The Morning Jolt


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.

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