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The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

In about a month or so, the country will vote on 435 house seats, 35 senate seats, 36 gubernatorial seats, and of course a plethora of local city and state offices, along with various important and plausibly game-changing state amendments and voter referendums. They will do so under the watchful eye of politicians, political strategists, opinion pundits, and of course the entire political corner of the twitter-verse looking to see whether the Democrats, banished to the wilderness after choking away 2016, will return back from thenceforth with control of the house and maybe even perhaps control of the senate as well.

After all it’s the first (and some pray only) midterm for President Trump. He has been consistently (and unusually) unpopular since the day he took the oath of office. Even a great economy hasn’t helped his standing. As I’ve written about before, this image problem that (so far) refuses to go away has ended up being an anchor to his Republican party, with Democrats gaining some big moral and electoral victories during the special election season. Couple that with the historic trends of an out of power party doing well during the midterms, and everyone is expecting to gauge whether a blue wave is possibly going to sweep across Washington D.C that November night.

However, control of congress is but one of many story lines one should keep an eye on come election night. There’s many other subplots that could end up just as if not more important. I want to look at all of the ones I find to be the most crucial, not just for what happens for 2018 and into 2019, but what could be story lines that follow us into 2020 and beyond…

Will Democrats Choke Away The House?

Democrats currently stand as moderate favorites to flip control of the House of Representatives, with pollsters and forecasters teasing anywhere between a net gain of just high single digits to possibly as much as forty plus seats if the wave really hits hard. They need 23 to pull off a majority, and are favored to likely get more than they need with many believing a thirty or plus net seat gain is likely. Democrats also enjoy a pretty significant lead in the generic ballot that has consistently averaged at a lead of 7–9 points, with some individual polls even predicting historic double digit margins in their favor. According to Alan Abramowitz’s successful generic ballot model, that would mean a sure Democratic majority.

But while you’d obviously rather be in Democratic shoes right now, the possibility they come up short is there. Yes they are favored to make gains, they are also not poised to get a majority if they have the worst possible outcomes according to these same models, and with 2016 still in everyone’s memory you have to account for the reality that is the margin of error. Not to mention, the fact remains that gerrymandered district lines and structural midterm advantages will give Republicans some room to make Democrats have to work for it.

However, Democrats do have the polling, the forecasting, the history, the environment, the candidate quality, and voter enthusiasm on their side. If they manage to let this one slip away on election night, as if 2016 returned to haunt them again, it could dampen Democratic hopes for 2020 and give Republicans a much needed morale boost half-way through Trump’s stormy term in office and into his anticipated to be tough re-election campaign.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

Consensus Professional House Forecast As Of Late September 2018; Map Via 270 To Win

Will Republicans Choke Away The Senate?

But Democrats aren’t the only ones who should be worried about margin of error. Republicans currently sit as moderate favorites to keep control of the senate, largely due to the fact that the class up for this election this cycle is incredibly favorable to them. They are favored to hold just as many if not maybe a seat or two more than they currently have. They are expected to possibly have a loss or two but they are also expected to possibly have their own gain or two to cancel those losses out. Democrats find themselves overexposed here, and Republicans have plenty opportunities to make gains.

However, given how horrible the map is for the blue team, it speaks volumes as to what type of environment this election is being fought under — given how close the battle for control has ended up being here. Democrats only need a normal polling error in one or two critical seats to flip control to their side. Republicans on the other hand have found themselves going from dreams of a possible super-majority to fighting it out in seats that reside in such Trump-friendly territories like Tennessee and Texas.

If the wave truly hits hard and Democrats win close battles in their vulnerable seats, they have a path through Arizona, Nevada, and then perhaps plausible upsets in Tennessee or Texas to suddenly find themselves in control of both chambers of congress. This possibility has been under-reported in my opinion and 2016’s lessons should be applied here as well. All it takes is a string of normal polling errors for Democrats to shock everyone in this one.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

Consensus Professional Senate Forecast As Of Late September 2018; Map Via 270 To Win

The Forgotten Battle— The Governors

Of course the battle for congress is not the only major battle going on come election night. Both major parties have a chance to make some changes to the gubernatorial map, and with plenty of open seat races we’re bound to see a new map of governors to get used to after November. But the Republicans are the ones overexposed here, just as Democrats are in the senate.

