Time for a post mortem. A hot wash, if you will. Who won, who lost and what 2018 tells us going forward. First…
Mitch McConnell. As of Wednesday evening, the Republicans have flipped three Senate seats—Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota--while losing one in Nevada. There’s one more flip likely to go the GOP way in Florida and it looks like the GOP will hold Arizona, Tennessee and Texas while Democrats will hold Montana (‘why’ on MT is a whole post by itself). With 54 seats, McConnell can now confirm almost anyone President Trump nominates to the bench or his cabinet.
This is important. The midterm election is the time when most of a first term President’s cabinet resignations occur (forced or not). There are still a slew of lower federal court benches to fill, not the least of which is now Associate Justice Kavanaugh’s old seat on the DC Court of Appeals. There is also a non-zero chance that another Supreme Court Justice calls it quits or kicks the can. See the Losers section for a bit more.
House Democrats. They will get what they want. Committee chairs, the power of subpoena and the ability to arrest the furtherance of President Trump’s agenda. Democrats seized on center-right fears of overreach. Republicans also failed to put economic issues on par with immigration as a campaign issue. Economic recovery is as important to the MAGA platform as immigration. Republicans—Trump included—didn’t emphasize that as much as they should or could have. By the time Democrats made Trumpers out to be racist xenophopes, it was too late to convince suburbanites that (1) their pocketbooks were better off under GOP leadership and (2) the Democrats would attempt to reverse the progress. They saw an opening and they took it to the House.
Another thing Democrats did well is show voters that when a Republican runs to the left of his/her party, it’s a race to the center. That is a race that Democrats almost never lose. Democrats always have the media on their side. They can always portray themselves as centrists and they will always get a pass by the media. Republicans will never get a free pass to the center. Republicans will always be required to explain why they shouldn’t be considered a Republican extremist in a centrist’s clothing. And finally, Democrats know that when a Republican campaigns as a Democrat, voters will always choose the authentic Democrat. Republicans have never understood this, and they chase that centrist label every single time. Lucy + Football = Auugghh!
Rural America. I discussed the impact of flyover country here. The country boys and girls form the biggest reason why Mitch McConnell is smiling this morning. Exit poll data are still very raw, but rural turnout in this election was similar to (or greater than) what’s normally seen in Presidential elections. Midterms are typically low turnout affairs because there are no national candidates on the ballot. Older Republican and rural voters are much more reliable. That’s why ‘generic ballot’ polls need to see Democrats with fat leads before they can move the needle on which party’s candidate wins or loses.
Polls badly missed rural turnouts in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. All of those states were either total tossups or were leaning Democrat Tuesday morning. This is not the first time this has happened. The polls were wrong for the third time since 2012 and the pollsters can’t seem to grasp it. They’re thinking like Urbanites and they won’t get it until they stop doing that.
All of the voters who propelled their candidates to victory last night revealed themselves as a demographic that can’t be bought and has to be reckoned with. Theirs are the communities bearing the brunt of illegal immigration, thin health insurance markets, forced cultural change and contempt for the average Joe. Small town America spoke last night—loudly, clearly and convincingly.
Media Favorites. Beto O’Rourke. Stacey Abrams. Andrew Gillum. Krysten Sinema. All of these deeply flawed darlings of the leftwing media were sent home. Hundreds of millions were spent trying to get them elected. Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Buffet, Joe Biden, MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post… enormous effort was spent to foist these Democrat up-and-comers onto an electorate that wants nothing to do with their brand of social, cultural and economic re-engineering. There are others, but pick any one of the four I listed, identify a key component of their campaign platform, and tell me where Anyday Americans stand on that issue. I will lay odds that it ain’t close to the candidate. That any of them were even competitive tells you a lot about how much influence the media has today. That not one of them claimed victory last night says even more about Anytown America’s ability to see through their bullshit and call them out on it.
Deep South Democrats. Add the Alabama and Florida Democrat Parties to the list above. Florida will almost certainly see Rick Scott win the race against the last remaining Old South Democrat, Bill Nelson. With him goes the last Democrat statewide office. Alabama’s Doug Jones is my state’s only statewide officeholder because Democrats were shellacked up and down the ballot yesterday. Jones’ position is mortally weak—he won a tight race against an awful candidate in Roy Moore. Jones directly campaigned for no one on the ballot and therefore got no one elected. No one owes him anything, so he’ll seek reelection as 2020’s weakest Democrat.
The 2010 and 2014 midterms fairly well cleared Democrats from office in these two Red Wall states. Yesterday’s results cemented these states’ GOP ground games. Republicans have all of the apparatus, all of the candidates and most of the money.
Paul Ryan and Establishment Republicans. When you have a President who is popular with your base, and he has an agenda that is also popular with your base, you twist arms and whip votes to get his agenda through the Congress, especially the People’s House. When you don’t twist arms and whip votes, you lose elections. Democrats wrested control of the House of Representatives because cocktail party Republicans rubbed elbows with the media and listened to media warnings about going too far on immigration, Obamacare repeal and entitlement reform.
Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. I absolutely loved Senator Collins’ defense of her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The fact is that if Kavanaugh had expressed a willingness to overturn the abomination of Roe v. Wade, neither she nor Murkowski would have voted for confirmation, which would have negated the need for her speech on the Senate floor. With at least two (and probably three) more votes to confirm, Collins and Murkowski could have voted ‘no’ and Kavanaugh would still be confirmed if the vote took place next January. They’re losers here because these two Senators wielded outsized power over the President’s choice of judicial nominees. That power and the power to exert influence over the nomination of pro-life judges, justices and cabinet members is gone now.
Gridlock. The only thing Democrats can hope to accomplish is to harass the President and prevent Senate legislation from reaching the President’s desk. The House only controls taxes as its real weapon in 21st Century America since all bills generating new revenue must originate in the House. They have no input, and neither advise nor consent on judicial or cabinet nominations. They also cannot approve treaties or confirm ambassadors. The power of the purse is nice to have, until you draw the strings so tight that even the people who elected you go hungry.
Jockeying for position ahead of 2020. Make no mistake about it—the Democrat field of White House hopefuls now numbers in the dozen and they’re all looking for airtime. Just a piece of fame that gets their mugs in front of a Democrat base that wants Trump’s head served cold on a gilded platter. Watch the list of Dems making trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina before Christmas.
A clamor for impeachment of Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, or both. Look, there are a bunch of Democrats that just can’t help themselves. If there is even a whiff of a somethin’ somethin’ that they can twist into a high crime or misdemeanor, the articles of impeachment will fly. Nothing could work better for Trump’s reelection than a full-throated impeachment call. But it’s irresistible to them.
More bad polling. I placed too much faith in the rural-urban divide when it came to expecting a GOP hold on the House. The Senate played out just as I described—a roaring multitude of Ruralites drowned out the voices of the Urbanites, and places Democrats were polling well either flipped to or stayed in Republican hands. Pollsters have been missing the Ruralite vote since Obama’s last midterm in 2014 and nothing indicates they’ll do better in 2020.