Politics & Policy

What Will It Take to Return the House to Red?

(Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Happy Thanksgiving! May all of your travels be safe and your traffic struggles be bearable. This is the last Morning Jolt until Monday.

Making the click-through worthwhile: a debate about whether capping the state and local-tax deduction was worth it to Republicans, how much it contributed to the GOP’s troubles in the suburbs, and how tough it will be to win back the House; Nancy Pelosi enjoys a bit of Fudge; and a bit of referendum-election fraud out in California.

How Tough Will It Be for Republicans to Win Back the House?

Over on the Corner, Reihan makes the argument that Republicans capping the state and local tax deduction at $10,000 in the 2017 tax cut was worth it: “By limiting the tax subsidy for high-tax jurisdictions, it nudges voters at the state and local level to press for more sensible and sustainable policies and to reject fiscal profligacy, as we’ll see in the years to come.”

Andrew Stuttaford writes that the move “gave the impression that the GOP was ‘punishing’ blue states, and, more specifically, their more affluent urban and suburban residents. This constituency has been slipping away from the GOP for some time for a mix of social and cultural reasons. Many of those who stuck with the party did so because they at least trusted Republicans to defend them from the IRS. Capping the SALT deduction was a breach of that trust.”

Morally or on economic principle, capping SALT may have been the right move, but boy, did it come at a steep political price. There were a lot of right-leaning people in the suburbs who voted for Trump and who probably expected a significant tax cut from Republican-controlled government, and if the SALT cap didn’t eliminate their tax cut, it probably significantly reduced it. As I observed last year . . .

The county that ranks ninth in the nation in deductions for state and local taxes is Morris County, New Jersey, with $11,440. Trump won that county, 49 percent to 45 percent.  Not too far from there is Monmouth County, where Trump won, 52 percent to 43 percent. The average return there deducts $9,105.

Trump lost his home state of New York overall by a wide margin, but won several counties in the suburbs of New York City. He won Suffolk County on Long Island 51 percent to 46 percent; the average taxpayer there deducts $8,096. Trump won Putnam County, north of the city, 55 percent to 39 percent; the average taxpayer deducts even more, $8,855.

This month, Democrats won the district that includes Morris County for the first time since 1985. If you look at the districts with highly taxed suburbs represented by Republicans heading into this year — the districts of Leonard Lance and Tom MacArthur in New Jersey, John Faso and Dan Donovan in New York, two suburban districts in Illinois, four GOP House seats in Orange County, Calif. — that’s where the Democrats flipped seats. The SALT deduction wasn’t the only reason that the GOP lost those seats, but it certainly didn’t help.

Add up the seats Republicans lost in New York, New Jersey, California, and Illinois, and you get 14 seats; if Republicans had held those seats, they would be at 213 seats right now instead of 199 — just five away from keeping control.

There are a bunch of seats that Democrats won in 2018 that Republicans could pretty easily win back in 2020 with a better candidate, better effort, a less lopsided fundraising battle, better coordination, etcetera. Start with traditionally conservative, GOP-leaning places such as Oklahoma’s fifth district representing Oklahoma City and South Carolina’s first district, representing the Charleston suburbs and the coast.

Then move on to the “jump ball” races, where just a little bit more GOP turnout could have kept the seat red. Mia Love lost by a couple hundred votes in Utah’s fourth district. In New Mexico’s second district, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small won by about 3,000 votes. In Maine’s second district, Bruce Polquin only lost because of the state’s new “ranked votes” system that put him down by about 3,000. In Georgia’s sixth district, Karen Handel lost by . . . once again, about 3,000 votes. Down in south Florida’s 26th district, Representative Carlos Curbelo lost by about 4,000.

In other words, a couple thousand more votes here and there and Republicans could be back in the majority, if they weren’t getting slaughtered in those once-red districts of blue states. Some of that is SALT, and some of that is probably the Republican party’s image under Trump. Still, one wonders, if the cap limit had been set higher, at $15,000 or $20,000, would Republican losses in those suburbs have been as bad?

Oh, Fudge! Looks Like Nancy Pelosi Will Be the Next Speaker of the House

In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi appears to be enjoying a very smooth ride to becoming the next speaker.

Rep. Marcia Fudge endorsed Nancy Pelosi for House speaker on Tuesday, just days after openly mulling a challenge to the California Democrat, providing a significant boost to Pelosi’s quest to regain the gavel.

Fudge’s endorsement is a significant blow to efforts by more than a dozen current and incoming Democrats to oust Pelosi, who has ruled over the caucus for the past 16 years. Fudge’s backing leaves the anti-Pelosi faction without a potential challenger against the longtime Democratic leader.

They’re doing a version of Kirsten Sinema’s maneuver. Pledge that you won’t support the current Democratic leader then shrug and nod along when no challenger to that leader emerges.

‘Officer, I Wasn’t Paying for a Signature, I Was Paying for His Autograph!’

“Voter fraud!” should not be the rallying cry of every Republican candidate bitter about a defeat. But the world has bad people in it, people who do try to cheat the system and who are willing to break the law to do it. The city of Los Angeles caught another bunch yesterday.

A forged signature swapped for $1 — or sometimes a cigarette.

The crude exchange played out hundreds of times on L.A.’s skid row during the 2016 election cycle and again this year, prosecutors said Tuesday as they announced criminal charges against nine people accused in a fraud scheme.

Using cash and cigarettes as lures, the defendants approached homeless people on skid row and asked them to forge signatures on state ballot measure petitions and voter registration forms, the district attorney’s office said. The defendants — some of whom were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday — face several criminal charges, including circulating a petition with fake names, voter fraud and registering a fictitious person.

State officials said petition signature scams aren’t widespread in California, but Joseph said they do pop up from time to time on skid row. People hired to help qualify initiatives for the ballot are often paid per signature collected, typically $1 to $2, but officials said a recent slew of proposed ballot initiatives had pushed the rate as high as $6 a signature. It is illegal for the collectors, however, to pay people for signatures.

Mind you, this is not casting multiple ballots in the name of another person; this is merely collecting signatures to get a referendum on the ballot. To get a referendum on the ballot, supporters need to collect a number of signatures equal to 5 percent of the most recent gubernatorial election turnout. That meant that this cycle, supporters of a referendum or initiative needed 365,880 signatures.

ADDENDA: Forget all of those idiotic “How to talk to your totally un-woke uncle” articles and just try to enjoy the presence of your friends and family this Thanksgiving. As I said in yesterday’s edition of the Three Martini Lunch podcast, “I know everyone is upset, I know everyone is angry, passionate, and heated, but Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of the holiday season. It is time to unite everyone, to gather everyone from Grandma and Grandpa to the little kids, and come together and watch the greatest Christmas movie of all time: Die Hard.”

Today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast will feature what Greg Corombos and I are thankful for, and Friday’s edition includes our Black Friday shopping list for the likes of Jim Acosta and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Science & Tech

Tech the Season

Sen. Ron Wyden (Reuters photo: Mike Theiler)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Regulation is coming to Silicon Valley, including a proposal to throw tech-company CEOs in jail if they’re not honest about violations of users’ privacy; Ivanka Trump somehow managed to miss all of the controversy about Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016; and the director of the upcoming film Vice declares he prefers the Trump administration to the Bush administration.

There will be a Morning Jolt tomorrow, before I begin my annual trek up Interstate 95, but there will be no Jolt on Thanksgiving Thursday or Black Friday. The annual Cyber Monday giftlist edition, showcasing all of the new books by my colleagues and friends, will arrive after that.

Senate Democrat Proposes Throwing Social Media CEOs in Jail for Violating Privacy

Back in August, I wrote about all of the reasons to feel optimistic about the future of the United States. In my lifetime, we’ve seen massive improvements in areas like crime, drunk driving, teen pregnancy, abortion rates, infant mortality, AIDS treatments, high school graduation rates, smoking, air travel safety, and teen drug use.

But a lot of what’s changed in American life in the past generation is technology. The Internet, cellular phones, emails, mobile broadband, the almost unlimited options of Amazon and the rise of e-commerce, Uber and Lyft, DARPA’s transformation of warfare, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, on-demand streaming services for entertainment, ubiquitous hand-held maps on our phones, Fitbits and other wearable health devices, YouTube “stars”, the NSA’s surveillance abilities . . . someone who time traveled from just the year 2000 would not recognize most of that.

Which raises the question of whether those of us who care about politics and who want to shape the future of the country spend too much time focusing on who’s in power in Washington and not enough time thinking about the little ways technology changes our life, bit by bit (no pun intended), year by year.

It increasingly appears inevitable that 2019 will bring serious efforts to more heavily regulate America’s tech goliaths . . .  and there’s a strangely broad and bipartisan agreement over it. People think that President Trump and House Democrats won’t be able to work together anywhere, but they both think poorly of Silicon Valley and the social media giants.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, literally wants to threaten tech CEOs with jail time.

Wyden proposes a national “Do Not Track” database that allows US consumers to opt-out from websites storing their personal information.

Wyden is targeting companies that make more $50 million and store information on more than 1 million users.

Those companies would also have to submit an “annual data protection report” ensuring compliance with the law. The report must include any regulations they possibly violated and include statements from the company’s CEO, chief privacy officer and chief information security officer.

If an executive intentionally misleads the government, he or she could be held criminally responsible. Under the proposed bill, executives could be fined as much as $5 million and be imprisoned as long as 20 years if they are found guilty.

Wyden also proposes the FTC hire a new chief technologist and 50 new staffers to monitor privacy abuses.

Apple’s Tim Cook is talking about new regulations as a certainty.

I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn’t worked here. I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation,” Cook said in an interview with Axios. “I think the Congress and the administration at some point will pass something.

The odd thing is, the tech executives appear pretty eager to turn on each other, judging by this interview with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Benioff addressed issues facing Silicon Valley in a wide-ranging interview with journalist Kara Swisher that aired Sunday on MSNBC.

When asked if tech could “redeem itself in 2019,” Benioff answered, “No.”

… Benioff has been a vocal critic of his peers, most recently opposing CEOs including Jack Dorsey of Square and Twitter by favoring a tax on businesses including Salesforce intended to help mitigate San Francisco’s homelessness. During the interview, Benioff said his peers are responsible for the problems that have resulted from actions their companies have taken.

“They’re 100 percent responsible for the disasters that they’re creating, not just for their brand but in society itself because they just won’t say, ‘We’re gonna make sure trust is our highest value,'” Benioff said, adding that the proof was in the fact that executives, employees and customers were “walking out” of these companies. “And that’s gonna continue to happen if they don’t change their values.”

What’s really weird is that Big Tech has millions upon millions of users, but so few defenders.

But Her Emails! Wait, No, Not that ‘Her’, the Other Her’s Emails!

Gee, it’s just a crying shame that the 2016 presidential campaign didn’t include any discussion of the consequences of doing government work on a personal email account. If only the Republican nominee had brought it up from time to time! If only the party had made that sort of thing a central piece of their argument against the Democratic nominee! If only there had been some sort of catchy three-word chant that could summarize the consequences of violating the law on personal email and sensitive government information!

Ah, well, it’s just unfortunate that Ivanka Trump never heard about that whole controversy involving Hillary Clinton and her emails while she was Secretary of State. That scandal certainly didn’t get much media coverage, right?

White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s prac­tices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign. He attacked his Democratic challenger as untrustworthy and dubbed her “Crooked Hillary” for using a personal email account as secretary of state.

Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal emails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. She said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.

The best, and perhaps most important, defense of Ivanka Trump is that none of the information she dealt with was classified — so this is a breach of policy, but not a prosecutable crime. But other evidence from last year suggests that Ivanka was . . . just part of the crowd:

The disclosures came a day after news surfaced that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, used a private email account to send or receive about 100 work-related emails during the administration’s first seven months. But Mr. Kushner was not alone. Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, also occasionally used private email addresses. Other advisers, including Gary D. Cohn and Stephen Miller, sent or received at least a few emails on personal accounts, officials said.

The public will take the wrong lesson from this — that as Hillary Clinton claimed, everyone used personal email accounts for government work, and that the practice had no serious consequences.

Is this Really the Moment for an Anti-Neoconservatism Screed in Movie Theaters?

Ben Shapiro warns that the new Dick Cheney biopic, Vice, is just predictable anti-Bush agitprop and spotlights this surprising quote from director Adam McKay: “I would choose Trump over Bush and Cheney . . . Donald Trump has no belief system. So I would take the hyenas, the random wild animals running through the White House over Cheney any day of the week.”

It will be interesting if modern audiences and the chattering class agrees with that assessment.

Dick Cheney didn’t come from fabulous wealth, he’s not stunningly handsome, he’s not a whirling dervish of raw political charisma, although some of us find his bluntness appealing. He grew up far from any center of power in Casper, WY.; got into Yale but nearly flunked out, then transferred to the University of Wyoming, and married his high school sweetheart at 23.

Somehow, despite having no famous family or wealth or connections, Cheney steadily climbed the ladder and the most powerful people in Washington entrusted him with one high-profile job after another: White House chief of staff, presidential campaign manager, congressman, House Minority Whip, Secretary of Defense. The trailer for Vice humorously suggests that if Cheney had been a more traditional vice president, it would have been a step down. And then he becomes vice president and the boss of his old boss, Donald Rumsfeld. (I picked up a vibe of “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” from the trailer, but maybe that’s just me.)

It’s going to be interesting watching the attempt to make Bush-era neoconservatism look scary in today’s environment. This would be the pro-NATO and pro-NATO-expansion, pro-democracy, anti-Russian (at least from Cheney), anti-dictator, human-rights-focused political philosophy that is pretty much everything Trump defines himself in opposition to today.

Neoconservatism includes no white nationalism, it’s pro-women’s rights and gay rights in most contexts, and it supports free trade and legal immigration. It’s the opposite of isolationism and in fact preaches a duty to help the world (by, er, invading other counties and killing dictators). It grew out of disillusioned New Dealers who wanted policies strong enough to stand up to the Soviet Union.

And Adam McKay wants to argue that was a bigger threat to all he holds dear than Trumpism?

ADDENDUM: Every once in a while, I’ll watch two folks in the conservative movement get into a nasty fight with each other, and I’ll wince. We’re always going to have disagreements, but there’s value in trying to keep a respectful tone when arguing with allies. This isn’t that big of a movement, folks, and the person who you’re denouncing one day may be the person who you need a favor from another day. I was reminded of this when I read that Mark Levin had some kind words for something I wrote about the Amazon deal last week. I recall tangling with Levin during that 2010 Delaware Senate primary between Mike Castle and Christine O’Donnell. You may recall Castle was just barely a Republican, O’Donnell was . . . er, “not a witch,” and she won the primary by six points . . . and then lost the general election by 17 points. I had forgotten that in 2011, she wrote a book with the subtitle . . . Let’s Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again. She wasn’t a witch, she was a prophet!




