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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Notes on the State of Virginia
      •  No Garden State Stomp
      •  Meanwhile, Here's What the Rest of the Country Decided
      •  Trump 2024 Is Right on Track
      •  A Tempest in a Vaxxpot
      •  JFK Jr. Is Still Dead

Notes on the State of Virginia

Three months ago, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D) was a strong favorite to defeat Glenn Youngkin (R) and regain his old job. However, Youngkin ran a very effective (if rather dishonest) campaign, and consistently made up ground as the election heated up. But did he gain enough ground? Yes, he did. With more than 95% of the votes in, all the major media outlets projected Youngkin as the winner in the contest, taking 51% of the vote to McAuliffe's 48.3% (with 0.7% for Princess Blanding). McAuliffe did not concede last night, but he will presumably do so sometime early today.

Get ready for a slew of "gloom-and-doom for the Democrats" thought pieces. We continue to caution against reading too much into this result, for a variety of reasons:

  • McAuliffe: McAuliffe is the prototype bland, unexciting, establishment candidate. Few people loathe him. Even fewer love him. He is a centrist's centrist, a compromiser's compromise candidate, and a ho-hummer's ho-hum selection. In his successful 2013 campaign, he got 47.8% of the vote, or about 0.5% less than he got this year. It sure looks like approximately 48% is his level, and he wins when a third-party candidate siphons off some votes from the Republican (as happened in 2013, but not this year).

  • The Clintons: McAuliffe is intimately associated with the Clintons, who are currently pretty toxic. This angle didn't get a lot of coverage during this campaign, but surely there must have been some Youngkin voters who are really anti-Clinton voters.

  • Virginia Is Not That Blue: Yes, the Old Dominion State has gone for the Democratic candidate in the last several elections, but it did go for George W. Bush twice, it had a Republican U.S. Senator as recently as 2009, a Republican governor as recently as 2014, and Republican control of both chambers of the legislature as recently as 2020.

  • An Off-Year Election: We've said it a million times, and here is instance #1,000,001: Off-year elections are strange creatures. It is true that the 2022 elections will also be off-year, but elections like the ones last night are really off-year.

  • The National Climate: Joe Biden's approval ratings are poor right now, gas prices are crazy, and the Democrats are in the midst of an ugly sausage-making process in Congress. Was this a huge anchor around McAuliffe's neck? We doubt it. Was it a medium-sized or small anchor around McAuliffe's neck? That seems more reasonable. And in an election decided by 2-3%, a medium-to-small anchor is all it takes to sink the ship.

As to the Virginia House of Delegates, there is little clarity as to which party will have control once the dust has settled. As of 12:01 ET Wednesday, 39 seats had been called for the Republicans, 38 for the Democrats, and 23 were still up in the air. In terms of other statewide offices, the Lieutenant Governorship and Attorney Generalship also went to the Republican candidates.

In any event, there was little good news for the Democrats in Virginia last night; we are just suggesting that the extent of the bad news should not be overstated. If the national climate is similar in 11 months—Congress blows it on the infrastructure bills, the economy has continued issues, Biden remains stuck in the low 40s, popularity-wise, then it's time to start thinking of Virginia as a portent of what is to come on Nov. 8, 2022. But for now, patience is called for. It's also possible that this will be the canary in the coal mine for Democratic voters, and that failure in Virginia will persuade many that they simply must get out and vote in 2022. Or, it might persuade Democratic candidates to avoid a "hammer Trump all day and all night" strategy.

An interesting question, which we also pointed out yesterday, is whether other Republicans will be able to replicate Youngkin's keep-Donald-Trump-at-arm's-length approach. Jonathan V. Last, writing for the right-leaning but anti-Trump The Bulwark, thinks they might not be. The reason is that Virginia Republicans realized they were at risk of being stuck with Amanda Chase, a fanatical Trumper who believes that women who don't carry guns are encouraging rapists, that the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd was "political" and "sick," that liberals are "trying to erase white history," and that Indigenous People's Day is part of an insidious plot to give American land back to the natives.

Concluding that Chase would not win the election, the Virginia GOP essentially cooked the rulebook to spare Youngkin a primary. Had that primary happened, then Youngkin probably would have lost. Even if he had won, it would have come after veering rightward, which would have made his general election strategy problematic. Needless to say, most state Republican organs are not going to rig the primaries like this.

