Dem 47
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Ties 2
GOP 51
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New polls: AZ MN MN-special NY
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NV
GOP pickups vs. 2012: ND
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Prognosticators Are Predicting a Split Congress
      •  Trump Revs Up His Lying
      •  Female Trump Supporters See Him as Protecting Their Way of Life
      •  The Most Racist Midterms...Ever?
      •  Kemp Suggests Democratic Hacking of Georgia Elections, Offers No Evidence
      •  Rumor: Amazon HQ2 Will Be in Northern Virginia
      •  Monday Q & A
      •  Today's Senate Polls

PW logo LePage Will Move to Florida
A Split Decision Is No Win for Republicans
Trump Closes Out Campaign Based on Fear
Trump and Sessions Warn of Voter Fraud
Bad Weather Could Depress Turnout
Bonus Quote of the Day

Prognosticators Are Predicting a Split Congress

We seem to have reached a conventional wisdom on tomorrow's elections. Three prognosticators who look at all the individual races and call them one at a time—Charlie Cook, Larry Sabato, and Nate Silver—all agree it is likely the Democrats will win the House and the Republicans will hold the Senate, with the GOP possibly even adding a seat or two in the upper chamber. Here are their breakdowns of solid, likely, lean, and tossup seats:

Final ratings

That all of them agree doesn't mean they are right. Almost everyone was expecting Hillary Clinton to win in 2016 and it didn't happen. Still, their predictions are based on a lot of data and are probably much better than just guessing.

The final polls also point in this direction. In the ABC/WaPo poll, the Democrats lead in the generic House race by 8 points. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the Democrats lead by 7 points. If they do win by 7 or 8 points, that will probably be enough to flip the House. (V)

Trump Revs Up His Lying

Truth is so 20th Century. The modern way is to just make it up as you go. The Washington Post fact checker, Glenn Kessler, has noted a change in Donald Trump's truthfulness. In the first 9 months of his presidency, Trump made 1,318 false statements, averaging 5 a day. But in the past 7 weeks, he has lied 1,419 times, averaging 30 times a day. Previous presidents have lied upon occasion, sometimes on major things (like whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction), but simply ignoring reality and making up everything all the time is something new. What Trump has discovered is that his base simply doesn't care that he is lying to them all the time, so he has no reason to be truthful.

As Trump barnstorms the country, he generally has 35 to 45 suspect claims and lies in each rally. In interviews with local media, he repeats the lies. His favorite lies are:

  • His tax cut is the biggest in history (120x)
  • The U.S. economy is the best in history (80x)
  • The border wall is already under construction (74x)

None of these are true, but his base doesn't care. After all, what difference does it make if the wall is under construction or not? Later he can tell them that it is finished and they will roar their approval, even if not a single inch has been built.

Besides outright lying, Trump often makes misleading statements. For example, he said that Brett Kavanaugh graduated cum laude from college. That is true, but at the time half of the class at Yale graduated with honors and half of those were cum laude. So while the statement is true, it just means he was in the top quarter of his class. It wasn't like he was in the top three or even top ten. (V)

Female Trump Supporters See Him as Protecting Their Way of Life

While there has been endless discussion of college-educated suburban women who have suddenly become Democrats, the fact is that a substantial number of women still support the Republicans, largely on account of Donald Trump, not in spite of him. They like him. No, make that: they love him. Two New York Times reporters sought out women at Trump rallies to get the story of why they love him so much. Here are some of their comments:

  • He wants to protect this country, and he wants to keep it safe
  • We like when somebody promises to do something and they follow through on it
  • He may be blunt, but I can take it
  • ...I just felt that we needed someone with a business sense to get our country back on track...
  • We work hard and pay our taxes and they [immigrants] are living life as freeloaders
  • I give the highest respect when people are telling the truth...

A recurrent theme is safety. Many of the women truly fear that thousands of immigrants marching in a vast caravan from Honduras will enter the country and harm them. They are afraid of rising crime, even though it is going down every year. They believe he has carried out his promises. In short, they are poorly informed and simply believe whatever he tells them, and what he says is scary to them. Of course, Trump realizes this, so in the past few weeks he has been doing everything in his power to scare them witless, primarily by lying about just about everything he talks about (see above). (V)

The Most Racist Midterms...Ever?

