Political predictions for Wednesday and beyond
My enthusiasm for making pre-election predictions has dimmed considerably in the aftermath of 2016, not just because I was wrong about the results of the presidential contest but also because I was so consistently wrong all year about how Donald Trump’s behavior was playing with the electorate.
Predictions of election outcomes are hunches based on polling results that are themselves tweaked by turnout forecasts and other modeling formulas. They’re then enhanced (or ruined) by finger-to-wind assessments of the public mood rooted in anecdote and, in some cases, wishful thinking.
With that in mind …
The only hunch that I’m secure enough to share about Tuesday is that Republican attorney Erika Harold will beat Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul for attorney general.
Harold is an appealing candidate — well-spoken, non-bombastic, impressively educated. In debates she’s been better focused on fighting political corruption than the comparatively cautious and halting Raoul, who almost seems like too nice a guy to be an AG.
Harold is more socially conservative than the average Illinoisan, but my gut feeling — no wagering, please! — is that independent voters will elect her to be at least a mild check on the impulses of Democrats who look likely to be in charge of everything else here for at least the next two years.
I’m more confident about what I see in the shards of crystal after Tuesday.
■ Harold, win or lose, will become the early favorite to be the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2022. Incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, if he defies the polls and wins, has already vowed to serve only two terms, and the party’s bench is weak.
■ Rauner’s surprisingly strong primary foe, state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, won’t be able to shake the mantle of sore loser and divisive figure, and will fade into the far-right fever swamps.
■ If Democrat J.B. Pritzker is elected governor, the pledge he’s made to attempt to amend the state constitution to allow for graduated income tax rates will stall in the General Assembly, even if there are supermajorities in both chambers.
■ The now-dreaded and obscenely hyped “caravan” of asylum-seeking migrants trekking through Mexico toward our southern border will drop from the headlines. The estimated 4,000 asylum-seekers are still more than 800 miles from Brownsville, Texas, and as their numbers inevitably dwindle, President Donald Trump will recall the 5,200 (or could it be 15,000?) troops he’s now deploying to the border as part of a vicious and wasteful stunt to fire up his base voters down the stretch.
■ Speaking of stunts, the 10 percent income tax cut for middle-income earners that Trump recently and unexpectedly promised will never materialize. It may show up in a symbolic legislative proposal, but even if the GOP keeps control of the House and Senate, its members won’t dare blow another huge hole in the federal budget.
■ Trump will fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the end of the week, beginning an effort to put a brick on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Invertebrate Republicans who have frequently warned Trump not to impede Mueller’s work will, as is their wont, roll over and show their bellies.
■ The promises made by now-campaigning Republicans that they will make sure people with existing medical conditions are protected in the health-insurance market will evaporate Wednesday morning.
The GOP has been relentlessly devoted to dismantling the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare), and charging people the same affordable premiums for health insurance regardless of their medical status is the centerpiece of that act.
Before the ACA, insurance companies often declined to offer full coverage to the already ailing and canceled policies for those who became sick.
Preserving the ban on such discrimination requires preserving the essence of Obamacare. And on Oct. 22 the Trump administration quietly announced a policy that makes it easier for states to allow insurers to offer what Democrats called “junk insurance” — insurance policies that offer fewer protections for those with existing conditions.
■ If we end up with a divided Congress — a Democratic House and Republican Senate — as polls and conventional wisdom suggest, it will only fuel Trump’s fury. Secretly, however, he’ll be glad to have Democrats to blame for his every failure, most notably his failure to build a massive wall at the Mexican border.
■ Trump, who has repeatedly said that Tuesday will be a referendum on his presidency so far, will declare victory and vindication in the results, no matter what. If there are races in which Republicans fall unexpectedly short, he will blame the media. Under no circumstances will he take responsibility for his party failing to take full political advantage of a good economy.
What Oprah said, and then some
Strong words from Oprah Winfrey during an impassioned speech Thursday in the Atlanta suburbs:
“For anybody here who has an ancestor who didn’t have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote — wherever you are in this state, in this country — you are dishonoring your family,” said the former talk-show star. “You are disrespecting and disregarding their legacy, their suffering and their dreams when you don’t vote.”
Winfrey, on the stump for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, was referring primarily to the history of African-Americans being denied their franchise, but I would revise and extend her remarks this way:
For anybody who has an ancestor or relative who has fought for our liberties, either literally by serving in the armed forces or figuratively in defending the rights and opportunities of Americans through action and protest — and you are choosing not to vote, you are dishonoring your family. You are disrespecting and disregarding their legacy, their suffering and their dreams, and you are ignoring your duty to help shape a better world for all children in generations to come when you don’t vote.
The runaway winner of this week’s online reader poll for funniest tweet was my friendly rival Neil Steinberg, a SunTimes columnist: “(President Trump is) in my thoughts and prayers, though I’m not specifying exactly what I’m thinking about and praying for.”
You will not dishonor anyone if you don’t vote for the Tweet of the Week, but if you’d like to be sure to vote, go to chicagotribune .com/newsletters and sign up for the Change of Subject email alert when the poll goes live.
Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul, left, and Republican attorney Erika Harold, both candidates for state attorney general, get ready for their forum last week on WTTW.