Clinton 232
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Trump 306
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Click for Senate
Dem 48
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GOP 52
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  • Strongly Dem (182)
  • Likely Dem (18)
  • Barely Dem (33)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (90)
  • Likely GOP (45)
  • Strongly GOP (170)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IA MI OH PA WI

Why Are We Surprised about the Presidential Race?

Many people are very surprised about the results of the presidential race, in part because state-poll aggregators (us included) thought Hillary Clinton would win the Electoral College. But when we dig deeper, there were a lot of signs that something was going on. Let's start with the national polls. The final Real Clear Politics average had Clinton up by 3.2 points. It is likely she will win the popular vote by close to 2 points, so the average really wasn't off that much.

Now the state polls. Our final projection had 12 states as tossups, that is, they could go either way. The only state we got "wrong" in the sense that we had Clinton ahead by more than the margin of error was Wisconsin, where we had her ahead by 5 points, 46% to 41%. On Election Day, Clinton got 47% but Trump got 48% instead of 41%. What should have been a red flag is that the only Wisconsin poll conducted mostly in November (i.e., after James Comey's announcement about the discovery of more Clinton e-mails), was the SurveyMonkey poll putting Clinton ahead by only 1 point, 44% to 43%. It was clearly narrowing in the Badger State and we missed that.

Another sign that we missed was the electoral-vote score counting only the states where the candidates were ahead outside the margin of error. Here is the graph:

EC graph solid

Numerically, we had Clinton at 219 solid electoral votes and Trump at 161 solid electoral votes. Clinton got all of those except Wisconsin and Trump got all of his. It was the larger tossup states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida) that all broke for Trump. Clinton did better in the West than in the East, winning the tossup states of Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico. The only tossup state she won in the East was New Hampshire, and that by the thinnest of margins.

Another way to look at it is to ask: "How blue are the 'surprise' states that Trump won?" Answer: "Not blue at all." Here a table showing the top three state offices for each of the states that Trump flipped from 2012:

State offices

Six of the states Trump flipped have Republican governors, four have Republican secretaries of state, and four have Republican attorneys general, for a total of 13 of the 18 top statewide offices. The U.S. Senate is closer, with one state (Michigan) having a purely Democratic delegation, one state (Iowa) having a purely Republican delegation, and the other four states split. This is the best the Democrats mustered in these six states.

Further down the totem pole it is much worse for the Democrats. Republicans control all six U.S. House delegations. They also control five of the six state senates, and the one the Democrats control (Pennsylvania) is by the thinnest of margins, 25 to 23. Republicans control all six state houses. Thus of the 24 legislature chambers (U.S. and state), the Republicans have 18, the Democrats have 2, and 4 are tied.

Looking at the total picture of 18 state offices and 24 legislative chambers, Republicans have 31 of the 42, Democrats have 7, and 4 are tied. Of course, gerrymandering plays a role here, but since Republicans control 19 of the 30 statewide elected offices (where gerrymandering does not play a role), and Democrats have only 11, a case can be made that these are fundamentally red states. When combined with the fact that many people vote a strictly partisan straight ticket and Hillary Clinton was personally unpopular to boot, maybe the results aren't so surprising after all. There were a lot of clues there, but we (and almost everyone else) missed them. (V)

Ellison's Opponents for DNC Chairman Start Fighting Back

When Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) announced he wanted to be the new chairman of the DNC, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and other progressives quickly jumped on his bandwagon. Now the pushback is beginning from supporters of former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean and South Carolina party chairman Jaime Harrison. They have two arguments, one very visible and one deeply under cover. The visible one, which is what they are saying in public, is that DNC rules require the chairman to be a full-time employee of the DNC. As a sitting congressman, Ellison could not be full time. The previous regular chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), was not full time either, but she was specifically appointed by President Obama, who, as head of the Party, can ignore the rules. Ellison can't be appointed by the head of the Party because the Party is headless at the moment.

