Good Friday Morning! We’re less than two weeks out from the midterms election now. If your state allows you to vote early, that time is likely in full swing right now. The next two weeks I’m going to focus on the midterms and the various factors playing into the overall race across the country. The plan next week is to write out my final prediction, much like I did the 2016 Presidential race. Links follow.
Where you can find me this week
Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter. You can also go to their Facebook page. You can join Ricochet here. And I do recommend their ever-growing network of podcasts, which you can find on all popular podcast platforms. They have a show for every topic you can imagine, and the list continues to grow.
My piece on Elizabeth Warren’s bizarre claims to Native American heritage.
The latest fear gripping the rich left is that Africa has too many poor people and we need to enact population controls. Seriously.
The Midterm panorama
The first step I like to do when looking at the overall landscape for the midterms is to remind myself of the fundamentals going into these elections:
- Midterms are usually a referendum on the governing party, and the GOP holds all three branches of government
- Midterms are bad for the party in power. The party in power typically loses around 25 seats in a midterm election in the House.
- Donald Trump, though an outlier in many respects, is still a President for the governing party
- Trump has a below-water approval rating. FiveThirtyEight has him at about 43% approval, and RealClearPolitics has him close to 45%.
- The generic ballot is vital in midterms because it tells you trendlines towards a given party. Due to population and demographics, Democrats typically hold a 6 point lead in the generic ballot. Right now, FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats an 8 point advantage in the generic ballot, and RealClearPolitics has Democrats with a 7.3 point lead.
- Anecdotal evidence heading into the midterms tends to benefit Democrats: enthusiasm, fundraising numbers, and the number of opportunities on the map all point the Democrats direction. Republicans currently have 46 races described as a toss-up or worse for them, while Democrats only have 3 in that category according to the Cook Political Report.
- Finally, I check the models. Nate Silver is the gold standard here, and he currently has Republicans at 82%, or 5 in 6 chances to hold the Senate, with only a 15.8% chance, or 1 in 6 chance at retaining the House. Decision Desk HQ, a new entry in modeling, has the GOP at 5% odds to keep the House and 87% odds to keep the Senate.
In short, right now, conventional wisdom says that Democrats will win the House, and Republicans will hold the Senate, with a chance to gain seats. The longest odds out there are for the GOP to gain seats in the House.
While those seem like long odds, it is important to note, that Hilary Clinton had roughly the same chance of losing in 2016 as Democrats have of winning the Senate in 2018 and Republicans have of winning the House in 2018. These aren’t impossible odds — they’re just long.
Two numbers I’m watching with interest are the President’s approval number and the generic ballot. The closer the President is to 45% approval ratings, the better night it’ll be for Republicans. Running a campaign with an unpopular President is a tough task. Running a campaign with an unpopular President who is actively campaigning in all the states is even harder because he’s always in the news.
Democrats also have a built-in advantage in the generic ballot polls, so the closer Republicans keep that number to a 6 point lead, the better off they’ll do. Both of those numbers have inched closer towards Republicans in recent weeks.
The next thing that’s worth noting: the October surprises
October Surprises are mostly breaking for Republicans
One of the reasons I’ve so closely watched the October surprises is due to the level of control news cycles have over elections right now. Each passing vote gives more control over to last-minute news cycles spinning up to disrupt campaign narratives. And for the most part, all the significant surprises here at the end have benefitted Republicans, especially on the Senate side.
The Kavanaugh confirmation battle boosted Republican engagement just in time for early voting. Sen. Elizabeth Warren imploded with her idiotic DNA testing release. The Arizona Senate has witnessed a month-long opposition file dump on Democrats that is historic and thorough — I’ve yet to see any candidate nuked by their own words quite like what has happened in that race. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp put a fork in her campaign when she published the names of sexual abuse victims — without their permission. And to round things out, Senators Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly have both put out pretty desperate ads in recent days attacking their party, which suggests both campaigns have internal polls telling them national Democrats are sinking their campaigns.
And on an interesting note: we don’t have any good polls of Montana or Indiana right now, both states are possible pickups for Republicans in the Senate. This is reminiscent of the lack of surveys in 2016 of Wisconsin or the midwest in general. If surprises are going to happen, it’s going to happen in states where we don’t have any good polls.
Finally, in general, I would tell you to ignore every single report out there talking about early voting. There’s only one journalist out there I trust on early voting, and that’s the same for every other election nerd out there, and it’s Jon Ralston who covers Nevada’s elections. As it happens, Nevada’s Senate race is a dead heat right now according to Ralston’s reporting. Going off his reporting, Republicans have reason to hope for Heller.
National stories in the general election
The two significant news stories swirling in the midterm cycle right now are: 1) The migrant caravan heading for the US/Mexico border and 2) Pipe bombs getting mailed to Democrats.
It’s hard to imagine a better foil for Donald Trump going into the midterms than a procession of immigrants marching towards the US/Mexico border. It’s a repeat of a similar caravan of people who traveled towards the border in April of this year. And if you have an excellent memory, you may recall that in 2014 there was a similar immigration crisis where people flooded the border. The inept response from the Obama administration got linked as one of the factors that helped Republicans retake the Senate that year.