Republicans for their part have a real chance to take the Alaska seat back, thanks to a split in the opposition between the embattled incumbent Independent governor and the Democratic candidate. They also have an outside shot at flipping Connecticut, Oregon, and Rhode Island as the Democrats have shown some softness in these states.

But if the wave really does hit, Democrats could see some real huge victories and net gains. They are looking more and more like slight favorites in Wisconsin where a big GOP name in Scott Walker could find himself forced into being term-limited by voters, as polls have shown him consistently down. In Illinois, the Republican governor is a heavy favorite to lose his seat. In Michigan and New Mexico, Democrats are favored to flip those open seats to their column. In Florida, a state where Democrats haven’t held the gubernatorial seat in two decades, a dark horse Democratic candidate has shaken up the race and seems to be poised to become the state’s first African American governor barring a late second meltdown. On top of that, Republicans have shown softness in such places as Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and even in South Dakota.

Obviously, these aren’t federal races so you’ll get some strange results such as the fact that Republican incumbents are currently moderate to heavy favorites in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont?—?all states the President is deeply unpopular in and lost by big margins. But some of these races could give Democrats veto power in the 2020 redistricting process, and if the right amount of polling/forecasting error occurs in certain states we could see the blue team being able to boast of having a majority of the gubernatorial seats come the day after an election day wave. Do not overlook the chance for Democrats to have some earthquake results here.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

Consensus Professional Governors Forecast As Of Late September 2018; Map Via 270 To Win

The Forgotten Voters — The Independents

Everyone has been battling over the growing gender gap and white working class types that seem attracted to Trump, but the Independent voter has been overlooked. Independents have been crucial for Republicans; ever since they turned against Obama and Democrats in 2010, these voters have become on-the-fence Republican voters. Both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump won them over. They aren’t the be all, end all voter demographic but they are important enough especially when a race is as close as, say, 2016 — Hillary sure could have used them.

Of late, Independents seem to be shifting. After backing Trump’s election, they have been among the biggest part of his coalition that have shown frustration and disapproval with his time in office. His numbers with them have sunk, and in turn they are poised to shift left for the 2018 midterms. If Independents truly do go Democratic on election night, it would be the first time Republicans lost them nationally since the 2006/2008 blue waves. And thus losing them could be the catalyst for another blue wave a decade later.

However, if Republicans find a way to keep them in the fold or if Independents don’t leave at the kind of pace some pollsters have been showing, they could become a critical part of how the red team limits the damage. But if they can’t limit the damage, and if they truly do start losing these voters, Trump’s razor-thin coalition has some rebuilding to do looking towards 2020.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

The President Won Independents, But They Are Unhappy With Him And Might Be Shifting Towards Democrats; Graph Via Gallup

Is The “Red Wall” Already Cracking?

The President was dragged across the finish line by winning rust belt states that Democrats had once considered part of their “blue wall”. This lead to some overconfident Republicans declaring a “red wall” may now be in place, given Trump’s strength with the white working class voters there.

But in 2018, Democrats who are defending and challenging for major seats in this area are actually favored to get a near sweep of this region. In the Senate, Democrat incumbent senators who were once seen as potentially vulnerable are favored to hold on in Michigan, Minnesota (in two races nonetheless), Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Their embattled incumbent in Indiana is also holding his own, leading in the latest polling. For the gubernatorial seats in this region, Democrats are looking at real chances to flip or hold seats in Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Plus they have chances in close states like Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin with polls showing them possibly ahead in all but Ohio.

It’s not to say the President’s touch with these voters is gone if Republicans do so badly with them this year. After all, former President Obama and President Clinton had a similar touch with them and their party got clobbered in this region during the midterms. But I think all should agree this is an important swing region, and if there’s a sign of Republican weakness here, there’s going to be a whole lot of eyeballs on whether Trump can get these voters back to the fold come 2020.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

Rust Belt Polling Margins With The Senate To The Left And Governors To The Right; Via Real Clear Politics

The Year Of The Woman Part II

1992 is famously known as “The Year Of The Woman” when it comes to the number of female candidates. But 2018 will make that year look chauvinistic in comparison. Whether it be because of Trump’s antics, the GOP’s anti-woman image, the heartbreaking loss for some of them of the first major female candidate for President, or the #metoo movement, women are poised to run for office at historic levels — and most of them will be Democrats.

