Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

What the Alabama Exit Polls Tell Us

While Roy Moore still hasn't conceded his loss in Alabama, his chances of pulling out a win are unknown, but very small. What is not unknown is how Democrat Doug Jones managed to win in this very red state. The exit polls give a lot of information about who voted for whom. To start with, Jones owes black voters his enduring gratitude, as 96% of them cast their ballot for him. That is better than the 95% who voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Of course, Mitt Romney didn't wax poetic about slavery back then. Among black women, it was 98% for Jones and 2% for Moore. Jones did extremely well among whites for a Democrat, getting 30% of the white vote. Nevertheless, since black voters made up 30% of the electorate, it was their votes that made Jones' victory possible. Some other important demographic breakdowns:

  • College graduates went for Jones 54% to 43%
  • Non-college graduates went for Moore 52% to 47%
  • White college graduate women went for Moore 52% to 45%
  • White non-college graduate men went overwhelmingly for Moore 79% to 19%
  • Born-again Christians didn't like Jones much, giving him 18% of their votes to 80% for Moore
  • Young voters (18-29) supported Jones 60% to 38%
  • Old voters (65+) preferred Moore 59% to 40%
  • Trump supporters were naturally Moore supporters 89% to 9%
  • Trump opponents went the other way, giving 93% of their votes to Jones and only 6% to Moore
  • The ideological split (Jones/Moore) for liberals was 86%/14%, for moderates was 74%/25%, for conservatives was 15%/83%

Another interesting result is whether people voted for or against a candidate. About 65% of the voters voted for a candidate and those broke 59% for Jones and 41% for Moore. Another 21% said they liked their candidate with reservations, and these split 29% for Jones and 70% for Moore. Finally, 12% voted against someone, and these were split evenly between people who disliked Jones and people who disliked Moore. A surprising 9% of the voters who were motivated by being against someone were against both and wrote in someone else. (V)

Disquieting Numbers for the GOP

As politics-watchers unpack the numbers from Tuesday night's election, they will try to figure out what it means going forward. The next big election (November 2018) and the one after that (November 2020) are still a long time away, but it's hard to look at the numbers and not see grim signs for the Republican Party.

To start, Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight produced a quick analysis of what he saw on Tuesday night. He draws the obvious parallel to Doug Jones, namely Scott Brown, the Republican who swooped in to claim Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in a special election in Massachusetts in 2010. Brown did not last, falling to Elizabeth Warren in 2012. However, Brown's victory presaged a GOP landslide in the 2010 midterms, in which the blue team lost 63 seats in the House. Silver argues that if the GOP treats Moore as an outlier because of the child molestation allegations, they do so at their own peril. He was only up five points or so even before those allegations became public, and five points is far less than the 28 point margin that Trump put up in 2016. Clearly, there's something going on nationally, and it's more potent than the skeletons in Moore's closet.

Meanwhile, other analysts are taking a longer view. CNN's Chris Cillizza looks at a set of numbers similar to the ones outlined above, and observes that Democrats are gaining numbers and/or enthusiasm among virtually all potential "growth" sectors of the electorate: young voters, suburban women, moderates, urban dwellers, minorities. Put another way, old people, rural voters, and right-wing ideologues may have been a viable coalition in 1920, but not so much today.

Ronald Brownstein makes a similar observation, noting the similarities between the Alabama special senatorial election and the regular gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey last month. In all three, minorities, young people, suburbanites, college-educated voters, and especially women are moving toward the Democrats in large numbers. If that happens next year, and there is no suggestion in the data from three elections that Alabama was a fluke due to a horrible Republican candidate, a blue wave could be forming and it could carry many Republicans in swing districts out to sea.

The piece that should really make Republicans tremble, however, is one written by Republican operative and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, an expert on youth voters who has written a book about the subject. She notes that more traditional Republicans, like a Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), are looking ahead to a time in a few years when they can purge the Trumpian elements from the Party and then rebuild. Anderson argues that, by then, it may be too late. Young voters are overwhelmingly turned off by what Donald Trump represents, such that a great many potential young Republicans are instead becoming young independents. And by the time the GOP is reinvented, if it ever is, they may be lost for good. So, Trump could well be eroding the foundations of the Party for decades, or even generations.