Sayonara, Brenda Snipes

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes in Lauderhill, Fla., November 12, 2018. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters )

Making the click-through worthwhile: a surprising and pleasing victory for accountability in Florida, why long lines at a polling place aren’t necessarily a reflection of voter suppression or incompetent management, and the tired whine that insufficient “willpower” or “leadership” is what ails congressional Republicans.

A Victory for Accountability: Brenda Snipes Resigns

My goodness, are we starting this week with some . . . actual accountability in government? Someone did a terrible job, and they’re not merely going on paid vacation — er, “paid leave” — or hunkering down and waiting out the storm? And this is happening in Florida? We are truly entering the season of miracles!

Just hours after finishing a tumultuous election recount, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes submitted her resignation, ending a 15-year tenure full of botched elections, legal disputes and blistering criticism.

“It is true. She did send it,” said Burnadette Norris-Weeks, an attorney who works as counsel to the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Evelyn Perez-Verdia, a former office spokeswoman who left several years ago, said Sunday evening she was told by people in the office that the letter was sent “to Tallahassee” earlier in the day.

Norris-Weeks said she saw an early draft of the letter. In the version she saw, she said Snipes, 75, expressed a desire to spend more time with her family.

I understand that Snipes said she wanted to spend more time with her “whole family, all two to nine of them, or however many members of my family there may be.”

You may recall that one week ago, Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC declared on-air, “We should also point out that Brenda Snipes in Broward County is a Republican appointed by former governor, then-governor Jeb Bush. So she was put in by a Republican governor after the mess that we all remember from 2000. And she’s hardly a Democratic official, or someone doing the bidding of the Democratic candidates there.”

The only part of that sentence that is true is that she was appointed by Jeb Bush, who appointed Snipes after the previous Broward supervisor of elections, Miriam Oliphant, was suspended for “grave neglect, mismanagement, and incompetence.”

(Oliphant has an amazing tale. She was dismissed in part after the 2002 primary elections in Broward, when “23 polls failed to open by 7 a.m. and 32 polls failed to heed an executive order from the governor’s office to stay open past 7 p.m. so voters could cast a ballot in the problem-plagued election.” After getting dismissed as elections supervisor, the county hired her four years later as a high-school guidance counselor, over 55 other applicants, some who had decades of experience but didn’t even get an interview. Within a year, her salary had more than doubled. She only had a temporary teaching certificate, so she had to take state tests to get a permanent one . . . and she flunked the math test. Yes, the woman who once ran elections in Broward County failed the math test. She was dismissed from the school in 2011.)

Long Lines Aren’t Evidence of Voter Suppression or Incompetent Management

Richard Hasen, writing in Slate:

For three reasons, Democrats should stop with the rhetoric that the race was “stolen,” as Sherrod Brown, Democratic senator from Ohio has said, and they should not follow the lead of Kemp’s Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams, who repeatedly refused to acknowledge Kemp as the “legitimate” winner of the election when questioned Sunday by CNN’s Jake Tapper…

A democratic polity depends on losers accepting election results, even if the election was not conducted perfectly. I would hold “stolen” election rhetoric for conduct even more outrageous than Kemp’s decisions, which, while odious, either have not been found to be illegal or that courts allowed to remain in place for this election.

… Saying Kemp tried to suppress Democratic votes and saying the election was stolen are two different things, and making charges of a stolen election when it cannot be proved undermines Democrats’ complaints about suppressive tactics. If Democrats can’t prove it, some people will think the suppression is no big deal when it really is.

It focuses attention on the wrong question: whether there was enough suppression to change election outcomes. As I’ve long argued, the right question is why the state gets to put stumbling blocks in front of voters—such as onerous voter registration requirements and easy voter-purge rules—without offering a good reason for doing so.

Separately, when you hear complaints about really long lines and waits at particular polling places in the context of how allegedly awful American elections are, a few questions should come to mind.

In some places, you’ve just got a lot of offices and questions on the ballot. My dad worked the polls in Hilton Head, S.C., this year, and folks in Beaufort County were voting for governor and their local U.S. congressman, but also lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, and superintendent of public education. Then voters moved on to state-legislature elections. In some localities, the local sheriff is an elected position, as are probate judge, county auditor, county treasurer, county council, local school board, soil and water district commissioners, county bond referendum, and mayor. And South Carolina had a statewide ballot measure proposing changing the position of superintendent of education from an elected position to an appointed position.

All of that turned into a five-page ballot in some jurisdictions, in a community with a lot of elderly voters — the demographic most reliable about coming out to vote in midterm elections. The amount of time an average voter would take at the polling place in South Carolina would be way longer than up here in Virginia, where we only voted for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and two proposed amendments to the state constitution. With long ballots and voter demographics like those, you’re going to end up with a lot of long lines!

To Reach a Destination, It Helps If You Can Figure Out How Far Away It Is

Over at LifeSiteNews, Calvin Freiberger reviews my preview of the House Republican leadership contest between Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan — McCarthy won handily, 159-43 —  and laments that instead of standing athwart history, I merely mumble “whatever.”

Freiberger writes of Jordan’s wish for the Senate to get rid of the filibuster for legislation.

This is another blindingly obvious aspect of leadership: when you’re doing important work only for it to be squandered by colleagues in another department, or in this case another legislative chamber, you confront them about it. You address the problem until it’s resolved one way or the other.

I’m glad this twenty-something is here to explain all of these “blindingly obvious aspects of leadership” to the rest of us. It’s a terrible shame that it never crossed any House Republican’s mind to confront Senate Republicans about the need to abolish the filibuster. It’s another terrible shame that Senate Republicans have never heard these arguments in favor of nuking the filibuster.

Of course, a Google search would reveal that eliminating the filibuster for legislation would take at least 50 votes. Senator Ted Cruz, who supports eliminating the filibuster, told me earlier this year that he thought “about half” of Senate Republicans were willing to vote to get rid of the filibuster. Frieberger’s inspiring call to “address the problem until it’s resolved one way or another” needs to persuade about 25 more Republican senators to get rid of the filibuster. Guess what? It’s been addressed. The filibuster-nukers lost. Those 25 or so Senate Republicans don’t want to get rid of it, because if they lose the Senate in some future election, the filibuster is the only tool they have to slow down or stop the agenda of the Democratic majority. This may be wise or foolish, but you’re unlikely to change the minds of one-quarter of the Senate by wailing that they’re oblivious to those “blindingly obvious aspects of leadership” that you’ve discovered.

Freiberger calls all of this “a damning indictment of the conservative commentariat that such rudimentary concepts are apparently foreign to its upper echelons.” I think that it’s more of a damning indictment that Freiberger doesn’t know what would be required to get rid of the filibuster, and how far away from that goal he is.

Jordan’s made clear that he feels that if the House Republican leader just demonstrated more willpower, the results would be different. As much as I like Jordan, I suspect the problem is less willpower than simple math — there simply aren’t enough Republicans in the Senate and now the House to enact the policies Jordan wants to see enacted. As I wrote last Wednesday, I’m perfectly fine with giving Jordan a chance to take the wheel; maybe he really could generate dramatically different results from sheer force of personality and personal persuasiveness. But the first step to that position of leadership is convincing a majority of his party that he should be the leader. So far, Jordan’s fallen well short of that.

You’ll notice that there’s a narrative that Kevin McCarthy is some sort of hapless Establishment squish with all of the backbone of a Nerf product while Jordan is the heroic defender of conservative principles. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, FiveThirtyEight ranked 97 important votes in the House (leaving out the renaming post offices, etcetera). McCarthy and Jordan voted differently in ten of them, meaning that they voted the same way 87 out of 97 times. Obviously, there’s a difference, but not a glaring difference — yet ConservativeReview ranks Jordan an “A” and McCarthy an “F.”

ADDENDUM: Beto O’Rourke could very well become the Democratic nominee for 2020, as party donors are already gushing about him, comparing him to Robert F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders in this Politico article.

“He’s Barack Obama, but white.” Is there any higher compliment in Democratic circles?

Economy & Business

Critics of the Amazon Deal Have Valid Reasons to Oppose it

A box from Amazon.com in Golden, Colo., July 23, 2008. (Rick Wilking/REUTERS)

Making the click-through worthwhile: As machine recounts are completed, it’s long past time for a trio of Democrats to concede; an update on construction of the wall — or 18-foot fencing — on the southern border; a long rebuttal to the claim that critics of the Amazon deal are “whiners”; and Mickey and I plan to bring you a podcast today.

Stacey Abrams, Bill Nelson, and Andrew Gillum . . . It’s Time to Concede Your Races

How you know when a race is over: when the losing candidate starts talking about a legal challenge to ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the results of the election and call for a new election. Apparently Stacey Abrams is incapable of conceding that she lost a hard-fought, close race:

The Democrat’s campaign is considering a long-shot legal challenge under a law that allows losing candidates to contest the election in the case of misconduct, fraud or “irregularities.” She would face a tremendous legal burden to prove her case.

Barring successful legal action, the secretary of state could certify the election as soon as 5 p.m. Friday and cement Kemp’s victory in the tightest race for Georgia governor since 1966.

The latest tally showed Abrams is roughly 55,000 votes behind Kemp — and in need of more than 17,000 votes to force a Dec. 4 runoff.

Kemp’s lead was virtually unchanged after elections officials in Gwinnett County late Thursday tallied hundreds of absentee ballots that were rejected solely because of a missing or incorrect date of birth. The ballots were counted after a federal judge’s ruling, but they did not significantly change the race.

Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, yesterday: “If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it. It’s clear. It’s clear. I say that publicly.” (Heads I win, tails you lose. I don’t to hear any more descriptions of Brown as a sensible moderate.)

Meanwhile, down in Florida, the machine recount changed nothing — Ron DeSantis is Florida’s next governor.

In the governor’s race, it was an anticlimactic finish to the dramatic machine recount — plagued with technical issues and an avalanche of lawsuits — with almost no change in the margin between DeSantis and his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, since this weekend. Still, about 0.41 percentage points separate the two candidates, or just under 34,000 votes.

Two days ago, Andrew Gillum wrote on Twitter: “I believe that we win. #BringItHome”. As of this writing, there is no message of concession, only his retraction of his Election Night concession.

And in the Senate race, the machine recount actually expanded Rick Scott’s lead, but the Democrats will continue to keep fighting through the manual recount.

The race between Nelson and Scott remains extremely tight, and both campaigns continued to fight in court Thursday over ballots and deadlines that could swing how many votes are included in the manual recount and how long elections supervisors have to count them. Following the statewide machine recount over the past five days, new totals showed Scott leading Nelson by 12,603 votes, a tiny increase over his 0.15 percent lead Saturday.

Senator, you can ask for a recount to continue and acknowledge that you don’t expect the process to find an additional 12,604 votes in your favor. The largest vote swing in any recount going back to 2000 is 512 votes.

When a race is close and a Republican is ahead, the message from the national media is: “Take as much time as needed to count every vote. The values of democracy and elected government are at stake.” When a race is close and the Democrat is ahead, the message from the national media is that the Republican candidate is being a sore loser and dragging out a futile exercise and needs to concede and accept defeat gracefully.

Hey, Remember the Wall?

If you’ve wondered how construction of “the wall” — or more specifically, 18-foot-tall bollard fencing  — I have an update on NRO today. In the coming weeks, the House and Senate will try to get a lame-duck spending deal done and include at least some funding for “the wall.” You’re going to hear a lot of not-all-that-accurate claims that either “Nothing’s been done” on the wall or that the border is already secure. Neither is quite right, and I hope that today’s piece sheds some light and offers actual information on a topic that is often debated but rarely understood.

The Amazon-Deal Critics Aren’t ‘Whiners’

Rarely do I disagree so strongly with an article in The Weekly Standard as I did with Tony Mecia’s “Hey, New York and D.C., Stop Whining About Those Amazon Jobs.”

It’s a weird piece because it begins by conceding the point that locals have reasons to object to the Amazon deal’s impact on traffic, parking, the tax giveaways, and crony capitalism. But then Mecia writes that those concerns are “way overblown.”

Mecia says that the Amazon job additions are small compared to the overall rate of growth in the cities — a point that raises the question of why Amazon should get these giant financial concessions if their impact on the job-creation rate is so limited — and four paragraphs later he writes, “Will traffic worsen? Will schools become crowded? Will rents rise? Yes, definitely.” Once again, with concessions like that, those concerns don’t seem so overblown!

But the single statement in the piece that stands out for being both not right and not Right is the declaration that in the Amazon deal, “those communities come out ahead economically, because the incentives are tied to the actual creation of jobs and investment, which increases tax revenues above the amount of the incentives.”

No, communities don’t always come out ahead economically when they shell out generous incentives to get a company to relocate. And while it’s probably a safe bet that the revenue paid to Arlington and the Commonwealth of Virginia will eventually surpass the payment to Amazon, it’s likely to take quite a few years to catch up.

Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope math. “Virginia’s state and local governments agreed to shell out as much as $796 million in tax incentives and infrastructure improvements over the next 15 years in exchange for 25,000 well-paying tech jobs. That works out to just under $32,000 per job.”

Assume one of these new Amazon employees is making $150,000 and rents an apartment in Crystal City near work and is single. The average state income-tax payment for a Virginia state resident with that income level is $8,142. If the taxpayer is married with a spouse who doesn’t work, the payment is $7,916. If both spouses are making $150,000 each, they’ll pay $16,541.

Some of those new employees will rent, some will buy homes; the average homeowner in Arlington pays $8,742.

So even if the new workers don’t buy homes and pay property taxes, over four or five years, the state recoups what it paid Amazon, right? Wait, not quite. New residents and workers give states and localities money through taxes and fees, but they also take away money by using state and local government services. More residents in the area because of Amazon means more kids in public schools, more people calling 911, more fires to put out, more emergency-room visits, more public-transit use, more people using parks and libraries, more court cases for the circuit court, more sanitation needs, more leaf collection, and so on. More use of the roads will require more street repairs more frequently.

It’s impossible to calculate the precise balance for each new worker, but the gist is that parents, crime victims, and Medicaid patients cost a state or locality more than non-parents, those lucky enough to not be victimized by crime, and those who are not dependent upon the government to pay for medical costs. Amazon’s new employees probably won’t be on Medicaid and hopefully won’t be calling the cops regularly, but at least some are going to be parents. The public schools in Arlington prides themselves on being among the best in the country and spending a lot of money per student.

The Washington Area Boards of Education, which annually analyzes the budgets of local school districts to provide as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as possible, puts Arlington’s per-student spending at $19,340 for the 2017-18 school year, up 2 percent from a year before and above the all-time record of $19,040 recorded in 2014-15.

