My predictions are:
- Neither the US House nor the US Senate will change hands.
- Mitch McConnell will lose his Senate seat.
- Wendy Davis will lose her bid to become Texas governor.
- The major issues of 2014 will be guns and health care.
- Oregon will become the first (and perhaps only) state to reverse its own anti-gay-marriage ballot measure by a subsequent ballot measure.
- The US will start putting boots on the ground in East Africa
- The US U3 unemployment rate will go below 6.5%.
- The movement to divest from Israel will become a major news story.
- Major reforms in surveillance methods will pass Congress.
- George Zimmerman will have another run-in with the law.
- Super Bowl XLVIII will be Denver versus Seattle.
By the way, since the Alamo Bowl is December 30th, it doesn't make sense for me to predict the winner as part of my 2014 predictions. Nonetheless, I predict Oregon in a blowout.
With that said, my reasoning for all of the above predictions is below.
Neither the US House nor the US Senate will change hands.
I'd like to be wrong about the House, but the Republican advantage in gerrymandered districts makes for too many safe GOP seats for the Democrats to have a realistic chance, especially given the way the GOP is going to fight for swing districts (see below). As for the Senate, I think the Democrats will make modest gains - not enough for a filibuster-proof majority, but enough to embarrass the GOP.
Which brings me to:
Mitch McConnell will lose his Senate seat.
I'm not very confident in this prediction. However, I see a fair (45%) possibility that McConnell could lose his Senate seat, and lose it to a Democrat. I think those odds could go up as the race evolves. This is, for me, a value bet.
The Tea Party is hoping to get rid of McConnell with a challenge from the right. McConnell has a buffer, however, in the form of support from Senator Rand Paul. Unless Ted Cruz endorses Matt Belvin, the Rand Paul endorsement should be enough to make enough of the base pull the lever for McConnell.
The bigger challenge will come from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. In 2011 she won the general election by twenty points against a Tea Party favorite, and has been gaining steam after her speech at the Fancy Farm this year. Right now the consensus is that this race leans McConnell, but the success of Kentucky's health care exchange is going to be a hammer with which Grimes can beat up McConnell, and Democrats and Progressives are sure to pour money into this race and turn it into a toss-up.
Wendy Davis will lose her bid to become Texas governor.
Current polling has her down ten points. That's harder to make up for than it looks in Texas. In short, it's Gregg Abbot's race to lose. But hey, maybe he'll blow it.
The major issues of 2014 will be guns and health care.
As with any election, 2014 is going to be about getting out the base vote in purple states and purple districts, and the two issues that most motivate the bases of both parties are guns and Obamacare.
Gun control proponents often point out that universal background checks are highly popular right now - the number they usually cite is 90% or higher, and although this overstates support for background checks, the latest good number as of today is that support for universal background checks is 85% with an MOE of 3%. The problem is that Democrats and Progressives are pushing for more - much more - than universal background checks. They want an assault weapons ban, a magazine ban, and other laws, that are nowhere nearly as popular as background checks (support for AWB ran at about 55% as of May), and which are deeply unpopular with Republicans. In any state that isn't reliably blue, passing such a ban is political suicide.
Nonetheless, early last year there appeared to be some middle ground on this issue. Unfortunately, groups critical of the NRA from the right advanced the theory that universal background checks would lead to universal registration and open the door to widespread prohibitions on many kinds of guns. The NRA, not wanting a repeat of the revolt of 1986, were forced to take the same position, and thus the middle ground disappeared.
This gives both parties no room for compromise, but a lot of red meat to throw to their bases. The Democrats can blame the GOP and NRA for the failure of "reasonable" gun control initiatives, some of which are sensible, most of which have as much to do with reality as a pink unicorn. The GOP and NRA can claim that Democrats would love nothing more than to make the New York SAFE Act the law everywhere. Expect them to blast these claims through every possible channel between now and November, especially in tight races.
The only issue that's going to reign bigger in the public debate is Obamacare. At this point, it's clear that it's neither the brilliant success Democrats were hoping for nor the abject failure Republicans were predicting. The ACA's successes mean, among other things, that millions of formerly uninsured and uninsurable are buying insurance for as little as three cents a month, while increases in health care costs are declining. None of this makes for sexy or splashy headlines, but they make a huge difference when you're the one getting the insurance. Meanwhile, the ACA's most catastrophic failures - the dreadful launch of Healthcare.gov, millions of Americans being dumped from their insurance plans, hundreds of thousands of Americans no longer able to see their usual doctors - are ultimately short term problems that will work themselves out one way or another. The real test of Obamacare comes two years from now, as people adjust to the new normal. Then we'll know whether America is better or worse off for this law.
