This Isn’t A Referendum On Trump, It’s A Referedum On Crazy
It’s Also A Challenge For Democrats To Do At Least Well Enough To Convince Other Democrats They’ve Got A Shot In 2020
Trump is still going to be President tomorrow, no matter what. The question is: are there enough people who think there’s value in having a Congress that will challenge his worst impulses and try to rein in his most outlandish escapades (which it is pointedly not doing now)? Or should Trump just run about unfettered and unhinged, like a child throwing mashed potatoes on the carpet?
Perhaps we are overly optimistic or naive, but we tend to think there have got to be a fair number of people out there, some of whom skipped 2016, some of whom voted for Trump, some of whom may even still be Trump supporters, who nevertheless think this is all a little too nuts. And there’s a value to some checks and balances.
Who don’t passionately exult with Trump in his vision of “beautiful barbed wire” and regular army hurriedly amassing at the border, even if they agree there’s a need for immigration reform. (Which guess what? We do too. And that’s always been a bipartisan issue when lawmakers have tried to work on it before.)
Who don’t quite get why when the economy is booming and military threats have de-escalated in many places, the message at the center of Trump’s many political rallies remains one almost entirely of gloom and fear.
(With a few little tweaks: when he was running for President, immigrants were primarily coming after American jobs. Now they’re coming after American women.)
So what do final polls tell us about whether voters like that are actually out there?
• We find New York Times Upshot polling interesting, not only because it breaks down every single House race, but also because it reveals a couple of things we still have serious questions about. First of all, although their pollsters have made nearly 3,000,000 phone calls, the response rate in many districts has been only around 1–2%. We’ve often questioned the validity of phone polling based on the fact that we don’t ever answer our phone anymore when we don’t recognize who’s calling, and we don’t know anybody who does. Which continually makes us wonder whether the people who do answer tend to fit a certain profile, although we have no idea what that might be. Furthermore, there are a large number of “undecided” voters recorded in each of the races, probably averaging in the 10% range. So enough to tilt some of those contests. And as we’ve said before, “undecideds” do not tend to split down the middle on election day: more typically, one party tends to win a lot more.
• The Cook Political Report made a few changes to their final report and say the House battle is now “more lopsided than at any time since 2010 when Republicans won their current majority”. (But in the opposite direction.) They point out Republicans would have to win 23 of 30 “toss up” districts in order to retain control of the House. (As we’ve pointed out however, those are all seats Republicans currently hold, except one.) At the same time, they also point out that “toss up” districts do not tend to break evenly. (Which means it really still could cut either way.) Cook notes:
“In 2006 and 2010, the party riding the ‘wave’ averaged 100 percent of all the seats at least leaning their way, 57 percent of the Toss Ups, 19 percent of the opposite party’s ‘Lean’ seats, and nine percent of the other side’s ‘Likely’ seats.”
This is not something pollsters look at, but we would also argue a win by Beto O’Rourke or Stacey Abrams or Andrew Gillum (or 2 out of 3, or all 3!) in Texas and Georgia and Florida, would be a lot more significant than losing a couple of seats elsewhere. Because it would give Democrats a hell of a lot of momentum, and a vision for the future — both of which are sorely lacking right now.
O’Rourke’s chances of winning against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz are currently pegged by fivethirthyeight at about 23%. Doesn’t sound like much. Putting it in baseball terms, it’s about the same as an average pro baseball player getting a hit any time they’re at bat. And that does happen, otherwise there wouldn’t be a game of baseball. (Couching Republicans’ chances of keeping control of the House in the same terms based on fivethirtyeight’s numbers, and that would be like the worst player on the team getting a hit…which still does happen mainly because there are lots of ways to get hits, though a lot less frequently.)
We’ll close today with fivethirtyeight’s closing sets of probabilities, which show Democrats with a strong chance of taking the House: just shy of 86%, and Republicans with a pretty much equally strong chance of staying in control in the Senate: 82%. Here are a couple of their graphs:
Fivethirtyeight puts it in perspective by saying:
“An 86 percent chance is closer to Barack Obama’s odds of winning in 2012 than Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.”
And obviously, Obama won that one. (They had Clinton with a 71% chance on Election Day.)
We’ll see you at the voting booth!