'From Red Wave to Red Wedding'
Biden gets a B+ on his midterms.
Happy Friday everyone, and a happy post-Midterm recovery day. Obviously we are going to talk about the Midterms and what can be expected over the next few days, but I’ll also have a link to a great article about Elon Musk and the Twitter implosion. (Editor’s note: I wrote most of this on Thursday, but I can say that it is Friday right now and I am eating an egg everything bagel with scallion cream cheese, lox, and capers. I’m very happy for myself.)
What just happened?
First let’s have some fun and watch Fox News guarantee that a “red wave” was coming:
But here is what Ben Shapiro realized on Tuesday night:
OK, with that out of the way, it’s time for me to eat some crow too. Here’s what I said three weeks ago:
When all the other indicators show that this could be a “toss-up” election, go with political gravity. The incumbent Party always loses seats in the midterms, and it is unlikely that the Democrats avoid that in 2022.
I turned out to be wrong. And, for the most part, the polls turned out to be wrong too (but in a normal way).1 If you look back at that piece, I talked a lot about how polls tended to undercount Republicans, which happened in 2016 and 2020. This year (like 2018), the polls undercounted Democrats. There were two people who were warning about that: Tom Bonier and Simon Rosenberg. Both of them said that the polls were missing heavy Democratic turnout in the early vote, with Rosenberg in particular warning that the Democrats’ advantage was so heavy in some places that Republicans could not match it. Rosenberg explicitly said that there were no signs of a “Red Wave” leading up to the election, and that if one was going to show up it would require massive turnout on Tuesday.
Rosenberg and Bonier deserve a lot of credit because they got it exactly right. One narrative Rosenberg kept hammering was that on polling websites, it looked like Republicans were far ahead because a bunch of GOP-leaning polls were being done quickly and thrown into the averages.
Rosenberg was criticized by people both on the Right and Left, with Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics taking the extra time to write a piece debunking the early vote narrative, and also mocking Rosenberg’s thesis about the polls:
Here was the final Real Clear Politics prediction for the election:
Here is the President of their website:
Real Clear Politics’s forecast is straight-up impossible right now: Georgia is headed to a runoff and Arizona and Pennsylvania have already been called for Democrats (and Nevada looks set to follow). They got it completely wrong.
What happened has been described as incorrect predictions based on “the vibes.” Basically, everyone in the media did what I did above: Because the incumbent Party historically gets smacked around in each Midterm, everyone assumed that would happen again, despite the fact that the polls were actually very close. There also (truly) were a good number of GOP polls that were obviously garbage, but people kept citing to them anyway. Trafalgar, in particular, got more wrong this election cycle than anyone else.
How did Democrats do it?
There are still lots of questions surrounding the election results. Right now we really don’t have a complete picture of who turned out and why. Some have pointed to the youth turnout, especially young women who were animated by the overturning of Roe. Philip Bump says push pause on those predictions:
That’s the generational question at play here. Will this diverse, younger political generation — an amalgam of millennials, Gen Z and even younger — reshape American politics as it ages? Will Republicans moderate (as they largely did on same-sex marriage and other issues post-2008) to retain some appeal to them? Or will the GOP’s Donald Trump-era focus on amplifying White grievance further turn them away?
We can’t answer that question definitively yet. But we can say that there’s nothing about what happened this year — from that first Gen Z representative to the demonstrable composition of the electorate — to suggest that some new era has only just dawned.
On the other hand, Bonier says wait for more definitive election data:
I think one thing is abundantly clear from the election results: While voters admitted that they were not crazy about Joe Biden, inflation or the economy, they also explicitly stated that they think Donald Trump is worse than all of these things.2
In exit polls (which are becoming less and less relevant as more people vote early or by mail), voters gave President Biden about a 44% approval rating, but they also very clearly said that they liked Trump even less: Two-thirds of independent voters view him unfavorably.
Trump was really an albatross around the GOP’s neck all night. In terms of the Senate, almost all of his candidates lost or underperformed; New Hampshire was thought to be a competitive seat this year, but Trump’s pick there got crushed. Similarly, Hershel Walker couldn’t close the deal in Georgia, and Blake Masters will have to go back to whatever factory the sentient robots made him in now that he’s officially out in Arizona.
