• Sunday Mailbag
Yesterday, we crunched the numbers and concluded that things were looking very good for Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). Late Saturday, the AP and other outlets reached the same conclusion, and called the race for Cortez Masto. That gives the Democrats 50 seats and, along with Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote, control of the Senate regardless of what happens in the Georgia runoff.
Declaring Cortez Masto the winner was an easy call once Nevada released another set of vote totals. When 90% of the votes were counted, she was down 1% to Adam Laxalt (R). When the next 4% of the votes were counted, all of them mail-in, she made up that 1% gap and so effectively pulled even. Another 4% of the vote was released yesterday, and added almost another 1% to the Senator's total. That made it 48.8% for Cortez Masto (487,829 votes) to 48.1% for Laxalt (481,273) with 98% reporting. That's a lead of 6,556 with roughly 20,000 votes outstanding, which Laxalt cannot overcome. That gap is also big enough that a recount would just be a waste of time and money, so maybe Laxalt won't bother.
As a result of Cortez Masto's win, the Democrats no longer need Sen. Raphael Warnock's (D-GA) seat. But they still want it, of course. With 51 seats, it would be harder for Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to hold their colleagues hostage. There are certain issues on which the two strongly disagree, like coal (Manchin likes it, Sinema not so much) and raising corporate taxes (Sinema dislikes that idea, Manchin takes the opposite view). Further, an extra seat gives the Democrats an insurance policy against disaster, like Manchin dropping dead of a heart attack and being replaced by a Republican appointee. Obviously, these things will become geometrically more important if the Democrats somehow hold the House, or else are able to build a governance coalition with the non-MAGA Republicans. Still, even if Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his band of merry MAGAs take over the House and then decide to spend 2 years performing investigative kabuki theater, control of the Senate means the Democrats can approve judges and other appointees. Also, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would be able to take any show bills that the House Republicans pass and bury them in his desk drawer, sparing his members from taking uncomfortable votes.
And speaking of the House, here's an update of the projections table we ran yesterday:
|Outlet||Rep Seats||Dem Seats||Toss-ups||Net Change|
|The New York Times||211||204||20||Democrats +3|
|The Wall Street Journal||211||204||20||Democrats +3|
|ABC News||211||206||18||Democrats +1|
|CBS News||214||210||11||Democrats +3|
|NBC News||219||216||0||Democrats +2|
As we noted yesterday, NBC is willing to project all 435 seats. As several readers wrote in to note, NBC does include a "margin of error" qualifier. At the time of yesterday's posting, it was ±7; as we write this item, it is ±4.
Besides the House, of course, everyone is also waiting for resolution of the Arizona gubernatorial race. As of 11:00 p.m. PT Saturday, Katie Hobbs (D) has 50.7% of the vote (1,156,448 votes) and Kari Lake (R) has 49.3% (1,122,319) with 88% reporting. That means that to win, Lake would need about 55.5% of the roughly 310,000 votes remaining. When we did this exercise on Friday, that number was 53%. When we did it on Saturday, it was 54%. You don't need us to tell you where this is headed. (Z)
We got lots of lots of letters this week. It would seem—and we did not know this—that some sort of election took place.
Politics: 2022 Election Thoughts
J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: The 2022 midterm election was a victory for the silent majority of Americans who are not insane.
R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: Maybe 2022 will go down as the 4-D election: Dobbs, Denial, Donald, Democracy.
M.N. in Madison, WI, writes: J.L. in Los Angeles asked: "...whatever happened to that demographic shift to the left that was supposed to start slowly spreading across America?"
Short answer: Gerrymandering happened. Look at Wisconsin. In top level statewide offices, we reelected a Democratic governor while sending a Republican back to the Senate, both by fairly narrow margins. Meanwhile, our House delegation split 6-2 for the Republicans, and avoiding a Republican 2/3 supermajority in the state assembly is considered a huge victory for the Democrats.
Republicans have squeezed every bit of gerrymandering they can manage in every state they control, while the Democrats "do the right thing" in California, New York, and elsewhere with nonpartisan redistricting commissions, throwing away their best opportunities to balance the gerrymandering books.
R.R. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I'm having a really tough time today. I'd like to believe that doing what is right is always doing what is best, but the results coming out of New York in particular are making holding such ideals difficult.
As things stand as I write this on Thursday morning, it looks like Republicans are heading for a 5-9 seat House majority. Meaning flipping 3-5 races in this cycle would have been enough to give the Democrats a really solid chance at holding the House, albeit by even thinner margins than they have now, or that Republicans seem poised to enjoy at the start of the 118th Congress.
Where might those seats have come from? I'm looking at the New York's 4th, 17th, 19th and 22nd districts in particular, though the 1st and 3rd are currently pretty close as well. These districts were made "fair" by the Court of Appeals in New York after the Democratic trifecta in the state gerrymandered the heck out of the state.
Gerrymandering isn't good. I would love to see a national law passed that would make gerrymandering much more difficult for both parties. But when one party (and their judges) are perfectly fine with, oh, I don't know, Florida stacking the deck for their party, and the other side is standing on principle, what then becomes of any plan to make lives better? To address climate change? And wealth distribution? And access to healthcare? And access to education? And seating sane judges? And protecting the very democracy that well-meaning (?) judges are trying to stand up for?
These are all fights worth fighting. And in some cases, are an existential struggle in a very real meaning of the term. I want to do what's right all the time. I want to stand for ideals consistently. But I'm frustrated by the seeming insistence of Democrats to keep bringing a wet noodle to a lethal weapon fight.
T.J.R. in Metuchen, NJ, writes: The reasons you (and I) couldn't get a grip on the election, I think, is there wasn't a grip to be had. There was no wave, one way or the other.
What this election showed is that Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats and that everybody else supports the status quo.
We are a practically evenly divided electorate. So we just stare down the opposition. And they stare down us. And no one wants to take the next step, for better or worse.