In the meantime, people's experiences with this law, for better or for worse, are shocking, and will probably swing them to one party or another. Both parties know this, and are going to make sure the voters know where they stand.
Oregon will become the first (and perhaps only) state to reverse their own anti-gay-marriage ballot measures by a subsequent ballot measure.
In 2004, Oregon voters passed a ballot measure amending the Oregon constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Since then, Oregon has trended blue, with Democrats maintaining control of statewide offices, both US Senate seats, all but one US House seat, and (except for the 2011-2012 legislative sessions, when the House was tied) the state legislatures, since 2008. Public opinion has shifted enough that an amendment to define marriage as between two consenting adults has become feasible, and so Oregon United For Marriage started gathering signatures for such a measure this summer. As of this writing, they have over 120,000 signatures - 4000 or so more than is needed - and they're still going. It's safe to say that the measure will certainly be on the ballot in November 2014. If it's on the ballot, my guess is that it passes by double digits.
Colorado and Florida are similar to Oregon, with respect to having passed an anti-gay-marriage amendment and then subsequently become perhaps progressive enough to pass a gay marriage amendment. However, Florida activists and Colorado activists are both targeting 2016, rather than 2014. Of the other states that voted in an anti-gay-marriage amendment, none have shifted enough to make a gay marriage amendment feasible. This leaves Oregon in the unique position to be the first to do so.
Going forward, on the other hand, efforts to legalize gay marriage in other states may well become moot. This is because of a recent Federal court ruling legalizing gay marriage in Utah. This ruling invalidated a provision in the Utah Constitution as being contrary to the 14th Amendment, and that makes it much different from other rulings clearing the way for same-sex marriage. The State of Utah has already filed an appeal, which will likely end up before the Supreme Court in 2015. At that time, I suspect we'll see the Supreme Court rule 5-4 in against bans on gay marriage. The rest of the bans will fall from subsequent lower court rulings before the 2016 election comes to pass.
The US will start putting boots on the ground in East Africa
The hotbed of anti-American terrorism has shifted from the Middle East to East Africa. Right now this is manifesting itself in the news as a humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, but the real issue is that pirates based in Somalia are causing too much disruption to trade between India and Europe. A foothold in South Sudan would put Somalia in easy reach.
The US U3 unemployment rate will go below 6.5%.
The "official" unemployment rate for the United States is 7.0%, which is the lowest it's been in five years. In fact, the U3 rate has been in rapid decline, which is going to lead to reports that the economy is booming. All my prediction is saying is that this decline will continue through 2014.
In fact, the U6 rate, which includes the underemployed and those who have given up on their job search out of frustration, is still at an unacceptably high 14%. While this is declining, it's not going to be below 10% any time soon. By way of comparison, during the interval 2003-2007, U3 unemployment was rarely above 6% and U6 was rarely above 10%.
The Great Recession, simply put, was a real SOB, and we're nowhere near having recovered.
The movement to divest from Israel will become a major news story.
There is a growing movement to push universities and other institutions to divest from Israel over illegal settlements and other human rights violations. Up until now, it's received no attention from the major media, but some attention from the bloggosphere. Recently, it received some attention from one of the more influential blogs, the Volokh Conspiracy, albeit in a "look at these idiots" way.
Major reforms in surveillance methods will pass Congress.
Basically, I'm saying that the libertarian Republicans and the progressive Democrats will join forces to fix the abuses that Edward Snowden has uncovered for us. Congress will do this in the name of reining in the NSA. In truth, Congress gave the NSA the authority to do most of the shit they're doing.
George Zimmerman will have another run-in with the law.
In July, George Zimmerman, the poster boy for poor judgment, was acquitted of murder. Since then he's gotten his guns back and has twice gotten into hot water over allegations of domestic violence. So far, he's been reckless and lucky. His luck is going to run out.
Super Bowl XLVIII will be Denver versus Seattle.
Seattle was let down by a bum field goal last season. This season, they're motivated, and it shows. Denver and Kansas City are the best two teams in the AFC, but Kansas City has declined over the season, and Peyton Manning has been having one of the best seasons of his career.