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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:

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. Johnathan V. Last, writing for the right-leaning but anti-Trump The Bulwark thinks it 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:

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 coule 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 iten 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 (a.k.a. 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? And are the Trumpers unfamiliar with what happened to the original "king of kings"? Though we must concede, there would be a lot of people who would pay good money to see something like this:

Donald Trump's head on Jesus'
body, on the cross

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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