of Lords.
Who could use it: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R-AK). Treadwell, a Connecticut native who has degrees from Yale and Harvard, is the current front-runner to challenge Sen. Mark Begich (D) in the Last Frontier. Shedding an establishment reputation is going to be important for Treadwell, and what better way to do that than to record an ad of him looking like more of a frontiersman? He might consult longtime Rep. Don Young (R-AK) for tips; Young had a classic spot showing him as an “Alaskan Like You” (a great ad produced by master political consultant Robert Goodman that we unfortunately could not find online). Another obvious candidate who ought to study the Wallop Senate Drive? Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president who is challenging Sen. Mike Enzi in next year's Republican primary. Despite her father's House career and her family's homestead in the Cowboy State, Liz Cheney herself has only tenuous connections to Wyoming. So she needs to bolster her authenticity in order to minimize the inevitable charges that she's a carpetbagger.
Description: In one of the most famous non-presidential ads ever, a pack of bloodhounds is trying to track down Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston (D) for skipping votes. The message: The record of a long-time incumbent will come back to bite him or her eventually.
Who could use it: Wouldn’t it be amusing if Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) repurposed this ad to use against the candidate who made it, now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R)? Huddleston was running for his third term; McConnell is now running for his sixth. Then again, maybe not: In his near-miss challenge to McConnell in 2008, Democrat Bruce Lunsfordparodied the "Where's Dee?" ad. Another person who could use a version of this ad would be Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who is likely to be Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) top opponent next year. Landrieu is running for her fourth term, and he’ll have plenty of votes to criticize as he tries to defeat her in the conservative Bayou State.
“Not Your Typical Ad, Not Your Typical Politician”
Description: Near the end of his close 2012 race against Rep. John Tierney (D), Republican challenger Richard Tisei chose to air an unconventional commercial of a quiet beach to give voters a break from traditional campaign ads. The ad was interpreted as a victory lap for Tisei, who many expected would beat the scandal-tinged Tierney. But Tisei ended up losing a very close race.
Who should NOT use this ad: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and ex-Gov. Mike Rounds (R) are solid favorites to win their respective primaries and general elections in two open, Democratic-held Senate seats. But they shouldn’t take anything for granted, like Tisei might have done with this ad.
Description: One of the true shocks of the 2012 primary season was the unknown veterinarian Ted Yoho (R) knocking off veteran Rep. Cliff Stearns (R) in Florida. Yoho tapped into the outsider, anti-establishment vein in current GOP circles, and the kind of message he tried to convey is evident in this amusing ad, featuring career DC politicians as pigs feeding at a trough.
Who could use it: If anyone is going to upset a veteran Republican senator or House member in a 2014 primary, this is the kind of ad a successful challenger might cut.
Description: Although now-Sen. Joe Manchin (D) was a popular governor in West Virginia, he was still a Democrat running for U.S. Senate in what has become an increasingly Red state. To help him win in 2010, Manchin literally took aim at the Republican attacks against him in an effort to separate himself from the national Democratic Party. Manchin reminded voters that he was backed by the NRA, stated that he would work to repeal “the bad parts of Obamacare,” and memorably used a rifle to shoot a hole in the cap-and-trade bill.
Who could use it: One of Manchin’s fellow Red State Democrats, Sen. Mark Pryor, is faced with winning reelection in Arkansas, a state similar to West Virginia in its recent Republican swing. Pryor recently made waves by refusing to back the Democratic-controlled Senate’s gun control efforts, and the incumbent is already running ads defending his vote as evidence that only Arkansans, not New Yorkers or Washingtonians, can tell him what to do. But Pryor could surely add firepower to his position by physically firing a bullet through the legislation.
“We Are Better Than That!”
Description: Who is Dale Peterson (R)? Well, after running this over-the-top ad trumpeting his conservative values and attacking the political establishment for being full of “thugs and criminals,” many people following politics had at least heard about Peterson, and that he was running for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner in 2010. While he didn’t go on to win the Republican nomination, Peterson went from being completely unknown to losing by a fairly close margin in a three-way race.
Who could use it: Any unknown candidate. We’ll let you know who he or she is after the ad goes viral.
* * *
Of course, we certainly didn’t exhaust the list of memorable campaign spots that could be recycled for use by candidates on both sides of the aisle in 2014. So readers, what ads would you suggest rehashing, and in what races supporting or opposing what candidates? Please e-mail your suggestions firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll offer up a list of reader suggestions in the next Crystal Ball.
