Dem 50
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Ties 1
GOP 49
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020 Senate: PA
GOP pickups vs. 2020 Senate : (None)
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Where Things Stand

Arizona announced another 100,000 votes yesterday and, despite the fact that they came mostly from Maricopa County, they favored Republican Kari Lake by about 8 points (i.e., 54-46). Consequently, Lake's hopes of succeeding Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) are still alive.

That doesn't mean Lake's in good shape, though. With 93% of the vote reporting, Democrat Katie Hobbs has 50.5% of the vote (1,211,595 votes) and Lake has 49.5% (1,185,584). That's a gap of just over 26,000 votes. Of the estimated 89,000 or so votes outstanding, Lake would need 57,500 of them. That's more than 64%. At the end of the day Thursday, she needed 53%, at the end of the day Friday she needed 54%, and at the end of the day Saturday she needed 55.5%. In other words, although Lake had an unexpectedly good day on Sunday, she actually took a step back, as she's simply running out of votes with which she might make up the gap. We imagine this one will be called sometime today.

Moving on to the house, here's an update of the projections chart we've been running for the past few days:

Outlet Rep Seats Dem Seats Toss-ups 24-hour Net Change
AP 212 203 20 Republicans +1
The New York Times 212 204 19 Republicans +1
The Wall Street Journal 212 204 19 Republicans +1
Politico 212 203 20 Republicans +1
FiveThirtyEight 211 206 18 No change
CNN 212 204 19 Republicans +1
Fox 212 204 19 Republicans +1
ABC News 211 206 18 No change
CBS News 214 210 11 No change
NBC News 219 216 0 No change

Recall that NBC does include a "margin of error" qualifier. It is still ±4, as it was on Saturday.

Clearly, things didn't change much on Sunday. The +1 that some outlets added to the Republican total was Lori Chavez-DeRemer in OR-05. This race was pretty rough for the Democrats; incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader was knocked off in the primary by the more progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and now McLeod-Skinner has fallen to Chavez-DeRemer. The Representative-elect might want to make sure her first call is to a marriage counselor. By all indications, she's happily married to physician Shawn DeRemer. However, in a curious coincidence, every single person to occupy this seat since it was created in 1980 has been divorced. So, it's going to be on Chavez-DeRemer to break the curse.

Presumably a number of races greater than zero or one will be called today. Some states either don't count ballots or don't release results over the weekend. Further, there are several states where the deadline for receipt of ballots arrives tomorrow. So, most of the uncertainty about outstanding ballots will be resolved once today's mail is delivered. There will be another group of calls tomorrow, though control of the House might be up the in air for multiple days thereafter, due to how close it is, as well as the possibility of recounts. (Z)

Democrats Did Well in the State Legislatures

The Senate and House races are taking up most of the oxygen in mediaworld, but there were other important elections last Tuesday as well. One level of the political system that always flies below the radar (unfortunately) is the state legislatures. This is doubly important now because the Supreme Court appears hell-bent on abolishing the federal government and giving all governmental power to the states. So it matters enormously which party controls the various state legislatures and whether there are any trifectas where one party runs the show completely.

On the state legislature front, changes occurred in a number of states, none of them favorable to the Republicans. As a general rule, the president's party usually loses a few state legislative chambers. That didn't happen last week. The Democrats didn't lose any of the 99 state legislative chambers (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature). If everything goes as it now appears to be going, this will be the first time since 1934 when the president's party held onto all of its legislature chambers That in itself is unusual.

In addition, the Democrats flipped the Michigan state Senate as well as the state Houses in Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Races in Arizona and New Hampshire that haven't been called yet could result in Democrats flipping chambers in those states as well. On the other hand, Republicans strengthened their positions in both chambers in Florida, the state Senates in Iowa, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, as well as in the South Carolina House. But these were chambers they already controlled.

Republicans have been focusing on winning state legislatures for over a decade. For the first time in more than 10 years, Democrats made the state legislatures a priority this time, pouring money into state races, which is why they did so well.

