UPDATE: Elephant in the Room Redux: The GOP's COVID Death Cult made the difference in exactly one statewide race.

I posted my final analysis of the potential impact of the COVID death rate divide between Republicans & Democrats on 2022 midterm election results back in September.

According to official CDC data, around 815,000 Americans died of COVID-19 between 10/31/20 - 09/10/22. Of those, I had estimated that perhaps 569,000 had actually voted for Biden or Trump. The total number has tragically risen by around 7,000 more since mid-September, which means the number of 2020 voters who've died is also likely around 4,900 higher.

Nationally, Joe Biden received 81,283,501 votes to Donald Trump's 74,223,975 votes. If COVID impacted both voting blocs at identical rates, you'd normally expect roughly 9.5% more Biden voters to have died of COVID over the past 2 years than Trump voters...or roughly 25,000 more Biden voters.

Instead, however, I estimated that nationally, perhaps ~150,000 more Americans who voted for TRUMP in 2020 had died of COVID-19 between the 2020 general election and the 2022 midterm election than those who voted for Biden.

Several obvious caveats apply here:

  • "Voted for Trump" or "Voted for Biden" isn't a perfect overlap with Republicans and Democrats
  • It also isn't a perfect overlap with how those ~569K people would have voted this year.
  • Finally, the odds are that some of them wouldn't have voted this year at all; election expert/vote tracker Michael McDonald estimates that the 2022 turnout was around 112 million people, or around 30% lower than in 2020.

HOWEVER, this is the best I've been able to do with the resources I have available to me.

I ran my estimates with three different assumptions:

  • My "Base Assumption" didn't take anything into account other than the statewide election results and the post-11/04/20 election COVID death toll in each state. If you stopped there, there'd still be around 6,300 more Biden voters than Trump voters who died since the 2020 election...but even this would already be an 18,700 swing from what a simple national popular vote count would give you.
  • My "Age Adjusted" estimates were just that: I broke out each state's voter turnout and COVID death toll by age bracket and calculated accordingly, using exit polls for each state. When I adjusted for age, I ended up with nearly 30,000 more Trump voters who've died since the 2020 election to date...a 55,000 swing from the popular vote expectation.
  • Finally, my "Assume 20% Lean" estimate attempted to account for other factors I've written about several times before: Misreported COVID deaths by MAGA coroners, the impact of refusal to wear masks/socially distance and so forth. Assuming this is reasonably accurate, it adds up to around 150,000 more Trump voters (roughly a 175,000 swing from popular vote expection).

If accurate, the high-end estimate would mean roughly 71% more Trump voters than Biden voters have died of COVID since the 2020 election.

As it happens, just a few weeks after I published this crude estimate, there was a major study published by the National Bureau of Economic Researchers--which used much more sophisticated methodology than I did--to conclude that:

We estimate substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available in our study states. Overall, the excess death rate for Republicans was 5.4 percentage points (pp), or 76%, higher than the excess death rate for Democrats. Post- vaccines, the excess death rate gap between Republicans and Democrats widened from 1.6 pp (22% of the Democrat excess death rate) to 10.4 pp (153% of the Democrat excess death rate). The gap in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats is concentrated in counties with low vaccination rates and only materializes after vaccines became widely available.

Well I'll be damned.

Here's what my national summary looked like as of September:

OK, that's nationally. What about at the state level?

Before I proceed, it's important to review my overall conclusion in September:

The net gap between Trump & Biden COVID deaths will likely continue to increase slightly more between now and November 8th, but aside from a handful of extremely close races, I doubt that will be enough to make the difference in who ends up winning.

The full state-by-state table is at my September post, but there's only a few states where any of the major statewide races (Governor, Senator, Attorney General, Secretary of State) seem to be close enough that the "Red-Blue COVID Death Gap" might make a difference:

  • In Arizona, I estimate that between 900 & 4,100 more Trump voters died of COVID post-election than Biden voters.
  • In Georgia, I estimate that between 1,700 & 5,700 more Trump voters died of COVID post-election than Biden voters.
  • In Nevada, I estimate that between 900 & 2,400 more Trump voters died of COVID post-election than Biden voters.

Georgia is kind of a moot point; Raphael Warnock is ~35,000 votes ahead of Herschel Walker, but it doesn't really matter since it's going to a runoff election anyway. However, that ~5,700 high-end gap could end up making a critical difference in the runoff as well. Republicans won all of the other major statewide races by a significantly higher margin and are thus also moot.