By Sean Trende
By late 2009, it was clear that Democrats had a problem. Some generic congressional ballot tests were showing Republicans with a seven-point lead, which would have been consistent with a 1994-style blowout. But analysts were nevertheless deeply divided over whether Republicans would even be able to take over the House, much less replicate 1994. Some argued that demographic change had insulated Democrats. Because of the growth of the non-white electorate, even if the Democratic share of the white vote fell to the 42% share (subtracting third parties) they received in 1994, Democrats would barely lose the national popular vote.
This was a serious, credible argument. But in November 2010, Democrats won only 38% of the white vote. Taking into account exit polls, the National Election Study and historic popular vote totals, it was probably the worst showing among whites, at least as presently defined, for any major party dating back to 1822. Two years later, in a more favorable environment, Democrats still managed only 40% of the white vote.
This led me to wonder if white voters were trending away from Democrats over time. After examining a variety of data, I concluded that there was a shift from Democrats among white voters, and that we might reasonably conclude that this trend will continue in the future. This was published as part of afour-part series at RealClearPolitics.
Last week, Alan Abramowitz and Ruy Teixeira published a thoughtful rebuttal to part two of the series, which discussed trends among white voters. I think these arguments miss the mark, and I thank Professor Sabato and the Crystal Ball team for giving me a chance to respond.
Clarifying the argument
Before beginning, we should clarify my thesis. It has never been, as some have suggested, that the GOP should “double down” on white voters while writing off non-whites. The pieces have simply observed that there are problems with the suggestion that the fate of the two-party system hinges on Republicans passing a specific piece of legislation (immigration reform) in hopes of encouraging 10% (up two points in the last eight years) of the electorate to move toward the Republicans. To win in 2012, the GOP could have tried to improve its share of this Hispanic vote by 21 points. But we have to understand that the same result can be achieved if the Democratic share of the white vote declines further by three points.
Far from encouraging the GOP to select a particular path, the series simply lays out multiple options for the GOP. Each of them contemplates some improvement with at least one minority group, as well as some shift of the GOP agenda. The best scenario, described in part three, actually involves modest outreach to all groups, majority and minority alike.
PVI is an imperfect, but useful metric
The gravamen of Abramowitz and Teixeira’s complaint is I examined trends in white voters’ Partisan Voting Index (PVI) to determine whether the white vote was moving away from Democrats. They observe that PVI is an inherently relative measurement. Therefore, we might also say that the white vote is staying constant, but the Democrats’ share of the electorate is increasing, making whites look relatively more conservative.
These debates are inherent to PVI. Reagan carried Massachusetts twice, but PVI calls it a solidly Democratic state in 1980 and 1984. PVI also describes the Bay State as moving leftward from 1980 to 1984, even as Reagan’s numbers there improved. We could credibly argue that the composition of the rest of the country simply became Republican faster than did Massachusetts, and that both really evinced a rightward trend. It seems clear to me that Massachusetts was not really a swing state at its core in the 1980s, but you could argue it the other way.
Regardless, while PVI always has “chicken-or-the-egg” issues, I used it in part two of the series because it is both simple and intuitive. It is a straightforward way to try to remove national effects, allowing us to compare dissimilar elections. More importantly, it’s more appropriate for reaching the broad audience we draw at RealClearPolitics than a more technical regression analysis. Most importantly, it is hardly the only data that supports my conclusion (and it is worth noting that even Teixeira and Abramowitz’s regression finds a statistically significant trend toward Republicans among whites).
Taking PVI out of the equation yields similar results
But rather than using PVI to allow us to compare apples and oranges, let’s try to compare apples directly. We could try to find and compare other years where Republicans fared about as well with the white vote as they did in 2012. Teixeira and Abramowitz identify one such year: 1988, when Michael Dukakis lost the white vote by the same margin as Barack Obama.
This is actually evidence that whites have trended away from Democrats, all other things being equal. The 1988 elections were held in a horrible environment for Jackson’s Party. GDP growth was around four percent, the Republican incumbent -- while not on the ballot -- was popular, and the Democratic challenger was weak.
In 2012, the environment wasn’t quite reversed, but it was much better for Democrats. The Democratic president’s job approval was more-or-less even, and he was running with growth at his back, however tepid. Many economic models used by political scientists suggested an Obama reelection. That Democrats now win the same share of the white vote in slightly favorable environments as they once did in terrible environments suggests that whites have, all other things being equal, moved away from the Democrats.
Or, to put things a little differently, in 1996 and 2008, Bill Clinton and Obama both won by similar margins in quite favorable environments. But Obama did nine points worse among whites than did Clinton, despite the substantially similar environment.
