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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

2020 Begins

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

From Axios:

Natasha Korecki at Politico:
Anticipating a sprawling Democratic presidential field and a shortage of experienced, high-quality campaign professionals, a left-leaning group is launching a $4.5 million effort to train 1,000 staffers to be ready in time for 2020 combat.
The group, called Arena, will begin holding training academies across the country in 2019, with a goal of deploying at least 450 of those trainees onto Democratic presidential primary campaigns or in state legislative races.
Amie Parnes at The Hill:
Prospective 2020 Democratic candidates aren’t asking donors to write checks just yet, instead participating in “friend-raisers.”

A friend-raiser is a small, informal gathering donors host for would-be candidates.

It’s part of an effort to cultivate relationships between potential candidates and donors without money changing hands.

Attendees don’t typically write checks at a friend-raiser, as they would for traditional fundraisers.
But they trade ideas, business cards and promises to stay in touch, if and when a presidential campaign is launched.

“I think that as we start looking at people who are or may be raising their hand in 2020, it’s a chance for many people to get educated about the various candidates, and it’s good for the candidate to expand their network,” said Jon Vein, the prominent Democratic donor who plans to host some gatherings for would-be candidates and prospective donors.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are among the Democratic politicians who have met with donors at the gatherings, according to multiple sources.
 Amanda Terkel and Kevin Robillard at HuffPo:
The nation’s biggest liberal donors are gathering in Washington for a postelection briefing where they’ll focus on turning out more voters of color, flipping red states to blue, and combating GOP attacks on voting rights, according to a schedule obtained by HuffPost.

Democracy Alliance, a group of more than 100 liberal donors who pledge to give at least $200,000 a year to a list of recommended progressive organizations, is holding a postelection briefing Thursday and Friday. Members of the alliance include bold-faced liberal names like Tom Steyer, George Soros and Susan Sandler. Reporters are not allowed into the event.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Revenge of College America

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

David Nather at Axios:

Here's a big part of the reason House Republicans lost the suburbs in the midterms: They were thrown out in 16 districts where at least 40% of the women have college degrees.
Why it matters: It means the gender gap and the education gap are combining into a huge demographic problem for Republicans. Per lobbyist Bruce Mehlman, who highlighted the shift in his slide deck on the midterms: "The new geography of Trump Era partisanship is turning suburban congressional districts into GOP killing fields, more than offsetting gerrymander gains by mobilizing intense opposition among college educated women, the beating heart of the suburbs."

The D-Trip Analyzes California

MEMO: How the West Was Won: Historic Gains in California, After Unprecedented DCCC Investment

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Drew Godinich, DCCC Regional Press Secretary
RE: How the West Was Won: Historic Gains in California, After Unprecedented DCCC Investment