What’s bewildering about all of this is Democrats response to the entire ordeal. They trot out the same lame lines of “racism!” when you talk immigration enforcement, but the need is real. Just this summer, ABC News said that current immigration backlogs totaled over 700,000 and were increasing.
What exactly do Democrats propose saying to the 700,000+ people waiting on their immigration cases? Many of them pursuing legal pathways towards citizenship. The far-left response seems just to let anyone in and march around all the legal rules.
I’m about as soft of a dove on immigration on the right as you can get, I don’t get any of this response. Democrats pretend as if any enforcement of immigration laws is some form of racism, but then act shocked when people following the legal immigration process are angry when others get to go around them.
Each one of these caravans is designed to create a crisis and force the law to bend to them (given the frequency of these now, I don’t buy the organic nature to them). Sob stories are nice — but I can just as quickly point to people not in these caravans, who are in the legal immigration process, who have just as sad of a story. Democrats seem entirely disinterested in the entire process, content with resting on racism claims.
I actively want more immigrants in this country because there’s a direct link between immigration and economic growth. But you have to have a legal process that’s enforced and followed. This isn’t a hard issue, but progressives are making it impossible. David Frum, a conservative so moderate I’m not sure we agree on anything anymore, had a brilliant point on this in The Atlantic:
For Trump’s opponents, the caravan represents a trap. Has Trump’s radical nativism so counter-radicalized them that they have internalized the caravan message against any border enforcement at all? If yes, they will not help immigrants. They will only marginalize themselves—and American politics will follow the European path in which anti-immigration parties of the extreme right cannibalize the political center.
If liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals will not do. I’ve been pounding the drum for this warning since the European migration crisis accelerated in 2013. The warning holds as true as ever—and now it’s coming home.
If Democrats are going to set themselves up as the party of no borders, then the right has won this debate. Trump isn’t a fascist (history and political philosophy alone disprove that), but he does represent a resounding rejection of the new Democratic Party stance of open borders. And I say new, because Obama deported a ton of people, and Democrats didn’t care then. They’ve only cared when administrations changed.
So until Democrats wake up, immigration will benefit anyone on the right. And as long as that caravan is in the news, it’ll help Republicans in the midterms.
What to make of the bombs sent to Democrats
I have a column coming out today for the Conservative Institute on the history of political violence in America. At the time I wrote it, and I’m writing this, we don’t know who made these bombs or why. I’m operating under the quasi-assumption it was someone on the right. Although given Robert De Niro was a target, and his famous anti-Trump moment was yelling “F*** Trump” on the Tony Awards, I’m less sure. Color me skeptical Trump voters are out there watching the Tony Awards (I don’t even know liberals who view the Tony Awards).
The question of how this affects the midterms depends heavily on who did it, and why. If you presume a worst case scenario for the Republicans and say it was a pro-Trump, FoxNews watching nutjob, I’m not sure how it would affect the midterms at all. For all the people who say it matters, the easy retort is: Steve Scalise got shot on a baseball field.
It wouldn’t juice Democrats enthusiasm numbers any higher at this point; they’re more than likely already maxed out. The only possible effect it could have would be to depress GOP voters. And it’s hard to gauge that right now.
What I will note, is that we have been here before. During the 60’s and 70’s, politically motivated bombings were a fact of life:
The first actual bombing campaign, the work of a group of New York City radicals led by a militant named Sam Melville, featured attacks on a dozen buildings around Manhattan between August and November 1969, when Melville and most of his pals were arrested.
Weather’s attacks began three months later, and by 1971 protest bombings had spread across the country. In a single eighteen-month period during 1971 and 1972 the FBI counted an amazing 2,500 bombings on American soil, almost five a day. Because they were typically detonated late at night, few caused serious injury, leading to a kind of grudging public acceptance. The deadliest underground attack of the decade, in fact, killed all of four people, in the January 1975 bombing of a Wall Street restaurant. News accounts rarely carried any expression or indication of public outrage.
And given the US survived that era, I’m optimistic the current trend will fade as well.
You have to give Democrats an edge in the House and Republicans an edge in the Senate. While there are clear pro-GOP numbers in the Senate, that doesn’t necessarily translate to the House. It’ll take a miracle for the GOP to keep the House, just as it took for Trump to win in 2016.
Links of the week
Things Fall Apart (Part 3) – Markets [Ben Hunt is a must-read for anyone inclined towards business/economic news]
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON, D.C.—During a recent string of protests in Washington, one protester told reporters that “we are living in a totalitarian nightmare just like in The Handmaid’s Tale,” making the statement with absolutely no possibility of the government kidnapping and torturing her for her outspokenness.
The woman drew on her guaranteed free speech rights to state that “this government is like something out of a totalitarian dystopia,” as police stood by guarding to ensure her and her fellow protesters’ right to protest was protected.
“Women literally have no rights,” she said. “And we’re losing more each and every day.” She also said that her uterus has fewer rights than guns, though she admitted her uterus doesn’t need a license, government registration, or a background check.
“This is exactly like The Handmaid’s Tale,” she said for the seventh time that morning, though she was wearing the handmaid’s uniform entirely of her own free will and would shortly change into her regular clothes before returning to her home to rewatch the series on Hulu.
Thanks for reading!