Over 250 women will be nominees for congress. Many are in agreement that it will lead to a historic amount of women representing the nation’s voters in the legislative branch. And with 197 of them being part of the blue team, you can bet many of them can ride a would-be blue wave into office.

And it’s not just congress; various states have a chance to elect first time female governors. By the time election night is over we could be talking about not just a Democratic wave but a historic wave for female representation in major parts of government in this country.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

Female Candidacy For Office Is Up, Especially Among Democrats; Chart Via Bloomberg

Speaking Of, What About That Gender Gap?

American women first got the right to vote in the 1920s. For a while, they basically voted as their husbands and partners did. Eventually, though, a gap in voting among the genders began to show up. For some time, the gap has been within normal parameters. But of late the gap is becoming historic. Men and women today obviously tend to have completely different views on public opinion, government policy, and electoral choices. In 2018, that gap could become a problem for the GOP.

In 2016, Trump lost women by 13 points and Republican house candidates lost them by a slightly better margin of 10 points. Not a good margin but not historically awful either: they’ve actually done even worse with women in previous elections. And when you win men by 11 points as Trump did or 12 points as Republican house candidates did, you can cancel that out some. However, polls have been indicating that in 2018 men may be softer and weaker Republican-leaning voters and women are looking to perhaps give Democrats a margin that would be one for the record books. Some polls have teased a twenty plus point blowout margin among this group in the blue team’s favor.

Obviously it’s better to lose the share of the gender that votes more than their opposite sex by 10 points than by double of that, and with men not supporting the GOP at such margins this gap among the genders could be a doomsday prophecy for the GOP. Maybe it’s just a one cycle phenomena, after all there is a historic amount of women in the running this year. However, if this gap cannot close beyond 2018 Trump, the GOP have to be praying and hoping men will soon start showing such huge margins in favor of them, if they are to overcome a legion of angry female voters in future elections.

And given the long-term implications, the GOP better be hoping their female voter problem doesn’t extend past whenever Donald Trump isn’t around anymore.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

A History Of The Gender Gap For The House; Via Five Thirty Eight

Will Pollsters And Forecasters Have Egg On Their Faces… Again?

While 2016 polling was not as statistically disastrous as some believe, rightly/wrongly it was seen as an off-night for the polling and forecasting world. And with 2018’s midterms inching closer and closer, and polling and forecasting once again bullish on Democratic hopes, it’s understandable if some are wondering if polling is about to have another “polling is dead” moment.

Now to be clear, polling since 2016 has been better than good. The kinds of errors we saw in 2016 seem to have become more and more rare, and some pollsters have even begun to report transparent sample results for folks to gauge the margin of error involved. However, polling since has also seemed to show Democrats and not Republicans as the party that has been over-performing expectations races of late. For Republicans hoping for another 2016 type debacle, they can’t be happy with that trend.

But let’s say polls do have another embarrassing night. Let’s say there’s enough error going one way that the overall picture on election night seems completely different than what we expected. What if Republicans do end up holding on to the house? What if Democrats come up short in battleground senate race after battleground senate race? What if that expected rust belt near sweep by the blue team becomes another set of GOP stunners? The overall image of polling took a hit in 2016, and whatever their excuses may be pollsters would really like not to have to explain why they were wrong again come the day after the election. Their possible restitution is just as much a story on election night as would be the Democratic party’s.

The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

U.S Polling Accuracy History According To Five Thirty Eight

In conclusion there are many other story-lines to look for this November other than who controls what in congress. Gubernatorial races across the country will decide the new face of governors for the coming years. The important Independent vote may start to switch allegiances again. The rust belt may follow up their backing of Trump with a double down on Democrats in the senate and new Democrats as their governors. A historic amount of women are running for office, and a historic gender gap may come along with it. And how will pollsters and forecasters redeem themselves, if they do, after the 2016 miss?

These are but a few of the many plots and the many dramas that will play out on election night. And we’re not even accounting for the likely election night surprise or two that we seem to always seem to get every year or two.