It now appears that Democrats will have won the trifecta in four "M" states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota. In the first two, the missing piece of the puzzle was the governorship, not the legislature. But now the Democrats can do whatever they want in those four states. For example, they could pass laws making voting easier rather than more difficult. They could even join the national trend of embracing all-mail elections, as is increasingly common in the West. If they are really ambitious, they could gerrymander both the congressional map and the state map in all of them but Michigan (which uses a redistricting commission). The Constitution requires this to be done once every 10 years but does not forbid interim readjustments. Texas Republicans did that in 2003 just to get more power.

If they are really, really, ambitious, Michigan and Minnesota could join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, to which Massachusetts and Maryland already belong. These states promise to award all of the their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote for president. If states with 270 electoral votes join, this will de facto eliminate the Electoral College (and make this site no longer necessary... at least until we put into effect our long-simmering plan to shift our focus to quilt patterns and gluten-free pizza recipes). However, the Compact doesn't kick in until states with 270 EVs sign up. If Michigan and Minnesota join, states with 220 EV's will be in there. If states with 50 more EVs join, its a done deal. However, Republican politicians don't want to elect the president by popular vote, so getting 50 more will require flipping more states from red to blue.

Nationally, the Republicans are still in the lead in state legislative chambers, controlling 53 of them vs. the Democrats' 38. Chambers in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and New Hampshire haven't been called yet. For the next 2 years, Republicans will have at least 23 trifectas and Democrats will have at least 14. This reflects the fact that many of the states in the South and the low-population states in the Midwest and West are very Republican. In 2024, 86 of the 99 state chambers will hold elections of at least some of the members.

In addition to the trifectas, Republicans have 23 triplexes and Democrats have 18. A triplex is where one party controls the state offices for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. (V)

Most of Trump's Picks for Secretary of State Lost

Democracy was on the ballot in a number of states and generally won. Specifically, Trump-aligned candidates were running for secretary of state in a number of states, more-or-less promising to "find" as many votes as Trump needed in 2024. That could be the end of democracy in America. However, the ploy didn't work. Most of them lost. Here is the scorecard for the SoS candidates Trump endorsed. The winners are shown in boldface and incumbents are marked with an asterisk:

State Democrat Republican
Arizona Adrian Fontes Mark Finchem
Indiana Destiny Wells Diego Morales
Michigan Jocelyn Benson* Kristina Karamo
Minnesota Steve Simon* Kim Crockett
Nevada Cisco Aguilar Jim Marchant
New Mexico Maggie Oliver* Audrey Trujillo
Ohio Chelsea Clark Frank LaRose*
Wyoming (no candidate) Chuck Gray

A couple of notes are in order here. While Trump endorsed Frank LaRose in Ohio, LaRose was an incumbent and wasn't involved in any scandals. A reasonably well-known and popular Republican incumbent in a state as red as Ohio can win reelection easily, even without Trump's help. (see: DeWine, Gov. Mike). So don't count this as a win for Trump.

Trump also endorsed Chuck Gray in Wyoming. However, since the Democrats didn't even bother to field a candidate, Trump doesn't get a lot of credit for Gray's big win. Also, Wyoming Republicans don't trust Gray. There has been talk in the Republican-dominated state legislature of passing a law stripping the secretary of state of much of his power over elections and vesting it with a new elections board consisting of all five statewide elected officials.

Finally, Trump endorsed then-Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) for secretary of state in Georgia. Hice lost the primary to Brad Raffensperger (R), who went on to win the general election. In short, Trump's only real win for secretary of state was in Indiana, and even there, the state is so red that Diego Morales probably could have won under his own power without Trump's endorsement. (V)

How Fetterman Won

It is possible, even likely, that Senator-elect John Fetterman (D-PA) will end up being the only person to flip a Senate seat in the recent election (only the Georgia runoff can change that fact now). So naturally there is a lot of interest in how he did it.

The story starts in 2016, when Fetterman ran for the Senate and came in third in the Democratic primary behind Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak. McGinty went on to lose the general election to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). Fetterman took his loss in stride and talked to former governor and then-powerhouse Ed Rendell about how he could help Hillary Clinton win Pennsylvania. He asked for $100,000 to pay for a car and driver and hotel bills and he said he would campaign all over the state. Rendell quickly agreed and begged the Clinton campaign for the money. The Clinton camp refused and Clinton lost the state.