TOP POINT: The DCCC recognized early that California offered historic opportunity in our campaign to take back the House in 2018. The DCCC made unprecedentedly large and early investments, recruited aggressively, and managed complex primaries as part of a California-based winning strategy. As a result, the DCCC is on track to achieve historic wins in the Golden State – flipping every seat in Orange County and the most in California since 1962 – that outsiders did not see coming. The below memo details those efforts.
In April 2017, when the DCCC announced plans to open its first ever fully-staffed West Coast headquarters in Orange County, skeptics said that we were embarking on a fool’s errand to take down the vaunted “Orange Curtain”. But we knew we needed our team to be closest to the voters and the campaigns. In the two years since we opened our doors in Irvine, the DCCC invested millions in flipping vulnerable GOP seats in the West, directing our efforts to change California, from California.
As we await final election results, it is clear that the DCCC has exceeded outside expectations in Orange County and across California. For the twelfth election in a row, no California Democratic incumbent lost their race. And in the offensive column, with several victories already assured, and several more still too close to call, Democrats have a chance to pick up as many as seven seats in California, the most since 1962, including every seat in Orange County. We have also already secured the largest California Democratic Caucus in history, which will be critical for achieving policy wins for many years to come.
Our success in California was no accident. Instead of heeding our detractors and skeptics, the DCCC stuck to our game plan in California: recruiting a historic class of strong, diverse candidates in every district in our battlefield; investing early in field organizing and voter registration; ensuring candidates built a robust fundraising infrastructure – online and offline; and defining the Republican agenda early. At key moments – in particular, the June primary – the DCCC adopted a bold, kinetic, and in some cases completely unprecedented approach that avoided shutouts in all targeted districts.
Republicans abandoned CA-49, a marquee contest of the 2016 cycle, after the DCCC’s multi-pronged intervention in the primary secured the nomination of an unsalvageable Republican candidate in Diane Harkey. In CA-48, in a move that was considered controversial at the time, we joined with Indivisible OC 48 and backed the strongest candidate in a crowded primary field, who on November 6 scored a historic, comprehensive victory in the most Republican district in Orange County.
This is how we won the battle for California in 2018.
In 2016, Secretary Hillary Clinton, carried all four Republican-held congressional seats in Orange County – while low-profile Democratic candidates in three of those seats were defeated by huge margins. In 2018, Democrats recruited a historic class of candidates in every competitive seat in California – and now have the opportunity to pick up all of these seats. Democrats in the general election were overwhelmingly first-time candidates who were independent, well-funded, and fit their districts.
Katie Hill, whose deep ties to the 25th district and an established record of service in her community, resonated deeply with voters and were able to withstand the millions of dollars in outside spending. Katie Porter, who brings an expertise in consumer protection that is unparalleled nationwide. Gil Cisneros, who is prepared to take his service to the country and great fortune and pass it on to children in Orange County. Harley Rouda, who is an independent candidate that understands Orange County in his bones. These are just a few examples of the independent candidates and strong profiles of candidates who Democrats nominated to run in these competitive districts.
Just two weeks after Donald Trump was inaugurated, the DCCC had boots on the ground in districts across California, investing in local organizers earlier in the cycle than ever before. With a new generation of grassroots groups emerging in the aftermath of the 2016 election, many led by first time activists, these organizers helped equip these groups with the tools and tactics to organize and register voters. Rather than instituting a top-down approach from Washington, the DCCC decided to “arm the rebels” on the ground and forged lasting partnerships with the growing constellation of progressive groups. This early decision would yield incredible results.
In California, congressional campaigns in targeted districts registered nearly 20,000 new voters and knocked and dialed voters nearly 6 million times.Early vote totals already show record Latino engagement for a midterm election this cycle. In California, Latino share of the vote in targeted congressional seats has closely mirrored their 2016 presidential vote share, a clear departure from prior midterm cycles. In targeted congressional districts, Latinos have participated at even higher rates than the statewide increase. This was not an accident – the DCCC spent $30 million to turn out our base in this election:
  • In 2017, the DCCC launched an unprecedented, long-term $30 million investment to turn out diverse voters, women, and millennials.
  • The DCCC has been on the ground organizing in competitive congressional districts, especially in districts with notable Hispanic and African American populations, for more than a year.
  • The DCCC has built a pipeline of diverse, local field directors and organizers from the district that look like the district and understand their communities. In California, the DCCC has invested in 11 organizers dedicated to turning out Latino voters.
  • The DCCC’s first ever Training Department held workshops in Anaheim, San Diego, and Los Angeles in addition to extensive online trainings.
  • The DCCC has conducted extensive focus groups with voters of color and millennials in targeted districts across the country, since 2017.
  • The DCCC has been on air with district-specific Spanish-language television ads across the county, and has invested in robust and highly personalized digital ads, mail, African American & Hispanic radio, African American newspapers, text message and traditional field programs.
  • In week one, the DCCC launched its first ever Spanish-language GOTV television ad campaign to get out the Hispanic vote.
  • Between the DCCC’s efforts on the ground and through paid media, these base voters heard from Democrats more than 100 times in the final 60 days.
