By H. Harrison Coleman
On November 29, I sat down for a Zoom interview over Zoom with Chaz Nuttycombe, political analyst and director of the state legislative forecasting website CNalysis. CNalysis predicts the results of state legislative races across the nation and covered the Democrats’ down-ballot collapse in the 2020.
Chaz Nuttycombe is currently working towards his bachelor's degree in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Because of the state’s off-year legislative and gubernatorial elections, politicos such as Nuttycombe have plenty to keep them active on the scene.
The Iris: Tell me about CNalysis. How did it get started?
Chaz Nuttycombe: I started CNalysis on March 1st. I started laying the groundwork earlier—probably late January—but started predicting elections in 2017, when I was a senior in high school, predicting the House of Delegates elections here in Virginia. I did it on a national level for state legislative elections in 2018, and I wanted to professionalize things, make it easier to present forecasts, so I started my own LLC earlier this year.
TI: How many people are involved in the running of CNalysis?
CN: There’s me, Alex, our editor, cynic9, who makes our maps, Blaine, on graphics, Chris, who is our campaign finance analyst, and Jackson, who runs our odds. There’s currently six people—it’ll be seven, starting next year. We’re getting a new Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Jack, and we’ll be getting a whole revamp of the site probably by the summer.
TI: What’re your long-term plans for CNalysis? How far will this go?
CN: I don’t know. I’m in college right now, maybe someday we’ll be bought by someone like how FiveThirtyEight was bought by the New York Times, when Nate Silver (the director of FiveThirtyEight) worked there. So maybe something like that, but right now, I’m just focusing on the near future rather than the far future, looking at the 2021 and 2022 elections right now.
TI: In the 2020 election, what were some trends you noticed? Were there any demographic trends you thought were interesting?
CN: There were a lot of upsets in the suburban areas. We thought that the suburbs, just like in 2018 and 2016, would be a place for Democrats to make some gains. They did make some, but nowhere near the levels we thought they were going to get. Republicans just dominated the rural areas, and they’re going to do that again in 2022. Talking about white, conservative areas, Trump territory, or former Trump territory, these areas were trending towards the Republicans. I think right now, Republicans have a net gain of 124 state legislative seats, and we were expecting Democrats to get about that number. What happened was that these suburban voters, who do not like Trump, voted for Democrats in 2018 because Trump was not on the ballot. Now that this year, Trump was on the ballot, they can vote against Trump, but go back to brunch and vote for Republicans. So Democrats have a major down-ballot issue.
TI: Would you say that this new status quo is permanent, or would you say that there is a way Democrats could regain these rural seats?
CN: No. There’s no way in hell. This has been a trend that’s been going on since the Civil Rights Act was signed. When Democrats started supporting Civil Rights, and the white, conservative Democrats became Republicans—that was when this all started. As the parties become more sorted, with liberal or moderate Republicans disappearing, and conservative Democrats disappearing, we’re going to see the suburbs, which are becoming more diverse, become more Democratic, and you’re going to see the rural areas, which are becoming more white, becoming more Republican.
TI: If you had to make a guess on how this would impact redistricting, what would that be? How would this affect the new districts?
CN: Oh, Democrats are so screwed. They fumbled the football, this is the second time in a row. And they’re going to have to learn. There’s a pretty good argument that losing the 2028 presidential election, for example, would be worth it for the Dems, very much worth it for them. Because, as pretty much every single midterm goes, it’ll be a rebuke of the incumbent party. Democrats aren’t at as much of a disadvantage after 2010, there are new redistricting commissions that have popped up in Republican states.
TI: With the demographics being as they are, with white rural voters, do you see a path for re-election for Senators such as Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV)?
CN: Joe Manchin’s probably screwed. Sherrod Brown has a chance. I’d say he’s a slight underdog, but you know, we’re four years out. West Virginia Democrats just got absolutely annihilated. Sherrod Brown has a pretty good brand in Ohio, but he only won by seven points in a Democratic midterm, and his opponent had a shell of a campaign. 2024 will be a pretty bad year for Democrats in US Senate races.
TI: The Democrats lost House seats all around the country, except in North Carolina and Georgia, where they gained House seats. Why are those two regions outliers?
CN: Well, the reason in North Carolina is because they drew a new map. The state Supreme Court struck down the old gerrymander, and Democrats basically had two free seats. The Atlanta suburbs were a bright spot for Democrats, and I’d say in the state legislative races, they slightly underperformed, but regardless, the suburbs were pretty good, and that’s what put Joe Biden over the top.
TI: You’ve been covering the state senate race in New York, where the Democrats got a supermajority. What outcomes could result from this new supermajority?
CN: If they can pull together every Democrat in the state senate, they wouldn’t even need Simcha Felder, who is pretty much a Democrat in name only, … but you have a supermajority now, that's not reliant on Simcha Felder, and they can override Cuomo’s veto, and Cuomo is not in touch with New York. A lot of progressives have been winning in New York, and it's interesting because the state has been long dominated by machine politics. And now Progressives are finally breaking through the mould.
TI: With Donald Trump now out of the picture, do you see the Republican Party fracturing or uniting behind someone else, electorally?
CN: I think Trump is going to run again in 2024, and he’ll win the primary. He has a lot of support among Republican voters, I would have a very hard time seeing him lose. Anyone who runs against him in a primary I just think you’re wasting your time if you're running against Trump in a Republican primary.
TI: In 2022, which governors do you think are the most electorally vulnerable?
CN: Laura Kelly (D-KS), probably number one. Tony Evers (D-WI), probably number two. I’d rather be whoever the Republicans nominate in 2022—unless it’s Kris Kobach, which I don’t think they will. All they have to do is nominate a decent candidate against Kelly and I think she loses. Evers is also in trouble because Wisconsin is proving to be a pretty even state. The rest of them will have to wait—this summer is when we release our new 2022 initial forecasts. We still have [a few] months to see how I’d rank the rest of the governors.
This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.