C.J. in Burke, VA, writes: Just a comment on the ripple in the House. The days of large swings are pretty much impossible now for two reasons, both related to the partisan divide. In the past, when there were large swings, it was because the Party that lost seats was starting with 250 or more seats. These days, given party/voter rigidity, no party will govern in the House with more than 220-230 seats, so there just aren't that many seats to lose. Also, the voters are so partisan/rigid, that there just are not that many voters willing to change their votes from one party to the other, no matter how bad their party's candidate is.
G.M. in Laurence Harbor, NJ, writes: As Steven Colbert suggested; that pink ripple is the same result one gets when one washes their MAGA hat with their KKK hood.
G.G. in Shreveport, LA, writes: The day after the election, I asked my girlfriend, the poet, what she thought about that red tsunami. She replied, "You mean that red puddle?"
F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: I agree with you that the pollsters did quite well. But there were certain races that they botched: Pollsters predicted close races for the New Hampshire Senate seat, the Washington Senate seat and the Oklahoma gubernatorial election. None of these 3 races was close in the end. Maybe you can analyze why pollsters erred in these races.
E.K. in New York City, NY, writes: Are the polls "wrong," or just the pundits?
I have more of a problem with the narrative around "momentum," whatever that is. Specifically, if you have a poll one week that said candidate A was two points ahead of candidate B and the margin of error is three points and the next week we have a poll suggesting that candidate B is two points ahead of candidate A, also with a three point margin of error, the correct take on that is "close race, anything can happen" not "momentum."
I taught that actual lesson to 16-year-old high school students in 2006. But in the age of poll aggregation, it's easy to imagine a lot of partisan polls flooding the gates—polls that aren't "fake" but are optimistic for the party that paid for them—to create an illusion of "momentum".
The polls themselves, especially the nonpartisan ones, painted a picture of a lot of races that would be close, and a close and unpredictable overall direction for the majority, and that's exactly what we have. The "red wave" was a mix of pundits treating Republican-friendly polling like it was neutral or (for a site that rhymes with Eel Fear Politics) undercounting Republicans, but the underlying data suggested "closely divided country with a lot of close races."
The red wave, such as it was, was confined to New York and Florida and maybe some states that vote Republican all the time. And New York had its Democratic-gerrymandered House map thrown out by an elected Republican judge (upstate in a small county far from NYC metro, Albany or any other population center) who replaced it with a slightly less egregious gerrymander that favored Republicans. Democrats would have lost the two Long Island seats regardless but would have fared better in several other districts under a fairer map.
D.D. in Carversville, PA, writes: Responding to the question from J.I. in Regina, I have a suggestion for a better-worded polling question that might provide more information:Which of the following do you believe is more of a threat to the direction of the U.S.?a) Joe Biden
b) Donald Trump
Answer (c) will show us how many people are in the Bernie Sanders and Cheney/Kinzinger camps combined, which is useful. And I'd love to know what medications the people who answer (d) are on to make them so zen.
B.C. in Selinsgrove, PA, writes: Right/Wrong track? It seems pretty obvious to me. Most Republicans want what Trump is selling, they just wish someone other than he were selling it. Most Democrats like what Biden is doing, they just wish someone other than Biden was the face of it.
If either (or both) of these men are the nominees in 2024, almost no one is going to be happy. Expect the "this country is on the wrong track" poll responses to skyrocket even further, even though in essence, nothing will have changed.
R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: When the AP asked me about my feelings on the direction of the country, I told them we were going in the wrong direction, but they didn't ask any clarifying questions. For the record (and, of course, E-V.com is the outlet of record), I think of the direction of the country as a vector, the result of the strength and direction the Democrats are pushing plus the strength and direction the Republicans are pushing. If I'm disappointed or angry about the direction of the country, it's not because the Democrats aren't pushing in the right direction, it's because the Republicans are pushing hard in the wrong direction, leading us all astray.
Politics: Whither the GOP?
L.C. in Amherst, MA, writes: Chris Christie is quoted by the AP as saying that "There's only one person to blame for [Republican losses in the midterms], and that's Donald Trump." I disagree. I don't think Donald Trump can be blamed for anything. In order to cast blame at someone, that person would have to have made a choice to act or not act so as to bring about the outcome in question. I think we err in granting that Trump has the ability to make choices and act with a purpose. He may control some things, such as what his doctor says is his weight, but one thing he certainly can't control is himself. He's more like a natural disaster than he is like a rational actor. He's not at fault because he's not in control of what he does. He has urges instead of thoughts. He doesn't make considered decisions to do what he does. The reason the Republicans lost is because instead of taking a political stance, they pledged allegiance to the moral equivalent of droughts, floods, and earthquakes.
R.E. in Birmingham, AL, writes: If turtles had hair, I think Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would be tearing his out after Tuesday. My read on the outcome is that the GOP can't win a nationally contested election with Donald Trump, and they can't win one without him. They set the stage for this with Nixon's Southern Strategy, Reagan's courting of the Moral Majority, Willie Horton, their "pro-life" fakery, the Tea Party, etc., etc., etc. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
Politics: Trump and DeSantis
J.S. in Cape Elizabeth, ME, writes: It seems to me the best thing that can happen for Democrats is for Donald Trump to stay relevant, even dominant, in the GOP. He would be far easier to defeat in 2024 than Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) or any other Republican. There is a good chance that we are going to see a Godzilla vs. King Kong style battle between Trump and DeSantis, weakening both, and almost certainly dooming DeSantis if he gets the nomination.
R.B. in Fairfax, VA, writes: I don't know whether you noted this story, since The Washington Post tagged it as a local politics piece. The Trumpist wing of the Virginia GOP is fracturing already, with several of those who eagerly supported TFG two years ago now leaning towards Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) instead, and others attacking them as "weak." And TFG himself lashed out at our red-fleeced Governor this week, in his inimitably classy and borderline racist style. The Republican campaign for 2024 is going to be a... well, an 8-letter word that starts with "s" and ends with "show".
