This week, for obvious reasons, all questions and answers will be related to the election. There were three questions, in particular, that showed up over and over in the mailbag this week. Feel free to pause for a moment and guess what those questions might have been. We'll reveal which they were below.
R.C. in North Hollywood, CA, asks: Based on the poor performance of many pollsters in this and other recent elections, do you think polling is dead (or at least in crisis)? And will your site will continue to be polling-based?
V & Z answer: Yes, our site will continue to be polling-based. That would be true even if we agreed with your assessment, since imperfect information is better than no information. But, in fact, we don't agree. We actually think the pollsters did pretty well this cycle, assuming you toss out the partisan pollsters (which we always do) and the couple of houses that clearly adopted flawed models of the electorate. We have at least two items planned on this subject next week, one on how pollsters didn't blow it, and another on how the media did.
For now, look at our map from the day of the election. We had 50 seats going for the Republicans, 49 for the Democrats, and Georgia as a dead tie. If our speculation about Nevada (above) proves correct, then it will be the only state we had wrong (and even that one was in the "Barely GOP" category).
J.I. in Regina, SK, Canada, asks: This is a follow-up question to your brief mention of the polling question about the "direction the country is going." Is that question really of any use? Republican voters could easily answer that question "very dissatisfied because of Biden's policies" and Democrats could answer "very dissatisfied because of Trump's threat to democracy." Taken together, a pollster might get a result that there is high dissatisfaction in the direction the country is going, but by itself, it doesn't say anything about how dissatisfied voters will vote. Why do pollsters ask that question?
V & Z answer: Pollsters ask that question because it used to provide a meaningful clue as to how voters might cast their ballot. But, as we noted in the linked item, we think it might be time to retire (or at least re-word) that question. There is the problem that people who think that the country is going in the wrong direction might not agree what the new direction should be. There is the further problem that you can only vote for a new and better direction if you believe one is available on the ballot. The modern Republican Party spends a lot of time on culture wars stuff and a lot of time talking about how badly the Democrats are doing, but very little time talking about exactly what the GOP will do to make things better. Truth be told, we write about politics daily, and we cannot think of a single policy that Republicans are certain to pursue if they gain control of one or both chambers of Congress, other than investigations of Joe Biden and his family. Such investigations will do nothing about the price of gas or affordable housing, and it seems to us that many voters took note of that.
P.R. in Arvada, CO, asks: Before there is proper analysis done on the results of the midterm elections, I was wondering what your take was on the impact various factors had on the results. Do you think that vote splitting, vote skipping, voter suppression or gerrymandering had any impact on the results? If so, to what extent?
V & Z answer: We're not seeing obvious cases where voter suppression affected the results. As we've written many times, studies show that if people want to vote, they find a way to do so. And enthusiasm was clearly high this year. In the places that have adopted restrictive rules, the Democrats either won or else lost big. If Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) ultimately loses, then maybe we can attribute that to Georgia's new laws. But that is still in the future.
As to vote splitting and vote skipping, that was clearly a pretty significant dynamic this year relative to other years. The Republican Party put up a lot of extremists who leaned into the culture wars and said things antithetical to democracy, all while offering little in the way of substantive policy ideas (see above for more). Clearly, a lot of moderate Republicans, independents, and conservative Democrats who aren't too happy with the party of Biden right now felt they simply could not give their vote to a GOP nutter. Hence the several states where normal Republicans did considerably better than whackadoodle Republicans.
And the question about gerrymandering can't really be answered right now until we know how the House shakes out. Clearly, gerrymandering handed a few House seats to the Republican Party. If the Democrats hold on, then that will be a somewhat minor story. If the Democrats lose the House by just a few seats, it will be a major story.
A.M. in Santa Fe, NM, asks: Nate Cohn has offered an answer to the question of "Why Some States Went in Different Directions in Midterms." He writes: "Abortion rights and antidemocratic stances were more relevant or pressing in some places than others." Has the New York Times Nate has got this right?