Democrats this cycle have raised historic sums through a wave of grassroots donations. Nowhere is that more true than California, where congressional candidates repeatedly shattered fundraising records and outraised their rivals many times over. Once again, this was no accident. The DCCC’s candidate fundraising team began working with candidates at the beginning of the cycle to ensure that campaigns had the fundraising infrastructure in place to compete – and win – in the exorbitantly expensive California television markets.
For the first time, this cycle the DCCC hired digital fundraising experts for each region – the western digital director worked directly with campaigns to advise on their online fundraising programs, putting in place systems that would allow them to take advantage of the unprecedented grassroots giving enthusiasm we saw this cycle. As the Washington Post explained, “the green wave was less an act of nature than the result of careful planning on the part of Democrats.“
As we always expected to be outspent by the other side, it was crucial that our candidates had the resources to define themselves with voters before outside Republican groups could. With an incredible $41 million raised by California candidates in targeted races this cycle, our candidates were on the air early – giving them an edge that proved critical in these tight races and allowing them to withstand the tens of millions of dollars in negative advertising aired by Republican groups.
Voters heard early and often from the DCCC, as we defined Republican incumbents for their votes to undermine Californians’ affordable healthcare and their plans to gut Social Security and Medicare. In May of 2017, the DCCC ran radio ads in Southern California hitting 5 Republican members for their votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. All of these districts are now poised to flip Democrat. And in October of 2017, the DCCC aired the first television ads of the cycle in California – hitting Jeff Denham and David Valadao for their votes for the Republican healthcare plan.
Shortly after the passage of the GOP Tax Scam, Republicans crowed that this was silver bullet to hold the House. But Democrats turned Republicans’ corporate giveaway dream into their election nightmare, and featured it prominently in ads across the state. The RNC even credited the DCCC for winning the messaging war and turning the tax bill into an albatross for their candidates in a memo leaked earlier this year.
As Republicans admitted, our devastatingly effective and disciplined approach to defining the tax scam relied heavily on tying it to cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Given Californians’ heavy reliance on the State and Local Tax Deduction, the DCCC and Democratic candidates made sure voters knew that Republicans were actually going to raise their taxes and cost of living. In the cradle of the Reagan Tax Revolt, Democrats flipped the script on Republicans, and defined them for their votes to raise taxes through the tax bill.
To reach the voters we knew we needed to win these tight races, in the Central Valley, the DCCC aired ads in Spanish, supplementing the work by the campaigns to reach these crucial voters. And for the first time ever, the DCCCaired Spanish GOTV ads nationwide one week before Election Day, including on Spanish broadcast in Los Angeles and Sacramento.
The California primary represented what was arguably the most complex challenge for California Democrats this cycle, as retirements in CA-39 and CA-49 and the eleventh hour entry of Scott Baugh into the CA-48 race made the possibility of lockout in these races a real threat. The DCCC’s first-class data and analytics team did a thorough analysis of the landscape to give us an early pathway to success requiring substantial investment.
The DCCC responded to this threat immediately in January 2018, conducting a thorough data analysis to determine the strongest and weakest candidates – both Democrats and Republicans – and working to consolidate the Democratic primary fields. At the instigation of the DCCC, strong primary challengers Jay Chen and Phil Janowicz left the race in CA-39, helping clear the way for a Democratic win on primary night: polling had shown that their combined vote share would’ve assured that Democrats would be locked out of the general election in that race.
In CA-39 and CA-48, the DCCC named Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda to the Red to Blue list, identifying them as the strongest candidates in their races. Despite a round of breathless second-guessing on Twitter, the aggressive strategy was employed in coordination with key progressive and grassroots allies who agreed that intervention was necessary.
In CA-49, the DCCC shaped the Republican primary field by eliminating Rocky Chavez as the Republican frontrunner, leaving Republicans with Diane Harkey – a weak and unsalvageable candidate, effectively ensuring that Democrats picked up this top-tier seat five months before November. It was also a clever investment, as the DCCC did not need to spend millions in the general election to pick-up the seat.
The kinetic approach undertaken by the DCCC falls in sharp contrast to that taken by the NRCC and CLF, who failed to back up their rhetoric with action and shut-out Democrats in key races. In CA-48, Scott Baugh’s candidacy represented a mortal threat to Democrats’ hopes of taking the seat – but Republicans’ decision to remain on the sidelines allowed Democrats to shape the field unchallenged. This will forever be one of the most costly and inexplicable Republican political miscalculations of the entire midterm election.
When we first opened our office in Orange County two years ago, our unprecedented bet in the Golden State was met with skepticism by some pundits. Republican Orange County Chair Fred Whitaker boldly declared: “Let the Democrats spend tens of millions of dollars here. Let them die on the hill in Orange County.” Even some in our own party weren’t convinced – one prominent California operative opined:
“The political landscape of California is littered with bodies of operatives from other places who thought they could come in here and achieve amazing results and they never do because they don’t understand the place”.
But if there is anything littering Orange County’s beaches today, it is the failed promises and electoral strategies of the Republicans: whether the gas tax repeal and ‘silver bullet’ of the GOP tax bill? Out with the tide – along with the Republican majority in Congress and their grasp on historically conservative regions of California.
The DCCC understood the challenges posed by this critical midterm in California, and by rising to those challenges, made history.