If a couple moves to Arlington and each makes $150,000 from Amazon . . . they’ll pay roughly $16,500 in state taxes per year. Good news, that’s almost a quarter of the $64,000 the state paid Amazon for their jobs! But they also bring with them two kids in public school, adding about $38,000 in new costs, or the school lets its per-student spending drop. Suddenly it won’t take four or five years to make the Amazon deal pay off. It will take more years of the couple working and having no kids in the public schools for Virginia and Arlington to make the money back.

One other key variable for these calculations: Some of these new Amazon workers might live in Alexandria, Fairfax County, or across the river in the District of Columbia or Maryland, which alters whether they’re paying property taxes or bringing new children into the public schools. The equation is not, as Mecia suggests, “new taxes paid to the state, minus payment to Amazon.” The equation is “new taxes paid to the state, minus payment to Amazon, then minus cost to state of new worker moving to the jurisdiction.” If those new workers stay for many years, then yes, Virginia and Arlington will eventually get more in new tax payments than they lost in the giveaway to Amazon.

But this is just the financial bottom line, not an examination of the quality of life — traffic, longer commutes from a lack of affordable housing, more crowded and less quality schools, overcrowded hospitals, and so on.

One of the best pieces on the deal came from Josh Barro, who focused on Amazon’s deal up in New York City: “[Michael] Bloomberg, and his successor Bill de Blasio, and Governor Andrew Cuomo all want an East Coast rival to Silicon Valley . . .  a borough where Amazon serves as the commercial leader — unlike Chelsea, where Google basically blends in — does more to raise the profile of tech in New York.”

Barro asked, “Is that an important goal? Does New York need to be the leader in everything, even if that drives up rents for people who don’t work in the tech industry?” He concludes that the answer is no.

New York City doesn’t need to be a national or world leader in the tech sector. It’s already among the world leaders in financial markets, banking, mass media and publishing, advertising, real estate, health care, higher education, garments, chemicals, specialty foods, transportation and shipping, and entertainment, and I’ve probably forgotten a bunch of other industries.

Washington is a government town, and that business is never going to relocate. With that industry comes defense contractors, civilian contractors, nonprofits, media, lobbying firms, trade groups, higher education, health care, embassies, and international organization. And of course, both Washington and New York are among the country’s biggest tourist destinations.

That’s what’s really bonkers about the Amazon choice. The company had dozens of cities begging them to relocate and bring 50,000 tech jobs, and where the relocation would be hailed as an economic blessing. But somehow the company managed to pick the two cities that needed them the least, where the existing residents wanted them the least, and the two places where the local idiot lawmakers didn’t need to give away the store — and those idiot lawmakers went ahead and did it anyway.

ADDENDUM: Mickey and I plan to tape a podcast today.


Michael Avenatti Bites the Dust

Michael Avenatti attends the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa, August 10, 2018. (KC McGinnis/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Michael Avenatti, self-styled fighter, finds that karma has a hell of a counterpunch; why Nancy Pelosi is somewhat overrated as a House leader; New York governor Andrew Cuomo belatedly realizes that his state has high taxes that drive away businesses; and Kyrsten Sinema gets an early start on breaking campaign promises. Today’s a special “Democrats are awful” edition.

Karma Punches Back

Apparently karma punches back twice as hard, too.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Stormy Daniels in her legal battle with President Donald Trump, was arrested Wednesday in the Los Angeles area on suspicion of domestic violence. He was released on bail hours later.

The police report was filed Tuesday night by an unidentified victim at a residence on the 10000 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The LAPD tweeted that it was an “ongoing investigation.” The department would not reveal the identity of the reporting party or the exact nature of the person’s injuries.

Avenatti was arrested and booked on felony domestic charges Wednesday afternoon, police said. He was released from custody around 5:30 p.m. and his bail was set at $50,000, according to jail records.

Avenatti calls the charges “completely bogus.”

Yes, it’s possible this is a false accusation. The accuser is apparently convincing enough to persuade the LAPD to pursue charges. If the short-tempered angry guy who kept talking about how tough he was and how he was a fighter and touts mottos like “If you can’t take a punch, you don’t belong in the ring” and “Don’t tell me what cases you’ve won, tell me who you’ve beaten” ended up having a violent temper . . . it wouldn’t be the most shocking twist in the world. The man’s political-action committee is called “Fight PAC.” If you always boast about how strong you are with metaphors of physical violence, people might start to think you’re physically violent.

Unsurprisingly, groups such as the Vermont Democratic party are beginning to recognize Avenatti’s potential radioactivity:

Vermont Democrats, who planned to host two events with the lawyer Friday and Saturday, will refund ticketholders, said R. Christopher Di Mezzo, the party’s communications director, on Wednesday evening. Avenatti has said he would pursue the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2020. 

There was a time when the selection of a party’s presidential contenders consisted mostly of familiar figures from Washington and state capitols — senators and governors and the occasional ambassador or House member thrown in the mix. These figures could be well-known and boring, but that old system had some advantages. The figures who rose to the top were generally known quantities. They had been covered by the press for a long time, their backgrounds had been investigated, and the local rumor-mill checked out.

Those with certain character flaws were generally weeded out by the process to get to that level of political power. Perhaps figures like Thomas Eagleton and Edmund Muskie were treated too harshly by the national press. But we were deciding who would have access to “the button” during the Cold War — this was no position for a man who was temperamental, moody, short-tempered, or who had trouble controlling his emotions. We were hiring the leader of the free world, not casting the protagonist of a drama series.

We can argue about when exactly it changed — Richard Nixon, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton — but it clearly has changed, and I’d argue the country is worse off for that change. Just because anyone can run for president doesn’t mean that anyone should run for president.

Is Nancy Pelosi Really that Good of a Leader of House Democrats?

Insufferable gun-control activist David Hogg, a few months ago: “Older Democrats just won’t move the [expletive] off the plate and let us take control. Nancy Pelosi is old.”

(Hogg sure disappeared in recent months, didn’t he?)

Lefty Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman can’t quite believe that Democrats are even considering anyone else:

What’s truly absurd about this is the fact that everyone — both her supporters and her opponents — agrees that not only does no one else have Pelosi’s combination of skills and experience, but also that she might be the most effective congressional leader of the past half-century or so. The current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, had to struggle to pass a tax cut through a Republican-led House; when Pelosi was speaker she passed cap and trade, a huge stimulus, banking reform, and a whole lot else besides. And of course, the Affordable Care Act — the most important issue in the election we just had? It never would have passed in 2010, at a moment when other Democrats were ready to give up, had it not been for Pelosi’s skill and determination.

Er . . . Democrats had 257 seats beginning in 2009! That’s a huge margin — getting 218 votes in that environment isn’t particularly difficult. You can have 15 percent of your caucus vote “no” and still pass a bill. By comparison, Paul Ryan began this last Congress with 241 Republicans and by March 1, 2017, it was down to 237 because of presidential appointments and other vacancies. By May of this year, Ryan was down to 235. Ryan could never lose more than 9 percent or so of House Republicans and still pass a bill.

Waldman makes a fairer point when he observes that as of this writing, there’s no clear alternative to Pelosi among House Democrats. When it comes to knocking off a well-established front-runner, it’s like that story of certain native cultures using the much simpler counting system of “one, two, many” and that all numbers beyond two are indistinguishable. If the House Democratic leadership fight becomes Nancy Pelosi vs. One Alternative Younger New Option, she can be beaten. If the fight becomes Pelosi vs. A Bunch of Other House Democrats, she’ll win easily.

Andrew Cuomo: Whoa, I Just Realized My Own State’s Taxes Are High

These are the sorts of statements that just make you want to scream at people:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the deal, arguing that New York has to offer incentives because of its comparatively high taxes. At 6.5 percent, New York’s corporate income-tax rate is only modestly higher than Virginia’s 6 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. But other business and individual taxes are higher in New York.

“It’s not a level playing field to begin with,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview Tuesday. “All things being equal, if we do nothing, they’re going to Texas.”

First, what about all the companies in New York that don’t get a special deal the way Amazon does? Why is it okay for them to pay the high taxes, but not Amazon?

Second, if Andrew Cuomo thinks that his state’s taxes are too high and are scaring away businesses, why doesn’t he try to lower them?

ADDENDUM: Kyrsten Sinema, July 2: “I am not going to vote for him,” she said matter of factly when pressed on her view of Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Notice that there are no caveats, conditions, or wiggle room.

Schumer was reelected as Democrats’ leader in the Senate on Wednesday. Newly elected Arizona Senator Sinema: “Had there been a challenger for minority leader, I would have considered new leadership and a fresh perspective.”

A broken promise on her first day — way to go, Arizonans!

Politics & Policy

Jim Jordan Might Be the GOP’s Man for the Job

Ohio congressman Jim Jordan speaks at CPAC. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: weighing the options of Ohio’s Jim Jordan or California’s Kevin McCarthy to be the next GOP House minority leader; Amazon’s wildly lucrative deal with Virginia and New York appears to have hit a snag; Beto O’Rourke stands out among a geriatric set; and brilliantly simple but powerful words from the late, great Stan Lee.

To Lead the House Minority . . . Air Jordan?

Jim Jordan might make a really good Republican House minority leader. In fact, if being in the minority requires more metaphorical bomb-throwing at the majority and rallying the base and less coalition-building than being speaker of the House, Jordan might be ideal for the job.

Back when Jordan was hoping he would have a shot to be speaker, he criticized the current leadership of outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan and House majority leader Kevin McCarthy as simply not getting it done. Jordan’s attitude towards President Trump is wildly enthusiastic. He characterizes the current leadership as simply lacking the will to enact key parts of the GOP agenda.

It’s not widely known that under Ryan, the House of Representatives “passed 1,032 bills and joint resolutions in the current session, the third highest number in the last 30 years.” Most notably, the GOP House passed its version of health-care reform; it couldn’t pass the Senate once John McCain voted “no.”

Ryan himself notes, that “Of those roughly thousand bills, over 80 percent of them are bipartisan bills. So we’ve tackled opioids. We’ve tackled human trafficking. We’ve rebuilt the military. All of those are bipartisan. But they don’t get reported. It doesn’t sell.” This Congress passed and President Trump signed tax cuts; the repeal of the individual mandate from Obamacare; drilling in ANWR; new sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia; the Right to Try Act for experimental medication; reforms of the Department of Veterans Affairs; laws designed to make it easier to fire federal workers; expansion of job training and technical-education programs; a sweeping change to copyright law; reducing the impact of Dodd-Frank on banks and repeal of at least 15 last-minute regulations enacted under the Obama administration. Sentencing and prison reform may get done before the end of the year.

Jordan wants the Senate to change the rules on the filibuster. But Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell isn’t going to do that, and even if McConnell wanted to do that, he would need 50 votes to change the rules of the Senate. It’s not clear that 50 Republican senators would vote to do that. Earlier this year, Ted Cruz discussed four ways to work around a filibuster, and assessed that only half of the caucus was willing to get rid of it.

Jordan and President Trump saw the filibuster as the primary obstacle to enacting their shared priorities and agenda. That isn’t going to change anytime soon, and now there’s a Democratic House for at least the next two years.

For a long time, some conservatives argued that the primary obstacle to enacting their agenda was their own leadership — that the leaders of the party in either or both chambers were too compromising, too milquetoast, too easily satisfied with half a loaf, and that they weren’t “fighters.” No amount of legislative success could ever really dispel this simple narrative.

Maybe it’s time to let this crowd have a chance at the steering wheel. I think if we could look into alternate universes and see what 2019-2020 looks like with Jim Jordan as minority leader and Kevin McCarthy in the same position, we would not see earth-shaking differences. (I suspect both men will grumble at that assessment.) It’s fascinating to hear Fox News describe McCarthy as “a moderate — some would argue at times liberal — Republican” when he’s got a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 86.66. McCarthy has voted with Trump’s position 98.9 percent of the time. Jim Jordan scored a perfect 100 score in his lifetime ACU rating, and votes with Trump 85.7 percent of the time. (Jordan disagreed with the administration on the “compromise” immigration bills, the appropriations bills, the farm bill, and FISA reauthorization.)

But if the House Freedom Caucus thinks it can do such a better job, maybe it’s time they were given a chance to put up or shut up. For the next two years, the primary job of House Republican leadership will be making the argument against what the House Democratic leadership is doing.

There are two primary obstacles to enacting the conservative agenda. First, yes, the filibuster; a lot of proposals and ideas might get 50 votes but getting 60 votes is nearly impossible.

There was a time when ten or more Democrats might vote for various GOP ideas, but that time has passed.

But the more consequential obstacle of the conservative agenda is that it simply is not as popular as its adherents wish it were. People like smaller government in the abstract but lash out once spending cuts are proposed for government programs that they like. Far too voters see entitlement programs as ticking time bombs; they will refuse to step away from the explosive devices until the last second, if then. There’s little evidence that a decisive portion of the electorate sees itself as overtaxed. General economic anxiety about health-care costs, education costs, and the impermanence of employment has made people more interested in expanding government-run social-welfare programs, not less. The ideals of social conservatism are more often breached than honored, by both the general populace, less scrupulous GOP lawmakers, and at times the president himself. The general population is tired of war but oblivious or nonchalant about a world with significant and growing dangers and military threats.

That’s the task before conservatives, and it is a mission that is likely to loom large long after the Trump presidency ends.

Finally, I suspect that as minority leader, Jordan would continue to never wear a jacket.

According to reports this morning, Trump wants to see a compromise — McCarthy as minority leader, Jordan as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

Sinking In the Amazon

Yesterday I wrote about how awful the Amazon deal is for northern Virginia residents and Virginia taxpayers. This morning . . . one has to wonder if this deal is actually going to go through after all, at least up in New York City:

City Council members fumed Tuesday after Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut them out of a deal to build one of Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens, obviating one of the city legislature’s most important functions…

“This is beyond top-down, I’m not even sure what to call this,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, also a candidate for public advocate. “This was done with no stakeholders in the room at all.”

“I also don’t understand why a company as rich as Amazon would need nearly $2 billion in public money for its expansion plans at a time when New York desperately needs money for affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure and education,” [Speaker Corey] Johnson said in a statement.

[City Council Member Jimmy] Van Bramer questioned the political wisdom of the move, saying the de Blasio administration and the governor “misread the moment” and the level of outrage that the deal would trigger.

“I think if the takeaway from the recent election in Queens, New York City and nationally is that we should actually step up corporate subsidies and billionaires getting billion-dollar bailouts — if that’s the takeaway, somebody’s not got their fingers on the pulse of Democrats, certainly, but people generally in this country,” he told POLITICO in a phone interview.

As Matthew Walther puts it, “So-called economic development benefits the developers, not ordinary people.”