Not that I'm particularly thrilled with this development. As you've noted several times about another GOP governor from farther south, do we really want to trade Trump for someone with equally reprehensible policies but who is more competent at carrying them out?
Oh, and as a native New Yorker, I enjoyed the ice water review, but I couldn't understand why you called it satire. Every word rang true. Especially the end—you really can't get New York water anywhere else.
P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: You wrote: "The problem is that [Republican politicians] believed one tweet of death from [Donald Trump] (even on Truth Social, which nobody reads) would mean the end of their career." As true as this may be, he could still be a thorn in a lot of people's side. He could also be a major spoiler, if someone he doesn't like is in a close race, by getting people to stay home.
If the Republicans do really want to put the final nail in his coffin, I think their best bet is to get the DOJ to charge him. A couple of sham investigations into the bias of the DOJ and FBI with the end result of "we wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and really, really tried but the evidence is solid." This would give cover to avoid any major blowback and get him out of the way. Having the opportunists who have been supporting him because it suited their needs do the dirty would probably be enough.
J.L. in Stockholm, Sweden, writes: (V) writes that: "If Trump is under indictment, DeSantis will also say: 'It is hard to govern when you are in prison.'"
Actually, he might say: "I like former Presidents who weren't captured."
S.C-M. in Scottsdale, AZ, writes: I do think Ron DeSantis will run for the Presidency in 2024 and openly oppose Donald Trump. After such a strong showing in Florida, why wouldn't he?
I do wonder how well DeSantis will do on a national stage. Clearly, he is not an affable person, nor apparently very approachable. Some of his photos remind me of Richard Nixon, with strong jowls and a five o'clock shadow. I honestly do not know if that makes much of a difference in the polarized political climate today, but it certainly not a positive.
More importantly: How good is he at either managing or finding people to build and manage a national campaign organization? He will have plenty of financial resources. I think that will be a more important element if he does run in 2024.
Politics: Trump's Announcement
J.S. in Atlanta, GA, writes: Regarding "What Will Trump Do?," it is my firm belief that, if Ron DeSantis really wanted to go for the throat, he would announce his 2024 run on the 14th. It would completely steal Trump's thunder, which would drive him insane, and make Trump's announcement look like more like a "me, as well!" And frankly, Trump is asking for it, when he announces the date a week in advance.
I think it's a longshot, but I'd be a little surprised if the idea wasn't at least discussed in the DeSantis camp.
C.V. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Regarding Donald Trump's three options for his Nov 15th "reveal," I suspect there might be a dark horse 4th option: announce that he has a few votes for Speaker of the House among House members. Right now he's looking for a way to stay relevant, keep out of the pokey, and drive other Republicans to kiss the ring or else out themselves as his enemies (if he can't have adulation, the next thing he reaches for is a fight). This could accomplish all three, assuming the Department of Justice is as hesitant to indict a future Speaker as they are a presidential candidate.
Of course, Kevin McCarthy (to save his job) might remind him that they don't make gavels that small (sorry, "little hands" joke... couldn't resist).
B.J. in Boston, MA, writes: I predict that Trump's announcement on November 15th will have something to do with Twitter. My leading theories are that Twitter and Truth Social will announce that they have merged, or that Truths can now be simultaneously posted on Truth Social and Twitter, or something like that. The upshot will be that Trump can reappear on Twitter without having to abandon Truth Social.
Trump and Elon Musk both need this.
S.N. in Santa Clara, CA, writes: If little Donnie decides not to announce a run for President, perhaps his fallback announcement will be this: "I have finally recovered from my bone spurs and will serve if I am drafted."
Politics: Meet the New Speaker, Same as the Old Speaker?
S.R. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: You addressed the possibility of a non-member Speaker. I just wanted to add that, depending on the Republicans' or the Democrats' margin, a non-member Speaker might make a lot of sense. As you know, by tradition, the Speaker generally doesn't vote. If the split is 218-217 or 219-216, electing a non-member Speaker would help the math for the majority party. They'd have a Speaker who couldn't vote anyway. Or, I suppose they could also make one of the delegates Speaker if that is more palatable. They wouldn't need to worry about riding roughshod over a tradition (which they could do anyway, although the optics might not be great), and it might also give them some more flexibility. If the Democrats hold the house by 218-217 and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants to retire, maybe they should push through the Cherokee Nation delegate seating you mentioned a few weeks back and appoint Kimberly Teehee as Speaker. What a statement that would be.
C.P.S. in San Jose, CA, writes: If the Republicans capture a majority in the house by just a single member, Democrats can pick the next Speaker by offering the Republican of their choice the opportunity to be Speaker simply by voting for himself (or herself).
C.B.L. in Warwick, RI, writes: I've only seen two short sound bites from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) since Tuesday (short ones, because I turn him off whenever I see his face.)
In both, he said, in effect, "we'll have the majority, and Nancy Pelosi will be gone." So he basically mentioned Pelosi's name in his first breath each time. Not, "Now that we will have the majority again we can implement all the wonderful plans we have in mind to help the American people." Not, "This is what we have been waiting for so the economy will get better." Nothing but words of revenge.
He should lose his bid to be Speaker if the Republicans gain the majority. (And he really should not want to be, because who could ever top Pelosi's achievements?)
B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Thanks for your fantasy piece about Kevin McCarthy's Bold Option. That was wonderful. At beddie-bye time, my wife has been reading me a story about a girl named Clara who on Christmas Eve has a dream about a nutcracker who is really a handsome prince, and about the Sugar Plum Fairy. But your story was even better, and my wife is going to read it to me again at beddie-bye time tonight.
S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: It would certainly be understandable for Nancy Pelosi to resign from her leadership position, or even her House seat, to care for/be with/reduce (not remove) the threat to her family and herself.
But I've also wondered if "the attack will affect my decision" is code for "I was thinking of calling it quits, but no way, no how, now." She must be thinking that resigning will only reward political violence and embolden copycats.
