If you played kickball or baseball in the 1990’s, you quickly learned one of the schoolyard’s most basic principles: “Tie goes to the runner!”
The gist is this: if the ball and the runner reach the base at the same time, the runner is safe.
A few days ago, the idea popped in my head to apply this rule to politics.
First, some basics to set up the analogy:
The “runner” is the challenger. He’s trying to score.
The incumbent is on defense. The incumbent controls the field and generally has more money and people trying to help his/her campaign. These advantages pay off. The incumbent generally wins. It’s aggravating at times.
Sometimes, for various reasons, an incumbent will face a close race for re-election. Here, we can infer political momentum because the incumbent’s inherent advantage must have dwindled for a reason. Perhaps the incumbent did something wrong? Perhaps the incumbent is swept up into national partisan trends? Or, perhaps, the particular challenger happens to be a bad ass.
A general rule emerges: If a race is close as election day approaches, you should bet on the challenger. The reason: the momentum that he/she used to close the gap will more than likely carry him/her to victory.
“Tie goes to the runner”
The 2020 Ticket
We’ll start at the top:
President: Biden has not only closed the gap on the incumbent, he’s favored in every poll. Biden’s going to win. So you’ll know I’m consistent, I wrote a post in July called “Trump is Going to Lose.” It’s the most unoriginal title I ever came up with, but my feelings haven’t changed. Unless something drastic happens in 2020, we’ll have a new President in 2021.
- WINNER: RUNNER (BIDEN)
US Senate: This is a race where my theory gets put to the test. Cal Cunningham was leading in most polls against the unpopular incumbent, Tom Tillis. You had to like Cunningham’s chances. Then, Cal got caught sexting with a woman in a different state. Cal’s basically in hiding now, refusing to answer questions. He’s trying to run out the clock.
I still like his chances. Why? He’s in a close race with an incumbent that’s coming down to the wire. People obviously didn’t like Tillis to begin with, and Cunningham’s personal mishaps aren’t going to change that. “Tie goes to the runner.”
- WINNER: RUNNER (CUNNINGHAM) by less than 2 points.
Governor: This race has never been close, so our theory doesn’t apply.
- WINNER: COOPER
U.S. House (District 8): Incumbent Richard Hudson faces his most serious challenger yet in former NC Supreme Court Justice and Fayetteville native, Patricia Timmons-Goodson.
The partisan makeup of the 8th District favors a Republican. The middle, rural parts of the district are solidly “red.”
For a Democrat to win, they have to drive up Democratic vote on the “ends” of the District (Cumberland and Cabarrus).
If Trump keeps imploding, he could turn “lean Republican” races like this one into “toss-ups.” Tie goes to the runner in toss-ups.
The cracks are forming in the Trump foundation, but there’s a whole lot of MAGA in the middle of NC’s 8th District that will fight (and vote) to the end.
As a side note, this race is somewhat personal to me. My old man ran for this seat in 2002 when I was a senior in high school and lost in the Democratic Primary. In addition, I clerked for Justice Timmons-Goodson while I was in law school. She’d be an excellent Congresswoman and Fayetteville would benefit substantially from having a resident member of Congress. Hudson has never held a real job outside of politics and lives in Washington D.C. Let’s get Hudson some work in the private sector.
Please vote for Timmons-Goodson.
- WINNER: TRUMP SAVES OR KILLS HUDSON
If Trump implodes and loses nationally by >8 points, then this race goes to the “runner,” Timmons-Goodson. If not, Hudson keeps his seat.
NC Senate District 19
Kirk deViere vs. Wesley Meredith, Part II.
This one is always fun to cover, and I’ve written about it extensively. This seat is the epitome of North Carolina’s purple politics and produces close and expensive races.
I never miss the chance to remind folks that I called this race within .03 of a percentage point in 2018, and I kept the receipts:
Surprisingly, the race seems quieter this time around. I keep waiting for a bombshell that hasn’t materialized from Meredith, the king of attack ads. From what I can tell, its been mostly a mailbox battle. Maybe Meredith’s not getting as much money from the Republican Party this time around?
Regardless, the race is likely to be close again, but it’s hard to say if our baseball theory applies this time. Meredith’s only been out of this seat for one term and held it longer than deViere prior to losing in 2018. Who’s the runner? Who’s in the field?
I think this one ends up a lot like 2018, with deViere gaining a little more ground due to Democratic enthusiasm. I’ll call it to the 10th of a percentage point to see if I can re-create my crystal ball magic:
- WINNER: Kirk deViere 51.3%, Wesley Meredith 48.7%
After I wrote this post, I googled the “tie goes to the runner” rule. I came across a post on a blog for umpires. There’s a blog for everyone nowadays.
It turns out that “tie goes to the runner” isn’t an actual rule.
There’s no such thing as a tie in baseball. You either beat the ball to the plate, or you don’t.
Umpires have to make the call.
You can make the call starting tomorrow with early voting.
Fee free to yell at me in the meantime.