The lesson that Fetterman took away from that was that to win, campaigning in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh wasn't enough. You also had to campaign in the Kentucky part of Pennsyltucky, in the middle of the state. Fetterman did precisely that this time and won. His "go anywhere" strategy focused not so much on winning rural counties, but cutting his losses. It worked, he outperformed Clinton all over the state. It turns out, losing by a little bit is much better than losing by a lot in rural areas. T.J. Rooney, a former chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said: "You combine his reduction of the margins and his work in the collar counties... It was a combination of those two things that makes the difference." In case you are wondering, the collar counties of Pennyslvania are Chester, Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware Counties, which border Philadelphia and are historically purple.

This could apply to other states as well. Democrats normally just go to the big cities and their suburbs and try to turn out their base. Fetterman went into red areas and tried to stem his losses there, which he did successfully. The message that Democrats could bring to rural areas would be about economic issues, like curbing the power of (quasi-) monopolies in the agricultural sector, bringing broadband Internet to rural areas, and more. There are plenty of issues where people in rural areas actually agree with the Democrats, but if no one shows up to explain that, they all vote just on immigration and gay rights.

Another thing going for Fetterman is his authenticity. No one thought he was putting on an act, as so many politicians do. But going down that road requires nominating politicians who are authentic. Hillary Clinton is not authentic. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is authentic. Merely toeing the party line on the issues isn't enough. What Fetterman also did very well is define Mehmet Oz as a phony. But he had the luck that his Oz really is a phony. You can't count on that all the time. (V)

Let the Finger Pointing Begin

Whenever a political party greatly underperforms expectations, especially in a historical context, a lot of members, leaders, and media types ask: "What happened and whose fault was it?" For the Republicans, the finger pointing has started already. If the Democrats end up gaining a seat in the Senate, it will only get worse, since the president's party normally gets shellacked in the first midterm. So far, the finger pointing has been done quietly, in private, but it is bound to burst out into the open if the Democrats end up gaining a seat in the Senate, instead of losing three or four.

The private criticism so far has mostly focused on Donald Trump and his endless teasing another presidential run instead of on the Official Topics™ the Republicans wanted to talk about: inflation and crime. Also, he spent a lot of time visiting states he lost and complaining about how unfairly he was treated instead of visiting states where he is popular.

Republicans are also holding their breath about what Trump is going to announce tomorrow. If it is his candidacy, they are afraid that it will make him the center of attention again and suck all the air out of Herschel Walker's (R) runoff campaign in Georgia.

Some Republicans are beginning to say it is time to move on from Trump. Most of them are looking at Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as their standard-bearer in 2024. These are mostly just murmurs so far, but one important Republican is going public with doubts about Trump, and it is a very important one: Rupert Murdoch. His New York Post ran this front page after the election:

New York Post front page; it
shows Trump as 'Trumpty Dumpty' and says 'Don--who couldn't build a wall--had a great fall; can the GOP's men put the party 
together again?'

There is no way the Post would have run that front page without Murdoch personally giving his approval. So far, Fox News hasn't followed, but if Fox drops Trump like a hot potato and jumps on the DeSantis bandwagon, Trump will be in big trouble. So far, the prime-time Fox hosts have been carefully avoiding taking sides. But that alone is telling. In the past, it was Trump! Trump! Trump!

No Republican wants a knock-down drag-out food fight between Trump and DeSantis, but the only way to prevent that is going to be to convince one of them not to run. The chance that Trump is so scared of DeSantis that he drops out is basically zero. Besides, he thinks that being a candidate may frighten AG Merrick Garland into not indicting him. His lawyers may be thinking about using the "witch hunt defense," telling the jury that Garland is prosecuting Trump because he is running for president. This works only if Trump is actually running. Plus, the former president loves his rallies and he loves seeing the donations roll in. So, we can't imagine him not running. In theory, DeSantis could wait until 2028, but he is now on a roll and Trump is weak. It doesn't make sense for him to wait until 2028, when he won't even be in office. Plus, if Joe Biden stands down and another Democrat takes over and wins, then DeSantis would be up against an incumbent in 2028. What could RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel offer DeSantis as a bribe to get him to wait until 2028? A promise of Uncle Mitt's support then? We doubt that will do the trick.