Politics: The Debt Ceiling
W.P. in Atlanta, GA, writes: I have some free advice for Democrats looking to permanently end this rediculus debt-ceiling charade during the lame duck session. Instead of raising it to $100 trillion or $1 quadrillion, the new debt ceiling should be a figure like $340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456.00.
Why do this, instead of a "normal" large figure?
- It can't be easily abbreviated.
- It won't fit in any headlines or chyrons.
- The sheer absurdity of it makes it hard for people to (pretend to) get angry about it.
- Importantly for TV and radio, it is unpronounceable.
As a bonus, it also contains an Easter egg for computer science types. Who says government accounting can't be fun?
V & Z respond: Failing that, $20,988,936,657,440,586,486,151,264,256,610,222,593,863,921 would be a prime candidate.
Politics: Beto and Stacey
N.L. in Austin, TX, writes: As a Texas Democrat and reader of your site, I wanted to weigh in on the question from N.W. in Atlanta on whether Stacey Abrams and Beto O'Rourke have a political future following these elections. My sense is that the former may, but the latter does not. Abrams has been unable to win state elections in an increasingly purple state, but she has helped build a state party that can do so. Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA), who made national news for standing up to Trump's coup attempt, was always going to be a much harder candidate to beat than Trumpier Republicans.
Beto, however, has shown no such accomplishments. For years now I've seen predictions of Texas turning purple, and for years now they've come to nothing. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) is not popular—he isn't widely hated or anything, but I suspect his tenure in office has everything to do with the (R) after his name and not any widespread love for him personally. Despite this, Beto was unable to overcome him. Just as importantly, though, there's absolutely no evidence that he's been able to accomplish anything for the state party in general. The election results indicate Texas is still very much a red state.
I like Beto personally and certainly wanted him to succeed. But at this point it seems clear that, unlike other perceived up-and-coming Democratic stars whose track record is distorted by their state's political lean, he genuinely doesn't have what it takes to actually win. If he doesn't follow your suggestion and move into a non-elective track, he is at serious risk of becoming another perennial candidate.
All Politics is Local: Arizona
D.R. in Tempe, AZ, writes: Something I would like to point out about the Arizona 2022 results is the person who won with the largest margin in the high profile statewide races (and the only Republican to win, so far) is incumbent State Treasurer Kimberly Yee.
That she is (as far as I can tell) both competent at her job and a not-completely-insane Republican may have something to do with her victory. And yes, her incumbency helps, but still, perhaps if the Republicans run more competent, not-completely-insane candidates they would win a few more of these competitive races.
Something else: While turnout was very good, especially for the Democrats, it was down a bit from 2018 (64.85% vs. about 62% this year). This leads to the question: Who stayed home?
G.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: On a local discord server, I shared my opinion of Kyrsten Sinema, largely informed by your site, that her motivations only make sense if one considers her an honest politician—i.e., a corporate shill who stays bought. This inspired this response from a friend who is pretty dialed in:When I was in Arizona at the pro-choice protests this summer, I found a lot of the progressives there loved Senator Sinema just fine. It's just possible that the national media narrative about the first out bisexual woman Senator, who managed to get elected in what used to be a ruby red state, might be a wee bit overblown. Particularly when the amount of hate she gets is 4-5 magnitudes higher than say, Senator Romney or other centrists with similar views. Do I wish she was more liberal and votes my way more? Yes. Do I want her to keep her seat and get tired of watching one of the precious few women senators we have get freely smeared in all of my progressive spaces, particularly when her constituents like her well enough? Also yes.
So is Sinema just treading more lightly because Arizona is purple, and she has less room to maneuver as an intersectional minority?
All Politics is Local: Florida
D.E. in Sanford, FL, writes: Before accepting that Florida is turning red, I have some complaints about the Democratic party of Florida and the campaigning here. I seem to remember only a couple of television ads for Charlie Crist and Val Demings, as compared to lots of television time for all the republicans. The mailbox was overflowing with Republican ads and never any Democratic fliers. I'm not sure where all the campaign money in Florida was spent, but I didn't see much campaigning from either of them in central Florida.
P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: As a Florida resident, specifically Alachua County in north-central FL (a steadily shrinking tiny blue island in a vast sea of red), I thought I'd pass along my impressions of this election cycle.
To start with, the Democratic performance this year was pathetic. Just. Plain. Useless. For starters, the lawn sign poll was heavily R-leaning, so there was apparently a big enthusiasm gap on the ground. On local TV, while there was a constant barrage of Republican ads for governor, attorney general, and various state representatives since September, from Democrats I saw mostly... grass growing. I think I saw maybe 3 or 4 Charlie Crist ads during these 2 months, usually sandwiched between two Ron DeSantis ads from different agencies (e.g., his campaign, and some PAC). And while I saw lots of news items about DeSantis giving a rally here, or touting his record to a roomful of supporters there, the only time I saw Crist doing anything similar in a new item was speaking to a handful of people in someone's front yard with a hand-held microphone.
Even outside of election season, I never see any Democratic spokesperson or state House member sounding off on the local news, putting any Republican statement or policy into the least bit of perspective. It doesn't help that in my area, the local TV stations are only network affiliates owned by media companies (Sinclair, Grey) with a strong conservative agenda. This results in many news- or documentary-style programs about "justice," immigration, the cost of living, crime, or other Republican talking points. It's basically nonstop propaganda, year in and year out.
But that's not to let the blue team in Florida off the hook. They are basically invisible, all the time. They don't even try to run a counternarrative to the onslaught of conservative whining. There is no opposition at all. The only Democrat I was aware of who really seemed to make an effort was our local candidate for state Representative, Brandon Peters, running against incumbent pooh-bah Chuck Clemons (R). At least Peters had posted lawn signs in many places, and had local TV ads plus an internet ad game. But all to no avail, he still lost by a wide margin. Clemons easily matched Peters in advertising, and rode his money and incumbency to an easy win.
Really, the Democrats in Florida are now completely inept, completely outgunned, and completely out of ideas. Without some inspiring new progressive leadership popping up at some point, Florida is going to be deep, deep red for a long, long time.