The other argument against Ellison, which is absolutely taboo for anyone in the party to mention in public (or even in private), is that the Democrats' biggest challenge now is winning back conservative evangelical Christians and working-class white men. Maybe having a left-wing black Muslim as party leader isn't the best approach. But any Democrat who pointed this out would be drummed out of the party, hence the appeal to the formal rules: "The chair must be a full-time employee," which would eliminate Ellison without bringing up the whole issue of race and religion. Howard Dean ran a very progressive presidential campaign in 2004. He was the Bernie Sanders of his era. But he has been around for a while, which makes him less of a shiny new object than Ellison. Stay tuned. (V)

Warning to Democrats: Focus on Issues

Recently, we noted that Donald Trump's rise to power mirrors that of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Despite a number of seemingly obvious shortcomings, Berlusconi managed to hold on to power for the better part of two decades. Luigi Zingales, now a professor at the University of Chicago, witnessed the Berlusconi phenomenon first hand, and he has some advice for the Democrats when it comes to unseating Trump: Focus on the issues, and not on the personality.

The problem with focusing on personality, Zingales argues, is that it is already a known commodity. Those who voted for Trump/Berlusconi knew what kind of man they were getting, and are fine with it. In fact, attacks on personality simply serve to affirm Trump and Berlusconi's "the elites hate me" narrative, making them even more attractive. On the other hand, because the two men tend to obfuscate or flip-flop when it comes to policy, their followers are often woefully ill-informed about what they stand for. If the Democrats can offer a more appealing policy agenda, while pointing out the shortcomings in Trump's, they may peel off some of The Donald's voters. The two men who managed to defeat Berlusconi at the polls—Romano Prodi and current Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi—both ran issues-focused campaigns.

Zingales has some other tips for the blue team, like "no more dynasties." However, the point about focusing on issues is certainly the most salient. If the Democratic candidate in 2020 is wise, they will say very little about Donald Trump at all, since the American people won't need to be reminded about his record. That candidate should be focusing instead on their own selling points, and their own ideas for improving the country. That is a blueprint that bears a striking resemblance to Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, where the central theme was "Hope," as opposed to Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, where the central theme was "At least I'm not Donald Trump." (Z)

Trump's Infrastructure Plan Meets Congress

Donald Trump's plan to spend $1 trillion patching up America's crumbling infrastructure has already hit a pothole. The pothole even has a name: "Congress." Members of the pothole are all in favor of creating jobs, especially in their states and districts. What they are not in favor of is paying for the plan. Some hope that private investors will pay for it. Others hope that if they overhaul the tax code, money will fall from the sky. Still others think that big tax cuts and a boxcar full of high-grade fairy dust will magically bring in new revenue to pay for the infrastructure (although the experience with the Bush tax cuts suggests the opposite).

Some of the ideas being bandied about sound great until you look at the details. For example, public-private partnerships sound wonderful until you begin asking why private investors would put money into infrastructure. One category is clear: building toll roads. But what about sewage plants or finally doing the long-deferred maintenance many bridges, tunnels, and dams need? Where is the return there for private investors?

Some Republicans assume that Trump's business experience will result in his soon producing the magic formula to make it all work. However, policy experts on both sides of the aisle have faulted Trump's tax plan for not remotely adding up. It is likely to add $10 trillion to the national debt in the next decade, and this is without any infrastructure projects.

One idea that is being discussed is to lower corporate tax rates but to force corporations that have money stashed abroad to bring it back and have it taxed immediately. But some Republicans want to use that money to finance the tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. If the money is used for that, it can't be used for fixing the infrastructure. Obama has actually made a concrete suggestion where the money could come from: A $10 tax on each barrel of oil produced or imported. However, Republicans laughed it off the table. Another idea Republicans have roundly rejected is increasing the gas tax, which is stuck at 18 cents a gallon. In most of Northern Europe, it is $3 to $4 a gallon. (V)

How Trump's Tax Plan Worked in Kansas

The Wichita Eagle, one of Kansas' leading newspapers, makes a pointed observation: Donald Trump's tax plan bears a striking resemblance to the one proposed by current governor Sam Brownback (R) and enacted in 2012. Both plans feature deep cuts for individual and business income, with the benefits going primarily to the highest earners. They are thus both implementations of the Reagan-era "trickle down" philosophy of taxation, which was rooted in the belief that when the rich are doing well, everyone does well. In fact, both Brownback and Trump were personally advised by Art Laffer, who developed trickle down theory.

So, how did it work out in Kansas, now that we have four years' worth of data? Not so well. As the Eagle observes:

In September, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ranked Kansas 50th in the nation for employment growth, manufacturing hours worked, unemployment rate and wage growth. An economist with the Washington-based, low-tax advocate Tax Foundation told Mississippi lawmakers evaluating planned tax cuts that Kansas is "an example of what not to do in tax reform."