Anyhow, regardless of what happens with the House of Delegates, Virginia is likely to have divided government until at least January 2024, because the state Senate has a 21-19 Democratic majority and the terms of the senators do not end until Jan. 8 of that year. One presumes gridlock will be in the offing. At very least, anyone concerned with electoral-vote-stealing chicanery can rest easy when it comes to Virginia, since the next state Senate—even if it's a Republican majority—will take office too late to try it. Plus, Youngkin doesn't seem to be too interested in Trump returning to power. (Z)

No Garden State Stomp

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) was supposed to win reelection easily over former state assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R). That did not happen. As of 12:01 ET Wednesday, the race was as tight as could be, with 1,157,546 votes (49.7%) for Ciattarelli and 1,154,440 votes (49.6%) for Murphy.

New Jersey is not known for leading the way when it comes to the competence of government officials, and things held true to form last night, as the media struggled to get clear information about which ballots had been counted and which had not. For example, in Bergen County, which is New Jersey's most populous with about 955,000 people, one official said that all the mail-in ballots had been counted while another said that none of them had been. Those are quite different answers. That said, it appears that across the state, there are a fair number of uncounted, Democratic-leaning mail ballots. So, the odds are that Murphy holds on to win another term. However, we won't know for certain until today at the earliest. Further, it's close enough that the loser is likely to ask for a recount (which is not automatic in New Jersey).

Because Murphy was considered a shoo-in, this race only got a tiny fraction of the coverage that Virginia did, and so we're not clear what went wrong for him (or why the polls were apparently off target). These are questions that will get much attention in the next week, we are sure. Though if there is a result that is worrisome for the Democrats, it's this one, and not the Terry McAuliffe loss. Murphy didn't have nearly the baggage that McAuliffe has in terms of being bland, associated with the Clintons, etc.

It could be very simple—that, under current circumstances, there is a "throw the bums out" mentality nationwide. Since the Democrats hold the trifecta in Washington, that could be bad news for them if the sentiment holds. However, a year is a long time, and it might not hold. Further, while there will be 222 Democratic-held House seats up next year, there will also be 213 Republican-held seats up. Meanwhile, on the Senate side of things, there will be 20 Republicans up versus only 14 Democrats. So, it's at least possible that "throw the bums out" could affect Republican members of Congress almost as heavily as it does Democrats. (Z)

Meanwhile, Here's What the Rest of the Country Decided

Beyond the two gubernatorial elections, there were a number of other interesting contests across the country. Here's where they stand as of 12:01 ET Wednesday:

  • U.S. House, Florida: One thing is now clear in the race for FL-20, the D+31 seat that Rep. Alcee Hastings vacated when he died: Republican Jason Mariner has won the right to get slaughtered in the runoff election, with 57.8% of the vote compared to 42.2% for runner-up Greg Musselwhite. What is not clear is which Democrat will do the slaughtering, as the more moderate former Broward County commissioner and mayor Dale V.C. Holness led the more progressive, self-funding, politically inexperienced Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick by just nine votes when counting stopped for the evening. Even once the absentee ballots are counted, this one will go to a recount, per the terms of state law.

  • U.S. House, Ohio: Mike Carey (R), a former coal lobbyist, does not have any experience in elective office. However, he did have Donald Trump's endorsement, which was enough for him to win the special primary. And then, the fact that OH-15—which was vacated by Rep. Steve Stivers (R)—is very red did the rest. Carey defeated state Rep. Allison Russo (D), 58.3% to 41.7%. This is precisely the sort of election where Trump can play kingmaker.

  • U.S. House, Ohio: Like OH-15, OH-11 was vacated by its representative, Marcia Fudge (D), who decided to become Joe Biden's HUD Secretary. Unlike OH-15, OH-11 is very blue. So, it is no surprise that Democrat Shontel Brown won in a walk over Republican Laverne Gore, 78.8% to 21.1%.

  • Mayor, Atlanta: Current mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms decided she did not want another term, and so will go from possible VP candidate to "out of politics" in just under two years. There is going to be a runoff for the right to replace Bottoms, and one of the candidates on the ballot will be current City Council president Felicia Moore, who claimed 40.8% of the vote yesterday. It is not yet known whom she will face, as Councilman Andre Dickens had a lead of less than 600 votes over former mayor Kasim Reed. There will be a recount before the results are official. Note, incidentally, that all people named in this capsule are Democrats, even though they are officially "nonpartisan."