If Cohn has nailed this one, then: (1) Democrats should sweep most competitive seats in California, where they voted on an abortion proposition; (2) Democrats should sweep most competitive seats in Arizona, ground zero for election denial and (3) Republicans may win the Senate and Governor races in Nevada.
V & Z answer: Cohn is right, we would say, but we're not sure it's all that profound an insight. Of course any given issue plays differently depending on the state. For example, Mary Peltola's (D) main issue in her Alaska campaigns has been... salmon fishing. Good luck building a campaign around that in, say, Chicago. Rick Caruso's (D?) main issue in his Los Angeles mayoral campaign has been... homelessness. Good luck building a campaign around that in, say, Butte.
As to your predictions, #2 and part of #3 have already come to pass. The Democrats will probably do very well once all the California House seats are resolved, but don't be counting on a sweep. Recall that the average California representative is voted on by more people than some U.S. Senators are. So, they have to be pretty politically savvy and pretty good at tailoring their message to a broad constituency. In other words, Republicans like Reps. David Valadao and Ken Calvert are not going to go all-in on banning abortion. So, they are going to get at least some votes from people who also voted in favor of California Proposition 1.
D.W. in Ensenada, BC, Mexico, asks: I've seen reports that young voters, 18-40 won the election for the blue team. Older voters voting more Republican. Can you guys check this out for accuracy?
V & Z answer: The numbers are still being crunched, and you never want to give any one group all the credit for how things turned out, but yes, it's fair to say that young voters rode to the rescue of the Democratic Party. Roughly 27% of people 18-29 voted, which is the second-highest figure for a midterm election in 30 years, behind only 2018. Clearly, the young folks are roused to action by Donald Trump.
Turnout in swing states among young voters was particularly high (31%), and across the country, they broke 60%-40% for the Democrats. This is the only age group, in fact, to break for the Democrats by greater than 55%. There were some races, in particular, where the impact of 18-29 voters was felt. For example, in Pennsylvania, they broke 70%-30% for Sen.-elect John Fetterman (D).
S.G. in Durham, NC, asks: Today you wrote several phrases like "the remaining 100,000 or so votes are mail-in..." You've probably answered this before, but how do states know these numbers? Are they based on how many mail-in ballots were requested? Is it possible a significant number might just never be returned, especially in states where everyone gets a ballot? It seems like that's an important part of the prediction game—do they publish stats on how many requested/mailed ballots actually get returned and when they do?
V & Z answer: Most states, but not all, do publish statistics on how many ballots were requested versus how many were returned. Of course, that only makes sense in states where you have to make a request, and not those where everyone gets a mail-in ballot automatically, like California, Oregon and Washington.
As to the projections, the people who crunch those numbers know what the general trendlines look like from past elections and can make pretty accurate projections based on that. So, to take a hypothetical example, the Secretary of State of California might know that however many ballots are received by Election Day, the state tends to get another 10% of that thereafter.
A.P. in Kitchener, ON, Canada, asks: Could you comment on how the races for those who are responsible for overseeing elections went? I'm particularly interested in not just the partisan split but how many election deniers are now either in the Secretary of State or Attorney General positions or in a position to appoint the person responsible for running the election and certifying the results.
V & Z answer: Election deniers did very poorly on Tuesday. Nearly all of the ones who were outspoken in their willingness to tinker with results, and who were running in a state where they might actually be able to do it, were defeated. That includes gubernatorial candidates Tudor Dixon (MI), Doug Mastriano (PA), Tim Michels (WI) and Mark Ronchetti (NM) and secretary of state candidates Mark Finchem (AZ), Kristina Karamo (MI) and, in a call made late Friday night, Jim Marchant (NV).
That's not to say there's nothing to worry about, though. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is an election-denier, and though it's probably only lip service when it comes to Trump 2020, he's absolutely the kind of man who would engage in dirty tricks to help himself. Diego Morales (R) is an election denier, and he's now Indiana's secretary of state. Kari Lake in Arizona is an election denier, if she pulls out the win over Katie Hobbs. And at least a dozen serious election deniers were elected to the House of Representatives, though most of them were already there, so it's not like the math has changed much.