All Politics is Local, Except When It's National

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

Ronald Brownstein at CNN:
So much for the old rule that all politics is local.
The results of last week's election demonstrated how powerfully national trends now shape election outcomes in every region. The election produced remarkably consistent divides along demographic and geographic lines in states as diverse as Arizona, Georgia and Texas on one side, and Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania on the other. Though some important regional differences remained, voters who shared the same characteristics or resided in similar places largely voted the same way no matter what state they lived in.
In virtually every state, Democrats last Tuesday displayed a clear advantage in densely populated, culturally and racially diverse white-collar metropolitan areas, while Republicans relied on elevated margins in the preponderantly white, religiously traditional, smaller places beyond them. In almost all cases, the outcome in each state was determined less by how much they varied from that persistent pattern than by how much of each group was present in the state's electorate to begin with.
The continued nationalization of American politics threatens greater polarization and social tension as the lines harden between these two distinct political coalitions. But paradoxically, it means that the party that can generate the most exceptions to these solidifying trends may be the one most likely to control Congress and the White House.

Whether measured by demography or geography, the 2018 election produced remarkably consistent patterns.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Geographical Polarization

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.

Of the seven California districts that went to Clinton and a Republican House candidate in 2016, Democrats have clearly won four.  Some have called CA45 for Katie Porter over incumbent Republican Mimi Walters.  It seems very likely that Democrat Gil Cisneros will defeat Young Kim for Ed Royce's CA39 seat.(She has led, but her margin has been shrinking fast.)  There is even an outside chance that Democrat TJ Cox could beat incumbent David Valadao in CA21

Nationwide, we could end up with only one or two Republicans in Clinton districts.

Over on the Senate side: If Rick Scott and Cindy "Noose Lady" Hyde-Smith both end up winning, there will be only 9 split delegations in the Senate.  That would be the fewest in at least 40 years.  (Unlike Pew, I count Vermont as single-party).

Starting in January, only one state legislature—Minnesota's—will be under split party control. In that state, Democrats took over the state house but fell one seat short of flipping the state senate last week. The last time just one state legislature was under split party control was 1914.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Iron Law of Emulation and the 2018 Money Picture

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.  Campaign finance is a big part of the story.

The Iron Law of Emulation is at work.  In 2010, Karl Rove pioneered the use of super PACs in congressional elections.  Just as important, he gathered representatives of outside groups at his home to coordinate their spending plans.  (Though outside groups cannot directly coordinate with parties or candidates, they are perfectly free to coordinate among themselves.)  Democrats have learned from the other side.

Simone Pathé at Roll Call:
In the dog days of summer, before many Americans were tuning into the midterm elections, the leading Democratic super PAC dedicated to winning the House convened a giant meeting with dozens of outside groups.
That laid the foundation for an unprecedented coordination effort among Democratic independent expenditure groups that spent over $200 million in more than 70 House races, overwhelming Republicans and helping deliver a Democratic majority.
At the August meeting, House Majority PAC staffers passed out binders with race information, public TV reservations and examples of direct mail already circulating in specific districts. And most importantly, they pointed out the gaps — the places they needed other independent expenditure groups to jump in.
“It’s almost like an auction,” said Charlie Kelly, executive director of HMP, with different groups laying claim to spending responsibilities for different weeks on radio, TV, digital and mail. Kelly likened HMP’s role to playing “air traffic control.”
It’s the reason why HMP was created: to coordinate the vast army of Democratic outside groups to ensure there’s no duplicative spending in any one place. Veteran Democratic operative Ali Lapp founded the super PAC in 2011 just after Democrats lost control of the House.
The Center for Public Integrity did a quick take on where money mattered -- and where the better-funded candidate still lost.

