US: GOP Panic
On North Carolina And Panic Signs
Let’s ignore every poll commissioned by either a media organization, an educational institute, or a Democratic campaign or interest group. Let’s ignore all of that, on the basis that the polls from those three groups were dogshit in 2020, and therefore might be wrong again in the same way. If we do this, what’s the current national environment?
Trafalgar’s a R+5 and Rassmussen’s a R+3 nationally, so that’s the realistic high end of possibilities. On the other hand, we have those special elections in Nebraska, Minnesota, and now Alaska, all consistent with a Democratic lead in the range of 5%. The Washington Senate primary saw a Democratic decline in vote share by 2.8% from *2018*, a result consistent with a D+2 environment. Given that, we probably have to look at the state and district polls from the GOP, which – wait, they’re even worse!
Yes, there are a handful of good GOP House polls around, like the one showing them ahead in Oregon 6, but the majority of these seat polls show swings in the mid single-digits, so call them a R+2 signal. On the other hand, though, we have the GOP Senate polls, and oh boy they’re bad news for the GOP. Public Opinion Strategies in Pennsylvania had Fetterman up 18 and Shapiro up 15, and McLaughlin even had Michael Bennet up 8% in Colorado, which means he’s gonna cruise to victory (looks angrily at Cook).
But the best result isn’t any of that if you’re a Democratic optimist – it’s not the (obviously outlandish) leads in the Midwest, it’s not that Mitch McConnell is putting $28M into Ohio for JD Vance, it’s not that the GOP are talking like they’re chickens with their heads cut off – it’s that they’re tied in a Cygnal poll of North Carolina.
If North Carolina’s truly in play …
The last part of that sentence is “then the House is a tossup,” but we’ll get to the House implications of all of this in a bit. Let’s stick with the Senate, where the GOP are running tied in North Carolina and trying to get out of holes created by running:
· A fascist who supports privatizing Social Security in a state full of the retired and the soon to be and who thinks that the US needs a Federal personhood amendment
· A former football player with undiagnosed CTE and more secret kids than non-Lewis Hamilton Drivers Champions since he left McLaren
· A crank incumbent who wants to get rid of Social Security who’s apparently in more trouble than he should be
· And my personal favourite, 10 House Oz.
If your prior is that it’s an R-leaning environment, then all of these problems can be overcome, but in a neutral environment, the GOP will be lucky to keep 49 seats, which is hilariously the same conclusion they’re coming to if they think that North Carolina is in play. Cygnal is probably pound for pound the best Republican pollster, and they’re showing a condition where the GOP are fucked.
If your response to that is “Cheri Beasley’s a great candidate, that doesn’t mean anything for the broader environment”, then how about the fact that the Congressional Generic Ballot here is only R+3 in a state that voted 6% right of the nation? Beasley seems to be worth something, definitely – but it’s not like this is Ohio, where Emerson had a Vance +3, Generic Ballot R+10 spread.
Look, if none of this compels you to think that your midterm priors might be wrong, then you’re making a bet. And that bet is that Democrats never hit their expectations, which is true, only if you really distort the data. There’s a lot of 2014 comparisons for this year, but the problem with it isn’t even that a 2014-style outcome – where the floor falls out on Democrats - is super unlikely (I’ll explain why it is in a moment, but that’s not the point), but that a thing happening once doesn’t make it likely to happen again.
My favourite athlete is Jordan Spieth, a man whose most iconic moment is either chipping in from the bunker at the Travelers or the famous “Go Get That” long range eagle putt at Birkdale. Either way, his most iconic moments are also his least repeatable – if Jordan ends up in that same bunker on 18, or hits that same putt again, they’re probably not going in, because guys don’t hole out from the bunker or drain 50 footers with regularity. In the same way, Spieth missing that tap in at Heritage on Saturday didn’t suddenly mean that he was going to miss random 18 inch putts on Sunday.
For God’s sake, if you pretend to be a data guy and you can’t understand that the existence of an outlier event doesn’t mean that every event that looks like it won’t be a similar outlier, you’re a fucking idiot – but if you’re also the guy WHO DIDN’T SPLIT MAINE AND NEBRASKA BY CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT IN YOUR PRESIDENTIAL MODEL BECAUSE IT WAS TOO MUCH WORK, get a new job.
If you want the actual reason the 2022 polls won’t dive like the 2014 ones did, it’s because in 2014, Republicans still had a turnout edge over Democrats for two reasons – one, they had a more college educated voter base, meaning that turnout advantages helped them, and the Global Realignment means that we now have the higher propensity voters, but also because in 2014, Democrats were way more reliant on huge Black turnout to win. When the polls moved from RV to LV screens in 2014, all the low propensity Obama voters who only turned out for him didn’t stick in an LV screen, meaning that Democratic minority turnout fell off a cliff. One of the underrated parts of Democratic weakness with Hispanics and Blacks in 2020 is that our midterm coalition is much less fragile than Obama’s, because the benchmark result wasn’t built on unsustainable results.
If you want to write this whole column off as mere Democratic hopium from a hack, go right the fuck ahead. Will this hold through November? I’d be lying if I said I knew. I don’t. But right now, the GOP are in trouble. A neutral to slightly leaning Democratic is an environment where Democrats have a north of 40% chance of winning the House, and this is a statement that nobody really disputes. What is in dispute is how likely a neutral to slightly Dem year is. The environment could easily move right from here, but right now, the GOP are in trouble, and they’re the ones telling us this.