Brownback continues to insist that his cuts were a success, and is happy to see Trump following his lead, declaring that, "I am pleased the President-elect understands the importance of revitalizing the American economy by creating an environment that keeps jobs in America and encourages the growth of both large and small businesses." The Republican legislature does not agree, apparently, and is getting ready to raise taxes in the Jayhawk State in order to try to fix their budgetary mess.

In fairness, after 7-8 years of continuous growth, the U.S. economy is due for a downward turn. Trump's plan, if implemented, looks like it will merely guarantee that outcome. (Z)

Trump Apparently No Fan of the First Amendment

In Donald Trump's career as a businessman and reality television star, he benefited from—and mostly got—fawning media coverage. Now, he's playing an entirely different ballgame. As President Obama could certainly tell him, the coverage is going to be more negative than it is positive. By all evidences, The Donald is having enormous difficulty adjusting to that reality. On Saturday, he took to Twitter to blast the cast of "Hamilton" for having the temerity to address Vice-President-elect Pence. And on Sunday, Trump was at it again, this time targeting Saturday Night Live, particularly the show's portrayal of him. He tweeted:

I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show—nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?

This is actually the second time that Trump has taken a run at the venerable NBC program, having made almost exactly the same complaint about a month ago.

Needless to say, Trump's grasp of the law is shaky. For example, when it comes to equal time laws, he may want to review the FEC's repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which took place under Ronald Reagan, and made possible the rise of Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers. Unfortunately, as CNN's Dean Obeidallah points out, there really is no such thing as "idle" criticism from the President of the United States. He has the ability to put pressure on both the FEC and on broadcasters (as, for example, Richard Nixon did to CBS in 1969 when he wanted "The Smothers Brothers Hour" canceled). And even if Trump does not exert direct pressure, his underlings may interpret his words as an order, or private broadcasters may take them as a threat and engage in self-censorship. So, The Donald's habit of allowing his id to run wild on Twitter could have serious repercussions. (Z)

Pence Has His Own E-mail Problem

When Hillary Clinton was the one on the hot seat, Vice-President-elect Mike Pence was the world's biggest cheerleader for transparency, accusing her of "the kind of double standard that the American people are weary of." Now, however, the shoe is on the other foot, and he's singing a different tune.

The e-mail in question—and it's just one—involves Pence's efforts, as Indiana governor, to resist Barack Obama's immigration policy. Pence decided to join a 17-state lawsuit (all of them red), but utilized private counsel instead of the Indiana attorney general. This, in turn, led to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from a Democratic lawyer named Bill Groth, who wanted documents related to the Governor's decision. Groth got 57 pages' worth, including a partially-redacted e-mail message. He's sued to get that missing message, which Pence and his councillors claim is protected by attorney-client privilege. The first court to hear the case effectively agreed with Pence, declaring that it had no power to order the release of the messages. Groth appealed; the Indiana Court of Appeals will hear the case next week, and the Supreme Court could be next after that.

Groth argues that this case could set a troublesome precedent, in which e-mails are essentially immune from FOIA requests. More than a few legal experts support him in this interpretation. Meanwhile, it's yet another example of a politician embracing the "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy of governance. (Z)

Not Everyone Disapproves of Bannon

When Donald Trump announced that he had appointed Steve Bannon as his chief strategic adviser, many Democrats (and even a few Republicans) were dismayed, given the firebrand's past rhetoric. It turns out, however, that at least two groups think he was the perfect choice. The bad news is that those groups are the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.

Rocky Suhayda, chairman of the latter group, said the pick suggests that, "Perhaps The Donald is for real." Klansman David Duke characterized the selection of Bannon as "excellent," while his fellow white nationalist Richard Spencer said Bannon would, "push Trump in the right direction." Brad Griffin, creator of the white nationalist website Occidental Dissent, concurred that the President-Elect's right-hand man, "will hold Trump to the promises he has already made during the campaign." Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hateful harassment incidents since Election Day has now reached 701 entries. (Z)

Marine Le Pen Takes Huge Lead in France

Donald Trump's election has made racism and bigotry of all sorts more socially acceptable in other countries as well as the U.S. A new Ipsos poll of the French presidential election, to be held on April 23, shows the far-right Marine Le Pen with a 29% to 21% lead over former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and a 15-point lead over the leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. If no candidate gets 50% of the vote, there is a runoff on May 7. For some reason, the poll did not include Alain Juppé, who might make it to the second round. In any event, after Trump's victory in the U.S. many French people fear that what happened in the U.S. could happen in France. (V)