Tim Alberta, who is now at The Atlantic, has written a piece that not only points fingers, but points out some lessons the Republicans ought to take to heart going forward, as follows.

  • Dobbs: For 50 years, the Republicans were the dog that chased the car. In the Dobbs decision, the dog caught the car. Now what? Ending Roe v. Wade has been an organizing principle for the Republican Party for 50 years. Now, in a flash, it is gone. Worse yet, restoring Roe by having Congress pass a law legalizing abortion throughout the land is now an organizing principle for the Democratic Party. File this one under: "Be careful what you wish for. You might get it."

    Keeping abortion legal is very popular. The Kansas referendum and the five other referenda this year show that. Democrats will be hammering on abortion for years to come. What are the Republicans going to do to deal with it? Deciding that the GOP is now for abortion will infuriate the base. There is a real problem here with no solution in sight.

  • Bad Candidates: Or, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put it "candidate quality matters." In other words, Americans will tolerate only so much craziness and if Donald Trump foists candidates upon the Party who are way out there in right field, they are going to lose election after election, as they did this time. Tudor Dixon, Doug Mastriano, Blake Masters... the list is long. But how to stop this while Trump is calling the shots?

  • "Out of touch" beats "Out of their mind": Republicans have often successfully depicted Democrats as out-of-touch elites who don't know what life is like for ordinary Americans. Many people have accepted this story, which is ironic since the only real policy goal the Republican Party has is tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. The rest is window dressing; "owning the libs" is not a policy goal.

    But getting the voters to believe the Democrats are out of touch is only part of the story. Sarah Longwell has run some focus groups to see what is going on. For example, in Michigan, voters are pissed with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). She didn't fix the roads as promised and, in their view, she botched COVID. But Republicans were voting for her anyway because they all think Tudor Dixon (R) is crazy. The same dynamic got Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) reelected—the voters concluded his opponent, Tim Michels (R), is a Trump-like extremist. Same problem in Pennsylvania. Josh Shapiro (D) won big time because the voters didn't believe Doug Mastriano (R) would allow honest elections.

  • Trumpism is toxic: For an increasingly large number of voters, Trump and Trumpism are toxic. They won't vote for anyone who reeks of Trump. In three states that saw major Democratic victories this year (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania), 25-30% of the voters cast their ballots against Trumpism. Although Joe Biden's approval rating sucks, Donald Trump's sucks even more. To do well in state races in 2024, the Republicans will have to nominate sane candidates, which means openly and aggressively opposing Trump's picks. That won't be easy and could tear the Party apart.

So it looks like a lot of fingers are going to be pointed at Trump. And he will point right back. It could get messy.

Could Trump really be knocked off his pedestal and be replaced by Ron DeSantis? Let's see what bettors over at PaddyPower think. Here are the betting odds for the top four candidates over at the Irish bookie converted to probabilities expressed as percentages.

Democratic nomination
Joe Biden 40%
Gavin Newsom 17%
Kamala Harris 17%
Pete Buttigieg 8%
Republican nomination
Donald Trump 42%
Ron Desantis 42%
Mike Pence 11%
Nikki Haley 11%
Next president
Ron DeSantis 33%
Donald Trump 33%
Joe Biden 20%
Gavin Newsom 8%
Kamala Harris 8%

Does this make sense? On one hand, these are people putting their own money on the line. On the other hand, the bettors largely aren't Americans. And those who are Americans certainly aren't a random sampling of the American public. These figures indicate that Trump and DeSantis are neck and neck right now, which seems about right to us. However, the notion that the Republicans have a 2-in-3 chance of winning the White House in 2024 is madness.

Also, for what it is worth, a new YouGov poll shows that 41% of Republican voters would prefer DeSantis as their presidential nominee in 2024 to 39% who would prefer Trump. If DeSantis is paying attention and thinks he could win, he will probably challenge Trump. (V)

Missed It By That Much?, Part I: New York Democrats Were Too Greedy

While we are on the subject of fingers being pointed, the Democrats may be soon be at it as well. If it turns out that the Republicans take the House by, say, three seats, a lot of the blame can be placed on the New York state legislators who drew up the congressional map. They swung for the fences and drew up a map that was supposed to grab three Republican seats. But the map was so egregious that a judge threw it out and appointed a special master to draw up a fair map.