Of course, if these more academic analyses are not to your liking, there is a more plebeian numerical analysis of Tuesday's elections making its way around social media:

Day 327
Wall length: 0
Wall height: 0
Pesos from Mexico: 0
Healthcare reforms: 0
Tax reforms: 0
Mining jobs added: 0
Clintons jailed: 0
Illegal votes found: 0
Senate seat total: -1
Hands: tiny
Swamp: yuge
Voters: black
Alabama: blue
Winning: bigly

That really says it all. (Z)

It's Not My Fault!

"Donald Trump" sent out a very gracious tweet on Tuesday night congratulating Doug Jones on his victory. We were skeptical then that it was actually written by the President, and we remain so. On Wednesday, Trump issued forth with some tweets that are more his style. This one, for example:

Note the characteristic spelling earrors And Inappropriate Capitalization. He also weighed in with this "analysis" of the election results:

It is true that if Strange had been the candidate, then the state surely would be in Republican hands right now. It's also true that the deck was stacked against Roy Moore—a long history of lecherous behavior will do that to a man. Still, this is a master class in spin. Not especially different from saying, "Before I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series, I was definitely going to pick the Astros."

Of course, Trump isn't the only one to try to distance himself from Tuesday night's debacle. Steve Bannon is furiously trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered reputation. The former White House senior adviser blamed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), saying that if the Senator had gotten on board the S.S. Moore then the loss would not have happened. Exactly how a politician with a 15% approval rating is supposed to swing an election, particularly one where people are being rallied by their hatred for him, was not explained. Meanwhile, Breitbart ran an article on Thursday arguing that "Making America Great Again" is a decades-long process, and one Senate seat is small potatoes. If that's true, well, the site also spent a lot of pixels explaining how those small potatoes slipped through the GOP's hands. For example, this article lists five things that led to Moore's loss:

  • The GOP was not unified
  • Moore did poorly with urban voters
  • Jones did well in swing counties
  • High turnout
  • Poor turnout in the (rural) Wiregrass region

These things are true, as far as it goes, but if this was a college poli sci essay, it would pull a 'C' at best. First, because it's not analytical, it's descriptive, not unlike saying that the Astros won the World Series because they won more games than the Dodgers did. Second, because it does not engage with the dynamics that gave rise to these trends. If Bannon does not spend some time figuring out why, for example, Jones greatly outperformed Hillary Clinton, he's not much use to 2018 candidates.

In the end, both Bannon and Trump made—to be blunt—a very stupid gamble. It was clear that this race was very, very close. And yet they went all-in on a candidate who, besides being reprehensible, would have earned them little prestige or political capital had he won. Everyone would have attributed it to Alabama's ruby redness, not to Trump or Bannon. And now that Moore has lost, Bannon and Trump are left with several omelets' worth of egg on their faces. For someone who used to own several casinos, Trump does not seem to have learned that it's not wise to make bets with tiny payoffs if they hit and huge costs if they miss. Maybe that's why his casinos went under.

Bannon is the real loser here, though. His only great success as a political operative is getting Trump elected, something that required an awful lot of good breaks, that still happened by only the slimmest of margins, and that might have happened without Bannon. Since then, the Breitbart publisher has shown no particular tactical savvy, and no ability to turn a loss into a win. Perhaps most concerning for him is that Breitbart's monthly traffic is back down to 15 million people a month, which is where it was before the Trump campaign. The spike in readership—the site was up to almost 40 million a month earlier this year—has evaporated. Undoubtedly, Bannon will continue to make a lot of noise and to rattle his saber, but it's fair to wonder if he's a non-factor going forward. (Z)

Democrats' Path to Winning the Senate in 2018 Is Now Wider

Doug Jones' improbable victory in Alabama moves the Democrats' chances of taking over the Senate in 2018 from "mission: impossible" to "merely difficult". There is a path, but it is a steep one. The problem isn't enthusiasm. The Democrats have a huge amount of that. Their problem is a dreadful map. Just look at the map on top of this page to see where the Senate elections are in 2018. There are 26 Democrats up in 2018. To make it worse, 10 of the Democrats are up in states that Donald Trump won and only one Republican is up in a state Hillary Clinton won. Also, an unexpected special election will be held in Minnesota to fill out the rest of Sen. Al Franken's (DFL) term, something Democrats weren't expecting.

