FINALLY, the 2018 midterm election is all but over. If this was the Academy Awards, some big name celebrity would be holding an envelope and about to say, “The winner is …” Even though the winners and losers are already determined, as long as the political envelope has not yet been ripped open, we can speculate, predict, analyze and cheer for the home team – with apologies for mixing the metaphors.
Soooo, what can we expect?
We can read the tea leaves, but they are in two different cups – a blue cup and a red cup. If we look into the Democrat’s blue cup, we will see some very positive things. First and foremost is the historical fact that the party that holds the White House loses seats in Congress – not always control, but some seats.
There is another historical fact, but it falls a few examples short of a precedent. Voters tend to come out in greater numbers to through the “ins” out. This election looks like a big turnout event. That could mean a big blue wave for the Democrats.
While the polls show some very close races – well within the margins of error — in most cases the edge goes to the Democrat. More good news for the left.
The tea leaves are telling Democrats that women are deserting the GOP in droves – and Millennials are going to head to the polls in record numbers. And, as usual, Democrats believe that they own the younger voters with only slightly less proprietorship than they believe they own the black vote.
According to the tea leaves, Democrats are blessed with a pugnacious Republican president in whom they can find every offense against all of humanity. It is not really about healthcare, the economy or immigration. It is all about Donald Trump and his unpresidential manners.
Democrats see an advantage in that more than 40 Republicans have retired from the house or are running for higher office. This creates an unusually large number of open seats – somewhat eliminating the incumbent advantage.
If the tea leaves revealed any winning issue for the Democrats, it is healthcare. In fact, it is the ONLY policy issue they will discuss. That is because all the others – immigration, sanctuary cities, law enforcement and the economy – works against them.
Looking into the blue cup, Democrats see green tea. According to various reports, the Democratic Party — and all those independent political committees that they claim to hate – have significantly outraised the Republicans. They also see a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the tea leaves – enthusiasm that will give them the best ground game.
The number one reader of tea leaves, Nancy Pelosi, sees a return to the speakership in that blue cup. Whether it is keen political judgment or undue optimism, Pelosi predicts with great certainty a Democrat takeover of the House – and maybe even the Senate.
Optimism is also seen in the tea leaves because Democrats have the left-wing media is their cup. They are no longer the impartial tea leaves readers but are totally aligned to the left. Democrats see this one-sided reporting as a major advantage in getting out their message and blocking the GOP message.
To understand the potential for Democrat gains, it is crucial to remember the relative power of the parties. Republicans control the Senate, the House, the White House and two-thirds of the state governorship and legislatures – not to mention a myriad of other local offices. Republicans have a very small field of opportunity, while the Democrats have an enormous one. It is almost impossible for the Democrats not to make gains. If they do not, they are done … fini … kaput as a viable national party. For Republicans, this election is about the size of their power base. For Democrats, it is an existential election.
So, what about the red cup?
The best tea leaves reading for Republicans involves the Senate. Due to the usually large number of Democrat senators up for re-election in states won by Trump, Democrats entered the political season at a huge disadvantage – and it has remained thusly ever since. Only the most optimistic Democrats will even suggest the possibility of taking the Senate.
But what do the leaves say about the House?
Yes, the history of midterm elections plays against the GOP. It is exacerbated by the fact that more than 30 Republican congressmen are running for re-election in congressional districts won by Hillary Clinton – a reversal of the situation for the Senate.
There is a countervailing historical example to consider. A very high percentage of incumbents win re-election – usually around 80 percent. And even though there are those 40-plus Republicans exiting the House, many of those open seats are in very safe districts for the current GOP contender.
Republicans see Democrats focusing on the Trump style and personality as a repeat of the mistake that they made in 2016. There is something to be said that “it is the policies, stupid.” With more than two-thirds of Americans believing that Trump is doing a good job with the economy and that the country is moving in the right direction – and with consumer confidence at an all-time high – the red cup tea leaves indicate a strong Republican vote.
If the past is prologue, and Republicans again do better than polls indicate. Being close may not be the most positive indicator of Democrat victories. The traditional polling bias could mean that all those in-the-margin-of-error races could swing to the GOP – creating a hitherto unthinkable red wave.
The red cup suggests that any sweeping Democrat victory depends on groups of voters doing what they have never done before. Women will have to shift to the Democrats in percentages that have never been seen – even when Geraldine Ferrero and Hillary Clinton were on the ticket as the Democrats vice presidential and presidential candidates, respectively. They both lost to Republican presidential candidates – Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump – who were despised by the left and vilified by their subservient news media.
If this midterm election is an anomaly – with Republicans holding on to power and even expanding their base – it may be seen in a largely unnoticed anomaly in the current voting statistics. Tradition has always held an advantage to Democrats among early voters. Many of the pundits of the left continue to point to this with smiles on the faces. However, surveys of early voters indicate that it is the Republicans who are in the lead. Perhaps it is the GOP that has the most energy and enthusiasm.
While campaign money is important, the more that is collected, the less its utility. Many of the best funded campaigns lose – as was the case in the special election in Ohio and seems likely to be the case in the Senate race in Texas.
If you look beyond the collection of money to the expenditure of money, a case can be made that the Democrats – especially in those House races – have put entirely too much money into safe races. But, why would they do that? Because Nancy Pelosi controls most of that money and she is buying votes for a future speakership, should her party take control.
One of the reasons Democrats were so confident of beating Trump in 2016 was that the GOP had no ground game. What they seem to have failed to consider is that when you hold two-thirds of the governors’ mansion and general assemblies, you have a HUGE ground force. That is still true today.
Democrats may be miscalculating both the turnout and the voting patterns of women, Millennials and minorities. Some polls in battleground states show so-called vulnerable Republicans actually carrying a majority of women – much less losing ground. The latest polls indicate that Millennials are likely to vote in only slightly greater number than before – and that vote is not as monolithic as Democrats hope.
Republicans have been making inroads to the minority communities — modest to be sure. They are participating in the Walk-Away Movement of Democrats leaving the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, Roosevelt and Obama. If even just one, two or three percent switch, it will offset any gains among white women – the so-called suburban housewives – and Millennials.
Like 2016, this election in terms of control of the House is too close to call. Should Democrats fail to get a foothold on national power, one can only imagine the pandemic spread of Trump Derangement Syndrome. We can only hope.
So, there ‘tis.