The Brits have been watching U.S. politics for the last three or four years with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. On Sunday, writing for The Guardian, Oliver Laughland wonders if these are the most racist midterm elections in United States history. He points to the enormous number of racist ads, statements, and insinuations coming from the GOP this year, from the president on down. As if on cue, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue offered up the latest not-so-subtle dog whistle on Sunday. Campaigning for gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp (R), who just so happens to be running against a black woman, Perdue declared the election is "so cotton-pickin'" important.

It is understandable why Laughland made the case he did; for most elections of the last 75 years or so, just one of the two to three dozen racist things that have happened this year would echo for years. The Willie Horton ad is 30 years old, for example, and people are still taking about it. In 2018, by contrast, the race-baiting comes so fast and furious that one outrage has hardly abated before the next one presents itself.

With that said, the elections from 1850 to 1890 or so were undoubtedly more racist than this year's, as Democratic candidates of that era aggressively pandered to white supremacy in order to attract Southern votes. This poster from 1868 (not a midterm election, but nonetheless representative of the era) is illustrative:

Racist caricature of black voters

Abraham Lincoln actually got the worst of it, particularly in his first election (1860). Voters were warned that he would encourage interracial marriages (in fact, the term 'miscegenation' was coined for that election), and were told that Lincoln himself was part black, and that he should be known as Abraham Africanus the First.

Beyond the Civil War-adjacent elections, the elections from 1910 or so to 1930 were also pretty bad on the racism front. The Ku Klux Klan roared back to life in the mid-1910s, and was both militantly xenophobic and solidly racist. There were quite a few elections where politicians, even if they were not sympathetic to the Klan's aims, had to kowtow to them. The organization's power was so great they staged a show of strength in Washington, D.C. in 1926:

Racist caricature of black voters

Quite a few prominent politicos of the era would later come to regret their dalliances with the Klan, including Harry S. Truman, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), and Gov. George Wallace (D-AL).

So, as problematic as 2018 has been, there's no chance that it's the most racist midterm in U.S. history. However, what is fair to say is that Donald Trump is the most racist Republican president in U.S. history. This is essentially the product of two historical facts:

  • Until the 1960s, as noted above, the Democrats were the party with the racists
  • Since then, GOP presidents who wished to appeal to racists relied on dog whistles rather than the overt statements Trump tends to favor (see Q & A below for more)

The only GOP president who could plausibly give Trump a run for his money is Theodore Roosevelt, who was a paternalist and an imperialist, and would surely have agreed with the Donald's sh**hole comments. However, unlike Trump, TR was interested in trying to help the people he looked down upon, was (by the standards of his era) a liberal on civil rights, and was very welcoming of immigrants. None of those things is true of Trump, which means he leaves the Rough Rider in the dust. Congratulations, Mr. President, you are #1. (Z)

Kemp Suggests Democratic Hacking of Georgia Elections, Offers No Evidence

There appears to be no limit to how far Brian Kemp (R) will go in order to win his election against Stacey Abrams. He and his surrogates have blown enough racist dog whistles to give them sore throats for the next year. And Kemp's staff, in his capacity as Georgia Secretary of State, has been finding just about any excuse to take away the vote of folks who happen to come from the state's most diverse counties.

On Sunday, Kemp took the chicanery to new heights (or, perhaps, new depths). He announced, apparently truthfully, that someone attempted to hack the state's voter registration system. Then he said his office would begin an immediate investigation of the Georgia Democratic Party. Although Kemp is not legally allowed to comment about the specifics of ongoing investigations, the implication was obvious: The Democrats were behind the hacking. Not a whit of proof was offered, and Abrams declared that, "this is a desperate attempt on the part of my opponent to distract people from the fact that two different federal judges found him derelict in his duties and have forced him to accept absentee ballots to be counted and those who are being held captive by the exact match system to be allowed to vote."