And all we have to do to get answers to some of these cliffhangers is to wait for the votes to be counted…


Guest Author
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When he’s not writing supernatural stories, Luis Mendez is obsessively following public opinion trends and gauging likely election outcomes. He has written about the subject for various publications and runs a monthly updated website trying to predict coming elections.

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82 thoughts on “The Many Storylines Of The Upcoming Midterms

  1. Curious what you mean by “structural midterm advantages” for Republicans in the House Elections (excluding Gerrymandering which you mention separately). The entire House is up for re-election and, while not structural, the incumbent party faces the historical uphill fight… so I’m drawing a blank on what you mean there.

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    • Perhaps he means that historically, Republicans have had better turnout than Democrats in midterms. From 538: “Yes, Republicans have a midterm turnout advantage. It’s just tempered by the penalty voters tend to levy against the party holding the White House.”

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      • That would be a generous and plausible read… but it is still hard to see how that would be considered a Structural or even an Historical advantage unless we want to elevate the singular 2002 midterms as the only Republican midterm in a 100-yr cycle to ever generate positive gains as “structural/historical” advantage. Which, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t; so I carry on, perplexed.

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        • edit: I’m mostly assuming its an editorial oversight where the House and Senate races were originally included – where structural would apply to the Senate and not House races… but, I don’t want to exclude the possibility that there’s a “structural House” factor that I’m not aware of.

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          • The structural midterm advantage the GOP has in modern times (ie. post-1994) is that their base of voters is the type of voters that turn out more effectively – older, whiter, more wealthy, etc.

            Now, this doesn’t mean that isn’t the only reason – in 1998, people were upset over the Lewinsky thing, in 2002 they got an extra boost because of 9/11, in 2006 even some Republicans voted for Democrats because of Iraq and such.

            Also, there is the small matter of the Democrats needing a 7 point win to get a majority at all.

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    • The largest structural advantages for the GOP is Gerrymandering, Gerrymandering and voter suppression. The two largest structural advantages for the GOP are Gerrymandering, voter suppression. And voting machine tampering. Among the largest …

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      • Not intending to step on @mike_schilling’s joke here, but here’s how I rank the structural advantages the GOP has at the federal level.

        1. The Electoral College grants, collectively, greater power in selecting Presidents to rural states than to urban ones. Whether by chance or design, rural voters polarize to the GOP. Because we vest so much effective power in the Presidency, this is the GOP’s greatest advantage such that in two of the last five elections, a GOP President was picked despite not having even a plurality of the vote. (In 2000 with an assist from the Supreme Court, see no. 3).

        2. The Senate grants equal representation to all states. Consequently GOP voters in rural states have, collectively, disproportionate power over one of the two non-equal chambers of Congress. The House has slightly more power in the realm of taxation as that it is where taxation bills must originate, but the Senate has effectively more power because it confirms significant Presidential appointments, both executive and judicial. It is also a significant farm team for Presidential candidates and Cabinet positions due to its prominence. Congress’ work product will necessarily skew in favor of these states. (One may argue without fear of risibility that this pro-rural cant to the Senate is precisely as the Framers intended, though there are other valid takes on what role the Framers sought the Senate to play as well, and there’s some truth to them, too.)

        3. After the accumulation of years of Presidential and Senatorial power, the courts have been packed in favor of Republicans since the Reagan era, complaints about the Ninth Circuit and the myth of Anthony Kennedy’s moderation notwithstanding. Because the courts are places where the really tough decisions get made and places where someone can play goalie to acts of Congress, there’s a lot of power here over both the business end of turning political will into practical reality, and over nullifying acts of Congress. This is a power that can be used for good, and has been, but we’ve just seen what appears to be the final act of the partisanization of the highest levels of the judiciary.

        4. A conscious effort was made in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s by Republicans to capture control of state legislatures, with the intent to thereafter control gerrymandering. Democrats gerrymander when given the power to do so as well, of course, but Republicans made that push to capture the mechanisms of gerrymandering much earlier and more overtly, and they’ve been successful at it. The result is the drawing of districts at all legislative levels produces a net advantage to Republican politicians, in some cases (Wisconsin comes to mind) resulting in minority Republican voters electing majority Republican legislatures and delegates to Congress.