Party Identification trends suggest whites are less Democratic
We all agree that non-whites are a growing share of the population, and that they are heavily Democratic (Abramowitz and Teixeira suggest they are increasingly so). If whites’ overall party ID had remained constant, we would expect the influx of non-white, Democratic voters to gradually increase the portion of the electorate that identifies with Democrats. Instead, Gallup finds this:
Chart 1: Party identification, as measured by Gallup, since 1991
Party identification ebbs and flows in predictable response to national events, but basically does so around the same midpoints.
Unlike Gallup, Pew doesn’t push “leaners.” It finds fewer Republicans than in recent years, but also finds more independents. This is most likely because Republicans increasingly self-identify as independents; this, you may recall, led to the unfortunate “unskewed polls” phenomenon of 2012, as well as to Romney’s unusually high margin with independents for a losing candidate. Most importantly, contrary to what we’d expect if the white vote were constant, Pew doesn’t find more Democrats.
A properly controlled regression analysis yields the same result
Of course, the best approach is probably to use a regression analysis. Abramowitz and Teixeira attempt this by comparing the Republicans’ share of the white vote against a time-series variable. Almost none of the variation is explained.
I’d expect nothing more. Indeed, it would be shocking if a simple two-variable regression showed whites becoming more Republican over time. That would suggest that the movement of the white vote away from Democrats was so inexorable as to trump all outside considerations: the economy, incumbents’ job approval, wars going badly and everything else. Since whites are responsible for some 80% of the variance in the overall presidential dataset, such a finding would upend a lot of political science analysis.
A better approach is the one I undertook in part four: seeing whether there is a statistically significant relationship between the Republican share of the white vote and the progression of time after controlling for other factors. I actually used Abramowitz’s data for his original Time for Change model, examining presidential approval ratings, GDP growth, incumbency and the year in which the election was held.
You can read my piece for a more thorough exploration of the methodology and findings, but it turns out that there is a statistically significant relationship between the time variable and the Republicans’ share of the white vote (p=.01, b=.73).
None of this should be surprising. Whites have become more prosperous over the past 50 years, and income still correlates with Republican voting habits (for Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites and, to a lesser extent, African Americans). Moreover, Democrats’ decision to embrace policies aimed at their “coalition of the ascendant” cannot be viewed in a vacuum. A case in point is Arizona, a state where Mitt Romney ran about as well as George W. Bush, despite a less favorable national environment. The Hispanic vote there has grown and, given a state GOP that stands as a poster child for how not to attract Hispanic voters, has moved sharply toward Democrats. But the Democrats’ stance on immigration isn’t particularly popular among whites, and whites, especially whites without college degrees, have shifted toward Republicans, resulting in no net change.
The bottom line is that political scientists have been reasonably successful at predicting elections based on a few basic factors. None of them, to my knowledge, includes a demographic variable. If the only relevant demographic change were the growth in the non-white vote, we’d expect these models to take on a pro-Republican bias over time, as a pro-Democratic variable that the models fail to account takes on increased salience.
But models like Nate Silver’s famous FiveThirtyEight model, the Hill/Sides/Vavreck model and many others called the election pretty well, without reference to demographic changes. Brendan Nyhan hashelpfully collected graphs showing how models have performed since 1976, and if anything there’s a persistent bias toward the incumbent party, not toward Republicans. There’s no gradual deterioration of their ability to predict races. The original Time for Change model had its best result in quite some time. It’s because the gr owth in the non-white vote has been offset by a deterioration in Democrats’ standing among whites.
Any one of these observations, standing alone, would stand as reasonable evidence that the Democrats have been shedding white voters over time. Combined, they’re pretty compelling. The Democrats are reaping the benefits of our increased diversity. But they’re paying it back with an increasingly poor showing among whites.
By Kyle Kondik
Republicans have not won the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Max Baucus (D) since the advent of popular Senate elections. That they are now in position to do so speaks volumes about the importance of ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s (D) surprising decision to pass on the race.
Schweitzer opting against a run is arguably the biggest development in the race for the Senate so far this cycle. Sure, while three Democratic incumbents in seats that Mitt Romney won in last year’s presidential race decided to retire -- the aforementioned Baucus, along with Sens. Tim Johnson (SD) and Jay Rockefeller (WV) -- all of them were probably only at best slightly better than 50/50 bets to retain their seats. Schweitzer, who is more popular in Big Sky Country than his rival Baucus, probably would have been better positioned than the incumbent to win the seat.