As a consequence, instead of Democrats flipping three Republican seats, Republicans flipped three Democratic seats. One of them was the seat of their congressional campaign leader, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who ran the DCCC, ending up spending a nice chunk of the DCCC's money on his own campaign, and lost anyway. In addition, two Democratic seats on Long Island went from blue to red. So instead of new map being D+3, it was R+3. That wasn't the plan.

Of course, in defense of the mapmakers, they knew that Texas and Florida had wildly gerrymandered maps, so they felt they had no choice but to do the same thing. It seems unfair that Texas and Florida got away with it but New York didn't. But that's how it turned out. Democratic strategist Peter Kauffmann put it this way: "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered." He thinks the legislature should have put much more thought into drawing a map that could withstand the expected legal challenges. It didn't, and the result may be a Republican House.

We'll have a couple more items on this general theme later this week. (V)

Postmortem, Part I: How Did the Pollsters Do?

A question of great interest to us is: "How did the pollsters do?" Let's take a look. The map on the left is our final prediction on Election Day. The map on the right is the current state of play. All the states have the final result except Georgia, which is shown as a tie here.

Prediction map and results map

Can you spot the differences? We got Nevada wrong. A late InsiderAdvantage poll had Adam Laxalt (R) up by 6 points, but in the end he lost. In a couple of states the margin was slightly different from what we predicted, but no other states were called wrong. On the whole, the polls were pretty good. One of the differences we had with other aggregators is that we were not fooled but the large number of Republican consultants shoveling out fake polls at the last minute. We didn't use any of them.

Let's look at some of the details now. Our methodology is to examine all polls that had at least one day of polling on or after Oct. 1. Any poll that finished field research before Oct. 1 is considered too far from the election and not examined in this analysis. The polls were not weighted. For each of the 28 states that were polled in Oct./Nov. we took the most recent poll, irrespective of which pollster conducted the poll. This is an attempt to evaluate the polling industry as a whole rather than rate individual pollsters. We didn't include Alaska because its top-four system doesn't fit our model. So, we were down to 27. Here they are:

State Dem GOP Margin   Dem GOP Margin   Error
Arizona 51% 47% 4%   52% 46% 6%   -2%
Arkansas 26% 55% -29%   31% 66% -35%   6%
California 53% 37% 16%   60% 40% 20%   -4%
Colorado 51% 43% 8%   55% 42% 13%   -5%
Connecticut 56% 41% 15%   58% 42% 16%   -1%
Florida 44% 54% -10%   41% 58% -17%   7%
Georgia 47% 49% -2%   49% 49% 0%   -2%
Illinois 58% 40% 18%   56% 43% 13%   5%
Indiana 38% 49% -11%   38% 59% -21%   10%
Iowa 41% 53% -12%   44% 56% -12%   0%
Kansas 33% 54% -21%   37% 60% -23%   2%
Louisiana 16% 53% -37%   18% 62% -44%   7%
Missouri 40% 55% -15%   42% 55% -13%   -2%
Nevada 48% 49% -1%   49% 48% 1%   -2%
New Hampshire 48% 45% 3%   54% 44% 10%   -7%
New York 59% 39% 20%   56% 43% 13%   7%
North Carolina 46% 52% -6%   47% 51% -4%   -2%
Ohio 46% 51% -5%   47% 53% -6%   1%
Oklahoma 34% 62% -28%   32% 64% -32%   4%
Oregon 51% 34% 17%   56% 41% 15%   2%
Oklahoma-special 36% 59% -23%   35% 62% -27%   4%
Pennsylvania 49% 48% 1%   51% 47% 4%   -3%
South Dakota 27% 58% -31%   26% 70% -44%   13%
Utah 46% 47% -1%   42% 55% -13%   12%
Vermont 62% 28% 34%   68% 28% 40%   -6%
Washington 48% 46% 2%   57% 43% 14%   -12%
Wisconsin 47% 53% -6%   49% 50% -1%   -5%

Columns 2-4 show the most recent poll in the state. Column 4 shows the predicted Democratic result. So -29% for Arkansas was a prediction of a Democratic loss by 29 points. Then come three columns giving the election result, where we have scored Georgia as a tie. "Margin" is the Democrat's actual margin. The final column is the predicted margin minus the actual margin. A positive score means the Republican did better than predicted, which could indicate that some Republican voters didn't want to talk to the pollsters. A negative score indicates that the Democrat outperformed the polls.