To take control of the Senate, Democrats have to hold all of their own seats. That's not impossible given a reelection rate of about 90% for incumbent senators. Also, in the past 20 midterms, the president's party has lost seats in 17 of them. Still, Democrats in states Trump won have tough fights, in some cases. Here is a brief summary of those Senate races.

State Incumbent 2012 Margin Notes
Florida Bill Nelson 13% Gov. Rick Scott (R) could be a real threat
Indiana Joe Donnelly 6% Indiana has become very red
Michigan Debbie Stabenow 21% She is not in danger
Missouri Claire McCaskill 16% Absent a Todd "legitimate rape" Akin clone, this will be a tough race
Montana Jon Tester 4% Tester is personally quite popular
North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp 1% A strong Republican could win this one
Ohio Sherrod Brown 6% Brown beat Josh Mandel in '12, will do it again
Pennsylvania Bob Casey 9% 2016 aside, PA is a blue state
West Virginia Joe Manchin 24% Trump state but Manchin has won statewide five times
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin 6% She's probably safe

Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota are going to be the toughest, but in a Democratic wave year, Donnelly, McCaskill, and Heitkamp might just sneak by. Assuming the Democrats hold all their seats (including the special election in Minnesota), they will have 49 seats. They need two more to take control. There are three Republican-held seats where Democrats have a fighting chance. These are Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee. Their best shot is Nevada, where Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) is deeply unpopular, Democrats have a strong candidate in Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who is from Clark County (Las Vegas), where 2/3 of Nevadans live, and Hillary Clinton carried the state. But before Heller can even face off against Rosen, he has to beat perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who is backed by Steve Bannon. Should Tarkanian defeat the unpopular Heller, Republicans can just write off the state as a total loss.

Second best shot is Arizona, where Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is giving up the ghost. If Steve Bannon's favorite, Kelli Ward, beats Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in the bitter primary, the national Republicans are going to be tearing out their hair because Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would be the favorite to beat her. If McSally wins, the Republicans can probably hold the seat.

The third possibility is Tennessee, where the retirement of Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) created an open seat. The Democrats got their best candidate, former two-term governor Phil Bredesen. If there is a bitter ideological primary and Steve Bannon manages to get an unelectable candidate nominated, Bredesen could win. Most likely Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) will be Republican nominee, but that isn't a sure thing.

Finally, if Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) dies, that will open a second seat in Arizona. If that happens, McSally might run for McCain's seat and win, leaving the unelectable Ward as the nominee for Flake's seat.

Of course, a black swan event could happen. Bannon could support a challenger so far to the right of Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and win the primary that Mississippi could become another Alabama. Or Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) could die (he's not well). Or Ted Cruz (R-TX) could get caught up in the demographic shifts going on in Texas. Not likely, but not impossible.

So in summary, to take over the Senate, Democrats have to hold all 26 seats they are defending, and win at least two of Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee. It's a very tall order, but in a blue wave, it is at least conceivable now. For a detailed run-down of all the Senate races, you can click on the "All Senate candidates" link to the left of the map. When there are developments in Senate races, we update it, even if the updates aren't mentioned on the front page. (V)

House and Senate Conferees Agree on a Tax Bill

Republicans are suddenly in a very big hurry to ram their tax bill through Congress before Doug Jones is seated in January. Accordingly, the Senate and House conferees agreed in principle on a bill yesterday. They held exactly one pro forma open session, just so John McCain won't vote no because the whole bill was concocted in secret with no input from Democrats or tax experts. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said they have the votes to pass the bill next week.

The compromise between the Senate's top rate of 38.5% and the House's top rate of 39.6% is 37%. Apparently, the negotiators forgot their calculators and didn't realize that smartphones have a calculator app. The corporate rate was also averaged in an unusual way. The Senate had it at 20% and the House had it at 20%, so the average came out to be 21%. They did get one piece of math right, though. The Senate bill allows interest deductions for mortgages up to $1 million whereas the House bill allows them only up to $500,000. The final bill puts the limit at $750,000.