Alex Isenstadt at Politico:
Mitch McConnell stood before a roomful of Republican donors on Wednesday night to thank them for their help in the midterms. But the Senate leader also issued a dire warning: Democrats had just thumped them in the all-important online donor game, and the GOP badly needs to catch up.
The heart of the problem, McConnell said at the event at party headquarters on Capitol Hill, is ActBlue. The Democratic fundraising tool funneled over $700 million in small donations to House and Senate candidates over the course of the 2018 campaign. The GOP leader said Republicans were getting swamped in the hunt for online givers and that he has charged his political team with coming up with a solution to enable them to compete in 2020.
Republicans have long acknowledged the shortcoming and spoken out about the need to fix it, to no avail. But this year's gaping money disparity between the two parties has snapped the GOP to attention. 
 The thirst for an ActBlue-like platform has become a central point of discussion as Republicans plot out a road map to win back the House majority and select their new leadership. During a House Republican conference call on Thursday, Arkansas Rep. French Hill complained that the party didn’t raise enough small donations and should have its own version of ActBlue. Hill, who fended off a stiff challenge despite being outraised in the third quarter, said he would support only a candidate to lead the House GOP campaign arm who is committed to creating such a platform.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Summing Up Voter Atttitudes

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

Karlyn Bowman and Eleanor O'Neil sum up 2018 polls at AEI:
  • Top issue for the country: Health care was the top issue for voters, followed by immigration, the economy, and gun policy. Voters who supported Democratic House candidates in 2018 gave top priority to health care; those who supported Republicans gave it to immigration. In the AP VoteCast survey, which asked about a greater variety of issues, the top four issues were the same as those asked about in the exit poll, and they ranked in the same order.
  • Voters’ views: Nearly 7 in 10 voters said the health care system needs major changes in the exit poll. In the AP VoteCast survey, a quarter wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act entirely, 27 percent wanted to repeal parts of it, 13 percent wanted to leave the law as it is, and 34 percent wanted to expand it. In the exit poll, 46 percent of voters said Trump’s immigration policies were too tough; 17 percent thought they were not tough enough. In the AP VoteCast survey, 69 percent wanted to offer illegal immigrants a chance to apply for legal status; 30 percent wanted to deport them. Forty-eight percent favored building a US-Mexico border wall; 52 percent were opposed. Fifty-nine percent in the exit poll said they supported stricter gun control measures; 37 percent did not. 
  • Increasing importance: In recent off-year elections, more voters have said the president was a factor in their vote for Congress than gave that response in past years. Twenty-six percent of voters this year said that one reason for their vote was to express support for Donald Trump, 38 percent said it was to express opposition to him, and a third said he was not a factor.
  • Kavanaugh: Forty-three percent of voters supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation, while 47 percent were opposed. The exit poll asked voters in seven states where there was a key Senate contest whether the incumbent senator’s vote for or against Kavanaugh’s confirmation was an important factor in their vote. Only in the Nevada race did a majority say Dean Heller’s vote to confirm him was an important factor.
  • The gender and marriage gaps: Men voted narrowly for Republican House candidates in 2018, while women voted solidly for Democratic ones. Married voters supported Democrats narrowly, a significant change from recent off-year elections in which they were more Republican. Not married voters were solidly Democratic.
  • Independents and moderates: Independent voters are key. In 2006, independent voters voted for Democratic House candidates, and in 2010 and 2014, they voted for Republicans. This year, 54 percent told exit pollsters they voted for Democratic House candidates, and 42 percent voted for Republican House candidates. Self-identified moderates have been more likely to vote for Democratic House candidates than Republican ones in all recent off-year elections.
  • Divided by education, urbanity: Fifty-nine percent of college graduates voted for Democratic House candidates in 2018, compared to 47 percent who did in 2014. In 2018, voters without a college degree were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Sixty-five percent of voters in cities with populations over 50,000 voted for Democratic House candidates in 2018, compared to 56 percent in 2014. In 2018, 56 percent of voters in small cities and rural areas supported Democrats.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Aggregate Popular Vote for the House

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

For comparison, here are percentages of D popular vote and percentage of seats won:

1988 53.3 59.8
1990 52.9 61.4
1992 50.8 59.3
1994 45.4 46.9
1996 48.5 47.6
1998 47.1 48.5
2000 47.0 48.7
2002 45.0 47.0
2004 46.6 46.4
2006 52.0 53.6
2008 52.9 59.1
2010 44.8 44.4
2012 48.3 46.2
2014 45.5 43.2
2016 47.3 44.6

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Trump in France: Very Bad Optics

In Defying the Odds, we discuss foreign policy issues in the 2016 campaign.  During that campaign, he often said that the world is laughing at us.  He is making that claim come true.

At a 2017 G-7 meeting in Italy, the other leaders took a walk through a Sicilian street.  Trump took a golf cart.

