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.
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.