K.R. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: Like many interested observers on Tuesday, I was surprised by the magnitude of the Republican victory in Florida. Especially on a night where the overarching narrative was about Democrats overperforming expectations around the country, this result stood out. Most seem to have concluded that Florida is simply a definitively red state now due to various factors, forever out of reach for Democrats seeking statewide office. But your note about DeSantis supporters shouting "Two more years!" got me thinking about the unique dynamics of the Florida election as compared to the rest of the country.
Presidential election years are known to elicit a substantially higher amount of voter interest, enthusiasm, and ultimately turnout than in midterm years. Currently, Ron DeSantis is the only candidate running for any kind of office that is constantly portrayed in the media as a likely presidential contender. Couple that free exposure with the concomitant Trump v. DeSantis competition that further stirs up Trumpist energy but still hasn't split the faction in two (yet), and you have a perfect storm for Trumpist turnout. Every Republican voter must know that DeSantis will effectively abandon Florida almost immediately to begin a presidential campaign, and yet that didn't seem to hurt him one bit. Many actually seem to revel in that fact. With that in mind, the kind of numbers DeSantis achieved on Tuesday make a lot more sense if his supporters were voting for a president, not a governor.
It seems to me that this wasn't a gubernatorial election at all, and at least part of the story for the strong Republican showing is that Florida Republicans were voting in a presidential election while Florida Democrats were voting in a midterm. Replace DeSantis with someone who was actually running to be governor of Florida, and I argue you would have seen closer elections up and down the ballot.
J.L. in Glastonbury, CT, writes: Since Florida is turning out to be such an outlier this round, both statewide and by congressional district, it's particularly worth exploring the secret sauce. Beyond the machismo/Cuban factor mentioned yesterday, it seems that DeSantis' election police had a big role in suppressing Black turnout. In round 1, they made clear that they wouldn't let the facts or the law get in the way of arrests. The lack of merit to the cases was a feature, not a bug. Not many folks I know are excited about getting arrested. It wouldn't shock me if Republican trifectas around the country decide election police are the best way to lock in their electoral advantage going forward.
Also, when factoring in the discrepancy between the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, especially in Arizona and Nevada, it seems clear that there is some portion of the electorate that wants to send Democrats to Washington, but prefers Republicans in the governor's mansion because they won't order pandemic lock-downs. Going forward, I would anticipate even Democratic governors will turn a blind eye to public health emergencies.
J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I'm just surprised that anyone who bothers to pay attention to politics thought Florida was still a swing state. It was a bit goofy to me that it was being treated as a true battleground when the elections there have been auguring for some time that it's now more or less out of reach.
I also don't think it's that big a problem for the Democrats that Ohio and Florida are out of reach, since Colorado and Virginia are now quite blue (Glenn Youngkin notwithstanding), and Arizona and Georgia have been purpled.
It's a bit damning to me that North Carolina, which in 2020 was the most expensive Senate race in history (until Pennsylvania this year), ended up as the 8th or 9th most expensive this cycle. Democrats spent massive amounts in Ohio and Florida, only to get absolutely stomped there. Meanwhile, the very capable Cheri Beasley (D) received less than half as much money as Val Demings, and two-thirds of what Tim Ryan got, in a state that Democrats lost by a hair's breadth in 2020. Her race attracted a fraction of the media attention. She still managed far better results than Demings or Ryan.
I think it's obvious that it's past time for the Democrats to forget about the white whales of Ohio and Florida and redeploy that money into turning North Carolina and Georgia (more) blue.
All Politics is Local: Georgia
L.B. in Atlanta, GA, writes: I read your comment about the Georgia senate race with amusement: "Georgia: Nobody has 'found' a bunch of votes for one candidate or the other, so this one is definitely headed to a runoff on December 6."
I am a Georgia voter who voted for one and only one republican on Tuesday—Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—because he stood up for what was right when Trump tried to get him to rig the 2020 vote totals.
My #1 issue will be election integrity until the rest of the Republicans decide that they too will do what is right.
T.C. in Stone Mountain, GA, writes: In "The Root of All Evil, ' you noted that the Pennsylvania senate race set a spending record of $312,131,203. That works out to be $1.65 for every second of Sen.-elect John Fetterman's (D) 6-year term. This leads us to three conclusions:
- Fetterman is worth every penny of that.
- In Georgia this month, we are going to break that record.
- I'm very glad my DVR remote has a button that lets me skip commercials.
M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: Observers looking at the Georgia runoff from the perspective that it hinges on what the general-election Libertarian voters do are probably not looking at it the right way. We have a good example from 2020: In the general, votes broke David Perdue 49.7%, Jon Ossoff 47.9%, Libertarian 2.4%, whereas in the runoff it was Ossoff 50.6%, Perdue 49.4%. One could interpret that as "All the Libertarians voted for Ossoff!" but that seems highly unlikely. The reality is that the turnout for the runoff was simply different than the turnout for the general. A lot of Libertarians probably stayed home because they didn't have anyone to vote for, just like a lot of Republicans stayed home because Trump was not on the ballot and/or because Trump told them it was rigged.
A better way to look at it than percentages may be vote totals: In the general, Ossoff got 2,374,519 votes, and in the runoff he got 2,269,923, a drop of about 105,000. Based on the history of runoffs in Georgia, retaining greater than 95% of your vote total is not at all easy to do. Perdue's vote total dropped from 2,462,617 to 2,214,979 (roughly 90%) which is actually very good by runoff standards, just not good enough in that case.
2022 runoff? As you noted, it will come down to turnout/ground game.
R.S. in Grand Rapids, MI, writes: Here is my prediction for the upcoming Georgia U.S. Senate runoff:: Herschel Walker (R) is going to shock the world... by dropping out.
S.D. in St Paul, MN, writes: It looks like the GOP's best hope for the Georgia U.S. Senate race would be to have Donald Trump endorse Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and actively campaign for him...