Tim Hains at RCP:
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday, to take part in a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.
Putin shook hands with US President Donald Trump before the ceremony, and flashed him a friendly thumbs up too.

Luke Baker at Reuters:
French President Emmanuel Macron used an address to world leaders gathered in Paris for Armistice commemorations on Sunday to send a stern message about the dangers of nationalism, calling it a betrayal of moral values.
With U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting just a few feet away listening to the speech via translation earpieces, Macron denounced those who evoke nationalist sentiment to disadvantage others.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said in a 20-minute address delivered from under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
“By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values.”
Trump, who has pursued “America First” policies since entering the White House and in the run-up to the congressional elections this month declared himself a “nationalist”, sat still and stony-faced in the front row as Macron spoke.
Nancy Cook at Politico:
President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel his visit to an American military cemetery outside of Paris threatened to overshadow his trip here, as government officials, historians, and fellow Republicans hammered him for more than 24 hours for that move.
“President@realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops? Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow — & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn’t stop them & it shouldn’t have stopped an American president,” wrote former Secretary of State John Kerry, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

The internet lit up Saturday and Sunday with images of other world leaders braving gray skies to lay wreaths, unveil plaques, and pay their respects at memorial and cemeteries outside of Paris during a weekend to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel lay a floral wreath on Saturday afternoon at Compiègne, the site where the agreement that stopped World War I was signed. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the World War I battlefield, Vimy Ridge, where he greeted Canadian veterans.
The White House opted to drop the trip for the president due to rainy weather because the president’s Marine One helicopter cannot fly in rain or fog.
Peter Baker and Adam Nossiter at NYT:
Mr. Trump remains deeply unpopular in Europe, especially in France, where just 9 percent think he will do the right thing in international relations, according to the Pew Research Center. The president’s seeming indifference to European sensibilities was reinforced by a report in Le Monde, the French newspaper, that in a meeting with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania earlier this year, Mr. Trump confused the Baltic states for Balkan states and blamed them for the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The Geography of the Vote

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race
From USA Today:

Jazmine Ulloa and Joe Mozingo at LAT:
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has lost the congressional seat he held for 30 years in one of the most conservative stretches of Orange County, a stunning defeat for the GOP as other Republicans’ early leads receded in the latest ballot counts, putting the party in fear of losing all six tightly contested House races in California.

The defeat to Democrat real estate entrepreneur Harley Rouda represents a landmark shift away from the GOP for suburban America. No county — no part of a county — has been at the heart of conservatism since the 1960s like the coast between Dana Point and the Los Angeles County line.

“The district became much more of an anti-Trump suburb, and he no longer connected to the people there,” [Tony] Quinn said. “He had an opponent who was a former Republican businessman, not some wild-eyed lefty. And for at least two years, people were willing to try something new.”

It is a stark change for the region once embodied by the legendary movie cowboy John Wayne — its international airport’s namesake — who was an ultra-right John Birch Society member and lived on the harbor in Newport Beach.

Republicans have now lost three of the six races Democrats targeted most in the state. They have fallen behind or are holding thin leads in the remaining unresolved races, as suburban voters nationwide rebuked Trump and his allies in the House of Representatives.

Democrats earlier won the seats of GOP Reps. Darrell Issa of Vista, who declined to seek reelection, and Steve Knight of Palmdale, who was ousted by Katie Hill.

On Friday, Democrat Josh Harder overtook Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the latest tally in a Modesto-area district.

“This is more than just a bad year,” said Mike Madrid, a GOP political strategist. “This is essentially a realignment in California politics, and the traditional base that has served the Republican Party no longer exists.”

David M. Drucker at The Washington Examiner:
We’ve got to be worried about what’s happening in the suburbs. We get wiped out in the Dallas suburbs, Houston suburbs, Chicago suburbs, Denver suburbs — you know there’s a pattern — Detroit suburbs, Minneapolis suburbs, Orange County, Calif., suburbs,” [Karl] Rove said Saturday during a panel discussion for the Washington Examiner’s Sea Island Summit.
“When we start to lose in the suburbs, it says something to us,” Rove continued. “We can’t replace all of those people by simply picking up [Minnesota’s First Congressional District] — farm country and the Iron range of Minnesota — because, frankly, there’s more growth in suburban areas than there is in rural areas.”