  • Mayor, Boston: Michelle Wu (D) became the first woman and the first minority candidate to be elected mayor of Boston (though current acting mayor Kim Janey, who assumed the position when Marty Walsh resigned to become Secretary of Labor, is also a woman and a minority). Though the election was expected to be close, the more progressive Wu won in a landslide, taking 63.6% of the vote compared to 36.4% for Annissa Essaibi George (D).

  • Mayor, Buffalo: Mayor Byron Brown (D), who is Black and a moderate, was primaried by Democratic Socialist India Walton. He wanted a fifth term nonetheless, and so mounted a write-in campaign. It seems to have worked. Although Buffalo will not examine the write-in ballots until Nov. 17, 59% of the votes received were write-ins, while only 41% were for Walton. The assumption here is that the bulk of the write-ins were for Brown, whose name is presumably easier for voters to remember than:

    Sign with Mur plus a cow plus a single ski, used
during Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign

  • Mayor, Cincinnati: Baby, if you've ever wondered, wondered whatever became of former mayor David Mann (nonpartisan, but D)...the answer is that after serving terms in the early 1980s and early 1990s, he will not be serving a term in the early 2020s. He was crushed by young progressive newcomer Aftab Pureval (also nonpartisan, but D), 66% to 34%. The Queen City was one of the few big success stories for progressives on Tuesday.

  • Mayor, Cleveland: This was another among the few places where the more progressive candidate beat the more moderate candidate, as young, Black, liberal outsider Justin Bibb (nonpartisan, but really D) easily defeated older, white, more moderate Kevin Kelley (also a "nonpartisan" D), who had the endorsement of outgoing four-term mayor Frank G. Jackson (yet another "nonpartisan" D). The final tally was 63%-37%.

  • Mayor, Detroit: Incumbent moderate Mike Duggan (nonpartisan, but really a Democrat) got 72% of the vote in the primary, compared to 10% for progressive former deputy mayor Anthony Adams (also a "nonpartisan" Democrat). The good news for Adams is that he improved his total. The bad news for Adams is that Duggan did, too. The result was a blowout, with Duggan winning a third term, 75.7% to 24.3%.

  • Mayor, New York: In probably the least surprising result of the night, moderate former cop and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams (D) wiped the floor with Curtis Sli-whatshisname (R), 66.5% to 28.8%.

  • Mayor, Miami: Mayor Francis Suarez (R) is very popular, and was expected to win reelection in a walk. He did, claiming 79% of the vote. Among his four challengers, the best showing was 11% for Democrat Max Martinez. In case you are wondering why a large city in a purple state is giving landslides to a Republican, it is because the #1 thing that matters for a Miami mayor these days is not the (R) or (D) next to their name, but whether or not they are Cuban-American. Suarez is the fifth Cuban-American mayor in a row for the city, a streak that began in the 1990s with, interestingly enough, his father Xavier Suárez. That Xavier was elected as a Democrat and used the accented "a" in his name, while Francis was elected as a Republican and does not use the accented "a," may speak to changes in the Cuban-American community over the last 25 years.

  • Mayor, Minneapolis: Incumbent Jacob Frey (DFL) has a big lead over his 16 challengers, with 42.8% of the vote. Next on the list are two progressives, Sheila Nezhad (DFL, 21.1%) and Kate Knuth (DFL, 18.4%). Minneapolis uses ranked-choice voting, so the numbers won't be run for a few days. Frey's likely to keep his job, though it's not certain yet.

    Also, ballot Question 2, which would have caused the city's police department to be replaced by a public safety department, was rejected, 56% to 44%.

  • Mayor, Pittsburgh: As expected, Pittsburgh got its first Black mayor, with Ed Gainey (D) trouncing political newbie Tony Moreno, 71% to 29%. Now all the city needs to do is find a new quarterback.

  • Mayor, Seattle: Former Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell (officially nonpartisan, but a Democrat) easily defeated current council President Lorena González (also officially nonpartisan, but a Democrat), 65% to 35%. González ran on a "defund the police" platform; Harrell argued that was taking things too far.

There is still much to be sorted out, but we detect some themes running through the night's results. First, outside of a handful of mayoral races (Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, etc.), voters largely preferred moderate candidates. That was true even in some very liberal cities, like Seattle. More significantly, everywhere that voters were asked to use their votes to support defunding the police, they said, "No, thanks!" Based on exit polling, it appears to be older voters, particularly older Black voters, who think that is too much. In any event, if Minneapolis and Seattle aren't interested in the notion, then what city or state plausibly could be? This suggests that it is time for progressives to change their tack (or, at least, their messaging).