All Politics is Local: Illinois
M.P. in Chicago, IL, writes: You wrote: "Mary Peltola's (D) main issue in her Alaska campaigns has been ... salmon fishing. Good luck building a campaign around that in, say, Chicago."
Clearly you are unaware that fishing for Coho salmon in Lake Michigan has long been a favorite pastime among Chicagoans. The lake and its tributaries are stocked annually with Coho, a tasty fish that benefits the troubled Great Lakes ecosystem by feeding on alewives, which are a small, invasive Atlantic herring that entered the Great Lakes several decades ago through the St. Lawrence Seaway. The presence of Coho salmon in Lake Michigan has helped prevent alewives from overpopulating the lake and starving out many native species.
If any political candidate tried to disrupt Coho salmon fishing in Chicago, it could well develop into one of our "main issue[s]."
All Politics is Local: Michigan
M.K. in Charlotte, MI, writes: Not only did the red wave not materialize here in Michigan, we actually experienced a blue wave. Four years ago, Republicans controlled the state. The governor, attorney general, secretary of state, majorities in the state House of Representatives, Senate and Supreme Court—all were Republican. Come January 1, all will be controlled by Democrats. To top it off, women will be the majority of the Democratic caucus in both the state House and Senate. How did this happen in just 4 short years? No doubt the Dobbs decision, and the reproductive freedom proposal on the ballot helped. But I think a major part of the equation was the initiative passed in 2018 that created the Independent Redistricting Commission. By ending gerrymandering, we returned political power back to the people.
K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I was happy to see that Democrats got the trifecta in Michigan for the first time in decades. I think part of the reason is that voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to eliminate gerrymandering. This was the first election with the districts created by the new process.
Perhaps Democrats should push for a similar voter referendum in all the purple states that have legislatures that skew much more Republican than the statewide vote.
V & Z respond: Note that only about half of the states allow ballot referenda.
All Politics is Local: New York
R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Here in the Empire State, the results were mixed and there are some warning signs for both parties.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) did survive a strong challenge from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), winning by about 5 points. A win is a win, but in supposedly sapphire-blue New York against a Trumper like Zeldin, this should have been a cakewalk.
Zeldin did well because he kept hammering on the issues of crime and the economy. On the crime front, something needs to be done with regards to cashless bail. While there might have been good intentions with these reforms, there have been terrible consequences. Another reason Hochul struggled was the lingering stench from the Andrew Cuomo years. She was at his side for 6 years as lieutenant governor and people here are still upset with his policies and personality.
What ultimately doomed Zeldin was him going all-in on Trumpism. He still questions the 2020 election, wouldn't say if he'd ban abortions or not, and supported unchecked gun rights, even after the Buffalo supermarket massacre. Had Zeldin run as a traditional Republican like George Pataki did in 1994, I'm certain he would have won in this current political climate.
The big story, though, was the success of the GOP on the House front. They picked up four seats and might hold onto the Syracuse-area district vacated by Rep. John Katko (R). The Democrats had really hoped to flip that one. Long Island, where Zeldin is from, is now all red. Part of this was due to the state Democratic party being either incompetent, or greedy, with their gerrymandering. It was so bad that even the Democratic-dominated Court of Appeals had to reject it. Plus, the man responsible for keeping the Democrats in the House majority, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, lost his own seat due to his own hubris. His political career is finished.
Should these trends continue in future elections here in New York, we'll become a swing state when the next decade rolls around.
J.A. in New York City, NY, writes: I think it looks interesting to me that voters in usually very blue New York appear to have moderated, at least relative to their Trump-era voting patterns, and will elect a few more Republicans than the blue team would like in the New York City suburb areas.
Granted, part of the adjustment in the New York races is probably due to the "fairer" map the courts here in New York decided to use instead of the egregious gerrymander the Democrats wanted, but it appears that even Gov. Hochul's election will be a single digit victory. I can't help but wonder if part of the shift towards Republicans in this area of the country is the near-constant bombardment of New York City crime stories on the local anecdote-stream (news programming). I know that I can't flip on any news station or read any local alerts on my phone without some sort of story about a thing happening in the city.
Am I denying these events are occurring? Of course not; I am not some MAGA idiot who thinks the media invents stories. Do I think that the media's need to create narratives to drive viewership created a hysteria that is not merited? Absolutely.
Crime in 2021 (last complete data) was absolutely up compared to 2020, but a little event occurred in that intervening year but I can't remember what? Comparing crime to the last non-pandemic year 2019 gives us a better idea of that actual metric. In the felony category, it is up by about 6.5%, with misdemeanors down about 23%. These are clearly awful numbers, bringing us all the way back to the debaucherous days of.... 2015. By all current 2022 data, crime is lower than in 2021.
Just my 2 pence as to why the New York races are a bit closer than a normal deep-blue state would indicate.
D.D. in Somers, NY, writes: I live in Sean Patrick Maloney's district. In the beginning, Maloney's commercials were positive and focused on his pride in serving in the Hudson Valley. Then Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (R) started hammering Maloney on crime and cashless bail. Maloney started running ads linking Lawler to an antisemitic video which Lawler denied having anything to do with. I think an independent group confirmed Lawler had nothing to do with the video, which probably hurt Maloney. There were Lawler lawn signs everywhere and very few Maloney signs. From my viewpoint, Lawler ran a better campaign.
All Politics is Local: North Carolina
L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I have to address North Carolina. The Republican legislature drew a 10-4, and maybe 11-3, Republican map for the U.S. House. However, the state Supreme Court threw it out as unconstitutionally gerrymandered and replaced it with a map drawn by an outside expert. Thus the 7-7 map, which either that or an 8-6 Republican delegation would be a fair representation of the state. This map was good for one election, only.