Beto the Rock Star, in More Ways Than One

Last night, I dreamt Beto O’Rourke had rebounded from his unsuccessful Senate campaign by forming a band and going on a nationwide concert tour. Considering that a new poll shows him to be the third-most popular option among Democrats for the 2020 presidential nomination, maybe that isn’t such a weird dream. The figures around him look like a retirement home: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

ADDENDUM: An absolutely beautiful two-paragraph essay from Stan Lee in the back of a Marvel comic of 1968:

Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.

“Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God ― a God who calls us ALL ― His children.


One Week Later: The Midterms Don’t Look So Good For the GOP

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at his midterm election night party in Orlando, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri )

Making the click-through worthwhile: the latest on the Florida recount shenanigans, including one county just deciding to improvise the rules in violation of state law; why the outlook for Donald Trump and the Republicans looks darker today than it did a week ago; and the Kansas City local government cracks down on the urban menace of . . . free food for the homeless.

Florida County Blatantly Violates State Laws on Ballots and Voting Restrictions

Guys . . . you can’t just make up new laws and rules for voting right before the election, even if you have the best of intentions.

As counties recount ballots in three statewide races and lawyers battle over the complex vote tallying in court, the top elections official in Bay County said he allowed some displaced voters to cast ballots by email or fax after Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle, even though there is no provision for it in state law.

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen said Monday that 11 ballots were accepted by email and 147 ballots were domestically faxed in, though state statute does not allow emailed ballots and faxing in ballots is only permitted for military and voters overseas.

But Andersen defended his decision to accept those ballots by email and fax vigorously, noting the mass devastation that rocked the coastal county one month ago.

“You did not go through what we went through,” he said, describing areas that were shut off by law enforcement and people barred from returning to their homes. “If some are unhappy we did so well up here, I don’t know what to tell them. We sure had an opportunity to not do well, I can tell you that much.”

Andersen said that all of those ballots were verified by signature and that voters were required to sign an oath. “If I can validate it with a signature, the ballot is there, how is that different than a ballot that comes in through the post office?”

There’s no doubt that Andersen meant well, and perhaps some subsequent lawsuit will determine that all of these ballots should be counted because all the ‘i’s were dotted and all the ‘t’s were crossed. But until a judge rules otherwise, those 158 ballots are not legal under state law. Before the election, Rick Scott — the governor, who’s running for Senate and who appears to have won the Senate race — issued an executive order that allowed counties to extend early voting days and designate more early voting locations.

But the governor’s statement and executive order were clear:

Voting by fax or email is not an option under the Executive Order. In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots. Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues. The Department is actively reviewing ways to provide more absentee ballots to those voters in the counties severely impacted by Hurricane Michael.

In the governor’s race in Bay County, Republican Ron DeSantis won 45,695 votes for governor, about 72 percent; and Democrat Andrew Gillum won 16,738, about 26 percent. In the Senate race, Scott won 73.7 percent, and Democrat Bill Nelson won 26.3 percent.

Meanwhile, further south in the Sunshine State, Broward County election officials are still sorting the ballots for the recount, separating the first page with the contested races from the ballot’s other pages; this process will take, by the county’s estimate, 35 hours. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County is running comparably smoothly, declaring they expect they will complete the recount well before Thursday’s deadline. Scott’s lead is 12,562 votes; DeSantis leads by about 34,000 votes; and in the state’s agriculture commissioner race, Democrat Nikki Fried leads by about 5,300 votes over Republican Matt Caldwell. Based upon history, one should not expect the new numbers to reverse the results:

According to an analysis by the nonpartisan group FairVote, which advocates for electoral reforms that make it easier to vote, out of 4,687 statewide elections between 2000 and 2016, just 26 went to a recount. Of those 26, just three recounts wound up changing the initial result of the race: The 2004 Washington governor’s race, the 2006 Vermont state auditor’s race and the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The average swing in those three elections after the recounts? About 311 votes.

What the Miami Herald didn’t note, but that longtime conservative election-watchers probably remember, is that in all three of those recounts, the new count showed the Democratic candidate beating the Republican candidate.

Why Election Day 2018 Looks Worse for the GOP One Week Later

What a difference a week makes, huh? With Arizona’s Senate seat lost, Florida and Georgia down to the wire, and GOP House losses approaching 40 seats, it’s time to adjust Wednesday morning’s “It wasn’t that bad” assessment.”

What’s more, President Trump and his team should be nervous about 2020. There’s still a lot of road between now and the next presidential election. We don’t know what the state of the country will be in autumn of that year. What will the unemployment number be? Will Americans feel prosperous and that American has been made “great again”? Will there be a terrorist attack? Another war?

What should worry Republicans and Trump is that the economy on Election Day 2018 was just about as good as they could want, and the Democrats made those big gains anyway. The economic picture in autumn of 2020 may not be as rosy as it is now. We’re technically overdue for a recession, or at least a slowdown. The U.S. economy could slow down because of global-economic forces; a bubble bursting in the real estate, tech, or financial sectors; instability  overseas; tariffs . . . and we’re at trillion-dollar-a-year deficits already.

A rational administration would look at the “excite the base” strategy in the final weeks before Election Day and declare it either a failure (a bit harsh) or insufficient. Maybe President Trump’s focus on repealing birthright citizenship, the caravans, crimes of illegal immigrants, and so on helped ensure GOP wins in the Senate races in Indiana and Missouri. But it sure as heck didn’t help the Republicans who were running in competitive races in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, California, and some parts of Florida . . . you can’t just dismiss those red-to-purple districts in blue or purple states. Republicans can’t just write off all of those soccer moms and white-collar professionals as folks who were always RINOS and closet liberals. You have to win back those suburban districts if you ever want to see a House GOP majority again.
Beyond that, the electoral college map looks challenging once again. The upper Midwest is pretty ominous beyond Ohio. Pennsylvania Republicans got wiped out. Wisconsin wasn’t much better, although Scott Walker kept it close. Beyond John James, there weren’t many bright signs for Michigan Republicans. Without those three states going red in 2016, Hillary Clinton would have won. In these states, a lot of people rolled the dice on Trump and the Republicans in 2016 because they didn’t like Hillary Clinton. By 2018, they weren’t willing to roll the dice again.

Trump doesn’t have many blue states that could easily flip. Minnesota was supposed to be turning purple; that didn’t happen. Nevada, Colorado, Virginia . . . a whole bunch of once-purple states look pretty darn blue.

How confident should the GOP be about Florida in 2020? Or Georgia? Or Arizona? Texas probably won’t flip this cycle, but the trend is not Republicans’ friend.

But Trump is who he is. He doesn’t want to change. So Trump is going to be the soccer-mom scaring guy he’s always been. This makes winning back the House tough, and keeping Senate seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and maybe Alaska difficult, too. (Sure, Republicans probably beat Doug Jones in Alabama if they don’t nominate a walking liability again.)

Good luck, Republicans.

No, Government Is Not ‘The Things We Choose To Do Together’

It’s a small miracle that I don’t explode in rage every time I hear the insipid phrase, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” It is often attributed to Barney Frank, the former Democratic representative.

I didn’t choose to pour bleach on food for homeless people, did you?

The Kansas City Health Department threw away and poured bleach on food meant for homeless people.

The food was going to be distributed by a group called Free Hot Soup KC. The Kansas City Star saidthat the food, which included home-cooked chili, foil wrapped sandwiches and vats of soup, was destroyed on Sunday, Nov. 5, during a coordinated sting at several parks where volunteers had gathered.

The Health Department said the group did not have a permit and was putting people at risk.

“E. coli or salmonella or listeria can grow in the food,” department director Rex Archer said. “And then you give that to homeless people who are more vulnerable, they will end up in the ER and even die from that exposure.”

The mayor also agreed with the Health Department, tweeting that “Rules are there to protect the public’s health, and all groups must follow them, no exceptions.” END

Really? This was the only option? There was no way a city inspector could examine the food?

And they’ve got “coordinated sting operations” aimed at programs to feed the homeless? What, is there no real crime in Kansas City anymore? All the other problems in the city are solved, the only real issue left to tackle are these dangerous freelance unregulated programs to feed the hungry?

ADDENDUM: Apparently my Ted Cruz impression, exhibited in Jonah’s podcast, The Remnant, is quite convincing. The only way I can explain it is if you listen to enough speeches of lawmakers, their voices just get stuck in your head.

Politics & Policy

Elections Have Consequences — and Controversies

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: a look at Trump’s would-be two-year agenda, a look at the elections still hanging in the balance, and a look at a book — or my review of that book, anyway.

Economic Populism in Name Only?

Readers of National Review will be familiar by now with a standard midterm diagnosis. The Republican party is hemorrhaging suburban voters, and it is struggling to retain its gains among midwestern whites. Trump has repelled voters in, say, the Philadelphia and Richmond suburbs, turning off those who once might have voted GOP and inspiring a number of women to vote Democratic. Meanwhile, the party has not managed to solidify the inroads Trump made in states such as Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and most of Pennsylvania. To use Henry Olsen’s analysis, the modern GOP has deterred the RINOs while not doing enough to win over the TIGRs (or Trump Is Great Republicans).

Why? Some combination of Trump’s personality and a lack of policy imagination seems to be a reasonable explanation. RINOs are turned off by Trump’s personality and his culture-war fights, while TIGRs have material interests distinct from any allegiances they might have in the debates over NFL player protests and migrant caravans. If the GOP is going to keep its coalition a winning one, it will have to speak to those interests.

So there’s been a renewed call for a genuinely populist economic agenda in the wake of the midterms. There’s also been a simultaneous recognition that, legislatively speaking, nothing is likely to happen for the next two years. Instead of a grand bargain on a sweeping infrastructure bill or a dogged attempt to find some comprehensive solutions to the health-care system, we’re likely to get a series of House investigations into the petty wrongdoing of the Trump administration and escalatory counterpunches by the president. Insofar as anything happens on the policy front, it will come unilaterally. Executive actions will be the extent of policymaking for the next two years.

What Trump’s economic program might look like over the next two years is anyone’s guess. Trade will continue to be a focus, as will taking aim at low-hanging regulatory fruit. One idea: Take aim at Amazon and Google, push for antitrust action against tech companies, and force California to come out on the side of Capital. A rhetorical war against the behemoth company that cajoled midsize cities into jurisdictional competition for its HQ2 only to likely pick Washington, D.C., and New York City as its locations would probably play well for the president.

I suspect that advocates of a more populist economic agenda have more lasting and materially meaningful policies in mind, and business-friendly Republicans would protest were Trump to target Silicon Valley himself. But those in the GOP who plan on being around after Trump ought to start thinking about how they can keep the coalition he built. (Start with Oren Cass’s The Once and Future Worker, and his wage-subsidy, career-track, and labor-reform proposals.)

Elections, Elections

But the midterms aren’t quite over yet, with the results of races in Arizona, Georgia, and Florida still technically in doubt. But Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, now up in Arizona by 32,000 votes, looks poised to become Arizona’s next senator, while Republican Brian Kemp, up by 58,000 votes, will almost certainly be the next governor of Georgia. Both of these races have been dotted with implausible claims of malfeasance — from the people you would expect — although only one set of these claims has gotten sympathetic write-ups in the press. But the writing is on the wall for Martha McSally and Stacey Abrams.

Things in Florida are less clear, as Rick Scott’s and Ron DeSantis’s leads have shrunk to within the 0.5 percent margin within which a recount is required. There is plenty of drama in Broward County, which has a history of mishandling recounts. NR’s editors called on Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes to be fired over the weekend:

On Friday, a court in Broward County found that Snipes was guilty of violating both Florida’s public-records laws and the state’s constitution by failing to provide mandatory updates to the public, and it ordered the immediate release of the missing information. As that ruling was coming down, Snipes’s office was laying out more lawsuit bait. According to the Miami Herald, an election worker found bags of “uncounted early ballots” in the Broward County office — ballots whose provenance could not be established. Snipes, meanwhile, was busy mixing together rejected provisional ballots and accepted provisional ballots, processing them all together. . . .

Such behavior is by no means out of character. This year alone, Snipes has been reprimanded by the courts twice: once, in May, for illegally destroying ballots during the 2016 Democratic primary, in violation of both state and federal law; and again, in August, for illegally opening mail-in ballots in secret. How long, we wonder, does it take to establish a pattern?

One thought: The Trump administration was banking on McSally and Scott being part of a 54-seat majority in the Senate when it fired Jeff Sessions and appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, right? The closeness of these elections makes the timing of that decision all the more baffling, as James Hitchcock points out. First there’s the constitutional objection to Whitaker’s appointment — that “principal officers” require Senate confirmation, which is the position of conservative legal writers from George Conway to Jonathan Adler to John Yoo — and then there’s the issue of whether Trump will be able to get Whitaker confirmed to the position full-time if Republicans only hold a two-or three-seat majority.

It’s Not Self-Promotion If It’s Not Your Book

Wesley Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk is out this week, one of my favorite books of the year. I reviewed it for National Review in October:

“Is it OK to be white?” [Yang] asked in a column in Tablet magazine last November. “The question is at once disingenuous, facetious, satirical, and self-parodic. It is also one of the consequential questions being posed in earnest by the moral and political vanguards of our time.” He was referring to a then-ongoing alt-right campaign, conceived online by those same disposessed male Internet denizens, to put up posters at universities and high schools that answered the question in the affirmative, and to the media furor that had followed. “The question invites the typical reader to resist its implications — to deny that the question is one that anyone would think to ask, or that people are asking. But people have thought to ask it, they are asking it. It is the sort of question that one doesn’t think to ask at all unless the answer is going to be no.”

Some 2,000 words later, after affirming that yes, it is okay to be white, Yang had covered a lot of ground. He explained the goal of the alt-right troll campaign (to invite “dissent that would delegitimize the dissenters”), pointed out the nature of the dissent (social-justice activists take whiteness and masculinity to be “forms of identity rooted in genocide, colonialism, and slavery that reproduce the violent conditions of their emergence everywhere they are treated as neutral”), and located its philosophical source (a shift from neutral liberalism to a post-structuralist Foucauldianism that has seeped into the academy, the media, and human-relations departments, and is coming to a screen near you). By the end of the column, Yang had managed to capture the essence of online social-justice activism in a single sentence: “This intricate system of racial casuistry, worthy of Jesuits, is a beguiling compound of insight, partial truths, circular reasoning, and dogmatism operating within a self-enclosed system of reference immunized against critique and optimized for virality.”