Meanwhile, results in some contests are still pending, but thus far no major incumbent has been cast out of office. Some of them chose to retire, and others may still go down to defeat, but maybe the "throw the bums out" sentiment we discuss in the previous item only extends to others' bums and not "our" bums. That is often the case, which is why Congress has an approval rating in the tens or twenties, and yet members tend to get reelected at a 90% clip. (Z)

Trump 2024 Is Right on Track

If it was November 2023, instead of November 2021, and it was time for Donald Trump to fish or cut bait, then he would definitely be able to fish, if that is what he wanted to do. A new poll conducted by Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll, and published by The Hill makes clear that he's still lapping the Republican field. The former president is the preferred GOP candidate for 47% of registered Republicans and independents, as compared to 10% who prefer Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), 9% who like former VP Mike Pence, and all other candidates lagging Pence. In addition, 19% of respondents said they are "unsure."

Meanwhile, the betting markets not only have Trump as the favorite to win the Republican nod, they now have him as the favorite to win the 2024 election. For example, over at PredictIt, "shares" of Trump 2024 are selling for 28 cents. In comparison, "shares" of Biden 2024 are selling for 24 cents. Based on the odds being offered for other candidates, that works out to a 35% chance of a Trump presidency and a 31% chance of a Biden reelection. To take another example, BetOnline has Trump at +225 to be elected in 2024 and Biden at +400. That works out to roughly 31% for Trump and 20% for Biden.

Please be clear that this means almost nothing in terms of the actual presidential election. 2024 is a long time from now, and it's not at all clear that Trump will be running (he could bow out, he could pass away). Further, the fact that Biden has dipped below Trump appears to be more a (temporary?) loss of faith in the current president, or possibly a belief that he's too old to run for a second term. At most books, while Trump outpaces Biden for the 2024 presidential election, people are still betting more heavily on the Democratic Party to hold the White House than on the Republican Party to retake it.

The reason we pass this along is that it just reiterates that Trump is bulletproof. There is nothing he can do that will shake his support among his base, even encouraging an insurrection. Nixon's political career was as dead as JFK Jr. (see below) after Watergate; Trump did much worse than Nixon and his is thriving.

At this point, it would appear there are only two ways that Trump's hold over the Republican Party is broken. The first is that he dies. And the second is that it slowly slips away, bit by bit, as more and more Republicans (e.g., Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin) keep their distance, and some of Trump's supporters die (old age, COVID, etc.), and the lack of media exposure causes some cultists to forget or to lose interest. The former president is already off of social media, of course, and—interestingly—he is getting reduced attention on Fox. On the other hand, we were persuaded for a long time that if Trump went to prison, that would hurt him with the base. Now, that assumption appears to be dubious, at best. (Z)

A Tempest in a Vaxxpot

New York City mandated that all city employees, excepting those who applied for and received exemptions, were required to be vaccinated by last Friday. The leaders of the city's five police unions engaged in much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, warning that up to 10,000 officers might refuse and be suspended, thus turning the city into a playground for criminals (imagine the worst scenes from the "Batman" movies). As it turns out, that estimate was a wee bit high. As it turns out, the number of officers who have thus far been suspended for vaccine refusal is...34.

Slowly but surely, vaccine resistance is becoming impractical for most people, particularly as the Biden administration prepares to issue new, more expansive vaccination requirements that decree that any workplace with more than 100 employees must require the shot and/or frequent testing. Being unvaccinated is going to become similar to something like having leprosy. Maybe it works out OK if you live in a leper colony like Florida, but it's going to limit your job options, not to mention your ability to travel on planes and boats, and your ability to visit certain kinds of venues, and possibly your ability to get health insurance. It's one thing to accept the loss of one's job, but another thing to permanently damage one's ability to be a functional member of society. It would appear that approximately 9,966 NYC cops thought it over and reached a very similar conclusion. (Z)

JFK Jr. Is Still Dead

Move over Generalissimo Francisco Franco, because it turns out that John F. Kennedy, Jr. is also still dead.

