Midterms Update: Blue Wave Hits

On Wednesday, many political pundits, myself included, posted their takeaways on the midterm elections last Tuesday. Most of these early takeaways, mine included, said that the night had positives and warnings for both parties, but it was not the fabled “blue wave” we had been expecting. Democrats had success in the House and on the state level, and Republicans performed well in the big-name races and in the Senate. Bret Stephens at the New York Times is the best example of this premature punditry, who wrote Thursday that the elections “were only, at best, a very modest rebuke of the President.” I myself wrote the election was not “a blue wave but an average swell.”

Well, we were wrong. The Blue Wave hit, it just hit a little later than expected. I posted Wednesday evening, while votes were still being counted in California, Arizona, Florida, and a couple other counties across the country. Then, it looked like Democrats would end up in the ballpark of 225 seats, just under a 30 seat gain, and Republicans would pick up potentially 4 Senate seats. With another week of data coming out, the wave was real. Democrats will likely have gained between 35-40 seats, which was in the upper end of predictions, giving them between 230-235 seats in the House. They will have won the national vote by probably around 9 points, which even though will not translate to as many seats, is more than Republicans won in 2010 or 1994. The Senate should end up 53-47 in favor of Republicans, not 55-45 or 54-46 which I called last week. On the one hand, I look silly for declaring the wrong outcome. On the other hand, my original prediction appears to be almost exactly right, even if the individual races were wrong. So at the very least I get to be smug as I look silly.

With these late developments, I have some corrections to make. I said that Young Kim would win the California 39th House District and become the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress. That seat is still very much up in the air. I also said Martha McSally beat Kyrsten Sinema for the Arizona Senate seat. The race was called last night for Sinema. This is disappointing. Arizona is Republican territory. This is a seat Republicans should control.

This is why President Trump going after so hard against Jeff Flake (and also John McCain) was so counterproductive. A CNN exit poll said that those who had a favorable opinion of Jeff Flake, a Republican who votes with Trump 84% of the time, voted 67% for Sinema. If Trump hadn’t taken shots at Flake and let his allies in the press go after Flake when he went to far (which at times he did), this seat would probably be McSally’s. This is the second of two Senate seats the Republicans should control but lost due to this Trumpian id that refuses to accept temporary humiliation and act strategically. The first was Alabama last December, where Republicans nominated Roy Moore and refused to pull his name after he was credibly accused of raping children and clearly lied about it. If Republican want to win, they need to play smart, and right now they aren’t.

Meanwhile, what’s going on in Florida? I said Wednesday the elections themselves were a pretty tame affair. And then Florida happened. There has been problems counting votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties. (Remember Broward county was the location of the Parkland shooting in February.) To make matters worse, the election commissioner in Broward county, a woman named Brenda Snipes, has a long history of incompetence that has crossed in illegality. For example, in 2016 she illegally destroyed ballots in a Democratic primary and later illegally opened mail-in ballots prematurely. This time around Broward has missed the deadline to report early voting, they violated the law mandating consistent reporting of their progress, they are already behind the recount effort, and they have refused to say how many ballots they have left to count. Some of this is sketchy, some of this is illegal. If you want more information, there is a lot of good reporting from local papers in Florida on this, I don’t have time to get into great detail. Marco Rubio went on a Twitter tirade against this, and he was ripped up and down for supposedly wanting “not every vote to be counted.” But he’s right. Brenda Snipes and her team have violated the election laws that ensure ethical and trustworthy elections. What’s gone on in Florida is at best supremely incompetent and Brenda Snipes needs to be fired.

So Florida is heading for mandatory recounts in both in their high-profile Senate and Governor races, At the end of the day it’s not going to change anything. The gap is too wide to shift the races. But this debacle in Florida has marred what was otherwise orderly and well done election.

How do these late developments affect the road ahead? It’s still highly unlikely Democrats take the Senate in 2020, even though it’s more likely right now than Wednesday morning. A large Democrat majority helps Nancy Pelosi, who has such a fractious caucus she probably couldn’t be elected Speaker with just a 10 seat majority. A bigger majority should make her the next Speaker. It hurts moderate Republican Susan Collins in Maine, who has less room of buck party to help her re-election chances in 2020. It gives Mitch McConnell a little less room to work with, and it’s a stronger repudiation of President Trump.

If I was a high level Republican operative, I’d be worried about 2020. There is traditional wisdom on the right that no matter how bad the Republicans are, the Democrats will always find a way to be worse. For example, it doesn’t matter if we nominate Donald Trump because he’s up against Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter if we are a little fiscally irresponsible because the Democrats will try to pass a 32 trillion dollar Medicare-for-all plan. There is nothing more forgiving than the extremes of the other party. But it’s possible Democrats will realize there is something to be gained by running moderates and moving back towards the center. It’s possible this time the Democrats learn. And if they do, expect to see another Blue Wave in 2020.

 

As always please like, follow, and comment. I didn’t want to do 2 pieces on the midterms, but I needed to make some corrections from my recap last Wednesday. There should be a shorter piece on Friday, and I’ll put up a defense on Thanksgiving out next week. As always, let me know what you think! Thank you for reading.

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