        5. As our man @mike_schilling in particular frequently notes, Republicans are also using their power in state legislatures to change the rules about who can vote in the first place, seeking and sometimes finding ways to create facially-neutral rules that in practice filter out votes from the electorate that would likely have gone to Democrats. It’s particularly obnoxious because these initiatives are premises on outright lies of ballot-box stuffing and fraud, but the fundamental problem is the use of the law to create barriers between citizens and the exercise of their franchise.

        6. Liberals are starting to play catch-up here, but FOX News is a hugely powerful institution, harmonizing the voices of right-wing politics and embedding opinions to the point of immutability. Please note that I consider the rise of more overtly liberal media emulating FOX’s model to be a deterioration rather than a necessary counterweight; the ideal solution would be to return to the right-wing coalition of the 1980’s — conservatives are going to be conservative, but the various flavors and wings of the coalition should be able to maneuver and coalesce around different sorts of issues for the sake of finding compromises within the larger mosaic of American politics.

        None of these things have much to do with the effects of majoritarian democracy, in my opinion. Majoritarian democracy in Republicans’ favor looks like Democratic candidates going out into the field with little of interest to offer rural voters, and rural voters consequently electing Republicans. That lack of platform is on the Democrats, and that’s voters deciding what looks good and what looks bad to them, and that’s real too.

        But someone not being able to vote at all, and when that someone does vote the power of that vote is diminished compared to other voters elsewhere, that’s very much not consistent with the notion of majoritarian democracy. We see that in the disproportionate power of rural states to pick Presidents, to pick Senators, to exclude voters, to gerrymander their votes.

        The judiciary is intentionally, normatively, and overtly non-democratic. Voters aren’t supposed to have a direct voice in the theoretically neutral application of laws because sometimes that produces a legally correct result that is unpopular.

        And someone not getting the panoply of arguments and ideas to even consider is not likely consistent with majoritarian democracy but entirely consistent with a relatively small control group wielding power over what inputs are fed into the political system and thereby influencing its output.

        A lot of this will probably require a Constitutional amendment to correct, and that won’t happen until and unless Democrats regain a measure of political power in rural states. And if they can do that (from where we stand it takes a significant exercise of imagination to get to a theoretical place where Democrats are competitive in ruralia like they were a century ago), then they may also lose sight of the necessity of this sort of reform in the first place.

        TL/DR: we’re doomed.

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        • The Republicans and other center-right parties in other countries have also adopted the stance of a revolutionary vanguard party. They simply believe the opposition party and their electorate are illegitimate. They use this a reason to maintain control in flatly anti-democratic manners like voter suppression and wielding the courts as a political tool.

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        • Another Republican advantage is that Democratic voters aren’t reliable in local, state, or Federal mid-term elections for a variety of reasons. There also seem to be many Americans that at least nominally agree with the Democratic platform but can’t abide by the Democratic Party.

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        • George Orwell:

          One rapid but fairly sure guide to the social atmosphere of a country is the parade-step of its army. A military parade is really a kind of ritual dance, something like a ballet, expressing a certain philosophy of life. The goose-step, for instance, is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive-bomber. It is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is ‘Yes, I am ugly, and you daren’t laugh at me’, like the bully who makes faces at his victim.

          The modern US equivalent: “We will elect Donald Fucking Trump”.

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        • Burt Likko,

          The Electoral College grants, collectively, greater power in selecting Presidents to rural states than to urban ones.

          Is this really true, though? Both the Senate and by extension, the EC, grant greater relative power to voters in states with low population. That low population can be because they’re large but mostly empty like Wyoming, or just small, like Rhode Island. Is Rhode Island rural? And the small states by population are anything but uniformly Republican-leaning; Vermont, Delaware, Rhode Island. And as Mr. Cain has pointed out several times, the “big empty” western states are surprising urban demographically. Something like 85% of the population of Nevada resides in either Las Vegas or Reno. Ditto Arizona, New Mexico, etc. On the other hand, blue Vermont is very rural. And even your big blue powerhouses like CA, NY, and IL are mostly rural but with a honking huge city or two dominating the overall demographics.

          I’ve been conducting amateur research on decennial censuses and House apportionment (history, methods, controversy, etc.) and what really stands out is how the big disparities in voting strength in the House isn’t between large vs small states but really between small states. The states with either the best population/rep ratios or the worst are all either small states that just barely made or barely missed the cutoff for their second House seat. The current “winner” is Rhode Island with a bit over 500,000 residents per Rep and the “loser:” is Montana with just about a million.

