Making predictions for politics in 2016 feels like predicting the winning numbers for the lottery. Six months ago, I was one of the many analysts who predicted that Donald Trump was a flash-in-the pan candidate and would not last as the leader for the Republican presidential nomination. I failed to understand the lasting power of Trump’s celebrity status and how he channels the anger and frustration of many Americans.
The good news is that the political world is not just the Republican nominating process. Elections for Congress, governor, and state legislatures will be determined by more traditional forces such as fundraising, electoral district lines, and issues. The Supreme Court continues to operate as an institution made up of justices with very different views of the Constitution. International events remain shaped by long-standing economic, political, and religious differences.
It is with this belief in the stability of most national and international politics that I offer 16 predictions for the next year.
- The two presidential nominating fields could not be more different. The Republican Party, which traditional favors a candidate who has served his time in the political trenches, currently has a celebrity outsider who has held many positions favored by Democrats. Democrats, on the other hand, who have often turned to outsider candidates has the ultimate political insider leading in the polls. When things shake out in early summer, the Republicans will have a Rubio-Fiorina ticket, while the Democrats will have a Clinton-Kaine
- The US Senate will end up with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans after the fall elections. Republicans have more seats up in this election cycle and Democrats pick up key wins in Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire to put the Senate into a deadlocked position.
- The Democrats pick up five seats in the US House, far from the 30 needed to retake the House. This prediction assumes that Republicans choose Rubio or another experienced politician as its presidential candidate. The nomination of Donald Trump could lead to the Democrats picking up 4-6 more seats in the House.
- Of the 12 governor’s races this year, Democrats currently hold eight of them. Unfortunately for Democrats, there is likely to be bad news as they are likely to lose their hold of the governor’s mansion in West Virginia and may lose Missouri. That puts a lot of pressure on the North Carolina governor’s election. In the end, Republicans will have a net gain of two governorships.
- Speaking of North Carolina and its governor’s race, it will come down, unsurprisingly, between Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper. Although both have primary challengers, neither should have difficulty in winning their respective party nominations.
- The legal cases in the court systems over North Carolina’s redistricting will result in the primary and general elections going as planned with the current district maps. Although opponents of the Republican-drawn maps hold hope that the US Supreme Court will rule the NC districts invalid, using the Alabama ruling as precedent, the Court will not rule similarly on the NC maps.
- The legal case over the NC voter id law will also fail to overturn this provision of the 2013 law, since lawmakers passed a revision to the law making it easier for voters to cast their ballots.
- The US Supreme Court will uphold the idea of “one person, one vote” in Evenwel v. Abbott and not allowing districts to be drawn on the basis of eligible voters. This will allow the growing Latino population to continuing shaping congressional and legislative districts.
- The Supreme Court will rule a second time in Fisher v. the University of Texas. The Court will rule against the University of Texas and effectively end affirmative action.
- The major emphasis of US foreign policy will shift to the Iran-Saudi Arabia crisis. If these two regional powers get into a shooting war with one another, instead of a proxy war in Yemen and other places, this will undercut much of what the US is doing in Syria, including defeating ISIS. On the presidential campaign circuit, there will be a lot of talk about US failures with Iran, but little substantive discussion of how to manage the Iran-Saudi Arabia crisis.
- After a productive end to 2015 in terms of legislation, Congress reverts back to moving very few pieces of legislation through that will likely be signed by President Obama. The Federal Aviation Administration will be reauthorized by early March and a bailout for Puerto Rico may be the only major bills signed during the election year, with the Trans Pacific Pipeline and immigration reform being rescheduled for after the next presidential inauguration.
- Back to election predictions, Senator Richard Burr will win reelection only because the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other major donors will put their money in other races,
- Governor Pat McCrory will narrowly win reelection as the Democrats fail to produce the Obama coalition of voters from 2008 and 2016.
- Incumbent Council of State members Dan Forest, Steve Troxler, Wayne Goodwin, Elaine Marshall, Beth Wood, and June Atkinson win reelection. Challenger Charles Meeker beats incumbent Cherie Berry for Commissioner of Labor. Josh Stein wins the Attorney General race, while Dan Blue is elected State Treasurer.
- The $2 billion bond issue in North Carolina passes comfortably with bi-partisan support.
- Hillary Clinton wins the presidency because of the “blue wall” of electoral votes. She loses North Carolina 52-48%, but wins Florida, Ohio, and Virginia—all keys to her victory.
Despite all of the discussion about an angry electorate, the voter turnout will not be historically high. This election appears more like the 2004 election cycle, rather than 2008. In the end, neither Democrats nor Republicans will be completely excited about their presidential candidates and many voters will stay home.