Politics & Other Mistakes: The future revealed (or maybe not)

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When you want to know the partisan makeup of the next Maine Legislature, you could do worse than ask a political expert from Virginia.

Although, you couldn’t do much worse.

Al DiamonThe expert in question has the excellent name of Chaz Nuttycombe, and he runs something called CNalysis, which claims it can predict races in every state, right down to the legislative level, although it admits on its website it has an “extra knack” for Virginia.

That alleged knack allowed Nuttycombe to correctly forecast Republican Glenn Youngkin’s narrow victory over Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe in last year’s race for Virginia governor. But he blew it on the contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general, forecasting they’d go to Democrats, while the actual voters preferred Republicans.

But who cares if Nuttycombe got Virginia wrong. It’s Maine we’re concerned about, and in CNalysis’ latest prognostication, it has carefully calculated that the GOP will increase its holdings in the 151-member state House of Representatives from the current 64 seats to 76.7, giving the pachyderm party a narrow majority that seems to include a partial legislator.

Nuttycombe doesn’t explain this semi-assembled politician, but why quibble over fractions. On Twitter, he brags that in 2020, he correctly predicted 137 of the 151 Maine House races.

That may look like a lot, but looks can be deceptive. Most Maine House seats are solid locks for one party or the other, so if a political expert merely guessed the winner would be the candidate of whichever party currently holds the seat, said expert would be right about 125 times. In the remaining 26 districts, you could flip a coin and the odds say you’d be right more often than Nuttycombe.

Nevertheless, after CNalysis released its assessment, the Maine GOP rushed out an email noting, “While any forecast should be taken with a large grain of salt, we are seeing movement on the ground that confirms the Republican momentum in Maine that this forecaster’s models are capturing.”

No mention of where the party intends to find the necessary seven-tenths of a legislative candidate or of which parts would be missing.

Also not mentioned in CNalysis’ crystal ball is that the current Legislature has three independents, which is about an average number of non-party winners in recent elections. If the partisan division is particularly tight, these outsiders could hold the balance of power.

For a more measured assessment of legislative races, let’s turn to Fivethirtyeight.com, which has lots of charts showing a slight tilt toward the GOP. Emphasis on slight.

“Maine,” the website says, “has one of the most competitive legislatures in the country.”

Overall, it found that the few swing districts in the state had become slightly less conservative than in the last election, although most of them still tilt red. But based on redistricting, Fivethirtyeight gives the Democrats a slight edge to retain control of the House, although their majority may depend on the goodwill of those aforementioned independents.

In the state Senate, where the Dems hold a 21-13 edge (with one vacancy), no forecaster I’ve seen is predicting a Republican takeover. Fivethirtyeight even suggests it’s not unreasonable for Democrats to make a slight gain. There appear to be fewer than half a dozen competitive Senate districts, and Republicans would need to triumph in all of them to grab the majority.

For that to happen, the GOP needs to win a special June election in the swing district in the Ellsworth area between Democratic state Rep. Nicole Grohoski and former Republican state Sen. Brian Langley, and then hold the seat in November. Republicans would also have to hope GOP state Rep. Sue Bernard of Caribou can knock off Democratic state Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash in an Aroostook County district that redistricting has shifted slightly to the right.

When it comes to the Maine Senate, Nuttycombe thinks – aw, who gives a damn what some oddly named geek in Virginia thinks.

Read the tea leaves. Read the horoscope. Read the number of dots on a spotted salamander. Then forward the results to [email protected].