Nate Cohn explains that in some places, topics like abortion and election denialism really helped the Democrats:
The most obvious differences appeared to be the abortion and democracy issues that were at stake, state by state. In Pennsylvania, Republicans nominated a candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, who was central to efforts to overturn the states’s 2020 presidential election results. Democrats feared that a Mastriano victory could risk a constitutional crisis and a threat to democratic government. It might have threatened another long-held right as well; Mr. Mastriano is a strident opponent of abortion, and Republicans controlled the state Legislature.
Republicans also had a big night in Florida, but Democrats similarly crushed expectations in Michigan and in Colorado; both States were microcosms of a blue wave.
So, who is going to win?
We are still counting votes, but right now it looks like Democrats are going to control the Senate. There are two races left: The runoff in Georgia and the Senate seat in Nevada. Right now it looks like the Democratic incumbent, Catherine Cortez Masto, is in a good position to win:
That would put Democrats right at 51 seats, without a need for Raphael Warnock to win his runoff next month.
A Democratic hold of the Senate is pretty impressive given their razor-thin margins. What would be even more impressive is them holding the House. While it is far less likely, it is not impossible. Here is how it would play out:
President Biden acing his midterms would be a pretty big indictment of the Republican Party, but it still looks like the GOP will control the House (albeit with a very, very slim margin).
Is the GOP screwed?
I think in the short-term, you have to say that the Republican Party has real problems. For one, abortion is now an issue where the majority of voters side with Democrats. Michigan - a State Donald Trump won in 2016 - has gone completely blue thanks to a ballot measure protecting abortion.
But the big looming problem for Republicans is Trump, whose decaying corpse is still being carried around by the GOP every election cycle. It is very clear that voters do not like:
Trump or his brand of politics.
The soft, proto-Fascism practiced by many Trump populists.
A lot of Republicans will look at Ron DeSantis’s resounding victory in Florida and say he should be the leader of the Party. That is wise and probably a smart way for the GOP to move forward, but it assumes that Trump will go away quietly.
Trump is almost certainly going to announce that he’s running for President next week. He is going to be in the GOP primary, attacking every other Republican who doesn’t support him. He will do everything he can to put DeSantis in the ground, along with people like Glenn Youngkin or Larry Hogan.
A lot of Republicans are probably hoping that DeSantis can unseat Trump and run a competent national campaign. I have my doubts, but obviously I think any rational person should be hoping that Trump is kept as far as possible from the White House. That aside, even if Trump lost in a GOP primary, what will he do when it is time for him to step aside and help DeSantis get elected? Does anyone actually think he will graciously step aside and say, “We had a tough battle, but the voters chose Ron. I really wish him well and will do everything I can to help him defeat Joe Biden.”
Of course Trump isn’t going to do that. Of course he is going to try and run as a third-party candidate. Of course he is going to do rallies whether the primary or not. Here is the other thing Republicans are really missing about Trump: His company is currently under criminal indictment and there is a civil lawsuit filed against him in New York. He is probably going to be indicted personally in a federal investigation of his actions with classified information (and hopefully January 6th).
The dude has no future outside of politics. He is not going back to his real estate empire or hosting THE MAGA APPRENTICE because no advertiser anywhere wants to touch him with a 50 foot pole. He is fully baked in as the leader of the GOP simply because he won’t let anyone else have it. They are damned with Trump and damned without him. Is this a permanent problem for Republicans? NOPE. Eventually Trump will fade away and the coalitions will change like they always do. But it is clearly a problem for them going into 2024. Here is the final word from your humble fabulous:
OK, if you are here for more Republicans eating crow, I have it.
This is a great piece explaining why Elon Musk is humiliating himself.
I’ll see you all next week, but after that the Jackal will be on vacation for Thanksgiving. Have a great weekend.
A lot of election forecasters, specifically G. Elliott Morris, pointed out that the Democrats were really only one polling error away from having a good night. They got that error!
Some of this has always been buried under the hood of polls asking Americans about inflation. There was never any doubt that Americans were concerned about inflation, but realistically most of them didn’t actually blame the President for it and understood that it was largely caused by supply chain issues. The Midterm results reenforced that idea.