However, the Court ruled 4-3 on strict party lines, and on Tuesday night the Republicans picked off two Democratic seats to take a 5-2 majority. The Republican legislature will undoubtedly draw an 11-3 map for 2024, which will now be rubber-stamped by the Republican Supreme Court. With already a veto-proof majority in the Senate and just one seat away in the House, they will also draw new legislative maps which will lock in Republican supermajorities, which will also be rubber-stamped by the courts. Given that this legislature has already shown a willingness, when is possession of a supermajority, to strip away powers from the Governor, and has threatened to do the same for the Attorney General, and either has or has threatened to interfere with county and city governments by changing the size of councils, changing districts, and changing the powers and duties of elected local officials, it may very well be that by 2024, except for president, there will be no reason for us North Carolinians to vote at all since all offices will either be pre-determined by gerrymandering or have all their powers usurped by the omnipotent legislature.
Indeed, if they win their "independent legislature" case before the U.S. Supreme Court, even voting for president in this state could become meaningless. The state could save taxpayers lots of money and save TV viewers from having to watch campaign ads by just cancelling elections altogether and having the legislature simply declare the winners of all their pre-determined races without the bother of voting.
Yes, if you perceive that I think democracy may have ended in North Carolina as a result of this election, you, sadly, are right.
All Politics is Local: Ohio
D.S. in Newark, OH, writes: In response to J.T. of Greensboro, you wrote: "We have spoken to a few people in Ohio, and [Tim Ryan] ran a very right-wing campaign. To put a finer point on it, Ryan basically ran as a normal Republican, with the idea that normal Republicans, independents, and Democrats would all vote for him. It did not work, of course, in part because Ohio Democrats had few other races to get them to the polls, and many of them were not especially motivated to turn out for a Democrat who seems to disdain Democrats."
As an Ohio voter and lifelong Democrat, I vehemently disagree and I would like to respond. I have lived in the central Ohio area for my entire life, with the exception of the 8 years I spent in the Air Force. I am a third generation union member. I retired in 2020 at age 57 after spending 25 years in the telecommunications industry. Politically, I am to the left of Joe Manchin and to the right of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Tim Ryan ran as a normal Midwestern Democrat. I am not sure how anyone could come to the conclusion that Ryan ran as a normal Republican. Ryan was pro-union and pro-choice; not sure how that makes him a Republican?
Ohio, contrary to what you and some of your readers have concluded, is not really red; it is still basically a swing state. The problem is the Ohio Democratic Party. The problem with them is twofold. First is the quality of statewide candidates. For example, the candidate for governor, Nan Whaley ran a horrible campaign that made no case for why incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine (R) should be replaced. Nan Whaley Received 37.13% of the vote statewide. Tim Ryan, by contrast, received 46.7% of the Vote statewide out preforming every other Democrat running for statewide office.
The second issue is the Ohio Democratic Party does not engage voters. To win elections in Ohio, you must knock on doors. Barack Obama won Ohio twice by doing just that. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is constantly engaging voters, and when running for election has a massive door-to-door get-out-the-vote effort. In the 2018 election, Brown Carried Montgomery, Portage, Trumbull, Ashtabula, Lake, Lorain, Erie, Ottawa, and Wood Counties. All are counties Donald Trump carried in 2016. In 2020, Trump won all of those counties again, except Montgomery County, which he barely lost.
The Ohio Democratic Party did not go door to door for Tim Ryan. Labor unions did go door-to-door for Ryan, as a member of the steelworkers' union knocked on my door. But unions can only canvass union households; they cannot canvass all registered votes. What did the Ohio Democratic Party do this year? They called me a week before the election to ask if I would like to volunteer for a phone bank. I had already voted by this time, as had many others. This is too late!
The incompetence of the Ohio Democratic Party also shows in the races for the Ohio Legislature. As you and your readers may know, the Republicans really gerrymandered the map. What did the Ohio Democratic Party do? After repeated lawsuits, they got on TV, whined about it, and preceded to not field candidates for 20 Ohio House seats and 4 Ohio Senate seats.
In my state House district, we are stuck with Republican Thaddeus Clagget, a Trump-worshiping Tevangelical who made it clear that he was going to the Ohio house to enshrine his religious views into Law and further his business interests. He won the Republican primary by a very narrow margin by running a slander campaign against the incumbent mainstream Republican Mark Frazier. The Ohio Democratic Party fielded no candidate. You cannot win if you do not show up.
R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I would argue against the supposition from J.T. in Greensboro that "Tim Ryan is losing handily to a candidate like J.D. Vance." Vance underperformed Mike DeWine by nearly 10%. There is a sizable segment of voters out there who want to vote for a normal Republican (DeWine) but not a Trumper (Vance). Ticket-splitting is back! In states like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, this was enough to push Senator Maggie Hassan (D) and John Fetterman over the top. It wasn't quite enough in Ohio, but this is not insignificant. Also, Ohio's still-gerrymandered Congressional delegation went from 12 Republicans, 4 Democrats to 10 Republicans, 5 Democrats (having lost a seat to redistricting). It's entirely likely that Tim Ryan pulled a few of these House races over the line for the Democrats.
Furthermore, it is my understanding that Tim Ryan ran a great race (as did Beto O'Rourke, by the way). Both candidates went everywhere and talked to everybody. They played the persuasion game and got new voters to vote Democratic. Neither won, but both made inroads with voters (especially rural voters). This is a model that should be studied and replicated by Democrats if they are to ever make progress with rural voters and begin to turn red states like Iowa and North Carolina back to blue.
All Politics is Local: Pennsylvania
R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: Out of all the possible election outcomes last week, the one I was most worried about was a victory by Mehmet Oz (R). I am absolutely thrilled he lost his U.S. Senate race. The man has gone so far down the rabbit hole in promoting scientific misinformation it is scary to imagine what he would have done in Congress.
Over the past few years, one of the things I've made clear from my posts is people who deny scientific facts or promote scientific misinformation are the kinds of people who really make my blood boil The American Medical Association rebuked Oz a few years ago and documented many false or unsupported statements he's made during his public career. He's used his show to say that coffee extract causes weight loss, he promoted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, and he falsely stated that lavender soap cures cramps. He has even said that astrology has an effect on people's personalities and health. It's not possible for stars located billions of miles from Earth to have any impact on human lives.
