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.”