This trenchant essay appears toward the end of Yang’s debut book, The Souls of Yellow Folk. The title is an homage to W. E. B. Du Bois’s look at the souls of black folk at the start of the last century, and Yang’s volume is not really about the alt-right or digital political fights. It is a diffuse collection of previously published essays that coheres, albeit loosely, around the “centrality” of the Asian-American experience to contemporary American life. (Du Bois argued that the African-American experience was central to the larger national story, although later in life he lost that conviction and sadly dove into the murk of Stalinism and Afro-Liberation.) Yang is aware of the excesses of progressivism yet under no illusions about race’s continuing importance in the United States; his major observation is that Asian Americans, at once marginalized and successful, overlooked by whites yet rebuffed by other racial minorities, occupy a unique cultural space in our identity-obsessed country. Mostly, though, Yang’s book is a primer to the wider oeuvre of a perceptive writer with undeniably sharp insights into American life.


What’s Next for the Resistance?

Sign at a protest outside Trump Tower in New York City, February 8, 2018. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Tuesday night’s midterms were a bit of a mixed bag for both parties. Efforts by Republican leadership, and especially by President Trump, to spin the night as a clear-cut win for the GOP were clearly unfounded. Any time the party in power loses control of a chamber of Congress, it isn’t a great time to break out the champagne.

But Tuesday wasn’t an all-out win for Democrats either, and the most politically salient question to consider as the dust settles —  aside from “Why did these races turn out the way they did?” — is “Where do we go from here?” And for a Democratic party eyeing 2020, in particular, what lessons will presidential hopefuls, party leadership, and the Left’s most zealous advocates draw from what happened on Tuesday?

The Senate election map this year was, of course, favorable to the GOP, with ten Democrats up for reelection in states that Trump won in 2016, and many of which he claimed by double-digit margins. But losing four Senate seats to GOP challengers (pending a recount in Florida) and flipping only one Republican-held seat (pending the ongoing count in Arizona) isn’t a very thrilling outcome in what was widely billed as The Year of the Anti-Trump Blue Wave.

Given that the Trump administration and GOP Congress have set an agenda during the first half of the president’s term that, aside from last year’s tax reform, has focused almost solely on reshaping the courts, pickups in the Senate are just what the doctor ordered. And the Democratic candidates who flipped congressional districts in the House don’t necessarily foreshadow a host of suburban voters rejecting the entire GOP as a result of Trump — so Democrats shouldn’t count on having the upper hand heading into 2020.

In short: If Tuesday night can be considered the first real fruits of the Resistance, they’ve still got some work to do. Bret Stephens considered some of these questions in his latest New York Times column:

Are you interested in seeing Donald Trump voted out of office in two years? I hope so — which is why you should think hard about that “meh.” This week’s elections were, at most, a very modest rebuke of a president reviled by many of his opponents, this columnist included, as an unprecedented danger to the health of liberal democracy at home and abroad. The American people don’t entirely agree.

We might consider listening to them a bit more — and to ourselves somewhat less.

It also underscores that while “the Resistance” is good at generating lots of votes, it hasn’t figured out how to turn the votes into seats. Liberals are free to bellyache all they want that they have repeatedly won the overall popular vote for the presidency and Congress while still losing elections, and that the system is therefore “rigged.”

Stephens is exactly right about how liberal bellyaching comes across to those outside the progressive movement. The activist portions of the left, whose overblown rhetoric has undoubtedly bled over into how Democratic politicians portray themselves to voters, despise Trump and have radical ideas for what they want their government officials to do in response. There’s no doubt Resistance voters will show up to the polls to vote against Trump as a result, and that matters. But especially after Tuesday — which showed that GOP voters, and Trump voters to the extent they’re a different bloc, will turn out, too — it’s less clear that the Resistance has the ability to convert. More from Stephens on this point:

It didn’t convert when it nominated left-wing candidates in right-leaning states like Florida and Georgia. It didn’t convert when it poured its money into where its heart was — a lithesome Texas hopeful with scant chance of victory — rather than where the dollars were most needed.  . . .

It didn’t convert when Chuck Schumer chose to make Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court the decisive political test of the year. It didn’t convert when it turned his initial confirmation hearing into a circus. It didn’t convert when media liberals repeatedly violated ordinary journalistic standards by reporting the uncorroborated accusations against Kavanaugh that followed Christine Blasey Ford’s.

Above all, it didn’t convert the unconverted

As Stephens rightly notes, this isn’t the most prudent strategy for a party that will need to win folks over in addition to motivating an already-loyal base if it wishes to take down Trump in 2020. 

A Showdown with No Winner: Donald Trump vs. Jim Acosta

Wednesday’s power struggle between President Trump and CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta serves as a helpful microcosm of the melodrama we’ve been dealing with since the moment Trump rode down his golden escalator and into the presidency. Absolutely no one benefits from the vicious cycle of Trump fighting with the press — no one, that is, except for Trump . . . and the press.

In the post-midterms press briefing, Acosta’s regular showboating routine went a little too far for the president’s liking and ended with the White House revoking his press pass until further notice. Acosta — who has become known for questions that are less interrogative than they are assertions of his own opinion followed by, “So then why did you say the opposite?” — began badgering Trump when the president failed to satisfactorily answer Acosta’s “question” about the migrant caravan.

The exchange ended with the reporter making some kind of effort to prevent a White House intern from taking away the microphone. (This newsletter will not delve into close readings of whether Acosta “placed his hands” on her, as the White House communications team now attests.) Trump, for his part, responded characteristically, labeling Acosta “a rude, terrible person” and instructing him to “run CNN” and let him run the country.

CNN, always on the lookout for Trumpian threats to the First Amendment, described the White House’s revocation of Acosta’s pass in the starkest of terms: “This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better.” As usual, both sides of the Trump–media skirmish are wrong, although to differing degrees. A president who often calls the press “fake news” and “the enemy of the people” ought to know better; and a journalist who decides to argue with the president ought to know he doesn’t have a constitutional right to be in the room.

These constant, meaningless dustups are a battle with no winner that we’re all forced to watch, a foolish spectacle posing as our politics. As we’ve learned again and again and again over the last several years, a reality-television president will turn our government into reality television, and he’s been aided in that quest by no one more than the press that claims to hate him.

Lest anyone notice how low the stakes in this battle really are, Trump and his media critics behave as if they’ve formed a silent pact to continuously escalate the drama between them, allowing us no time to pause and ask ourselves why we even care.

These theatrics are detrimental to everyone except for Trump and the press: Acosta is now one step closer to hosting his own primetime show on CNN, and the White House has one more anecdote to bolster its narrative of a hostile, disingenuous press corps. Meanwhile, the nation suffers from increasing opacity and a lack of truth.

ADDENDUM: Glad to be filling in for Jim Geraghty this morning. While I have you, I’ll also be filling in for Jim on today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast with Greg Corombos. And if you enjoy that . . . you’re always welcome over at Ordered Liberty, the National Review podcast I cohost twice a week with David French.


Winning Makes Liberals Angry, Too

Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 9, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I’m out tomorrow and Monday; the next Jim-written Morning Jolt will be November 13.

Making the click-through worthwhile: Liberals win a bunch of elections but just get angrier, an update on the Senate races in Arizona and Georgia, checking the pre–Election Day predictions and polling, and some surprises during my special guest appearance on The Remnant.

The Left Wins, and They Just Get Angrier

Republicans lost a bunch of races on Tuesday that they wanted to win. Since Tuesday night, I haven’t seen any riots. I haven’t seen any violent protests, like the ones that have plagued Portland this year. I haven’t seen any Democratic candidates hung in effigy, the way Marsha Blackburn was in Tennessee earlier this month. I’m sure the “Proud Boys” will pop up again in some form, but they’ve been quiet since the NYPD announced arrest warrants for nine of them after that mid-October brawl.

Democrats, progressives, and liberals won a lot of the races that they wanted to win. And what happened? Did they celebrate with glee and good cheer? Did they relax? Did their anger and rage over the 2016 election dissipate and give way to relief and a more optimistic outlook for the future?

No, apparently some of them just got angrier and more explicit in their threats:

A group of protesters congregated outside what they claimed was Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s home in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night to chant threatening messages.

Smash Racism D.C., a self-described “anti-fascist” group, posted a video of their members screaming obscenities at Carlson’s house and blaming his “policies” for the deaths of thousands of people.

“Tucker Carlson, we will fight!” the protesters chanted. “We know where you sleep at night!”

This is the same group that harassed Senator Ted Cruz and his wife in the restaurant.

Meanwhile, Judiciary Committee ranking member and congressman Jerrold Nadler made the mistake of sitting next to Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist and Fox News on the Acela train and basically openly discussing everything he planned to do next year, including holding hearings investigating Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh for alleged perjury and investigating the FBI for doing an insufficient job in looking into the claims against Kavanaugh. Indeed, right after the Kavanaugh fight cost Democrats seats in Indiana, Florida, North Dakota, and Missouri, Nadler (and presumably at least some other House Democrats) is ready to have the exact same fight all over again.

House Democrats want to spend the next two years investigating the past two years: Trump’s pre-presidential ties to Russia; the Trump administration’s relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the family-separation policy; the deployment of U.S. troops to the southern border; the White House security-clearance process; the travel ban; Cambridge Analytica; the use of private email by White House officials; the response to the Puerto Rican hurricane; Jared Kushner’s business ties; and former national-security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with foreign officials. The House of Representatives will be in reruns for the next few years.

No doubt, some of these areas of investigation are legitimate — I’d love to see vigorous, skeptical scrutiny of runaway spending by cabinet officials — and some of them will be wastes of time, like arguing that the president is being influenced by foreign governments booking events at Trump hotels.

Come on! This president doesn’t base his foreign policy and relationships with foreign leaders on bribes! This president bases his foreign policy and relationships with foreign leaders on flattery and perceived slights.

Keeping Up with Those Not-Quite-Resolved Races . . .

Arizona . . . how do you have 600,000 votes uncounted a day after Election Day? “There are more than 600,000 votes left to count statewide after Election Day, according to an Arizona Republic count of votes outstanding in Arizona counties voters as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.”

Come on, we need some answers, this was the hottest Senate race in the country! Although being Arizona, it was a dry heat.

Meanwhile, in the land of not-dry-heat, Florida’s Senate race will go to an automatic recount. Few in the state expect the results to change: “The actual raw numbers Wednesday morning — with a trickle of absentee ballots possibly still to be tallied — put Scott ahead of Nelson by 30,162 votes with more than 8.1 million votes cast.”

Florida Democrats are once again waking up to a loss, and are particularly despondent this year:

The loss was crushing, and left some strategists believing that Florida, particularly in midterm elections, isn’t a swing state any longer. Of the last 26 statewide races, including presidential contests and Cabinet elections, Democrats have won just five.

“This Groundhog Day conversation has happened every Wednesday morning after the election every two years,” said Fernand Amandi, a Miami pollster who helped Donna Shalala flip a congressional district blue. “There’s enough of a losing streak now that there’s no longer a question of whether there should be a change or a massive reevaluation, but why it hasn’t already happened.”

If Pundits Are Humble and Reserved in Making Predictions . . . Are They Boring?

I like Peter Hamby, formerly of CNN and now writing for Vanity Fair. I think his coverage of Beto O’Rourke was a little too credulous this year, but I have no doubt that his coverage accurately reflected what he was seeing and hearing on the ground in Texas, and that he genuinely believed he was witnessing a transformative phenomenon in the Lone Star State. Beto-mania was something of transformative phenomenon in the Lone Star State — just not enough of one to come out with more votes than Ted Cruz. Texas Democrats picked up a dozen state house seats and two state senate seats.

A week ago, Hamby scoffed at the folks who were scoffing at the likelihood of an O’Rourke win.

Then there’s Texas, where Democrat Beto O’Rourke appears to have reclaimed some late momentum against Republican Ted Cruz, who expanded his lead in the race after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings energized G.O.P. voters. Right-leaning analysts have fallen all over themselves to mock the endless stream of Texas polling and the glowing coverage O’Rourke has received from the national press. Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini tweeted that “Beto is and has always been fanfic.” The Weekly Standard published an otherwise sensible piece about the race on Wednesday under the headline “Beto-Mania Is a Joke (Probably).” Yeah, O’Rourke might lose. That’s the most likely outcome and the best bet. But here’s a wild concept: he also might win.

Well, he didn’t, so maybe that skepticism and mockery wasn’t so foolhardy after all. We’re all vulnerable to the temptation of seeing what we want to see, instead of what’s actually happening. Lord knows I’ve done that plenty of cycles; this is why those of us who cover politics should try to resist the siren’s call of “falling in love” with a particular candidate. It happens.

The overall gist of Hamby’s piece was that some humility is in order when it comes to making predictions about election outcomes. And he’s right! That’s why elections are interesting to cover. If the RealClearPolitics polling average always told us who was going to win, we wouldn’t need to pay attention on Election Night. But predictions are also fun; that’s why the old McLaughlin Group always ended with them. No one ever thought any pundit was psychic. Predictions are our best guesses based on what we’ve observed, what we’ve heard, and what we know. Sometimes that pans out into genuine insight, sometimes that gets clouded by wishcasting.

Still, some of us get better at resisting self-delusion than others. And while every cycle brings some polls being wrong, the polls in a lot of races were pretty accurate this year.

After the apparent defeats of Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacy Abrams in Georgia, it’s fair to wonder if post-Obama America still has something of a “Bradley Effect” — people who tell a pollster they’ll vote for the African-American candidate, but vote for the opponent on Election Day. Gillum led 16 of the last 17 polls in Florida, although it’s worth noting most of those polls had Gillum up by a point or two, so a DeSantis victory by seven-tenths of a percentage point shouldn’t be quite so shocking. When people gripe about the polls being “wrong,” are they including ones that have candidate A ahead by a small margin, and on Election Day candidate B wins by a small margin?

But it’s also fair to wonder again if America has a “Shy Tory” effect, where respondents don’t want to tell a pollster that they’re voting for conservatives. Josh Hawley won by six percentage points in Missouri’s Senate race, much wider margin than most of the final polls. Three of the final polls in Florida showed Senator Bill Nelson with a lead of four percentage points. That East Tennessee State University poll had Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn tied; Blackburn won, 54.7 percent to 43.9 percent. Maybe they oversampled Taylor Swift fans.

(Can we laugh at the “Tennessee voting experts” who told Vice that she “could turn their state blue”?)

Keep in mind, before we start flaying the pollsters, that no amount of weighting, sample size, or other adjustments to a survey can compensate for respondents not being honest about the candidate they support!

I’ll give partial credit to those who predicted a “red wave.” If you said there would be a red wave in the Senate, you’re excused. But if you thought a “red wave” would lead to GOP gains in the House, take one step back.

Joe Scarborough predicted Democrats would pick up a seat in the Senate. In fact, quite a few Democrats convinced themselves that they were going to gain a Senate seat.

If you thought high turnout automatically meant that the Democrats would win, take a step back. Turnout was astoundingly high in Florida, Ohio, and Texas, and Republicans took five of the six statewide races in those places.