In about 48 hours, we will probably know if Kemp's shenanigans were successful. However, he is playing with fire here. As Donald Trump has shown us, anger and spite are very effective in getting people to vote. And it's very possible that Kemp's maneuvering will give thousands of Democrats (particularly black ones) the extra motivation they need to get to the polls, regardless of the obstacles placed in their way. It is also possible that this whole thing will head to a recount, which is why Kemp has not resigned as Secretary. If it comes to that, he wants to be the one overseeing the process. (Z)

Rumor: Amazon HQ2 Will Be in Northern Virginia

There is fierce competition among cities to get Amazon's second headquarters, which may create 50,000 jobs. It will also create a housing crisis, drive up rents spectacularly, and cause huge traffic problems. Nevertheless, cities are falling over one another offering huge tax rebates, free land, and more to get HQ2, even though it is far from clear that having it is a net win. The Washington Post is now reporting that it is very likely to be in Crystal City, in Northern Virginia. That makes sense, since it is an urban area with many amenities needed to attract a good workforce, is near several major airports (Reagan National, Dulles, and BWI), and has a number of top universities close by (University of Virginia, Georgetown, American University). Only one person—Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—knows whether this story is true and he's not talking.

But what are the political implications? The most important one is that HQ2 will pull in large numbers of highly educated, well-informed workers. These people skew very heavily Democratic. Historically, Virginia was a red state. Then it became purple. Now it is bluish purple. The governor and both senators are Democrats but the Republicans control the congressional delegation 7 to 4. On the other hand, the Democrats hold every statewide elected office. On the third hand, though, the Republicans control the state senate and the house of delegates. But their margins are tiny (two seats in the senate, one in the house). Adding a large number of college-educated people plus their families is going to hasten the process by which Virginia simply becomes a blue state, effectively South Maryland.

No matter where HQ2 goes, it will add Democrats to the state, but if it were to go in Austin, TX, 50,000 people is just a drop in a very big bucket there. In Virginia it matters more and the state is already on a knife edge, so adding tens of thousands of Democrats could push it over the edge. (V)

Monday Q & A

And awaaaay we go:

Who determines the Senate Majority Leader if the number of senators is tied at 50 D's and 50 R's? R.B., Ewing, NJ.

The Vice President of the United States, in his capacity as president of the Senate, would cast the tiebreaking vote. If this came to pass, it would presumably mean that Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would keep his job.

It is likely that answer is hypothetical, however. On those occasions where the Senate was evenly split in the past (most recently 2000, but also in 1953 and 1881), the two parties reached a power-sharing compromise. In those cases, the VP's party (which technically held a majority) was given the Majority Leader's post, but the committees were split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, in some cases with co-chairs instead of a chair and a ranking member. McConnell has already said he expects a similar arrangement if this year's elections leave the Senate 50-50.

It is also worth noting that, in most circumstances, 50-50 wouldn't be too different from 51-49 or 52-48. There are a few centrists on each side whose votes are never certain, and on top of that, the biggest obstacle is generally overcoming a filibuster, which requires 60 votes.

I've heard a lot of talk from various points in time that "Nixon's Southern Strategy finally came to fruition." Could you explain a little bit about what the Southern Strategy was and when it did indeed "come to fruition"? A.B., Bristol, CT.

In the 1960s, particularly during the LBJ presidency, the Democrats embraced racial equality as a core tenet. The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were particularly significant, and all were passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by Johnson. As a consequence, the move of black voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, a process that began with the New Deal in the 1930s, sped up, such that 90% of black voters were casting their ballots for the blue team by 1968.

There were (and are) quite a few white folks, particularly in the South, who did not care to be in the same party as the black folks. Of course, they didn't particularly care to be in the party of Lincoln, either. For a while, that led to the emergence of several white supremacist third parties, including the Dixiecrats (1948) and the States' Rights Party (1968).