          I’m not a fan of the EC either. It doesn’t really function anything like the Founders intended and hasn’t for a very long time. It was originally intended to be a sort of ad hoc temporary legislature for the sole purpose of choosing a President and now it’s just a weird way to tabulate votes that magnifies small victories into supposedly huge mandates. That is, when it isn’t essentially overturning the expressed will of the people.

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      • Heh, while nobody ever *really* expects a structural inquisition, let the record reflect that I was (for once) referring to the original post which alleges structural *midterm* advantages *in addition to* gerrymandering and specific to the *House*.

        The leading theory is that the Republican demographic has a higher liklihood to vote in Mid-terms… which is fine to say, but that’s not structural in the way that gerrymandering is. Nor would I cite the overwhelming historical evidence that the party in power suffers losses in the Mid-terms as “structural” because its not structural.

        Will Democrats Choke Away The House?

        Not to mention, the fact remains that gerrymandered district lines and structural midterm advantages will give Republicans some room to make Democrats have to work for it

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  2. Some thoughts:

    1. The number of true Independents is something very close to zero. Study after study shows that most self-described “Independent” voters are often solid party voters but prefer to call themselves independent for what can only be described as aesthetic reasons usually.

    2. My big fear as a proudly partisan Democrat and liberal is that this becomes the “Close but not quite” election for Democrats. I.e. we gain seats but come up short of a minority in the House and/or the Senate. There is a firm possibility of this. The Senate was always tough for Democrats this year and all things considered, we are polling pretty well in what should be some very tough races. I’m more confident about the House but there is still a plausible way for Democrats to win seats but not enough seats for a majority.

    3. The billion dollar question is how much does Kavanaugh help or hurt Republicans. He does seem to be firing up the Republican base but Silver thinks the data is questionable. Maybe it helps in some Senate seats (but ones that were tough for Democrats anyway). I saw an article on the Chronicle that Kavanaugh is not helping the GOP in California among women. California is a prime area where the Democrats can take House seats from the GOP and probably will. The same in some other purple or blue states too.

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      • From what I saw, Maria Bartolo lobbed a “question” about Soros paying for protestors to Chuck Grassley on Fox News and Grassley said he heard something and believes it to be true. Trump repeated it.

        I guess we were eventually going to be targeted by the new Right-wing.

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        • I am honestly surprised that this may be first time Trump has brought out the Soros boogie man. The idea that there is no real progressive people and that all the protests, online activity, etc. are either rubes or protesters paid by Soros is not new. I’ve been hearing it broadly since at least the 2012 election. I have two hypotheses on why it continues to gain traction. First, maybe that is how it works on the right side (Koch Bros.) and folks assume it works the same way on the left. Second, it would not surprise me to find out Soros is a favorite target of the GRU online operations. Stirring up controversy here about him does double duty for Putin.

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    • In one sense our history of the word fascism inhibits us from seeing how real this can be.
      Instead of mass formations of goosestepping soldiers, I’m thinking American fascism will resemble Putin’s Russia, or Xi’s China.

      Where there are the outward trappings of democracy, and freedom of thought and individualist consumer culture.

      Like easy access to porn, music and art that shakes a defiant fist at power, but ultimately power is held closely by a tiny clique and the muscle is provided by a sufficiently dominant ethnic group to maintain the system.

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      • If the United States succumbs to fascism and authoritarian, you are almost certainly correct that it is not going to be of a dystopia movie kind.

        Probably. We already have ICE wrecking terror on brown people and local cops willing to do the same among brown people that can’t be deported. ICE is very dystopian in my view. But plenty of left-leaning Americans will continue to live in cities and states which act as a kind of bubble in the way you describe in the last paragraphs.

        But Trump tweeting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is a turn for the darker and probably one of the reasons why the adamant #NeverTrump conservatives happened to all be Jewish.

        I think this is the logical conclusion of “elite” bashing where “elite” in America means anyone with kind of highbrow tastes.

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        • I may have shared that story about my friend who was a Mormon missionary in Argentina in the 70s, during the dirty war.
          I asked him if he wasn’t afraid what with all the violence and disappearances taking place. He laughed and said he had no idea any of it was even going on.