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cautions for Republicans and Democrats

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

Donald Trump recast the Republican party in his own image, and on election day the Republican party paid a price. Despite low unemployment and a booming stock market, Team Trump lost control of the House of Representatives. America’s voters said: “It’s not just the economy, stupid.”
Rather, they made the election about the president, his persona, and Republican indifference to working Americans and hostility to the world around them. Pre-existing conditions became a Democratic rallying cry.
Sometimes cultural resentments can provide a path to victory. In other instances, they can go too far. Without Hillary Clinton on the ballot as a target and a distraction, enough of the US focused on Trump and did not like what they saw staring back when it came time to vote. 
The same authors also has cautions for Democrats, too.

At The Guardian, he writes of a new book about Luzerne County, Pennsylvania:
In The Forgotten – subtitled How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America – Ben Bradlee Jr, a former editor at the Boston Globe and the son of the Washington Post legend, chronicles his interviews with Luzerne residents. It is essential and disturbing reading.
Kim Woodrosky, a successful real-estate investor, a “flashy, attractive blond and self-described bigmouth”, according to Bradlee, is upset by the region’s “bleak” economic outlook and the bureaucratic burdens imposed by the Affordable Care Act. She voted for Obama in 2008, passed in 2012 and then backed Trump.

Woodrosky attributes Trump’s rise to his ability to voice understanding of their problems. As she put it: “Trump told the working class what they wanted to hear. ‘You’re the forgotten ones. You’re the ones Washington doesn’t care about.’”
Bradlee counsels Democrats to pay greater heed to white working-class voters, particularly on cultural issues. The party “will need to make more room for centrist voices if it wants to reach voters who now feel culturally alienated from its prevailing liberal orthodoxy,” he writes.
The bottom line is that political correctness is a turn-off. Slagging on so-called “deplorables” and lamenting attachments to God and guns is self-defeating. Like it or not, flyover country will continue to play an outsized and determinative role in presidential elections.
Yes, the Democrats flipped the House and consolidated their hold on college graduates and suburbanites. In the absence of a recession, however, the party stands to face the same electoral map it did in 2016. In fact, Ohio now looks an even tougher nut to crack. Much as the Democratic base loathes the president, reality cannot be wished away. Luzerne would be a good place for the party to start addressing this reality.

Trump Knew All About Payoffs to Women

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal

Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Michael Rothfeld, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Rebecca Ballhaus at WSJ report that Trump met in 2015 with David Pecker, CEO of American Media. Pecker offered to use The National Enquirer to buy off women who had had affairs with Trump.
Less than a year later, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair. Mr. Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal, to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Mr. Trump later thanked Mr. Pecker for the assistance.

The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Mr. Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to interviews with three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents.

Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws.

The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.

The Money Picture

Money does not always mean success in elections, but it sure seemed to help in the 2018 midterms. And nothing seemed to help the money flow more than having majority party control of both legislative chambers at stake in an election that both sides saw as being of historic importance.

These statements are based on an analysis by the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) of independent expenditures (IEs) in House and Senate races through Election Day, combined with the candidates' receipts through October 17 (the most recent information now available). Both sets of data were viewed through the lens of last Tuesday's election results. For details, see the tables described and linked below. Here are some key highlights.


Democrats made a net gain of at least thirty seats in the House (not counting about a dozen still considered too close to declare a winner at the time of this writing.) In twenty of those races, Democratic challengers defeated sitting GOP incumbents. (The other gains were in formerly Republican-held open seats.) In the 42 years covered by CFI's historical campaign finance tables, successful challengers have only rarely spent as much (on average) as the incumbents they beat. This year they will. As of October 17 - the period covered by the candidates' most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) - successful Democratic challengers had raised an average of $4.6 million to $3.7 million by the defeated incumbents. To put these numbers in perspective, the average winner of a House seat in 2016 spent $1.5 million.

But there is more to the story than the candidates. CFI also reviewed independent expenditure (IE) reports filed with the FEC through Election Day. (Because spenders have to report their IEs to the FEC within 24 hours, these reports should be nearly complete.) In the races with defeated incumbents, the incumbents' supporters spent an average of $3.9 million in IEs to help their candidates. This was more than the incumbents raised for their own campaigns (see Table 1). Historically, it seems like a very big number. However, it was less than what was happening on the other side. Successful Democratic challengers were helped by an average of $5.2 million in IEs. This was a $1.3 million advantage over the incumbents, and it was on top of the $900,000 advantage in their candidate receipts.

