Having had my fingers burnt by predicting that Hillary Clinton would be US President, I suppose I should take the line that predicting election results is a mug’s game - best to be avoided. However, that is not me. Having made a remarkably correct set of predictions for Australian elections since I became the Politics Expert of this website, I have decided to chance my arm again on the American Presidency.

Donald Trump will be recorded by historians as a one-term President, with Mike Pence recorded as a one-term Vice-President. Their successors will be Joe Biden for President and Beto O’Rourke for Vice-President, both being from the Democratic Party.

In coming to that conclusion, I have made the judgment that the recent mid-term results for the House of Representatives constitute a far better guide to the future than is the case in respect of those for the Senate. Trump has been repudiated in the former. Although he claims victory in the latter, my proposition is that Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, is the winner in the latter, not Trump. More on that below.

The 2016 presidential elections gave Trump 306 votes in the electoral college to 232 for Clinton. However, Trump’s win was heavily dependent on his narrowly winning 20 from Pennsylvania, 16 from Michigan and 10 from Wisconsin. Subtract those 46 votes from Trump and give them to Clinton and the result would have been 278 for Clinton and 260 for Trump. However, I would be very surprised by a result as close as that in 2020. I give those figures merely to say that the Democrats secured very solid wins in those states at the recent mid-term elections for the House of Representatives.

The results are not quite final for the House of Representatives. My estimate is 229 seats for the Democrats and 206 for the Republicans. That represents a Democratic gain of 35 seats, compared with 2016 when the numbers were 241 for Republicans and 194 for Democrats. The 35-seat Democratic gain is five above the average midterm loss of 30 seats suffered by the party in control of the Presidency during the period from 1922 to 2014.

In the Senate elections two states are in doubt but, for the purposes of my argument, I give the seats to the Republicans. The states are Arizona and Florida. That being accepted, the Republicans would have 54 seats, the Democrats 44 while two “Independents” have won. They are Angus King (Maine) and Bernard Sanders (Vermont) both of whom caucus with the Democrats. One can say, therefore, that the division between right and left will be 54-46, where it is 51-49 at present.

The key to the Senate results is to understand that incumbent Democratic senators have been defeated in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. All three are natural (and solid) Republican states. However, they are not typical in any way. Presidential elections are not decided in Indiana, Missouri or North Dakota. So why were those Democratic senators defeated?

Social conservatives in the Republican Party will tell you that, from their perspective, Donald trump has had only one success. He has placed conservatives on the bench of the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch back in February 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in September 2018. Mitch McConnell gets all the credit in their eyes – and I agree with their assessment. The appearance of Kavanaugh at the perfect time is what caused those Democratic defeats. They were caused by the bloody-mindedness of the Senate Democrats and the folly of those Democratic senators in going along with the party. By contrast, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin survived in West Virginia by voting with the Republicans to confirm Kavanaugh.

Finally, a word about my picks for November 2020. Joe Biden was Vice-President during the eight years of the Obama Presidency. Beto O’Rourke (born in September 1972) has been the member for the 16th congressional district of Texas since 2012. The Americans go in for numbering congressional districts. In our Australian language, we would describe O’Rourke as the member for El Paso. Likewise, incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is the member for the 12th congressional district of California. We would describe her as the member for San Francisco.

(Malcolm Mackerras is Honorary Fellow of Australian Catholic University. malcolm.mackerras@acu.edu.au)