Oz has made millions by promoting misinformation to people who are ignorant of science. He takes advantage of people's lack of education and uses his doctorate to give his statements a false veneer of credibility. He is the last kind of person I want with a hand in making laws in this country. In fact, I wouldn't even trust him to be a school nurse in my town's school system.
I don't understand why Oprah Winfrey, who has been one of my role models for 20 years, chose to promote Oz so much during her career. I really think she ought to come out and admit she was wrong to do so. The fact she endorsed John Fetterman makes me think she might have realized she made a mistake, but it is never too late for her apologize for her hand in Oz's celebrity.
All Politics is Local: Washington
K.M. in Olympia, WA, writes: We'll, it's looking like Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D) may actually pull off the win over Joe Kent (R) in WA-03, flipping the last House seat bordering the ocean on the West Coast held by the Republicans. It actually was reliably Democratic, until Ronnie Raygun seduced the rural white working-class over to the dark side. This was my district until WA-10 was created in 2012, so I've been keeping my eye on it after Jaime Herrera-Butler (R) was defeated in the primary. God knows a lot of it is our own 'tucky, but it's also got Vancouver and Portland suburbs. Most of it is in the Portland media area, so I don't know what it was like there, but up here in Olympia we did get some Gluesenkamp Perez ads but no Kent ads. The tone was "moderate small business owner taking on the out of touch extremist."
Without looking at the numbers, I'm thinking that the result was the product of narrowing the margin in those red areas while still winning those southern suburbs (assuming that the numbers hold up). In this case, it seems to me that the Republicans again shot themselves in the foot, because there's no doubt in my mind that Herrera-Butler would've been reelected easily if she'd have won her primary. I wouldn't have voted for her, mind you, even if I was still in the district, but I certainly respected her courage in taking on TFG. Anyway, here's hoping that those numbers do hold up and MGP is there in Congress to narrow the expected Republican majority.
V & Z respond: Gluesenkamp Perez was indeed declared the winner by the AP late Saturday.
All Politics is Local: Wisconsin
A.W. in Beloit, WI, writes: What happened in Wisconsin? To me the answer is simple: racism. The Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) ads were negative all the way until the weekend before Election Day, and all portrayed Mandela Barnes (D) as a Black thug supporting Black thugs. This is a state that went for George Wallace in the primary back in 1964 and a lot of the state is still lily-white and very racist. The ads played to that bigotry. Barnes, therefore, was not the best fit to the population but the other Democratic candidates got out of his way before the primary, so there was no one for more moderate Democrats to select.
K.B. in Chicago, IL, writes: I read your analysis of the Wisconsin Senate race and wanted to offer a different explanation.
The idea that Democrats had a "candidate problem" because Barnes was "just too far left" is overly simplistic and not supported by the evidence. As you pointed out, Ron Johnson won a third term. He has won statewide three times. His two previous victories were over Russ Feingold.
Russ Feingold was the incumbent in 2010 when he lost by almost 5 points to Ron Johnson. During a rematch in 2016, Johnson defeated Feingold by 3 points, even as Donald Trump won the state by under a point. In other words, Johnson ran ahead of Trump and defeated a respected senator not once but twice.
Until his defeat in 2010, Feingold had held the seat since 1993. He was not a flukey incumbent like Joe Donnelly in Indiana or Scott Brown in Massachusetts. In fact, Feingold dispatched Tim Michels by 11 points in 2004 (the same Tim Michels who Evers beat by just a few points this year).
Mandela Barnes gave Ron Johnson the closest race of his career, and the take here is that Democrats had a "candidate problem?" I'm not buying it!
The more likely explanation is that Ron Johnson is a shrewd politician who narrowly won re-election in a bitterly divided state thanks to the advantages that come with incumbency (built-in name recognition, a sizable campaign war chest, a lack of a primary opponent, etc.).
John Fetterman (another "lefty" candidate) won in Pennsylvania in part because it was an open Senate seat with a bitter and costly Republican primary. Barnes did not have that advantage; in fact, he had the disadvantage of a late primary against multiple opponents who dropped out at the last minute.
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Nov12 Trump Sues 1/6 Committee
Nov12 Saturday Q&A
Nov11 Where Things Stand
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Nov11 What Will Trump Do?
Nov11 What Will McCarthy Do?
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Nov10 Trump Lost
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Nov10 The Senate: Candidate Quality Matters after All
Nov10 The House: There Was a Pink Ripple
Nov10 The Governors: The Center Held
Nov10 What Will the Next Two Years Be Like for Biden?
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Nov08 Let the Shenanigans Begin...
Nov08 ...And the Quiet End
Nov08 Election Workers in Arizona Threatened
Nov08 Reports From the Front Lines
Nov08 The Root of All Evil
Nov08 Bellwether House Races
Nov08 The Wisdom of the Crowd
Nov08 Today's Senate Polls
Nov07 Last Look at the Senate Races
Nov07 Latinos Won't Save the GOP
Nov07 Generic Poll Is Nearly Tied
Nov07 Fetterman Didn't Blow It at the Debate
Nov07 Who Are the Biggest Donors This Cycle?
Nov07 RNC Won't Pay Trump's Legal Bills after He Announces His Candidacy
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Nov07 Twitter Is Suffering a Massive Loss of Advertising Revenue
Nov07 "Where Are We a Week Before the Election?": Readers Who Think We Were Right
Nov07 Today's Senate Polls
Nov06 Sunday Mailbag
Nov06 Today's Senate Polls
Nov05 Saturday Q&A
Nov05 Today's Senate Polls
Nov04 Who Aggregates the Aggregators?
Nov04 Pollsters Are Worried about 2022
Nov04 Fixing Polling
Nov04 But Wait, There's More!
Nov04 Oprah Picks Her Horse in Pennsylvania
Nov04 Today's Trump Legal News
Nov04 This Week in Schadenfreude: ¡Abucheo Zapata!