D.T. in San Jose, CA, asks: What are the rules for winning the vote for Speaker of the House? Does it require a majority of the seats in the chamber, or only a majority of the votes cast?
If a few seats were to remain vacant, due to extended recounts or legal battles (something like Coleman v. Frankin), what happens if nobody gets to 218?
V & Z answer: The rules do indeed say it's a majority of the votes cast. So, if some seats are unfilled, or if some members choose not to vote, it could take fewer than 218 votes to elect a Speaker.
H.R. in Pittsburgh, PA, asks: A question has been bugging me that I hope you guys can answer: If, as predicted, the Republicans gain a House majority with between 2-4 seats (219-221), what happens if the GOP cannot coalesce around one individual? I have heard it said that there will be a GOP vote-a-rama that continues until someone gets to 218.
What if they end up with 218 or 219 members in the House, and no single person can get 218 GOP House votes after hundreds of rounds? Then what?
I cannot see anyone with the appeal, let alone the savvy (looking at you Kevin McCarthy, R-CA), to unite the completely malignant GOP whackadoodles and the less crazy but still malign GOP whackadoodles to back him or her (including the feckless Elise Stefanik, R-NY).
Can you please put on your Sorting Hats and tell me how the next incarnation of Salazar Slytherin will be anointed?
V & Z answer: This was the second-most-asked question this week.
The vote for the Speaker must be a roll-call vote, which means long and boring. And the House basically can't do anything else until the matter is resolved. So, there is enormous pressure on the members to figure something out.
That said, if the various factions dig their heels in, there could be weeks or months of gridlock (and possibly at a time when key budgetary decisions need to be voted on). Here's a name you might hear a lot of in the next few months, depending on how things unfold: Nathaniel P. Banks. When the 34th Congress took its seats in December 1855, the Whig Party had collapsed but the Republican Party hadn't quite coalesced. And so, there 82 Democratic members, 51 Know-Nothing members, and 96 Opposition members. Most of the folks in those latter two groups would end up in the Republican Party, but they weren't there yet.
Anyhow, each of the factions wanted one of their own to be the Speaker, but none had a majority. And so, the House voted roughly 3 times a day for nearly 2 months. Finally, after a staggering 133 ballots, everyone agreed to make Banks, who was a Know-Nothing, the Speaker. Basically, the Oppositioners decided that it was enough of a win if the Speaker wasn't a Democrat and the Democrats decided that it was enough of a win if the Speaker wasn't an Oppositioner. That process finally produced a result on Feb. 2, 1856, meaning the House was Speaker-less from Dec. 3 to Feb. 2.
We'll also note one other name you might want to know: John W. McCormack. When Speaker Sam Rayburn died suddenly on Nov. 16, 1961, the House didn't feel it had the time for a full-fledged leadership contest. So, it was agreed that McCormack would be the acting Speaker for a while, just so business could be conducted. McCormack was eventually elected Speaker in his own right on Jan. 10, 1962. The lesson here: An acting Speaker is a possibility.
So, our prediction, boring as it is, is that the pressures of the situation will force the Republicans, assuming they are in the majority, to figure something out pretty quickly. But if they can't, then anything is possible.
C.L. in Boulder, CO, asks: Any chance that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) would be made Speaker of the House? She is certainly qualified and the entire House chooses the Speaker, not just the Republican members. Assuming that the Republicans get a bare majority, that some Republicans actually want to govern and not just investigate Hunter Biden, and that Cheney would win all the Democrats' votes if the contest were between her and McCarthy, I've got to think Speaker Cheney is a real possibility despite her being an outcast among Republicans.
V & Z answer: This was the most-asked question this week.
Per the above answer, if the House just can't settle on someone, anything is possible. That includes picking someone as an "acting" Speaker and also looking outside the House for someone. The latter has never happened before but, as readers of this site know, the Constitution doesn't actually require the Speaker to be a sitting member of the House.