In fact, in Ohio, Republicans won the races for state attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, and state treasurer. And incumbent Democratic senator Sherrod Brown won by about six and a half points — as recently as early October, polls had had Brown up by 18. For a purple state, Ohio looks awfully red. Maybe it’s more of a “Magenta State.”

ADDENDUM: On the next edition of Jonah Goldberg’s The Remnant, you’ll get to hear both my immediate live reaction to Jeff Sessions’s firing — not thrilled — and I did a bit of my Ted Cruz impression. I like Cruz, I’m really glad he was reelected — both for his viewpoints and that impression remaining relevant for another six years.


The Not-So-Bad Duck-Rabbit Election

(James Lawler Duggan/Reuters )

That . . . wasn’t so bad after all, was it? This midterm election was like that optical illusion of a duck or a rabbit. If you look at it from one angle, it’s a blue wave with a huge shift in the U.S. House of Representatives! If you look at it from another angle, it’s a red wave with the GOP picking up a bunch of Senate seats! If you look at it from the governor’s races . . . eh, it’s a mixed bag.

The hottest of hot takes: If last night had been a disaster from top to bottom and coast to coast for the GOP, there would have been a much greater appetite for a GOP challenger to Donald Trump in the 2020 primary. The president’s approval among Republicans would have taken a hit, and the anti-Trump voices within the party would have argued, “Look, we tried his approach and it failed. His win in 2016 was a fluke. We’re going to get demolished at every level in 2020 if we re-nominate this guy, it’s time for something different.” But now, states such as Ohio and Florida still look pretty red, and states such as Iowa and Wisconsin don’t feel all that far out of reach.

It’s also worth noting that we’re in a fairly consistent pattern since at least 2006 where a party’s victories generate complacency and a party’s defeats generate outraged enthusiasm. John Kerry’s loss in 2004 begat the 2006 Democratic wave, Obama’s 2008 landslide begat the Tea Party and the 2010 wave, the scare of 2010 got Obama and the Democrats to hit the panic button for 2012, the disappointment of 2012 generated that second GOP midterm wave in 2014, and Democrats started thinking about the 2018 midterms during Hillary Clinton’s concession speech.

That’s What Happens When You Mess with Cocaine Mitch, Punks!

Dear God, did the Senate Democrats’ strategy on Brett Kavanaugh backfire on them on an epic scale. I do think that before the Kavanaugh fight, the Democrats were on the path to that “Blue Tsunami.” And then they decided that rerunning the Neil Gorsuch fight wasn’t going to be enough; they had to fully embrace a bunch of accusations that had no supporting witnesses.

Claire McCaskill, gone. Finally. I laid out her devilish luck in yesterday’s Jolt; for at least twelve years, Missouri Republicans yearned for a chance to take her on in a relatively normal political environment with a candidate who wasn’t a walking Superfund site of toxicity. Lo and behold, with no political wind at her back, no good GOP rivals being knocked out by the political equivalent of anvils falling from buildings or alien abductions, Josh Hawley won . . . by about 144,000 votes. The old “Vote liberal for four or five years, veer back to the center in election years” strategy of red-state Democrats finally stopped working.

Taylor Swift could not deliver Tennessee for Phil Bredesen. In retrospect, the hype around the former governor looks like wishful thinking on the part of Democrats. He last won a statewide race in 2006, and as soon as Marsha Blackburn nationalized this race, it was over. Blackburn won by about 245,000 votes last night. You figure that Democrats will have a hard time recruiting a top-tier candidate anytime soon.

Rick Scott won in Florida! Never underestimate this man again. If aliens invade Florida in 2022, Scott will lead the forces of humanity to a narrow upset victory, because that’s what he does every four years — win something that nobody thinks he has a chance to win, by about one percent. Florida Democrats will console themselves that it was so close, but with the high turnout, four-tenths of a percentage point comes out to . . . about 34,000 votes. After the 2000 presidential election, that’s a Florida landslide.

As of this writing, Mike Braun is on pace to win Indiana’s Senate by 10 points, or about 189,000 votes. A lot of people are pointing to this result as a polling failure, but remember that because of Indiana’s strict anti-robocall laws, pollsters survey this state less frequently because they have to use live interviewers. The lesson here is, trust your instincts! A GOP candidate in a longtime Republican-leaning state, the home state of the current vice president, up against a Democrat who won with 50 percent in a presidential year and who votes against Kavanaugh a month before Election Day . . . has a really good chance to win and win comfortably.

Face it, we’re not even that upset that Joe Manchin won in West Virginia. His victory offers the lesson that any red-state Democrat could have improved their chances for reelection by voting for Brett Kavanaugh.

We should give Beto O’Rourke a bit of credit; coming within three points is better than any Democrat running statewide in Texas since . . . Ann Richards, I think? But that’s . . . not a victory, which is a fair expectation when you raise $70 million and spend $60 million. And because of the scale of the turnout, those three points amount to 213,750 votes. Turnout was more than 8.3 million votes, and I recall seeing O’Rourke fans insisting that if turnout surpassed 8 million votes, then their man was certain to win. Guys, there are a lot of Republicans in Texas.

As of this writing, Matt Rosendale has a narrow lead over Jon Tester in Montana. Sean Trende thinks the precincts that have yet to report are probably more Tester-friendly and should put him over the top.

As of this writing, Martha McSally is narrowly ahead in Arizona, by about 16,000 votes, with eleven precincts still to report. Gee, it’s almost like that heavy-registered Republican advantage in the early vote meant something, huh? I understand that every time Arizona Republicans told exit pollsters that they were voting for McSally, the nearby Democratic volunteers would gasp in surprise, “Martha? Why did you say that name?”

The one GOP frustration for the night? Dean Heller lost, and it wasn’t that close; five percent or about 48,000 votes. Credit Jon Ralston and his analysis of the demographics of Nevada’s early vote.

If my biannual “Hey, Republicans have a shot in New Jersey this year” piece felt pretty skeptical . . . well, experience can be a painful but effective teacher.

And about six years later than I wanted to, I get to write the headline, “MITT ROMNEY WINS; HE’S ON HIS WAY TO WASHINGTON.” He’s been a governor of Massachusetts and will be a senator from Utah; the only other American who’s been a governor and senator of separate states is . . . Sam Houston, who was governor of Tennessee and then governor and senator from Texas. Pretty cool!

The Bad News: Speaker Pelosi. The Good News: Running Against Speaker Pelosi in 2020.

Don’t underplay this; this was indeed a blue wave. As of this writing, Democrats are picking up 27 seats, with about 21 races still waiting to be called. Democrats won just about all of the seats that I predicted would flip on Monday, and could get a dozen more.

The absolute shocker of the night in my book is Joe Cunningham beating Katie Arrington in South Carolina’s first district — Mark Sanford’s old district! This is Charleston and Hilton Head and parts of Beaufort County.

The Democrats won seats no one saw coming, such as in Oklahoma’s fifth district, where Kendra Horn beat GOP incumbent Steve Russell. Russell won his district, which encompasses Oklahoma City, by 21 points in 2016! No poll had that race closer than ten points! Republicans lost the House district that represents Staten Island, the last Republican stronghold in New York City.

The narrative that Trump is killing his party in the suburbs accumulated a lot of supporting evidence last night, in races such as Barbara Comstock’s and Dave Brat’s districts in Virginia, John Faso’s district in New York, and Mia Love’s in the Salt Lake City suburbs.

The GOP lost three out of four competitive House races in Virginia. (Thanks a lot, Corey Stewart.) A reader in Virginia’s second district wrote in, “At my polling place the Republican table had flyers for Corey Stewart, but none for Scott Taylor who, unlike Stewart, had a chance. Heck of a job, GOP.” The GOP lost three out of four competitive seats in Iowa. The GOP lost at least three competitive seats in New Jersey, and a fourth one is too close to call.

But in Texas, Dan Crenshaw won. Take that, Saturday Night Live.

The Democrats are thrilled with their new investigative powers, but I’m not sure those enthusiastic efforts will be as fruitful as they hope. For starters, this White House may just pull an Eric Holder and ignore the subpoenas and scoff at being found in contempt of Congress. (Separately, this administration may be so disorganized that they simply never get around to responding to the subpoenas.) The problem is that looking at Trump’s tax returns or other investigations of Trump may thrill the party’s base, but it’s not quite the forward-looking agenda that Democrats are going to need to keep this majority. Apparently Nancy Pelosi is already trying to downplay talk of impeachment.

There’s a silver lining or two in here for Republicans. Some of these seats, such as Darrell Issa’s old seat in California, are probably lost for a long, long time. But some of these Democratic wins look like flukes or fairly easy to win back, like the Oklahoma City or coastal South Carolina seats.

And the House Republicans who withstood this wave are probably pretty secure for the future.

Brian Fitzpatrick in Bucks County, Pa.; Ross Spano in that stretch between Tampa and Orlando; Troy Balderson in the suburbs of Columbus; Scott Perry in Harrisburg. At this hour, Bruce Polquin is hanging on in northern Maine, as is Jeff Denham east of San Jose. If Democrats couldn’t take Ed Royce’s old seat in the district covering parts of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties, in an open-seat race in this kind of political environment, they may never.

The Governors: Not So Bad!

That massacre of the GOP in the upper Midwest wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. In one of the biggest surprises of the night, Republican Mike DeWine, a senator quite a few years ago, will be the next governor of Ohio. Kim Reynolds won in Iowa. Scott Walker almost hung on in Wisconsin, but fell short by 31,000 votes. Wisconsin Democrats are dancing this morning, but Walker had a huge and lasting impact on how that state is governed. I hope Walker doesn’t stay away from politics for long; competent managers are hard to find.

Remember when I said Republicans were telling me that Stacey Abrams was the most overhyped candidate besides Beto O’Rourke? As of this writing, it appears that the Republicans won the governor’s race in Georgia, but Abrams and the Democrats don’t want to acknowledge it. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Brian Kemp has 50.5 percent, more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. He leads by 75,386 votes. Abrams isn’t even arguing that she won; she’s arguing that once all the absentees are counted, Kemp won’t be above the threshold and the race will automatically go to a runoff on December 4.

As of this morning, there are 3,886,414 votes cast in this race. To shave off that half-percent of Kemp’s lead, Abrams and Libertarian candidate Ted Metz would have to gain 19,432 votes out of the remaining absentee ballots. The Abrams campaign calculates that there are about 100,000 absentee ballots out there. Abrmas and Metz would have to win about 60 percent of them to get Kemp under the threshold to avoid a runoff.

The crown jewel for Republicans was Ron DeSantis’s win in Florida, in a year when Democrats were convinced that Andrew Gillum was the next superstar. When you look at where Democrats actually picked up governorships — Janet Mills in Maine, Steve Sisolak in Nevada, Michelle Grisham in New Mexico, Laura Kelly in Kansas – maybe the national hype for a first-time gubernatorial candidate is counter-productive. Or maybe it’s better for Democrats in these red-to-purple states to tone down the claims that the Great Socialist Revolution is upon us.

A couple of good opportunities slipped through Republican fingers, such as Ned Lamont currently leading in Connecticut, as of this hour.

Incumbent Republicans who were on the ballot did pretty well, with the exception of Bruce Rauner in Illinois. Larry Hogan in Maryland, Doug Ducey in Arizona, Greg Abbott in Texas, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Chris Sununu in New Hampshire, Phil Scott in Vermont, Bill Lee in Tennessee, Henry McMaster in South Carolina — these are largely no-flash, little-controversy guys.

ADDENDUM: I’m taping Jonah’s podcast today, look for it later this week. There will be no Jolt on Friday or Monday.


The Big Election Day Preview

(Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Yesterday we looked at the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, district by district. Today, we’ll look at the big Senate and gubernatorial races, starting in the Northeast, and work our way down . . .

New Jersey Senate: No, Bob Hugin’s not going to win. He might make it a little closer than usual, but New Jersey voters do not punish Democrats for corruption. The Garden State endorses and encourages it.

Pennsylvania Senate: Looking back, how did Republicans not give a real challenge to charisma-free Bob Casey in a state Trump won, that Pat Toomey won last year, and in a state where they had, until redistricting, a 13-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation? On paper, Lou Barletta looked like a good candidate, former mayor of Hazelton in the northeast corner of the state, classic blue-collar working-class Pennsylvania territory, maybe one of the most naturally “Trumpy” members of the House GOP . . . and yet he never really made Casey sweat. Barely running any television advertising in the Philadelphia market probably didn’t help.

Maryland Governor: Larry Hogan wins, but maybe not quite by the eye-popping landslide numbers in recent polls.

Virginia Senate: Can we permanently retire the idea that Virginia Republicans need to get “Trumpier” to win in this state?  Corey Stewart’s campaign is going to be a farshtunken disaster area, and he’s up against Tim Kaine. Tim Kaine! Virginia’s incumbent senator is human oatmeal. You probably already forgot that he was Hillary’s running mate. And Corey Stewart is at 33 percent in the RealClearPolitics average. Stewart will be lucky if he cracks a million votes. By contrast, that allegedly awful establishment squish Ed Gillespie lost by an awful margin last year . . . but he won 1,175,731 votes, the most votes for any Republican candidate ever. It wasn’t that Gillespie was too squishy, it was that the state’s Democrats were too numerous and too motivated by the first year of the Trump era.

Why can’t Virginia Republicans find somebody like Larry Hogan? I’d rather have a moderate Republican blocking bad Democratic ideas and disappointing me every now and then than watch table-pounding gadflies lose 2-to-1 statewide and hurt candidates down-ticket.

Florida Governor: Similarly, it’s fair to ask if Ron DeSantis was a good fit for Florida — yes, a Republican-leaning state, but a diverse and thriving one. A lot of these races might be seen as Trumpist policies and style against the Democratic agenda, without Hillary Clinton. More registered Democrats voted early than registered Republicans. DeSantis went after Andrew Gillum hard on his ethics and his record as mayor, but so far there are only limited signs that it worked. It will be close, but I think Democrats win here . . .

Florida Senate: . . . and pulse-less Bill Nelson somehow beats Rick Scott in the Sunshine State’s Senate race, which should count as one of the biggest disappointments for the GOP this cycle. It will be fascinating to see if Scott’s all-business, even-tempered, I’m-all-about-creating-jobs-and-focusing-on-efficiency style runs well ahead of DeSantis’s attacking style.

Georgia Governor: I’m being told by Republicans that Brian Kemp is going to hold on, and that Stacey Abrams is the second-most overhyped candidate of the cycle. We’ll see. I’m picking Kemp, but if Abrams wins, it means a lot of Georgia Republicans were whistling past the graveyard for the last few months.