Nixon, who was as shrewd a political operator as they come, saw an opportunity in all of those essentially party-less white Southerners. However, the same Civil Rights movement that set those folks adrift had also made overt racism socially unacceptable in the rest of the country, particularly with the liberal/Northeastern wing of the GOP (aka, the "Rockefeller Republicans"). Tricky Dick proposed threading that needle by using dog whistles: Subtle enough to avoid offending the Rockefeller types, but clear enough that the racists would get the point. And so, Nixon talked about the importance of states' rights, Ronnie Reagan about "welfare queens," and the George H. W. Bush campaign about Willie Horton. All were expressions of the Southern Strategy.

This process played out over more than a generation, but if we have to pick a date where it "came to fruition," we would say the election of 2000. The two presidential elections previous were the last time a Democrat (i.e., Bill Clinton) attracted a majority of white, Southern votes. In 2000, however, the Southerner Al Gore lost every Southern state, including his home state of Tennessee (unless you count Maryland as a Southern state, which we do not). It was around that time that the last remaining Southern Democratic officeholders flipped their registration (for example, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, who jumped ship in 1994).

How would you see the cards falling if Mueller were to find irrefutable evidence that Russians actively assisted Trump during the election and that the assistance likely resulted in the win (e.g. tampering with electronic voting results or other hard assistance)? In particular, I'm curious about how Pence would play into the proceedings since he would ostensibly also be enjoying his position as a result of the meddling. Would a single impeachment proceeding go after the whole ticket, or would Congress need to impeach/convict both individually before we would end up with the Speaker of the House as the next President? C. v. W., Gaithersburg, MD.

If this was the exact scenario, then it is improbable there would be an impeachment, much less a conviction. Russian interference might have tainted the results, but that does not make Donald Trump or Mike Pence guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, which is the basis for an impeachment proceeding.

It is possible that a very ethical president (say, Jimmy Carter or Dwight Eisenhower) might recognize his own illegitimacy, and that of his running mate, and would try to work the system to secure the "legitimate" result. Keeping in mind that the Speaker of the House is third in the line of succession, and that one does not need to be a member of the House to be Speaker, then the way to "work the system" would be to have the House elect Hillary Clinton speaker, then for the President and Vice President to resign immediately thereafter. However, expecting Trump to do the ethical thing is...unwise, shall we say.

Now, let us imagine that Mueller's report comes back and, instead of merely providing irrefutable proof of Russian interference, proves beyond all doubt that Team Trump colluded with Vlad Putin. Then, it would depend on whether Pence was clearly implicated. If he was not, then Trump would probably be impeached and convicted, and Pence would claim he knew nothing about the collusion and would ascend to the presidency. If the VP was also implicated, then Congressional Republicans would have to think long and hard about which thing they hate more: serious damage to the democracy, or President Pelosi (assuming the Democrats take the House and she is elected as Speaker again).

Note that the closest the U.S. ever came to having its system manipulated like this was 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was prepared to resign immediately after the election if he was defeated, so that Charles Evans Hughes could take over instantly, given the growing threat to the U.S. posed by World War I.

Say the Democrats were to win the House and Senate and President Trump were to decide that the GOP were the party of LOSERS and revert to being a Democrat. Could the Democrats stop him from calling himself a Democratic President? Reject his membership? What would happen then? B. S., Somerset, UK.

There is nothing the Democrats could do except say publicly, over and over, that Trump is not really a Democrat. If it was possible for the Party to deny or revoke membership, they certainly would have done so with the late Fred Phelps, the militant racist and anti-Semite of Westboro Baptist Church fame, who identified as a Democrat until his dying day.

If Trump was in Congress, then the blue team would have some power to shun him—for example, by denying him committee assignments. But he's not in Congress.

Can a person who lives in Puerto Rico run for president or vice president? For example, could Carmen Yulín Cruz run for either of those offices? S.B., Cambridge, MN.

That would be a question for the courts. As you know, only a "natural born citizen" can run for president. By the terms of the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917, Cruz was a U.S. citizen upon her birth, both by virtue of her place of birth and the fact that her parents were both citizens. The question is, does that make her "natural born"? Some legal scholars say "no," because Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, and so is not formally a part of the country.