That said, we think that choosing a non-member is a longshot, at best. It is much more likely that if a compromise Speaker is needed, the members will look within Congress, and will pick someone like Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), who is chair of the moderate Republican Governance Group. If they did look outside the House, Liz Cheney is just too toxic for many Republican voters, and thus for many Republican members. Our guess is that they would probably go for someone who has experience in the job and would take it on a temporary basis, like John Boehner. Or that they would choose someone who is fairly popular with Republicans and who would be a clear placeholder, like former representative J.C. Watts.
L.E. in Putnam County, NY, asks: Is there any chance that, if the notional Republican majority in the House is sufficiently razor-thin, Kevin McCarthy's making promises to the MAGAt wing will wind up antagonize the unTrumpiest handful of Republicans into doing a Jim Jeffords and jumping to the Democratic caucus?
V & Z answer: This is unlikely. Switching parties is generally a career-killer, as the voters in the new party see the person as a phony and voters in the old party see the person as a traitor. This is especially true in the current, highly polarized environment.
If it did happen, it would probably require two conditions to be met. First, the House would have to be so closely divided that the defector(s) would change the balance of power, and would be able to demand a king's ransom in pork in exchange for their flip. Second, the defector(s) would have to be planning to retire anyhow, or else would have to come from a district where Democrats otherwise have no hope, and where they, and some independents/moderate Republicans, might be willing to vote for a pseudo-Democrat who might win over a real Democrat who can't win.
R.M. in Pensacola, FL, asks: With House races still being decided, and the possibility of control of the chamber coming down to 218/217 or even 219/216 in favor of either party, clearly the party that comes out on top will have a very slim majority to work with.
However, there are often vacancies in the house and frequently multiple vacancies at the same time. What is a 218/217 Democratic control today, could be a 217/216 Republican control with a resignation and death tomorrow.
What would this mean for the speakership and chairs of the various committees, let alone the overall direction of the House, if who controls the chamber changes every few months because of vacancies and the time required for a special election to fill the vacancy?
V & Z answer: This is a very real consideration. If things are truly close, that might cause members to think twice about resigning mid-term. However, it is a rare sitting of Congress where at least one House member doesn't die. In fact, it's only happened once this century; the 109th Congress (2005-07) did not lose any members, although Bob Matsui (D-CA) died two days before that Congress commenced and Charlie Norwood (R-GA) died 5 weeks after it dissolved. And the current Congress has already had six members die, two Democrats (John Lewis and Alcee Hastings) and four Republicans (Ron Wright, Jim Hagedorn, Don Young and Jackie Walorski).
Anyhow, when things are this close, the parties sometimes work out a compromise wherein the minority gets extra privileges (usually, extra committee seats) in exchange for not insisting on new leadership votes when there is a change in membership. However, that also tends to happen when the parties get along (which they don't right now) and when the impact of the change in membership is temporary (which might not be the case here). So, it is indeed possible that if a party goes from being in the majority by one to being in the minority by one, there could be a change in Speakers, even if only for a few months. After all, if a particular party could be running the House, and chooses not to seize that opportunity, that party's voters would be furious.
M.L. in New York City, NY, asks: It looks likely that the Republicans will win the House by one or two seats. Is it possible that New York, with a new chief justice installed soon, could redistrict before 2024 and gain a few House seats? Didn't Texas do redistricting at a random time once? With the Democrats potentially gaining a seat in the U.S. Senate, it is a shame that they won't be able to control the House and pass bills. Any chance Joe Biden could nominate some Republican congressperson for the cabinet or ambassador to some places nice or important?
V & Z answer: The Constitution requires a minimum of one redistricting per 10 years, but does not impose a maximum. So, a state is free to re-district multiple times based on the same census, and Texas has indeed done so. However, once a member of Congress is seated, they can only be unseated by Congress. So, if New York changes its maps, it would only affect the next House delegation to be elected (i.e., serving 2025-27), not the one that was just elected (i.e., serving 2023-25).