A hot item was the state and local tax deduction. Initially Republicans wanted to stick it to the blue states, most of which have high income tax rates, but the 35 Republican representatives from California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois would have been toast if they did that, so the final bill allows people to deduct up to $10,000 in income and property taxes. That won't be enough for many people, and those representatives may still be toast.

People owning a pass-through business will be able to exclude 20% of their income from taxes but will be subject to ordinary rates for the rest. This is not what Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) was pushing for, but he will probably accept it.

Despite the enormous importance of the tax bill, senior Republicans don't expect Donald Trump to make any attempt to understand the bill, let along influence it. They will just put a bill on his desk and tell him "sign here," which he will do without looking at it. (V)

Rosenstein: No Cause for Firing Mueller

A lot of Republicans—many of them outspoken pundits like Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro—would like to see special counsel Robert Mueller fired. They've attempted to argue that he's been corrupted in some way, or he's overstepped his mandate, or that he hasn't found anything. Of course, the evidence supports none of these assertions; the real reason they want him fired is they don't like him, and they really, really don't like the thought of what he might turn up.

If Mueller were to be fired, the man who would have to swing the ax is Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has jurisdiction over the investigation since AG Jeff Sessions recused himself. Rosenstein appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and was asked about the matter. "If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not," Rosenstein explained. When asked if he saw cause, Rosenstein said he did not. The answer was for the benefit of the members of Congress, but undoubtedly it will make its way to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where Donald Trump now has a clear advisory that if he wants to try to get rid of Mueller, he's going to have to perpetrate Saturday Night Massacre Part II. (Z)

Trump Withdraws Judicial Nominees

Donald Trump cares little about anything but wins, and was delighted to fill as many open judicial posts as possible with the kind of judges Barack Obama would hate. The consequence of this approach was an unusually large number of unusually unqualified nominees. In the last 20 years, the ABA has announced that a grand total of one nominee—Michael Brunson Wallace in 2006—was "unqualified." Trump has already piled up four such nominees.

Among the most worrisome of the four unqualified nominees was Brett Talley, who has never tried a case in court. He's also married to a lawyer in the White House, which is a wee bit of a conflict of interest, and he has a habit of holding forth online about his disdain for Muslims and gay people and his admiration for some elements of the KKK. Nominee Jeff Mateer, on the other hand, isn't married to anyone in the White House, but he is also short on experience, and also has a bad habit of saying things online that can be traced back to him. Like describing transgender children as part of "Satan's plan" and characterizing same-sex marriage as "debauchery."

In any event, Trump has been compelled to bow to dire warnings (aka threats) from GOP senators, and both nominations have now been pulled by the administration. It would seem that the lesson here for aspiring Trump judicial nominees is that it's OK to be a bigot, and it's OK to be unqualified, but keep your mouth shut about it. (Z)

Only Half of Voters Say Sexual Misconduct Accusations against Trump Are Credible

A Politico/Morning Consult poll released yesterday shows that 50% of registered voters believe the accusations of the women who said Donald Trump sexually assaulted them. Another 29% don't believe the women and 21% don't know. Considering how many women have lodged complaints against him and how detailed some of them are and considering what Trump said on tape, it is amazing that so many voters are skeptical. Not surprisingly, Democrats think Trump is guilty and Republicans don't. Independents think the charges are credible by a 2 to 1 margin, though. The poll found Trump's overall approval rating to be 43%, far higher than other polls, so Republicans may have been oversampled. (V)

Tina Smith to Replace Franken in the Senate

Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL-MN) has announced that when Al Franken resigns from the Senate, he will appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (DFL-MN) to the seat. She will serve until Franken's successor is elected in Nov. 2018. Then the successor will take over until the end of Franken's term, which is Jan. 2021. Smith has said in the past that she is not interested in a Senate career, but now that the job has been handed to her on a silver platter, she has changed her mind and stated that she will run in 2018 to complete Franken's term.

In an important development, Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN), one of the biggest supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has said that he will not challenge Smith next year. A challenge from him would have opened old wounds and torn the Democratic Party apart. No other Democrat in Minnesota has enough of a base to challenge Smith, so she is likely to get the nomination next year easily.

