Good Friday Morning! Have you seen the end of the Tennessee-Alabama game where the fans tear down the goalposts? I may be responsible for a hefty chunk of the millions of views on this one video alone. That is not going to get old any time soon.
Elon Musk finally closed his deal on purchasing Twitter. I’ve got a column for CI below detailing some thoughts on that process. It’s an unexplored moment in the social media landscape. We have yet to have a company bought out like this to encourage free speech. So if you’re interested in that, check out the column. This week, I’m continuing my examination and outlook of the 2022 midterms – links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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[10/24/2022] A red wave is building and Democrats are panicking – Conservative Institute
[10/28/2022] Musk frees Twitter and challenges other social media companies – Conservative Institute
Eleven days out: 2022 midterms update.
A month ago, I said the polls were wrong and to expect Republicans to rebound in the polls. Democrats had a lead in the generic ballot, and Biden’s approval ratings had finally recovered. The narrative in the last month has flipped so hard that I’m concerned we’ve swung too hard in the other direction. I need people to keep their expectations in check.
We’ve gone from summer headlines and op-eds like: “Could unexpected Democratic gains foil a midterm Republican victory?” or “Some Democrats see 2022′ blue wave.'” Now, those headlines are op-eds and stories out of New York from people like Peggy Noonan saying, “Crime Could Elect a Republican in New York” or this reported story out of the New York Times: “As [New York] Governor’s Race Tightens, a Frantic Call to Action Among Democrats.”
Yes, you’re reading that right. Democrats have gone from “a blue wave is coming!” to panicking over losing the New York gubernatorial race. Do I think New York is about to elect Republican Lee Zeldin? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is still a long shot. As a state, I think New York is trending towards Republicans (and wrote as much post-2020). Outside New York City, the rest of the state is getting redder as the rust belt has done. But that transformation is still early and unlikely to bear fruit yet, in my estimation.
Some of my Democratic friends had coined the term “Roevember” to indicate their belief in an upcoming blue-wave election. They’ve gone silent recently. Narratives are changing as the underlying fundamentals have taken hold. The 2022 midterms were always going to favor Republicans. Reality is setting in for many.
The polls were wrong. Frankly, the polls are still bad, even with this shift towards Republicans. Last week, I mentioned an issue with a lack of polling: “Polling is still very weird this cycle. Sean Trende tweeted, ‘I’m genuinely shocked at the absence of house polling this cycle.’ He’s right! Most of the prognostications on the House are based on national-level polls. The only House-level polling I’ve seen has come out of Nevada — and the results of those polls are good for Republicans.”
That point remains true. FiveThirtyEight published a piece talking about this exact phenomenon. They write:
One big concern is that we have fewer surveys of individual contests in 2022 than in previous midterms. And a larger share of that smaller pie has been conducted by partisan pollsters and/or sponsored by partisan organizations, based on an analysis of polls conducted from early May to late October in the 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022 midterm election cycles.1 As a result, we have less information about individual contests and are more reliant on polls that could be notably biased toward one party.
Simply put, there have been way fewer polls in 2022 than in past cycles. In 2010, pollsters conducted almost 1,700 polls of individual races for Senate, House and governor between early May and late October. By comparison, we have slightly more than half that number this time around — about 900.
FiveThirtyEight concluded with this: “The state of polling is disconcerting. We have fewer polls, and a larger share of them come from partisan sources. We also have less information about House races, making race-to-race forecasting more perilous.”
Simply put, we’re flying blind. There might be Democrats or Republicans over or underperforming. We don’t know, especially on the House level. Sprinkle in pollsters’ increasing difficulty getting people to answer, and you get the current moment. Polling is an imperfect art, but I’m not one to throw it out completely. If you can get decent polling from different outlets and average them together, you can get an accurate ballpark estimate of where things stand.
We have that on the national level to some extent. A president’s job approval rating and the generic ballot are two critical components of a “fundamentals” analysis of an electoral environment. But that’s a broad overview; it doesn’t tell you specific things.
What does that mean? It means far more surprises this cycle. I expect a 2014-style election, which saw Republicans rack up multiple Senate victories—but that estimation is based on the fundamentals of the race. There needs to be more polling to back that up (or anything else).
As an aside, there’s a case that the 2014 election is the most consequential midterm election in the past 30-50 years. The 2014 Senate class is responsible for giving Republicans the edge in blocking Obama’s successor to Scalia and then voting through Trump’s three Supreme Court justices. That election gives us Majority Leader McConnell and the reshaping of the judiciary.
The 2022 Senate midterms could be as important as 2014, in a different way. Republicans are hopeful for a higher-than-expected Senate margin because that could set them up big in 2024: a filibuster-proof majority for the first time since 2006. Here’s DecisionDeckHQ explaining the math and geography:
In order to analyze the 2022 midterms, it is important to understand the brutal Senate map Democrats will have to defend in 2024. Democrats have long relied on split-ticket voters to power Senate victories in red states. These voters are vanishing as Americans become more and more likely to support the same party down-ballot as they do at the top of the ticket. The Senate’s bias towards Republicans is not anything especially new, but the walls could be about to close in on Democrats once and for all (the partisan lean of the median Senate seat lies about 2-3% to the right of the nation as a whole). Democratic Senate nominees were still able to dominate the 2018 midterms through the last remnants of cross-party voting, but now they will have to defend their strong showing six years later. Democrats have no real pickup opportunities but have to defend seats in 8 different states to the right of the nation. Trump carried three of these states (Ohio, Montana, and West Virginia) by wide margins in 2020, meaning that the Democratic incumbents will be sure to lose unless split-ticket voting trends in presidential years somehow revert to pre-2016 levels.