A similar pattern prevailed in the 19 open-seat contests that were decided by 55% or less of the two-party vote (see Table 2). In these races, the Democratic winners raised an average of $3.6 million and had another $4.1 million in supportive IEs. Their defeated opponents had only $1.6 million in candidates' receipts and $2.0 million in supportive IEs. This was almost a $4 million advantage for the Democrats per candidate.

In the close open-seat races that the Democrats lost (see Table 2), Democratic candidates again raised twice the amount as the Republicans ($2.8 million to $1.4 million). But in these races, the pro-Republican IEs doubled the pro-Democratic IEs ($2.6 million to $1.3 million.) With only $1.3 million in IEs for the Democratic losers in this category, and more than $4 million for the Democratic winners, this suggests that the pro-Democratic money was more effectively targeted on fewer races than the money being spent to support Republicans.


With so few seats up in any given year, it is difficult to talk about patterns. However, it does appear that the average winners will have spent significantly more than their counterparts in any previous year. The challenger-incumbent balance in the seats that flipped parties paints a more complicated picture in the Senate than in the House (seeTable 3). For example, most of the successful Republican Senate challengers raised less money than their incumbent Democratic opponents. This was unlike the House challengers of 2018, but more like the historical norm. (We should note that this does not include Florida, which is subject to a recount and where the Republican challenger did raise more than the Democratic incumbent. It also does not include Mississippi, which is headed toward a runoff.) In contrast with the three clearly successful GOP challengers, the only successful Democratic challenger (in Nevada) raised more than the Republican she beat. IEs by both political parties tended to focus on the most competitive Senate races.


As noted in a CFI release just before the election, IEs in congressional elections have gone up substantially between 2016 and 2018. In the 2018 Senate elections (see Table 5), six races saw IEs of $50 million or more, compared with four in 2016. Eleven races had $10 million or more in IEs in 2018, compared with nine in 2016. In the 11 races with $10 million or more, the total IEs roughly equaled the candidates' receipts. In the party versus non-party balance, IEs by the formal party committees and party leadership Super PACs exceeded the IEs by non-party entities.

With majority party control of the House at stake in 2018 (after not being at stake in 2016) the level of IEs in House elections soared (see Table 6). In 2018, 73 races experienced $1 million or more in IEs. In 2016, there were 40. There were 41 House races with $5 million or more in IEs in 2018, compared to 22 in 2016. In these races, the spending on IEs ($441 million) cumulatively came to more than the candidates’ receipts as of their final pre-election reports ($350 million).

Table 1: 2018 House Incumbent/Challenger Races, Candidates' Receipts and Independent Spending by Election Margin.
Table 2: 2018 House Open Seat Candidates' Receipts and Independent Spending by Election Margin.
Table 3: 2018 Senate Incumbent/Challenger Races, Candidates' Receipts and Independent Spending by Election Margin.
Table 4: 2018 Senate Open Seat Candidates' Receipts and Independent Spending by Election Margin.
Table 5: 2018 Senate General Election Races by Total Amount of Independent Spending
Table 6: 2018 House General Election Races by Total Amount of Independent Spending

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Late Vote in California

Michael Finnegan at LAT:
California Republicans lost two House seats in Tuesday’s midterm election and could surrender more as tens of thousands of ballots are counted in four other contests that remain too close to call.

The party has an exceedingly small chance of holding the seats of Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Jeff Denham, historical voting patterns suggest. Two other Republicans, Rep. Mimi Walters and Young Kim of Fullerton, hold thin leads over their opponents that could also vanish.
The reason is simple: Early voters, often older white Californians who start mailing in their ballots weeks before election day, lean Republican, and later voters, many of them young and minority, tend to prefer Democrats.

With extremely rare exceptions, close races in California shift in Democrats’ favor — typically by 2 percentage points— as the later ballots are counted, according to Political Data, a firm that tracks votes in California.
“This is as dependable as the tides,” said Paul Mitchell, the firm’s vice president.

A huge share of the ballots — perhaps 40% — remain uncounted, largely due to Californians’ increasing preference to vote by mail. By law, ballots postmarked by election day and received by Friday must be tabulated.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Why Democrats Won the House

Some races remain undecided, but Democrats have taken the House.  Why?