To take an example, the most recent poll in Arizona had Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) ahead by 4 points. He actually won by 6 points, so the error is -2. A negative scores like that suggests there were no "shy Republicans" (or, at very least, that the pollsters managed to compensate for them). The average of all 27 rows was +1.04%, suggesting that if there were Republican refuseniks, the effect was only 1 point. Of the 27 states, 13 were negative, 13 were positive, and 1 was spot on. This suggests there wasn't a lot of bias because the errors are symmetric.

Then we tried that again, only using all 171 polls from Oct. 1 onward. In this condition, we often had many polls per state. The mean bias was +1.00, almost the same as before. There were 73 polls that were negative (Democrat outperformed the poll), 70 that were positive (Republican outperformed the poll), and 19 polls where the poll hit the nail on the head. Again, if there were shy Republicans, the effect was at most 1 point, and maybe there weren't very many at all and this is just statistical noise.

Maybe some pollsters were good and others were bad and they sort of canceled out, though? So we then looked at the top 10 pollsters by volume and examined their Oct. and Nov. polls. Here are the results.

Pollster Mean bias Dem bias No bias GOP bias
Beacon+Shaw -1.75% 0 1 3
Civiqs 3.07% 10 3 1
Emerson -0.57% 12 0 9
InsiderAdvantage -4.30% 1 0 6
Marist Coll. -0.29% 2 3 2
PPP 1.75% 3 0 1
Research Co. 1.27% 4 1 6
Siena Coll. 3.25% 5 2 1
Suffolk U. 1.00% 2 0 1
SurveyUSA 1.70% 5 0 1

A number of pollsters exhibited a small to moderate positive bias, which could be due to Republicans refusing to take part in polls. On the other hand, InsiderAdvantage had a very large bias the other way, possibly due to fudging the numbers to make people think Republicans were running away with it, which they weren't. These two effects may have canceled out to some extent. However, only 21 of the 319 polls in our database are from InsiderAdvantage, so this can't be the whole story. We had our doubts about Emerson College for a while, but in the end, Emerson did quite well. They have an A- from FiveThirtyEight. That seems about right.

So our final take is that there might have been some Republicans who refused to talk to the pollsters, possibly in the range of 1-2%, but it will take more research to try to figure this out. On the other hand, our averaging method nailed 48 states so far in terms of who won, so polling is not completely dead. And we said Georgia would be a tie and it kind of is, so we really hit on 49 states, and just missed on one (Nevada) due to a last-minute poll from InsiderAdvantage that had Laxalt way ahead.

Watch out for articles like this one in The Hill. It is entitled "Did the polls get it wrong again?" The answer is: "Yes, if you include all the junk polls many Republican consultants where shoveling out in the final week, but no, if you just include reputable pollsters." Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, is quoted in the article saying something really, really stupid. She said: "We never anticipated a deliberate flooding of the zone with polls that would show you [Republicans] in the lead. They're going to have to balance aggregation with okay we're going to use this many Republican-leaning polls and this many Democratic-leaning polls or something."

NO! NO! NO! Averaging including equal numbers of honest, but Democratic-leaning polls from the small colleges, Mason-Dixon, SurveyUSA, etc. and garbage polls made up by Republican consultants who want to make people think their candidates are ahead is not a good idea, Celinda. It is an unbelievably dumb, horrible, godawful stupid idea. A much better idea is just to ignore all the garbage polls.

Again, we'll have a couple more items on this general theme later this week. Lord knows how we'll find time and space for everything we've got planned. (V)

Democrats Will Tackle the Debt Limit in the Lame-Duck Session of Congress

Republicans have threatened to blackmail the Democrats next year by refusing to raise the debt limit unless the Democrats agree to basically repeal most of what they accomplished this year. If the debt limit isn't raised, the U.S. will default on its debt, which will probably cause a worldwide depression. Democrats don't like playing chicken with the world economy and don't want to give in to the Republicans' blackmail.