As for Arizona and Nevada: As of this writing, according to the New York Times:

Right now, none of these 8 races are within my gap estimates. All 4 Arizona Democrats are already ahead by more than my high-end estimate (the closest one is the AZ Attorney General race), while in Nevada, the AG race has already been called for Aaron Ford anyway, and Republicans are still currently leading in the other three races.

IF, however, any of the Arizona margins narrow to within ~4,100 votes, or the Democratic candidates for Governor, Senate or Secretary of State in Nevada end up turning things around and winning by less than ~2,400 votes, then I'd say there's a very strong argument to be made that the Red/Blue COVID Death Gap ended up being what nudged them over the edge.

As of this writing, of these 8 races only (there may be others, like state Treasurer and so forth), the three which seem to have the highest odds of this happening are Nevada Senate and Nevada Secretary of State (assuming NV numbers continue to move in their favor), as well as possibly Arizona Attorney General if the AZ numbers start turning against the Democrats there.

UPDATE 9:30am Friday: The Arizona Senate race has been called for Mark Kelly with more than a 100K vote lead, and the numbers have moved in the Democratic candidates direction in both states. At this point, unless something unusual happens with the remaining count, the only one of these races where the COVID death gap factor might make the difference is the Nevada Senate race:

I'll be posting a similar analysis for a couple of U.S. House races tomorrow, but that also requires some methodology tweaks since Congressional Districts don't generally match up perfectly with County borders.

UPDATE 8:00pm Friday: OK, it turns out the AZ Senate race hasn't been called yet after all...and in fact the NY Times is now saying that only 78% of Arizona's votes have been reported instead of 82%, even though the numbers have all inched upwards a bit. huh.

In any event, the bigger news is in Nevada, where the U.S. Senate race is now down to less than an 800 vote difference between Adam Laxalt and Catherine Cortez Masto...

UPDATE 9pm Sunday: Well, most of the races above have been called now; Mark Kelly & Adrian Fontes have won AZ-Senate & AZ-SOS handily, while in Nevada, Gov. Sisolak lost, Francisco Aguilar won by more than the "death cult" margin and it looks like Catherine Cortez Masto did as well, although hers is by far the closest of these (it looks like she ended up winning by perhaps 5,000 votes or so).

That leaves just Arizona Governor and Arizona Attorney General, where Democrats are down to a 26,000 and 11,300 vote winning margin respectively. Again, if either of these end up with the Democrats winning by less than around ~4,100 votes, there you go:

UPDATE 10am Tuesday, 11/15: OK, just about every statewide race has been called now. I've gone through the midterm results for all 50 states, and have created a new table which includes any statewide race in which the Democratic candidate either won or is leading by less than 10,000 votes.

I also threw in one Arizona race where the Republican candidate is only leading by a narrow margin since I think there's still a decent number of ballots left to count there. Alaska is a special case due to their instant runoff voting system which won't be concluded for another week or two, and the closest statewide race (U.S. Senator) is between two Republicans anyway, making it impossible to draw any conclusions about this from anyway.

As you can see, there's only four statewide races where the winning (or leading) margin is less than 10,000 votes:

  • Arizona Attorney General (Kris Mayes)
  • Minnesota Auditor (Julie Blaha)
  • Nevada U.S. Senate (Catherine Cortez Masto)
  • Wisconsin Secretary of State (Doug La Follette)

Even then, only one of these (AZ Attorney General) is within my estimate for the net difference between likely Republican and Democratic voters due to COVID deaths between the 2020 & 2022 elections. Mayes is currently ahead by 3,087 votes; if that holds, or she still wins by a smaller amount, then yes, I'd say the red/blue COVID death gap is what ended up pushing her over the top.

The same would be true of the other three races if they were to fall within the listed margins, although I think those are all pretty much final numbers.

UPDATE 11/16 8:30am: With the latest ballot report out of Arizona, Kris Mayes lead for Attorney General has now dropped to just 771 votes. It looks like there's less than 12,000 ballots left to report.

UPDATE 11/18/22: Welp.

UPDATE 12/29/22: The FINAL results in the Arizona Attorney General recount have just been announced. Kris Mayes ended up winning by a mere 280 votes.