Ohio Governor: I think the whole upper Midwest is just going to be ugly for the GOP, and one of their best gubernatorial hopes in this region, Mike DeWine, will fall short against Richard Cordray. Like in Pennsylvania, this is another race where the GOP first thought they might have a chance in the Senate race and just never made it competitive.

Illinois Governor: The worst (or at the very least most disappointing) Republican governor in the country is sent packing after one term. Bruce Rauner tried fighting the Democratic establishment in Springfield, then he tried negotiating with it, and then he tried making ever-more concessions. Nothing worked; nothing will work until Illinois voters stop accepting the same old favor-trading and backroom deals of a long-entrenched power structure.

Michigan Senate: John James might be the GOP’s best surprise candidate this cycle. Incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow might win, but the state’s other Democratic senator, Gary Peters, is running for reelection in 2020, and if James keeps it close tonight, you’ll hear a lot of people urging him to run again in what will hopefully be a better election cycle.

Indiana Senate: I’m going out on a slightly shaky limb here and picking Mike Braun. If Braun doesn’t knock off Joe Donnelly with all of the structural advantages in this race — it’s a red state, Donnelly barely won in a presidential turnout year, Donnelly voted against Brett Kavanaugh after voting for Neil Gorsuch — then Braun will probably be remembered as the most disappointing GOP Senate candidate of this cycle. Braun outspent his two rivals, congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, in a nasty primary, and if the millionaire businessman falls short, Indiana Republicans may wonder if it was wise to nominate the least well-known and least experienced candidate with the deepest pockets.

Wisconsin Senate: After Trump’s win, Scott Walker’s repeated victories, and Ron Johnson’s surprise comeback in 2016, Republicans started asking whether it was safe to classify Wisconsin as a red state. No, not really.

Wisconsin Governor: Losing Scott Walker will hurt and make little sense when the state’s unemployment is so low. But when the Democratic base is so fired up in a state like Wisconsin, it’s hard for Walker to hang on one more time.

Missouri Senate: Man, Claire McCaskill has the luck of the devil. First, way back in 2002, she ran for reelection for state auditor against a Republican who had served nine months in prison after convictions for felony fraud, and the state GOP disowned the nominee. Then she eked out a victory with less than 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic-wave year of 2006. Then Missouri Republicans were dumb enough to nominate Todd Akin against her in 2012. Then earlier this year, Missouri’s Republican governor Eric Greitens resigned in a horrific scandal, depressing and angering the state GOP. I’m picking Josh Hawley to win, but this is the sort of race where McCaskill’s numbers ought to look like Heidi Heitkamp’s. Speaking of which . . .

North Dakota Senate: Kevin Cramer wins, and let’s face it, this race has been over for a month. Heitkamp and North Dakota Democrats managed to lose all dignity and self-respect in the last few weeks, publishing the names of sexual-assault victims without their permission and offering a false claim that voting can lead to losing out-of-state hunting licenses.

Tennessee Senate: Marsha Blackburn wins; sorry, Taylor. This is one of a few states with a competitive Senate race but a gubernatorial race where the GOP should win in a landslide — Texas and Arizona also fit this description. If voters aren’t in a mood to split their tickets, you may see a really good night for the GOP in the Senate.

Montana Senate: It will be close, but incumbent Democrat Jon Tester will win. Another deeply frustrating missed opportunity.

South Dakota Governor: I know there’s been some buzz about a Democratic upset here, but I think former congresswoman Kristi Noem becomes the first woman governor of South Dakota . . .  and she gets completely ignored by the talk of the “Year of the Woman” post-election analysis.

Texas Senate: Yup, if by some amazing turn of events Beto O’Rourke pulls this off, I’ll have a lot of egg on my face — but not as much as Texas Republicans, who have been absolutely confident that they will get out the vote. The Beto O’Rourke for Senate campaign ends tonight, the Beto O’Rourke for President campaign unofficially begins tomorrow — and Democrats could do a lot worse than Lone Star Vanilla Obama.

Nevada Senate: The early vote numbers don’t look too good for Dean Heller, according to Jon Ralston’s back-of-the-envelope math. If you’re looking for hope, remember Heller won reelection in 2012 by roughly 1 percentage point while Barack Obama was winning the state by 7 points. I think Jacky Rosen wins narrowly.

Arizona Senate: I keep getting told not to put too much stock into the early voting numbers, but . . . almost 1.6 million Arizonans have voted already, and that’s more than the total vote in 2014! When early voting ended, 656,822 registered Republicans had voted, and 538,174 registered Democrats had voted. That’s 118,648 more registered Republicans voting early than registered Democrats! Insert all appropriate caveats that people don’t have to vote for the party they’re registered in, and Kyrsten Sinema could well be winning among the nearly 380,000 independent or non-affiliated voters, but . . . that would seem to be a nice early advantage for Martha McSally, no?

The great Henry Olsen, who predicts a Sinema win, observed that this is about three percentage points closer for the Democrats than in the last cycle. But last cycle, Arizona Republicans won the governor’s race by about twelve points, the secretary of state’s race by about 15 points, and the state attorney general’s race by five points.

If McSally wins by a more comfortable margin than the polls indicate, please remember that I was paying attention to the partisan split in the registration of early voters, and this was an early sign that the Arizona GOP’s get-out-the-vote-team had eaten their Wheaties. If Sinema wins, forget I said any of this.

This adds up to Republicans gaining two seats, and enjoying a 53-47 majority starting next year. The GOP keeps Texas, Arizona, and Tennessee; the Democrats keep New Jersey, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Montana. The GOP flips North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana; Democrats flip Nevada.The governor’s races are a mess for Republicans, but we expected that.

ADDENDUM: NBC News correspondent Shomari Stone with an astute observation: “Some people complain about Election Day lines. But they have no problem waiting in line for Black Friday shopping, movie premieres, concerts, Jordans and new iPhones.”

Of course, maybe that reflects that Black Friday shopping, movie premieres, concerts, Jordans, and new iPhones are satisfying, whereas voting gets you a sticker and a sense that your vote is a drop in the ocean.

Film & TV

Progressive, Pompous Pete Davidson

(Image via Twitter)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Pete Davidson, the icon of insufferably smug urban progressives; the challenge of predicting what you actually see, as opposed to what you want to see; and the question of whether Beto O’Rourke has been setting himself up for a presidential bid in 2020 all along.

Predicting What You See, Not What You Want to See

Here’s a classic example of a sentence in campaign coverage that strikes me as wrong, from Politico: “The indictments of Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Chris Collins (N.Y.) have unexpectedly brought their seats on the map, even though Trump carried both districts easily.”

I wouldn’t mind if these two GOP members of Congress lose, but the goal here is not to predict what we want to see, but what we actually see. I don’t particularly like Duncan Hunter Jr., but he’s led every poll, even after the indictment. One in September had him up by 13 points. Every independent poll has put Collins ahead. If these guys are still ahead in polls after getting indicted, just how vulnerable are they?

Over at the Inquisitr — clearly, no one reads that site for the spelling — an article begins, “The final Tennessee Senate polls show a race that is deadlocked and the potential that the ‘Taylor Swift effect’ could help Democrat Phil Bredesen pull off an upset victory.”

First, we saw no movement towards Bredesen in the polls after Swift’s endorsement.

Second, the polls don’t show a race that is deadlocked. Emerson puts Blackburn up by 8, Fox News puts Blackburn up by 9, East Tennessee State University shows a tie, CNN puts Blackburn up by 4, Marist puts Blackburn up by 5. That’s not deadlocked! You don’t get to pick the poll you like and ignore the other four most recent ones!

Over on the homepage, I have my final House race preview. It’s probably not what National Review readers would prefer to hear, but I don’t predict a big Democratic House majority — in fact, I think that Democrats will just barely eke past the 23-seat threshold for control of the chamber.

I could end up being terribly wrong; every election cycle brings some surprises. But you can rest assured that this is what I see, not what I want to see, because I’m predicting a bunch of my favorite House Republicans losing. I really want to see Barbara Comstock hang on in northern Virginia, Mia Love hang on in Utah, and Maria Elvira Salazar beat Donna Shalala in Florida. But I picked the Democrats in those races because right now, the polling and various other factors — including the demographics of the districts and past margins of victory — point to the seats flipping.

And there are a bunch of jump-ball races I may well have been too pessimistic about. Bruce Poliquin could hang on in Maine. The demographics in Minnesota’s first district are perfect for a GOP pickup, but the candidate isn’t; maybe if the race is sufficiently nationalized, the GOP wins that one.

If you’re a Republican who wants a good day tomorrow, get out there and vote . . . and find some friends to go, too.

Was a 2020 Presidential Bid Beto’s Backup Plan All Along?

You might have thought that everything needed to be said about the Texas Senate race has already been said, but our old friend Tim Alberta writes a long piece in Politico asking a question that might haunt some Texas Democrats in two days: What if Beto O’Rourke had run as a centrist?

The problem for O’Rourke is that his further-left positions — ban AR-15s, impeach the president, consider abolishing ICE — were a big part of what drove all of that national Democratic fundraising excitement, combined with animosity towards Ted Cruz and the significance of a Democratic win in the Lone Star State.

For contrast, do you recognize the name Jayne Raybould? She’s the Democratic nominee in Nebraska running against GOP senator Deb Fischer. She’s running against the tax cuts and school vouchers, endorses “common sense gun measures,” and refuses to take PAC money . . . in other words, her positions are not all that distinguishable than O’Rourke’s. She actually out-raised Fischer in the third quarter!

But you’ve heard almost nothing about Raybould because national Democrats don’t dream of winning Nebraska and its five electoral votes the way that they dream of winning Texas and its 38 electoral votes. Democrats have been telling themselves that demography would make Texas competitive for at least two decades now. And yet in 2014, the party had one of its worst cycles ever.

Since at least 2008, Democrats have put enormous faith in the notion of the “Coalition of the Ascendant”: young voters, Latinos and African-Americans, and single women, who Democrats believed would be ever-expanding parts of the electorate, while older voters, white men and married women would be an ever-shrinking part. It is hard to overstate how much the mentality of The Emerging Democratic Majority influenced Democrats’ approaches to campaigning and governing. If the more conservative demographics in the electorate were destined to die off, Democrats could ignore them and/or demonize them as “deplorable.”

Of course, the elections of the past decade have not turned out the way Democrats hoped. It turns out that the demographics in the “Coalition of the Ascendant” don’t always turn out in the number the party needs, and some Republicans run better among Latinos than Democrats expected. In Texas, Greg Abbott won 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2014, and he’s aiming for a bigger share this year.

For Democrats, getting demolished up and down the ballot in a majority-minority state — Texas was nearly 40 percent Latino and 11 percent African American in 2014 — suggests that everything they thought about the “emerging Democratic majority” was wrong.

Meanwhile, votes for Democrats have collapsed among the demographics in the Coalition of the Allegedly Not Ascendant, and those demographics include the groups most likely to vote, particularly in non-presidential elections.

What Democrats crave is someone who can emulate Obama’s message and agenda without conceding such a large chunk of white-male voters. (Remember Obama won 41 percent of white males in 2008, the best any Democrat has done since Jimmy Carter.)

Some observers of the Texas Senate race have a cynical theory that O’Rourke always knew that beating Cruz was a longshot, but that by running as the 2018 version of Barack Obama, he could catapult himself into the top tier of the 2020 Democratic presidential discussion. After all, a guy who could “almost” win Texas could surely put other purple and red states in play, right?

Pete Davidson, Millennial Icon

I could scream and yell about the classless Pete Davidson, but . . . in the end, isn’t it just sad? There was a time when Saturday Night Live wasn’t just funny, not just less partisan . . . it genuinely brought joy to audiences.

The whole joke in that Weekend Update bit was basically, “Look, this guy has an eyepatch.” That’s a mean thing to say even if the person isn’t a retired Navy SEAL who lost his eye in Afghanistan on his fifth deployment. A room full of well-paid writers, and this is what they came up with? No one around Davidson thought that was a dumb, mean joke? No one objected?

You could even have done an eyepatch joke that wasn’t mean, something such as, “If he doesn’t get elected to Congress, his backup plan is to run SHIELD in the Marvel movies” or something similar. But instead they went with the sneer that he looked like a porn actor, and Davidson — who seems to giggle and snicker his way through most sketches — added, “He lost it in the war or whatever.”

“The war or whatever.” Dear God, you will never hear a more perfect encapsulation of the smug, sneering, impudent, self-satisfied sense of unearned superiority in an insufferable Millennial hipster. Save that video and put it in a museum somewhere, so future generations can witness and appreciate the ultimate vivid example of the disconnect between the urban-progressive entertainment-industry employee and the rest of the country, who, no matter what they think of the wars in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Syria, or anywhere else, understands that there’s no “or whatever” to a veteran’s injuries. People who roared in laughter at Mort Sahl, and George Carlin, and Richard Pryor, and Eddie Murphy, and Don Rickles, and who relished every joke that pushed a boundary of good taste or jabbed at a sensitive topic or nerve . . . understood you just don’t make fun of a war veteran’s injuries. You just don’t.

Unless you’re Pete Davidson and the writers of Saturday Night Live.

ADDENDUM: Michael Graham writes about Democratic expectations for tomorrow: “If Democrats take the House, and all of your liberal friends are in a lousier mood about it than your Republican ones — don’t be surprised.”


Election Results Will Be a Reflection of President Trump

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., October 9, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why the results of this election will be a reflection of Trump’s presidency — for good or for ill — and will provide real data on whether Republicans can win in the suburbs; some fantastic new jobs numbers right before Election Day; why you never know which way the polls will be wrong; and the long-dormant pop-culture podcast returns.

Like It or Not, the 2018 Midterms Are a Referendum on Trump

Back at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in 2016, I heard Chuck Schumer argue that parties were trading groups of voters in that election cycle and that Democrats were getting the better deal. “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Either his assessment was wrong (GOP Senator Pat Toomey nearly tied the Democrat in the Philadelphia suburbs, while Trump took about 43 percent) or his math was wrong.

But as you look at the map in 2018, Schumer’s assessment of the demographic trade may be more accurate. If you look at the House districts where GOP incumbents look like they’re in serious trouble, or an open seat looks particularly difficult to retain, you see America’s suburbs.

You see races like Barbara Comstock up against Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s tenth district, the state’s northern suburbs west of Washington, D.C.; Leonard Lance against Tom Malinowski in New Jersey’s seventh district, covering Scotch Plains, Westfield, South Plainfield, and other suburbs of New York City; Brian Fitzpatrick against Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania’s first district, which covers much of Bucks County; Dave Brat against Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s seventh district, which includes much of Richmond’s western suburbs; John Faso against Antonio Delgado in New York’s 19th district, covering the Catskills and Hudson Valley; and the open seat race in Florida’s 15th district in the eastern suburbs of Tampa, pitting Ross Spano against Kristen Carlson.