And Joe Biden certainly can hold out a giant carrot in hopes of getting a Republican member to resign. But that Republican would likely be very leery to do so if it was going to cost the GOP the House. Further, it would have to be just the right Republican, since a special election would be called, and a vacancy in an R+7 district would just result in another Republican being elected.
T.J.R. in Metuchen, NJ, asks: Given that: (1) Mark Kelly, a so-called moderate Democrat, barely won against a far-right-wing whack job; (2) Katie Hobbs looks like she will barely win against a far-right-wing whack job; (3) Kyrsten Sinema is a so-called moderate Democrat who has won statewide and (4) Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is more liberal than 75% of the Democrats in the House, does it follow that Sinema has a better chance to win election (if she survives the primary, which is unlikely, since Democrats hate her) than Gallego?
Arizona seems to be a state where Democrats can and do win, but it is not a lead pipe cinch.
V & Z answer: There tends to be an assumption that in states where elections are often close, voters are roughly equally distributed across the political spectrum. This is not always the case, however.
In Arizona, there is a fairly sizable far-right element that would be right at home in Alabama or Mississippi. These are the folks who see to it that whackadoodle types like Kari Lake get nominated.
However, there is also a somewhat sizable progressive element, as well as a sizable loyal moderate Democratic element. Clearly, these groups are enough to win a lot of elections if they stay together. Democrats also benefit if they pull votes from the Republicans by running a moderate and/or someone who is not crazy. However, running a Latino could also have that effect, either by flipping some of those votes, or by getting Mexican Americans to the polls who would otherwise not vote.
In short, Democrats in Arizona aren't winning elections solely because the Republicans keep putting up stinky candidates. They are also winning because they have a majority or a near-majority and have had good luck finding candidates with some crossover appeal. And so, Gallego is certainly electable there; very possibly more so than Sinema. Remember, she was seen as a progressive when she first ran, even if that turned out not to be true.
J.M. in San Jose, CA, asks: Can people vote for someone other than Herschel Walker (R) or Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff? Is a write-in allowed?
V & Z answer: The Georgia elections code says: "No person shall be eligible as a write-in candidate in a special or general primary, a special or general primary runoff, or in a special or general election runoff." In other words, although write-ins were legal on Tuesday, they are not legal on December 6.
D.E. in Austin, TX, asks: So now I'm getting emails from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) asking for money for Warnock and, less obviously, Schiff—heavily worded like it's for Warnock. The small print says "if you've saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your split donation to Raphael Warnock and Adam Schiff will go through immediately."
So, is he engaged in the same kind of milking shenanigans that Trump was doing? How would one know? I will give for Georgia but not for Schiff. Why is he doing this kind of thing? How does one know what kind of a split it even is?
V & Z answer: This is not an uncommon arrangement. Politician 1 allows Politician 2 to use Politician 1's name and mailing list, and in exchange Politician 1 gets to wet their beak a little. We doubt that Schiff is behaving in a manner as exploitative as Trump (i.e., 99 for me, 1 for you); it's probably 50/50, as that is the default on ActBlue. We don't know for sure, because we did not get the solicitation, but they do have to make it clear before you commit to the donation. Sometimes it's in the fine print, but usually, at least with people not named Trump, it's more up front. We did find the Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)/Warnock pitch and, as you can see, the details about the split are right there at the top right:
If you really want to make sure your money goes 100% to Warnock, that is easy enough, just click here. And if you want to donate to Herschel Walker and make sure Donald Trump doesn't get any, click here.
J.C. in Northbrook, IL, asks: Would a contribution to one if the Georgia run-off candidates make sense? I assume both candidates are swimming in cash and that every minute of ad space is purchased (and that more wouldn't help anyway).
V & Z answer: The candidates and parties know that ads are now largely beside the point. What will decide this election is ground game, particularly get-out-the-vote operations. That's why the DSCC has already committed $7 million to ground-game spending in the Peach State; undoubtedly more is coming.
So, your money actually will do some good, because it's largely not going to spent on pointless ads.
S.C. in Jonesville, MI , asks: How do you think the Georgia Senate race would have turned out if ranked-choice voting was in place in the Peach State?