Why do we mention this "news," inasmuch as the junior Kennedy died in a plane crash more than two decades ago? Well, some segment of the QAnon folks believed strongly that he was still alive (and presumably hanging out with Elvis Presley). Not only that, but they also believed that he was going to make his triumphant return yesterday, and was going to reinstate Donald Trump as president. Then, Trump was expected to step down and make JFK Jr. president, and to assume a position as "king of kings." Fortunately, the latter position is currently vacant, inasmuch as Jesus of Nazareth is dead (or is he?). All of this drama was to take place in Dealey Plaza, which is of course the site where JFK Sr. was assassinated.

It is amazing that a person could believe any of this nonsense, much less the whole ball of wax. Why would JFK Jr. be a Trump supporter? Why would he choose the site of his dad's assassination for his return? What, exactly, does a "king of kings" do in the year 2021? And are the Trumpers unfamiliar with what happened to the original "king of kings"?

In any case, several hundred people showed up at Dealey yesterday, expecting to see their savior. We kind of gave away the ending in the opening paragraph but, in any case, neither JFK Jr. nor any other Kennedy showed themselves. Perhaps we should have put "spoiler alert!" at the start of this item.

We do not run this item to make fun of the QAnon folks, though that is certainly a bonus benefit. No, we run it to remind everyone how far gone some of these Trump supporters are. Logic doesn't matter, evidence doesn't matter, cognitive dissonance doesn't matter. Yes, it was only a few hundred people, but that's just the segment that was close enough to Dallas and that had time to make it to the Plaza. How many thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands do they represent? And this particular "theory" (if you can call it that), is just one branch of the Q phenomenon (the numerology branch, if you are interested). It helps shed light on why no amount of factual information about vaccines, or global warming, or what critical race theory really is, or any other subject is ever going to have an effect. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov02 The Story of 1/6 Just Keeps Getting Worse...
Nov02 ...While Anti-Democracy Views Are Taking Hold
Nov02 Today's the Day in Virginia...
Nov02 ...And in Other States, Of Course
Nov02 Supreme Court Hears Arguments about Texas Abortion Law
Nov01 The Virginia Election is Tomorrow
Nov01 Four Cities Will Choose New Mayors Tomorrow
Nov01 Will Minneapolis Kill the Police Department?
Nov01 Democrats Are Trying to Pass the Two Infrastructure Bills by Tomorrow
Nov01 Will Women Be Angry at the Democrats Due to Paid Leave Being Cut?
Nov01 Biden's Approval Sinks to 42%
Nov01 Adam Kinzinger Won't Seek Reelection
Nov01 Letitia James is Officially Running for Governor
Nov01 Many Jan. 6 Rioters Are Running for Public Office Now
Nov01 Missouri AG Files Suit Against Vaccine Mandate
Nov01 North Carolina Releases Its New House Map
Nov01 Susan Collins Casts Her 8,000th Vote in the Senate
Oct31 Sunday Mailbag
Oct30 Saturday Q&A
Oct29 Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Oct29 What Is Kyrsten Sinema Doing?
Oct29 Joe to Meet with Jorge
Oct29 This Week's 2022 Candidate News
Oct29 Fox Weather Channel Sloganeering, Part I
Oct29 This Week in Schadenfreude
Oct29 Back to the Back to the Future, Part XII: Other
Oct28 The Sausage Making Continues
Oct28 Former Trump Staffers Are Spilling the Beans
Oct28 McConnell Concedes and Endorses Herschel Walker
Oct28 Trump Endorsees Have Troubled Histories
Oct28 Biden Nominates and Senate Confirms Two Top Trump Targets
Oct28 Secretaries of State Targeted by Trump Are Scared to Death
Oct28 Top Washington Republican Election Official Joins Biden Administration
Oct28 Three New Gubernatorial Candidates Are In
Oct28 Is "Evangelical" Just a Synonym for "Republican"?
Oct27 The Democrats' Nightmare Situation?
Oct27 The Democrats' Dream Situation?
Oct27 Let's Go Brandon
Oct27 This Is How They Do It in Brazil
Oct27 Mort Sahl, 1927-2021
Oct27 Fox to Launch Weather Channel
Oct27 Back to the Back to the Future, Part XI: Domestic Affairs
Oct26 The Insurrection Will Soon Be Televised
Oct26 Some Presidents Get to Keep Their Secrets, Others Don't
Oct26 Democrats Go Boldly Where No Tax Has Gone Before
Oct26 The Facebook Papers Drop
Oct26 Biden Finally Gets His FCC House in Order
Oct26 Back to the Back to the Future, Part X: Foreign Affairs
Oct25 One of These Is Not Like the Other
Oct25 Biden Met with Manchin Again