Even suburbs in some pretty red states look shaky. Mia Love’s reelection is not guaranteed in Utah’s fourth congressional district, encompassing the suburbs of Salt Lake City. Keven Yoder looks like he’s in real trouble in Kansas’s third congressional district, which includes the western suburbs of Kansas City, Mo. Andy Barr is hanging on by his fingernails in Kentucky’s sixth district, which includes Lexington and its suburbs.

Trump supporters might scoff, “Fine, suburban women are drifting towards the left and those voters were always destined to fall away eventually.” But it’s extremely difficult to build a House majority if your party can’t compete in the suburbs. And before anyone scoffs that these must be a bunch of weak candidates, Comstock, Fitzpatrick, Brat, Faso, Love, Yoder, and Barr were good enough to win these districts in past cycles. What changed?

One theory is be that the Trump presidency came to town, and it repelled usually winnable voters in these purple-to-light-red districts.

The president’s preferred focus in the closing week of the campaign is crystal clear: immigration, in particular the caravan coming up through Mexico; sending U.S. troops to help secure the southern border; eliminating birthright citizenship through an executive order; discussing the possibility of U.S. troops firing on migrants who throw rocks; and crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Will that work? We’ll know in a couple of days. Trump may be betting on a ricochet effect, where he expresses some uncontroversial views — migrants should not be allowed to enter the country illegally, violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants should be taken seriously, the trend of “birth tourism” violates the spirit of U.S. immigration law, if not the letter — in a hyperbolic and incendiary way, triggering a furious reaction from Democrats. That furious reaction could reinforce voter doubts about whether Democrats are willing to stop illegal immigration, whether they avert their eyes from violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and whether they really believe in U.S. immigration laws at all. After all, progressive grassroots activists were chanting to “abolish ICE” not too long ago, a position most elected Democrats realized was political suicide.

That could work. Or those suburban moms and white-collar, college-educated whites could see Trump’s drumbeat as confirmation of their worst suspicions about him — that he really is a xenophobe, that he really does see caravans of desperate migrants as malevolent monsters, and that he really does see today’s world as a preview of Camp of the Saints, where the good, majority-white democracies are overrun by hordes of Third World migrants that are barely above zombies or some other sub-human being.

One other thought about the midterms: The biggest change to the Electoral College map in 2016 is that Donald Trump succeeded in upper Midwest states where Mitt Romney, John McCain, and to a lesser extent, George W. Bush, failed — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin in particular, and Iowa, and Ohio. (Trump’s margin in the Buckeye State was double that of Bush’s in 2000.) Trump came within 55,000 votes of winning Minnesota, too. There was a down-ticket effect for the GOP — Toomey won, Ron Johnson won in Wisconsin, and Rob Portman crushed his Senate race in Ohio.

But the outlook for the GOP in the region looks pretty grim, in both the Senate and gubernatorial races and a bunch of the House races. (The new district lines are just going to slaughter GOP members of the House in Pennsylvania.) That swing region may have rolled the dice on Trump and the Republicans in 2016 . . . and fairly or not, they may not be all that impressed with the results in 2018.

The Polls Will Probably Be Wrong . . . But in Which Direction?

Right now, the polls point to the GOP picking up a few seats in the Senate, the House being very close but probably a Democratic majority, and a really bad night for Republican governors.

It is possible that the results will be much better for Republicans than the polls indicate. In 2014, “the average Senate poll conducted in the final three weeks of this year’s campaign overestimated the Democrat’s performance by 4 percentage points. The average gubernatorial poll was nearly as bad, overestimating the Democrat’s performance by 3.4 points.”

It is possible that the results will be much worse for Republicans than the polls indicate — in 2017, the RealClearPolitics average of polling in Virginia indicated that GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie would lose to Democrat Ralph Northam by about three points. Northam won by almost nine points, and the GOP got slaughtered in suburban districts all across the state. (Weirdly, the RCP average was almost right on the button for the New Jersey gubernatorial race, which was always projected to be landslide.)

Hey, Guys, Maybe You Want to Run on the Economy This Year 

You can tell that there are some who would like the closing Republican message to be about the economy. In fact, if President Trump and congressional Republicans don’t tout the economy for the next five days after today’s phenomenal jobs report, they’re insane and can’t be saved. This is the kind of monthly jobs report that should be unveiled with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

Booyah, America:

Job growth blew past expectations in October and year-over-year wage gains jumped past 3 percent for the first time since the Great Recession, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Nonfarm payrolls powered up by 250,000 for the month, well ahead of Refinitiv estimates of 190,000. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7 percent, the lowest since December 1969.

The ranks of the employed rose to a fresh record 156.6 million and the employment-to-population ratio increased to 60.6 percent, the highest level since December 2008, according to the department’s household survey. That headline jobless number stayed level even amid a two-tenths of a percentage point rise in the labor force participation rate to 62.9 percent.

Neil Irwin, senior economics correspondent for the New York Times: “Man, this is a really great jobs report. The job market is firing on all cylinders: Strong job growth (esp for this stage of expansion), wages rising faster, more people in labor force.”

This economic news, less than a week before the midterm election, is as good as the president possibly could hope for, which means later today we’ll probably get tweets such as “I HAVE HEARD FROM RELIABLE SOURCES THAT ELIZABETH WARREN IS A WEREWOLF.”

ADDENDUM: Hey, after a long hiatus, Mickey and I found time to record a show yesterday! We talked Kanye-exit, things we can’t say anymore, Nathan Fillion’s new television series “The Rookie,” how the new “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” reboot is apparently straight-up pro-Satanism, and why allergies are the worst. We’re still on iTunes, and the newest show is up there, too.


The Truth about George Soros Is Damning Enough

Making the click-through worthwhile: a deep dive into separating fact from fiction when it comes to George Soros, and finding that the truth is bad enough without any of the exaggerations; the Washington Post offers another round of white-knuckle polls for control of the House; and a prominent force in past election cycles has been a little quieter in 2018.

The Bad-Enough Truth About George Soros

This morning, the New York Times writes about George Soros and declares . . .

On both sides of the Atlantic, a loose network of activists and political figures on the right have spent years seeking to cast Mr. Soros not just as a well-heeled political opponent but also as the personification of all they detest. Employing barely coded anti-Semitism, they have built a warped portrayal of him as the mastermind of a “globalist” movement, a left-wing radical who would undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration.

This is a good moment to sort out the nonsense claims and Internet rumors about Soros and the verified truth, which is bad enough.

Soros was born in 1930, making him nine when the war broke out and 15 when it ended. There’s no evidence that he played any role in the atrocities of the Nazi regime in World War II.

What is true is that to survive in that time and place, Tivadar Soros had his son George assume a non-Jewish identity — “Sandor Kiss” — and pose as the godson of a Hungarian agriculture ministry bureaucrat named Baumbach, whose job was taking inventory of Jewish properties confiscated by the Nazi occupiers. Soros accompanied Baumbach on one job, traveling to the estate of a wealthy Jewish aristocrat named Moric Kornfeld. What’s not disputed is that Soros hung around the estate while Baumbach did his work for the Nazi-occupying regime; what is disputed is what, if anything, Soros did while Baumbach took inventory.

That isn’t embracing the Nazi cause, and it’s difficult to argue that cooperating with taking inventory once in order to maintain a non-Jewish disguise constitutes an unforgivable sin while sitting in a country that ran Operation Paperclip to win the Space Race.

For what it’s worth, Soros did make his role sound more active in a 1998 interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes.

Kroft: “My understanding is that you went . . . went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.”

Soros: “Yes, that’s right. Yes.”

Kroft: “I mean, that’s — that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?”

Soros: “Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t . . . you don’t see the connection. But it was — it created no — no problem at all.”

Kroft: “No feeling of guilt?”

Soros: “No.”

Kroft: “For example, that, ‘I’m Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be these, I should be there.’ None of that?”

Soros: “Well, of course . . . I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was — well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in the markets — that if I weren’t there — of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would — would — would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the — whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.”

There’s one other wrinkle: Tivadar Soros offered a similar account of the trip in his 1965 autobiography titled Masquerade: Dancing Around Death in Nazi Occupied Hungary, except he described Baumbach as “Baufluss” and made his son’s role sound more active:

The following week the kind-hearted Baufluss, in an effort to cheer the unhappy lad up, took him off with him to the provinces. At the time he was working in Transdanubia, west of Budapest, on the model estate of a Jewish aristocrat, Baron Moric Kornfeld. There they were wined and dined by what was left of the staff. George also met several other ministry officials, who immediately took a liking to the young man, the alleged godson of Mr Baufluss. He even helped with the inventory. Surrounded by good company, he quickly regained his spirits. On Saturday he returned to Budapest.

Did young George Soros help with taking inventory of property seized from Jews? His father’s autobiography says yes, Soros himself says no, aside from that initial answer in the 60 Minutes interview. At the very least, he was hanging around while inventory was being taken; he has, in subsequent interviews and writings, said he “accompanied an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, posing as his godson, when he was taking the inventory of a Jewish estate.”

By the way, Kornfeld “was taken to the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp. In return for permitting the Nazis to assume administration of his family’s vast industrial enterprises, he and his family were allowed to leave for Portugal. Following the war his holdings were nationalized and he never returned to Hungary.”

Whatever Soros’s worldview and philosophies as a boy during World War II were, he’s a committed, outspoken, extraordinarily deep-pocketed liberal progressive now. It is not an exaggeration to characterize Soros’s views as radical, particularly compared to the American mainstream.

Because Soros grew to prominence on the U.S. political scene when he spent more than $25 million trying to defeat President Bush in the 2004 election, most members of the media think of him as just another liberal billionaire — Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg with a different accent. But his views are genuinely shocking to middle America when they hear them.

Soros was flatly opposed to the War on Terror after 9/11 and declared the U.S. response to al Qaeda to be morally equivalent to the terrorist attacks: “We abhor terrorists, because they kill innocent people for political goals. But by waging war on terror we are doing the same thing.”

In 2006, Soros said that “the main obstacle to a stable and just world is the United States.” Not Iran, not Russia, not China, not Islamist terrorist groups, not transnational crime . . . the United States.

In 2010, he declared that China has “a better functioning government than the United States.”

He has generously donated to groups that call on governments the world over to sever or downgrade their diplomatic relations with Israel and calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. He’s made several comments that some interpreted as blaming Jews for anti-Semitism, such as, “I don’t think that you can ever overcome anti-Semitism if you behave as a tribe . . . the only way you can overcome it is if you give up the tribalness.”

He wrote in 2007, “I do believe that attitudes toward Israel are influenced by Israel’s policies, and attitudes toward the Jewish community are influenced by the pro-Israel lobby’s success in suppressing divergent views.”

Soros’s comments either deliberately or inadvertently feed into the notion of Jewish control of American politics:

The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism. Politicians challenge it at their peril because of the lobby’s ability to influence political contributions. . . . Academics had their advancement blocked and think-tank experts their funding withdrawn when they stepped too far out of line. Anybody who dares to dissent may be subjected to a campaign of personal vilification… Some leaders of the Democratic Party have promised to bring about a change of direction but they cannot deliver on that promise until they are able to resist the dictates of AIPAC.

Soros is not a fan of national borders or border enforcement. When criticizing Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban in 2017, Soros said, “[Orban’s] plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.” In many interviews, Soros has decried nationalism and national identity as a menace.

He contended that withdrawing from the Iran deal is “effectively destroying the transatlantic alliance.”

None of the above quotes are from the rumor mill or secret recordings or secondhand claims. Soros openly lays out his beliefs in interviews, speeches, and articles. His viewpoints are not a secret. And it is completely understandable that those who believe in military responses to terror attacks, secure borders, who support Israel, who don’t believe that anti-Semitism is driven in any part by the actions of Jews, who oppose the Iran deal, and who are wary of the notion that China’s government “functions better,” would see Soros as a malevolent force in politics at home and abroad.

The irony is that the Right’s beliefs about Soros aren’t that different from the Left’s beliefs about the Koch brothers, and before that, Richard Mellon Scaife. The grassroots of each party always loathe the biggest donors of the other side and always sees them as shadowy and nefarious. (Of course, the demonization of the Koch brothers usually involves some fudging of their actual philosophies — they’re civil-society building libertarians, not traditional conservatives.)

The false “Soros was a Nazi” accusation helps out Soros by giving him a glaringly implausible charge that makes his critics sound like paranoid loons. The truth about George Soros today, and the agenda he seeks to enact, is bad enough.

Washington Post: Hey, Those Competitive Districts Look Pretty . . . Competitive

I’ve long wondered why news organizations think nationwide “generic ballot” surveys tell their audiences anything useful about which party will have a majority in the House of Representatives after Election Day. If you win all of your seats 90 percent to 10 percent, and the other guy wins all of his seats 52 percent to 48 percent, you can win the national popular vote by a lot and still have considerably fewer than 218 seats.

Credit the Washington Post for narrowing its survey to competitive districts and finding a result that should generate a lot of white knuckles:

Across 69 congressional districts identified by the Cook Political Report and The Post as competitive in late August, the Post-Schar School poll finds 50 percent of likely voters support the Democratic candidate, while 46 percent support the Republican. The Democrats’ four-point edge represents a superficial advantage with Republicans, given the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error.

Of those 69 districts, 63 are held by Republicans. The GOP is going to lose a bunch of seats, but the question is whether they lose 22 or less, or whether they lose 23 or more.

One other important detail: “Voters who did not turn out in the 2014 midterms favor Democrats by 55 percent to 42 percent, while those who did vote split 49 percent to 48 percent in Republicans’ favor.” If all of those who say they’re intending to vote keep their word, Democrats will do well. If, as usual, some people are telling the pollster that they’ll vote but don’t, the Republicans might do better than the conventional wisdom suggests.

That ‘Gun Lobby’ Isn’t Spending As Much As It Used to Spend

The Virginia Democratic party really has to stretch to make it sound as if extraordinarily secure incumbent Gerry Connolly is in danger of being unseated by “the gun lobby” that has spent a whole . . . $32,500 against him. That’s less than the Connolly campaign spent on payroll and administrative costs, polling and consulting, or renting a space for a fundraiser.

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund has been quieter and focused on fewer races this cycle. If the election goes badly for Second Amendment advocates, some may wonder if the group was a little too focused.

ADDENDUM: October was a phenomenal month for Jolt subscriptions, click-throughs, web traffic, Three Martini Lunch listeners, and even some book sales in there. Once again, thank you for your support. If you find election season exhausting, we’re almost done . . .

. . . I mean, unless Georgia goes to a runoff, which would be held December 4, and the Louisiana elections would be held December 8.

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