V & Z answer: Well, Libertarians are, more often than not, closet Republicans. That said, the Democrats are much more in line with the Libertarians on abortion and drug laws. So, while some Libertarians would have gone for Walker, and some would have refused to name a second choice, it is likely that Warnock would have gotten the small fraction of them he needed to get over the 50% hump.
R.S. in San Mateo, CA, asks: What are your thoughts about how Chase Oliver's (L) vote will split in the Georgia runoff? It seems like a Libertarian vote is more often cast as a Republican protest vote. So does Walker have the advantage here, as those voters resign themselves to their only perceived option? Or will they sit it out as further protest?
V & Z answer: This was the third-most-asked question this week.
As we note above, Oliver voters are more likely to be closet Republicans than closet Democrats. However, many of them will sit the special election out, either because they don't have a candidate anymore or because people in general are less likely to show up for special elections. And even if half of them (around 40,000 people) do show up for the second round, their impact will not be nearly as important as which party does the best job of getting its voters to the polls. And that is a dynamic that, in turn, will be affected a lot by the outcome in the Nevada Senate race and by what happens with the House.
R.S. in San Mateo, CA, asks: You've often discussed how AG Merrick Garland is likely delaying a potential indictment against TFG until after the midterms. How do you think the Georgia runoff would influence that?
V & Z answer: The question that Garland has to ask himself is: "Would an indictment potentially affect the Georgia runoff?" And the answer is clearly "yes;" Herschel Walker could most certainly make that his central campaign plank, and could declare "You must elect me to the Senate so I can fight back against these deep-state persecutions of Republicans!"
So, we would say Garland has no choice but to wait until Dec. 7, at the earliest. That would also be consistent with DOJ guidelines that say that such decisions should not be announced within 90 days of an election.
R.D. in Austin, TX, asks: I have so many different questions on different fronts. But given how Donald Trump has acted this week, I am still convinced he will run. The question is, will he announce Tuesday night that he is running on a GOP platform, or, does he run as an independent?
V & Z answer: We don't think he would run as an independent at the outset, but could he take that plunge at some point? Maybe.
Trump hates to lose. He almost certainly can't be elected as president again, and he might not even be able to get renominated by the Republicans at this point. The former would be embarrassing and the latter would be truly humiliating. If The Donald ran as an independent, with a stated goal of taking down Ron DeSanctimonious, then he could: (1) continue raising money, (2) continue holding rallies and (3) "win," since such a move would divide the GOP and would almost certainly result in a defeat for the Republican governor.
T.C. in Miami Beach, FL, asks: Florida has a resign-to-run law (i.e., a sitting mayor with eyes on a open congressional seat must resign the mayoralty in order to run for Congress). Would this apply to Ron DeSantis if he chooses to run for president?
V & Z answer: Florida's resign-to-run law only applies to state and municipal offices. So, a mayor has to resign in order to run for governor, but not to run for Congress.
That means the law would have no effect on a DeSantis presidential run. And even if it did, the state legislature lives in his pocket, and he'd just make them change the law. The Texas legislature did the same thing for Lyndon Johnson in 1960, changing Texas law so he could simultaneously run for the U.S. Senate (again) and for vice president.
R.D. in Philadelphia, PA, asks: There has been a lot of talk about the Miami-Dade area in Florida swinging to the Republicans when the area was strongly Democratic for the two Obama elections and even for Hillary Clinton's election. Is there a particular issue which has changed the dynamic of the county in such a drastic way? It seems important, since it seems Florida is becoming redder each election cycle.
V & Z answer: Preliminarily, it looks like Cuban voters broke very strongly for the Republicans this time. Maybe that was because a Cuban (Sen. Marco Rubio, R) was on the ballot statewide. Maybe it's because Ron DeSantis appeals to Cuban voters for some of the same reasons that Donald Trump appeals to Cuban voters (anti-socialist rhetoric, aggressive masculinity, etc.). Maybe that was because Charlie Crist and Val Demings just did not connect with the Cuban population.