Republicans, in contrast, are likely to have a primary. Former governor Tim Pawlenty is a likely candidate, but there are other Republicans looking into a possible race as well. (V)

Heat is On Farenthold

With Roy Moore, it was one accuser, and then a bunch. With Donald Trump, it was one accuser, and then a bunch. With Al Franken, it was one accuser, and then a bunch. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was plausibly accused of sexual misconduct by one staffer a couple of weeks ago, and now—stop us if you've heard this before—several more accusers are coming forward.

The person who came forward on Thursday is Michael Rekola, who once served as Farenthold's communications director. He says he was subjected to all manner of crude and demeaning sexual comments, particularly as his wedding drew nearer. "Better have your fiancee b*** you before she walks down the aisle—it will be the last time," for example. Rekola eventually became physically ill as a result of the hostile environment and quit working for the Congressman just weeks after returning from his honeymoon. Rekola's tales of boorish behavior and abusive language were confirmed by Elizabeth Peace, who succeeded Rekola, and then eventually left the post as well.

Farenthold is just one member of Congress, from a red district (R +13) in a red state, so cashiering him would not cost the Party a seat. And since his bad behavior took place on the job, it shouldn't be too hard to expel him, or perhaps to convince him that he should leave voluntarily if he wants to keep his pension. Doing so would allow the GOP to make a much-needed dramatic statement about where they stand on what has become the issue of 2017. This course of action would seem a slam dunk. Then again, not supporting an accused child molester would seen a slam dunk, too. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec13 Alabama Declares: "No Moore"
Dec13 Trump Has a Really Bad Day
Dec13 Republicans Getting Closer to Tax Deal
Dec13 Democrats Back Down on Dreamers
Dec12 It Is Election Day in Alabama Today
Dec12 What Happens If Moore Wins?
Dec12 Judge Orders Alabama Voting Records Preserved
Dec12 Booker Will Also Be Tested Today
Dec12 Gillibrand Calls for Trump to Resign
Dec12 Missing from the Russiagate Probe So Far: Steve Bannon
Dec12 Trump Wants to Go Back to the Moon
Dec12 Transgender Soldiers Can Enlist
Dec12 Spicer Writing a Book
Dec11 Another Poll Shows Moore Leading Jones
Dec11 Moore Does Not Like Amendments 11-27
Dec11 Collins Says Senate Will Have a Tough Decision If Moore Wins
Dec11 Senate Republicans Are Attacking the American Bar Association
Dec11 Trump Accusers to Demand Congressional Investigation
Dec11 What is Haley's Long-Term Plan?
Dec11 Poll Says Americans Aren't Buying what the GOP is Selling on the Tax Plan
Dec11 Will the Exit Poll Survive?
Dec10 Mueller Is Certainly Being Thorough
Dec10 Bad Numbers for the GOP
Dec10 Donald Trump Needs a Brain Test
Dec10 Donald Trump Is a Liar
Dec10 Trump's Life in the White House
Dec10 Arab League Condemns Jerusalem Announcement
Dec10 Jones Desperate to Rally Black Voters
Dec10 Please Pardon Our Dust
Dec09 Tax Bill May Allow Dark Money Political Donations to Become Tax Deductible
Dec09 Yearbook Inscription Partly Not Moore's Writing
Dec09 Trump Rallies in Florida
Dec09 Dina Powell Will Leave White House in January
Dec09 Democrats Looking Under Rocks for Competitive House Races
Dec09 Special Election for Conyers Seat Won't Be Until Nov. 2018
Dec09 Democrats Will Restrict Superdelegates in 2020
Dec09 Trump Asked RNC Chair to Omit 'Romney' from Her Name
Dec08 Looks Like There's More to the Trump Tower Story
Dec08 Tax Bill Hits Rough Waters
Dec08 Franken Will Quit
Dec08 Dayton Might Appoint His Lieutenant Governor as a Placeholder
Dec08 Report: Trent Franks to Resign from Congress Just Ahead of a Scandal
Dec08 Congress Kicks the Can a Short Distance Down the Road
Dec08 Trump's Approval Falls with Every Demographic Group
Dec08 Trump to Get Physical
Dec08 Roy Moore, Historian
Dec08 Arpaio "Seriously" Considering Senate Run
Dec08 Vonn Will Represent the U.S., Not Trump
Dec07 Democrats Call for Franken to Resign
Dec07 Bredesen Will Run for Senate