Programming Note

Now that the election is over, we won't have as much to write about as we did before November 8. Further, both V and Z have teaching and/or scholarly duties that have often been put on the back burner this year as we invested our time in the site. So, while we are going to stay daily (or mostly daily) for another few weeks, we're eventually going to taper off. For fans of the site, that's the bad news. The good news is that we're not planning to go entirely dark, as has been the case with past election cycles. The target will be roughly two posts a week, which may include a new feature or two to tide us over when election news is in short supply.

Also, while we are at it, a few thank yous. While V and Z are the two people whose names (or pen names, at least) appear on the site, there are several other people who do much to help make the site run. We wouldn't want to embarrass them by name-checking them, but to those who gave so generously of your time to input data, or copy edit, or help with programming or marketing the site, we are very grateful. And, of course, we also appreciate our readers. The stats can be hard to parse, but it looks like we had roughly 11 million visits and 16 million page views from 3 million people in 2016. So, thank you all! (V & Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov20 Tom Price is the Favorite for Secretary of HHS
Nov20 Reid Claims FBI Has Explosive Information About Trump-Russia Ties
Nov20 Trump and Romney Meet
Nov20 Vilsack: Democrats Can't Ignore Rural Voters and Win
Nov20 Clinton's Lead is Now 1.68 Million Votes
Nov20 Trump Opponents Trying Hard to Flip Electoral College
Nov20 Zuckerberg Changes His Tune
Nov20 Pence Attends Hamilton, Controversy Ensues
Nov19 Trump's First Picks Thrill Hard-line Conservatives
Nov19 Report: Mike Huckabee Will Be Ambassador to Israel
Nov19 Bannon: We're Really Going to Spend a Trillion Dollars on Infrastructure
Nov19 Trump Agrees to Pay $25 Million to Settle Trump University Lawsuits
Nov19 WSJ to Trump: Liquidate
Nov19 Muslim Database Coming into Focus
Nov19 Whither Ted Cruz?
Nov19 Was Russia to Blame for Fake News?
Nov19 Democrats Hit New Low in State Legislatures
Nov18 Ryan Doesn't Like Pelosi
Nov18 Democrats Brace for 2018
Nov18 Kaine Will Not Run for President in 2020
Nov18 Trump Stops Ford from Relocating Plant...Or Maybe Not
Nov18 Proposal: DNC Chair Candidates Should Debate
Nov18 Did Paul Horner Hand the Election to Donald Trump?
Nov18 Fake News Outperformed Real News From August to November
Nov18 Who's to Blame for Steve Bannon? How about Jerry Seinfeld?
Nov18 Newt Gingrich Said He Will Not Serve in the Trump Administration
Nov17 Trump's Coalition Won the Battle but Will Lose the War
Nov17 Flynn Is National Security Advisor, Haley and Perry Reportedly Under Consideration
Nov17 Some Members of Team Trump Are Pushing Hard for Muslim Registry
Nov17 Draining the Swamp Isn't Easy
Nov17 Trump and De Blasio Are Fighting Already
Nov17 Sanders Named to Senate Leadership Team
Nov17 Once Again, O'Malley Drops Out Quickly
Nov17 Could Trump End the Culture Wars?
Nov17 Net Neutrality Is Probably Dead
Nov16 New Transition Team Discards Everything Christie Did
Nov16 More Information Leaks about Trump's Cabinet
Nov16 Clinton's Lead in the Popular Vote Has Passed 1 Million
Nov16 Republicans Who Opposed Trump May Be Primaried in 2018
Nov16 Ryan Appears Safe, Pelosi Not So Much
Nov16 Bannon May Have His First Scandal
Nov16 Glenn Beck Slams Bannon, Alt-right
Nov16 Senators Speak Out
Nov16 Hearing on Trump University Case Set for Friday
Nov16 Chelsea Clinton Might Run for Congress
Nov15 Trump Criticized for Having Bannon in the White House
Nov15 Differences between Trump and the Republican Establishment Are Already Clear
Nov15 Takeaways from the First Five Days
Nov15 Trump Expected He Would Drop Out and Endorse Christie
Nov15 Democrats Warming to Comey, Fast