We'll be watching for reports/analyses from people more dialed in to Florida politics than we are. That said, we wouldn't want to draw too many conclusions based on one election. Maybe it was a fluke.
D.E. in Lancaster, PA, asks: Do you think this humiliating defeat for the GOP, especially because they were so cocksure of the Red Tsunami, will lead to the party engaging in some real self-reflection and amending of their fascist tendencies? Or will we see, after a few days of vicious finger-pointing, a typical fallback to position that the reason why they lost this election is that they weren't hardline right-wing enough and that the way forward is to move further right?
V & Z answer: Oh, the folks who run the Party will probably take a careful look at things. But there isn't much a Ronna Romney McDaniel or a Mitch McConnell can do if the rank-and-file voters don't think the Party has a problem. After all, the Republicans did an autopsy after Mitt Romney's loss in 2012, concluding that there was a need to be more centrist, at risk of becoming a permanent minority party. And what happened next? Donald Trump.
M.G. in Boulder, CO, asks: It seems to me that it was during the Bush/Cheney campaign/administration that hate and fear became widely used as political weapons, and that this has become increasingly common during the last 8 years. Is there any way we can turn this around? The Civil War was a worse situation from which we eventually more or less recovered. Can we learn from that experience?
V & Z answer: Hate and fear are, by their nature, short-term plays. They work well as political tools for a few years, or maybe even a decade. But in the long term, it's hard to keep those emotions going, as you have to get more and more extreme until there's no further to go. It's also hard to keep those emotions from rebounding on those who first encouraged them, which is why people like Benito Mussolini end up strung up by their feet in a town square.
Knowing how the pattern works does not necessarily make it easy to shorten the duration of the extremist outburst. But it does allow the non-extremists to take solace in the fact that eventually the hateful and angry moment will burn itself out.
M.M. in Newbury Park, CA, asks: Is it time to start talking about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) as a potential presidential candidate?
V & Z answer: Maybe so. A moderate woman who has shown the ability to win in a swing state. That could be electoral magic.
We're planning an item later this week on potential 2024 Democratic presidential candidates, if Joe Biden decides to stand down. If readers have a proposed candidate, along with a brief explanation/justification, send it along and we will incorporate some of those into the piece.
J.T. in Greensboro, NC, asks: If a candidate like Tim Ryan is losing handily to a candidate like J.D. Vance it suggests to me that Ohio is—like Florida—lost to the Democrats for the foreseeable future.
At this point would it be fair to say that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is simply Ohio's answer to Joe Manchin: a Democrat who seems to possess a unique set of traits and skills that allows him to win against the grain in a state Democrats otherwise have no shot in?
V & Z answer: Maybe so. Certainly, if Brown decides to retire, it will be very unhappy news for the Democrats.
That said, let's not draw too many conclusions from Ryan's lack of success. We have spoken to a few people in Ohio, and the Representative ran a very right-wing campaign. To put a finer point on it, Ryan basically ran as a normal Republican, with the idea that normal Republicans, independents, and Democrats would all vote for him. It did not work, of course, in part because Ohio Democrats had few other races to get them to the polls, and many of them were not especially motivated to turn out for a Democrat who seems to disdain Democrats.
N.W. in Atlanta, GA, asks: First, is this the end of Beto O'Rourke and Stacey Abrams as high-level candidates going forward, or will we see them continue to be candidates in the next 4 years?
Secondly, what is the reasoning you think that the Democratic Party didn't spend more or invest more in the Ohio and Wisconsin Senate races? With the way the way the midterms turned out, both of those seemed like they could have been very winnable for the Democrats.
V & Z answer: If you want to work your way up the political ladder, you have to win, and Abrams and O'Rourke haven't, at least not recently. They could drop down a rung, and carve out a career in the House (or a second career in the House, in O'Rourke's case), and then maybe try again in 2030 or 2032. But they don't seem inclined to do that. So, if they have a future in politics, it's probably in non-elective office, like working for the DNC or for PACs or as executive-branch appointees.