But the Democrats do have a way out: raise the debt limit before Jan. 3, using the budget reconciliation process, while they still have majorities in both chambers of Congress. Yesterday both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that is precisely what they intend to do. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has been urging them to do this for some time now.

Having the debt limit at all is an attempt to repeal mathematics. Congress determines how much the government will spend using appropriation bills. It also determines how much money the government will take in through taxes. The amount by which spending exceeds revenue is the shortfall and that must be met by issuing debt like treasury bills, notes, and bonds. This year's debt is added to the cumulative debt from previous years and determines the total debt. But if that amount exceeds the debt limit, which is set by a different law, there is no way out unless Congress raises the debt limit. If Congress doesn't want to increase the debt it should either cut spending or raise taxes, but it is incapable of doing either. Instead we have periodic debt-limit crises. But if the Democrats can raise the limit in the lame-duck session, the crisis will be averted. (V)

Outlook for the Georgia Runoff

Do we know what will happen in Georgia? Nope. Nobody does, although there are sure to be many polls. One thing that could make a difference in Georgia is the Nevada result. Now that the Georgia runoff will not affect control of the Senate, that could reverberate. Specifically, what we are thinking is that Herschel Walker is a very deeply flawed candidate who doesn't belong anywhere near the Senate except in the visitors' gallery. There are probably thousands of Georgians who know that very well but who voted for him anyway because they want Mitch McConnell to be Senate Majority Leader again. Now that a vote for Walker in the runoff does not help McConnell become majority leader, some of those people may decide there is no point in voting and skip the runoff. A depressed turnout of a few thousand votes could make the difference between a Sen. Warnock and a Sen. Walker.

For the Democrats, the situation is very different because 51 > 50. Actually, it's more like 51 >> 50. First, with an evenly divided Senate there is a power-sharing arrangement (e.g., equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans on all committees). With a clear majority, the Democrats don't have to share power with the Republicans (e.g., a majority on each committee). Having a majority on each committee makes it much easier to get bills and confirmations through.

Second, the pressure on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to begin acting like an actual Democrat will be enormous. If she has looked at the election returns in Arizona, she will see that other Democrats can win elections in Arizona. It's not her special magical powers that do the job. The state has become purple. Thus, when Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and possibly other Democrats begin making noises about challenging her in 2024 (and maybe even announcing runs), she knows that every vote against the party line will be featured in their primary ads. This may make her less inclined to block the Democrats on major bills.

If Sinema starts voting with the Democrats most of the time, that changes the situation around Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). His vote will no longer be needed. Thus he and Chuck Schumer can make a deal in which Manchin gets to vote against the Democrats on everything and also loudly diss Schumer as a bad leader. This play acting would be designed to help him get reelected in deep red West Virginia in 2024. His pitch could be: "I voted against Biden 75% of the time but due to my seniority, I can bring home the bacon. A Republican senator would vote against Biden 100% of the time but couldn't bring home any bacon at all due to lack of seniority." If Manchin made this pitch at the dedication of the Joe Manchin Senior Center in Charleston, the Joe Manchin Sports Complex in Huntington, and the Joe Manchin High School in Morgantown, people might get the message and he might be able to be reelected in a tough state, possibly against billionaire Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV).

Finally, the 2024 Senate map is awful for the Democrats. Not only are Manchin and Sinema up, but also Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jon Tester (D-MT). Having 51 seats instead of 50 means the Democrats can lose one seat and still have 50. If they win the vice presidency, that means they will still control the Senate. If they lose the vice presidency but have 50 seats, they can demand a power-sharing arrangement. Thus, we think Democrats might be more motivated to vote in the Georgia runoff than Republicans—and this is before any Trump-is-a-candidate effects might kick in.

However, voter motivation may end up being less important than the mechanics of voting. After the 2021 runoff, the Republican-controlled state legislature moved the runoff up by a month and greatly reduced the number of days for early voting, knowing full well that Democrats tend to vote early and Republicans don't. Also, after the 2020 election, Democrats furiously worked to register new voters.That is impossible now since the voter-registration deadline passed on Nov. 2. People already registered can request absentee ballots up to Nov. 28, though. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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