Had Schweitzer run, we probably would have switched the toss-up seat to leans Democratic, but now that he isn’t, we have instead switched it to LEANS REPUBLICAN.
The likeliest Republican candidate appears to be Rep. Steve Daines, first elected last year. Daines was making noise about running even before Schweitzer made his decision, and some prominent Republicans, including a key figure in the National Republican Senatorial Committee (Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio), are raising money for him. One never knows about Republican primaries these days, but Daines could potentially have a relatively clear shot at the nomination if he wanted it. One of the current candidates for the seat, state Rep. Champ Edmunds (R), has already said he would defer to Daines if he entered the race (Edmunds would run for Daines’ House seat instead).
The potential Democratic field could very well produce a female nominee: possibilities include state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau (who is thought to be the first Native American woman ever elected to a statewide position) and Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, a national group that supports pro-abortion rights women in races for office. Schriock, in particular, would seem to aid Republican attempts to nationalize the race. (Another prominent female Montana Democrat, state Auditor Monica Lindeen, quickly ruled out a run.) A number of other Democrats are possibilities; the party seems to have a decent bench here, so let’s not just automatically award the race to the Republicans yet. Particularly if Daines runs, comparisons to last year’s Republican failure in North Dakota are impossible to avoid. Daines, like the 2012 North Dakota Republican nominee Rick Berg, is a freshman representative who lost to a strong female Democrat (now-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp). Could Juneau, Schriock or someone else be the next Heitkamp? It’s certainly possible, although it’s also plausible that one or more of these Democrats might conclude a run for an open House seat is preferable to running against the current at-large representative, Daines, for the Senate seat.
The overall Senate picture looks like this: Democrats, so long as they win back the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D) seat in New Jersey (Cory Booker is an overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic primary in August and then recapture the seat in an October special election), will hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate. At this point, we expect South Dakota and West Virginia -- two open Democratic seats -- to flip to the Republicans (we rate both as likely Republican, meaning the GOP is strongly favored but not guaranteed to win both). The next domino is Montana, where the Republicans now have a perceptible edge. Win those three, and Republicans are halfway to the six-seat gain they need.
That narrows the field of true Senate toss-ups to four, which are the remaining states on this year’s Senate map won by Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential race that are represented by Democrats in the Senate: Alaska (Mark Begich), Arkansas (Mark Pryor), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu) and North Carolina (Kay Hagan). Of the four, Pryor and Landrieu seem the most vulnerable at the moment, but all should feature competitive races. Before the Schweitzer announcement, it appeared that Republicans would have to win all four of these races -- defeating four out of four incumbents -- to capture the Senate. Now they only have to defeat three of the four. That’s still challenging, but within the realm of possibility.
Note that this update essentially narrows the Senate field to the seven Democrat-held seats that Romney won in 2012, the seats that could be called “The Red Seven.” There are other potentially competitive contests: open Democratic seats in Iowa and Michigan; an open Republican seat in Georgia; and Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is facing what will surely be a well-funded challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D). But there are clear favorites in all of these races right now: Iowa and Michigan lean Democratic, and Georgia and Kentucky are likely Republican (for all the hype the Kentucky contest will receive, it’s just really hard to imagine McConnell losing, and Republicans will need to really screw up for Democrats to have a shot in the Peach State). Other races could also become competitive, but the sharp focus on the Red Seven is justifiable.
Because Democrats will have to lose a net six seats -- quite a lot in a single year, though with plenty of precedents -- we would tentatively give the Democrats slightly favorable odds of retaining control with a reduced majority. But we've passed the point where a GOP Senate majority is purely theoretical, and we are approaching the point where Republican takeover of the Senate is easily imaginable, dependent on just a medium-sized wave in November 2014.
Map 1: 2014 Crystal Ball Senate ratings
Coming this fall: Kennedy Half Century documentary, book
After winning an Emmy award for the documentary Out of Order: Civility in Politics, the University of Virginia Center for Politics and Community Idea Stations have again teamed up to produce The Kennedy Half Century, which will be airing on PBS this fall. The one-hour documentary will look at President Kennedy’s life and assassination, as well as the impact his legacy had on nine successive presidents; those interviewed for the documentary include former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former George W. Bush administration press secretary and CNN commentator Ari Fleischer, director Oliver Stone, CBS News Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer and many others. The documentary is being released in conjunction with Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato’s upcoming book, also calledThe Kennedy Half Century, which is slated to be released by Bloomsbury on Oct. 22 (and is available for pre-order here). To view a trailer for the documentary, just click on the image above.
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