As to the Democrats' spending, it's not enough that an election be a good investment. It has to be the best investment. Given how close Georgia and Nevada were, those were clearly the best places to spend money. And even then, the Democrats and their affiliated groups did spend $50 million in Wisconsin and about $30 million in Ohio. Maybe it would have been wise to increase that $50 million to $80 million, since it was close. That said, hindsight is 20/20 and, beyond that, there's only so much good you can do with money in a smaller state with not that many big media markets. And the Ohio money was arguably a waste, since Tim Ryan lost by 6 points.
J.L. in Los Angeles, CA, asks: Before Tuesday night, I was planning to ask you (rather irritably) whatever happened to that demographic shift to the left that was supposed to start slowly spreading across America? You've only been predicting it for the last decade or so: older conservatives dying off, more and younger voters living in larger cities, more women voting for the blue team, and some other long-term trends I can't remember at the moment. Then Donald Trump got elected. And despite the "slam-dunk" arguments to vote Democrat that came after the Supreme Court gutted Roe, here we were heading into the midterms expecting a red wave and blue bloodbath.
But then the red wave turned into a gentle mist, and suddenly I'm feeling relieved that there might be some hope for American sanity after all. Sure, we're probably looking at two years of congressional Festivus in the House, as Kevin and Kompany air the grievances of the far and not-so-far right. And the Senate could still put the gavel back into the hands of The Turtle. But at least it wasn't a blowout! And so, rather than licking our wounds, the Democrats can start being oh-so-tentatively hopeful about 2024 (although not when it comes to the Senate).
I realize that there were weak and loco Republican candidates from sea to oily sea, that Donald Trump is as polarizing as Ray-Ban sunglasses, and abortion is the huge elephant in the GOP's living room. But the economy is weak, inflation high, and Biden about as popular as creamed spinach on the plate of a 5-year-old. It wasn't crazy to expect this election to go Republicans' way north-south-east-and-west. And yet it didn't. And so I ask you both: Are those prophesied demographic shifts finally beginning to materialize? And if so, how long until they become truly apparent? Will we see similarly unexpected results (i.e. Democrats holding the Senate, regaining the House, and taking the White House) in 2024? Or will things take longer to materialize in significantly noticeable ways?
V & Z answer: Demographic shifts take a long time to manifest, and can be difficult to separate from other factors, of which there are many at any given time. That said, the Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections and will likely make it eight of nine in 2024. The Party just weathered brutal headwinds to enjoy the best party-in-power midterm in 20 years, aided significantly by voters 18-to-29 (see above). Seems like the demographic shifts are coming to pass, even if there are also some reverse demographic shifts taking place at the same time (e.g., the reddening of Florida).
As to 2024, the Democrats are the presumptive favorites to hold/retake the House and to keep the White House. As to the Senate, the map is grim, though we might well end this cycle with only one seat changing hands. That speaks to the power of incumbency, and for that reason the result in 2024 might be similar, particularly if the Republicans come up with another crop of terrible candidates.
B.M. in Chico, CA, asks: Am I safe in saying that the election results are pretty good news for Democrats with respect to the 2024 presidential election? An emboldened Ron DeSantis will surely throw his hat in the ring, likely knock off a weakened Trump after a long and bruising primary (maybe with a contested convention), and then be unable to get Trump loyalists to the polls in November because Trump will instruct his followers to stay home as a form of revenge. Plausible?
V & Z answer: Very plausible. We're not so sure Ron DeSantis is electable nationally. He's got a lot of the same downsides as Trump (excepting the criminal stuff), and at the same time he does not inspire the same fanatical loyalty. As a general rule, after bruising Republican primaries, GOP voters eventually lick their wounds and come home to the Party's candidate (e.g., all the anti-Trumpers who nonetheless voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020). But if there is a civil war between DeSantis and Trump, then some of the damage will not heal by the election, especially if Trump loses the war. Winning as a Trumpublican requires all hands on deck, and if some percentage of the Republican base won't vote for DeSantis because he vanquished their hero, then DeSantis just can't win.