Even assuming a D+1 median national political environment in 2024, our modeling indicates that Democrats should expect to lose an average of ~5 seats. This type of landslide would not leave the control of the Senate after 2024 in doubt, with Republicans set to win the chamber easily.
Here’s the Republican-friendly turf Democrats are defending in 2024: Montana, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada. Trump outright won Montana, West Virginia, and Ohio in 2020 — I’d expect any other Republican to do the same in 2024.
Democrats had eyeballed the 2022 election as the one shot they had at regaining ground in the Senate. Unfortunately for them, Biden is turning into one of the worst first-term Presidencies in history. Republicans are likely to gain Senate seats, and a majority, in a bad geographic year for them.
Here’s how the math/map works. RealClearPolitics is projecting Republicans to walk out with a 53-seat majority in the Senate. If you take DecisionDeskHQ’s modeling of 2024 seriously, a GOP gain of five Senate seats in 2024 puts Republicans at 58 Senate seats — two away from a filibuster-proof majority.
For Republicans to win 53 seats in 2022, they must prevail over all the toss-up and lean-R seats across the board. But as we know, there’s always a race that surprises everyone with every cycle. And in a midterms cycle with less polling, we should expect more surprises because uncertainty is higher. Less data = more uncertainty.
That brings me to a point from last week:
That brings me to my lava-hot hotter take. If the Senate map opens up to that degree, there’s more on the table than just the toss-ups. Suppose the GOP makes a clean sweep of PA, GA, AZ, and NV. In that case, I’d expect them to also win one out of the following four states: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, or New Hampshire.
If Republicans can take one of these races, they sit at a 54-seat majority in the Senate. Then comes 2024. If you can pencil in a minimum of five seats, Republicans are sitting at a 59-seat majority, one seat away from a filibuster-proof majority. Republican Senate Leadership understands this math as much as we do.
Two events I’d watch for as we near 2024: what do Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema do? They’re both up for re-election that year. I expect Manchin to think about retirement or running for governor. He barely hung on in 2018 and is unlikely to get a similar environment in 2024. Sinema is even more interesting. I believe McConnell and Senate Republicans are feeling Sinema and Manchin out over flipping parties. Sinema is likely to get a primary from Democrats. Does she want to run as a more independent Republican, like McCain? A bruising primary followed by a brutal general likely leaning towards Republicans would be no fun for either.
If the NBER declares a recession in 2023, these pressures will ramp up considerably. Even if Republicans don’t get a super-majority, there’s a non-zero chance they hold a Senate majority through 2028-2030 — aka the rest of the decade. The more Republicans can run up the margin of their majority in 2022, the better the odds of a super-majority in 2024. The same is true of the House.
If you don’t believe me, look at the last few decades. From 2000 – 2020, Democrats held majorities in the House from 2006-2010 and from 2018-2020. That’s six years of a majority for twenty. Republicans control the other fourteen years. In the Senate, things have been far more even. However, in the 20th Century, there was a stretch from FDR to Reagan, where Democrats held the Senate majority every term. Republicans are starting to develop the capacity to do something like that. Trump cost the GOP Georgia. Otherwise, we’d be talking about a continuous Republican Senate majority from 2014 to 2028 (at a minimum).
Future margins come down to what happens on November 8, 2022. But now, the blue wave has turned into a blue panic from New York to the Pacific Northwest. And if history has taught us anything, it’s that surprises await us on election night. Democrats are panicking because they don’t know where the surprises will come.
Links of the week
John Fetterman debate was painful and shameful — he is physically incapable of being a senator – John Podhoretz, NYPost
Fetterman’s debate performance has Democrats on edge in crucial Pennsylvania Senate race: Some Democrats question Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s decision to debate — and to remain on the ballot. – NBC News
The painful story of how John Fetterman arrived at Tuesday night’s humiliation – Salena Zito, Washington Examiner
Even with Closed Captioning, Fetterman’s Impairment Is Evident at Debate – John McCormack, National Review
Fetterman Wasn’t ‘Transparent’ for Showing Up at a Debate He Couldn’t Dodge – Rich Lowry, National Review
The Reputations Ruined by the Pennsylvania Senate Debate – Noah Rothman, Commentary
The Fallout from Fetterman’s Disastrous Debate – National Review
Democrats may mock GOP candidates, but who are the unelectable ones now? – Jon Gabriel, Arizona Republic
Democrats Race To Save a Blue State Gone Purple – Oregon – Matthew Schantin, RealClearPolitics
Democrats scramble to avert shock Senate loss in Washington state: Incumbent Patty Murray’s support has slipped in recent weeks, prompting outside groups to pour in millions to prevent a sleeper victory by Republican Tiffany Smiley. – Politico
Violent Crime Is Driving a Red Wave – Charles Lipson, RealClearPolitics
Democrats are anxious about an unlikely battleground: New York City: Supporters of Gov. Kathy Hochul are concerned her ground game in the nation’s largest city is faltering as Republican Lee Zeldin makes polling gains across the state. – Politico
‘Going to be ugly’: All signs point to Republican landslide in Florida: National organizations and donors have all but abandoned their candidates — setting off fears that Florida is no longer viewed as competitive. That would have dire implications for the next presidential election. – Politico
Dearborn dads get school board to buckle — providing an example to America’s men – Adam B. Coleman, NYPost
Sacheen Littlefeather was a Native American icon. Her sisters say she was an ethnic fraud: The “Apache” actress and activist wasn’t Native American, say her sisters. And that wasn’t the only thing she lied about. – SF Chronicle
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Kanye Incinerated By Jewish Space Laser – Babylon Bee
Thanks for reading!