Were Cruz to put the matter to the test, however, her lawyers would have some strong arguments on her behalf. First, there have been several presidential candidates who were born in similarly ambiguous locations, including Barry Goldwater (born in the Arizona territory, although that one was incorporated), John McCain (born in the Panama Canal Zone to military parents), and Al Gore (born in Washington, D.C.). The McCain parallel would seem to be the strongest, since the Panama Canal Zone had pretty much the exact same status when McCain was born that Puerto Rico does now.

The other argument Cruz' attorneys would make is that she has never been naturalized (i.e., no test or citizenship oath). If she was never naturalized, and yet is a citizen, that strongly implies she was natural born. In the end, this argument would have an excellent chance of carrying the day.

Does the change in behavior of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have anything to do with the death of his good friend (and semi-moderate) John McCain? It seems that since McCain is no longer in the Senate, Graham is becoming more pro-Trump. J.J.K., Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Only Graham knows for sure, but there is probably some truth in your thesis. Other contributing factors: (1) He's either auditioning for AG when Jeff Sessions is fired or else trying to forestall a challenge from the right when he runs for re-election in 2020; (2) He's one of the most shameless bandwagoners in Congress (which is definitely true), and has officially decided that the winds are blowing in Trump's direction; and (3) He's concluded that being very Trumpian will score him some patronage.

Though I dearly hope he wins, if the polls prove to be accurate, Beto O'Rourke will narrowly lose his Texas Senate race to Sen. Ted Cruz. Even so, Beto's inspiring campaign and his obvious charisma has voters like me wondering whether he has a bright political future in Texas or even nationally. Many people have compared Beto's meteoric rise to that of Barack Obama and Robert Kennedy. But Obama and RFK both won their earlier Senate races on the way to bigger and better things (well, in the case of RFK, it would have been bigger and better things if he had lived to crush Nixon in the 1968 presidential race). Are there any historical examples of extremely charismatic and galvanizing politicians like Beto who LOST their earlier races before being successful for higher office? I would hate to think of Beto as a "loser" or "damaged goods" with no future prospects as a result of his (presumed) loss to Cruz in still-red Texas, but what does history have to say? J.T.B., New York, NY.

You're right that Barack Obama and RFK both won elections before moving up to the big stage, but they were also both from solidly Democratic states. So, it's not entirely fair to compare O'Rourke to them.

And yes, there are many examples of politicians who went down to defeat in their first big election, only to come back and win the next one. Abraham Lincoln had his debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858, lost that election (for a U.S. Senate seat), and then was elected president two years later. FDR had just one term in the New York State Senate (and some time as Assistant Secretary of the Navy) under his belt when he was the VP candidate on the losing Cox-Roosevelt ticket in 1920. As you may have heard, he came back to win a big election or two. LBJ, who may not have been "extremely charismatic," but was certainly "galvanizing," lost his first Senate race due to chicanery by the other guy, and won the second one due to his own chicanery. Bill Clinton lost his first election (for the House of Representatives), and then went on to win five statewide elections (losing one in the middle of that run) and then two national elections. In short, it's probably more common for a politician to lose one or two big elections on the way up the ladder, and then to use the lessons and name recognition from the losses to secure victory the next time around, than it is for someone to move up the ladder without any major reverses.

Today's Senate Polls

That Arizona race is probably going to be the last one to be called, given how close it is, and given that it's in the West. If that's the seat that determines control of the Senate, a lot of people are going to stay up late. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema 48% Martha McSally 49% Nov 02 Nov 03 OH Predictive Insights
Minnesota Amy Klobuchar* 57% Jim Newberger 34% Oct 29 Oct 31 SurveyUSA
Minnesota special Tina Smith* 48% Karin Housley 40% Oct 29 Oct 31 SurveyUSA
New York Kirsten Gillibrand* 58% Chele Farley 35% Oct 28 Nov 01 Siena Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov04 EPA: "Yes, Sir!"; Pentagon: "No, Thanks."
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Nov03 Trump Defends Willie Horton-Style Ad
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Nov03 Judge Rules that "Exact Match" Rules in Georgia Do Not Apply in the Midterms
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Nov01 Thursday Q & A
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