          As a white middle class American non-political tourist, he floated in a safe little protective bubble among the upper middle class families and of course never came face to face with any of it.

          I think it was always this way to some degree in every repressive regime. Every regime has its core of supporters who are kept safe and comfortable and all the ugliness is tucked away out of sight.

          I mean, only a few years ago there were fevered conspiracies about “FEMA camps” and yet here we are today, with a massive gulag of children’s camps, and the teevee sitcoms keep right on playing, like everything is normal.

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          • Mormon float so effortlessly amongst the people with their Kiva loans and acquisitively appropriate all the credit of Do Gooders only doing good for the poor, disenfranchised, imprisoned and dispossessed when the dirty secret is they did no such thing, well, at least in Argentina. Their 40 days in the desert so to speak.

            I’m more amazed nobody makes this easily seen observation. It’s more than hypocrisy. The Psychs have a label for it, Acquisitive Projective Identification. It’s an ugly part of an ugly psychological impairment called Borderline Personality Disorder.

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      • Chip Daniels:

        Where there are the outward trappings of democracy, and freedom of thought and individualist consumer culture.

        Like easy access to porn, music and art that shakes a defiant fist at power, but ultimately power is held closely by a tiny clique and the muscle is provided by a sufficiently dominant ethnic group to maintain the system.

        I would argue that this is not fascism, per se, because words have meanings – but a critique of the system and system potential shared by Aldous Huxley and some old school Marxists.

        And a somewhat valid critique, depending on where and with what emphasis one places the modifiers and caveats.

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        • Its entirely possible that historians will need to coin a new word or revamp an old one to properly define this.

          “Fascism” and “Totalitarianism” didn’t really have their current meanings prior to the 1930s.

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          • It is more likely (and has occured more frequently) that an illiberal system with establishment an equilibrium at some authoritarian level, one that is substantial, but not totalitarian (nor entirely fascist)

            Totalitarianism takes a lot of work, and who has time for that?

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            • Was the regime of King George III fascist?
              Whatever it was, we fought a bloody revolution to get rid of it.

              Was the antebellum South fascist?
              Maybe maybe not, but we fought a civil war to defeat it.

              I think its a quirk of 20th century upbringing to imagine that whatever can’t be called fascist is somehow okay.

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              • But folks on the left are okay with Fascism, which favors rule by educated elites, fair wages, worker representation, etc., and a strident opposition to capitalism. French socialists helped fund the Fascists so they could beat back the Italian socialists, of which Mussolini was a former leader. The Fascists finally kicked Mussolini out, so he went north to found the Italian Socialist Republic.

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              • The King George III regime was ok! Half the guys who fought against King George *became* the antebellum South.

                The antebellum South was as close to fascism as a pre-industrial society can get. And possibly even more fascist than the fascists, in the sense that it was more closely modelled on ancient Rome in politics and economics than 20th century Italy was.

                Plus the post-bellum South was no picnic either for a hundred years.

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                • You mean the antebellum South was third-way socialist with a guaranteed minimum wage, paid vacations, and worker representation on all plantation decisions?

                  The South had nothing to do with Ancient Rome. They came from southern England, and their difference from the Northerners was that they had been on the losing side of the English Civil War.

                  Fascism wasn’t modeled on Ancient Rome. It was one of the many post 1890 revisions to Marxism that combined socialism, syndicalism (which was to the left of communism), futurism, and nationalism. Mussolini broke with the Italian socialists (where he was a noted leader, editor, writer, and thinker) because they thought workers shouldn’t fight in the Great War (it’s a scam to benefit the weapons companies, etc), whereas Mussolini thought a great struggle was required to raise the consciousness of the proletariate and lead to the socialist revolution. So he got funding from French socialists who wanted the Italians to take some pressure off the French lines.

                  On of Mussolini’s brilliant insights was that the conventional Marxist class warfare was a non-starter in Italy because most people worked for their parents or grandparents, so rising up to overthrow their masters would make for very uncomfortable Christmas dinners.

                  Shortly after the Great War, Mussolini took over Italy, made nice with the king, and ran the place for decades without much complaint from the left in Europe or the US, even gaining praise and admiration from FDR, since Fascism was the Italian version of the New Deal. But Mussolini thought Fascism and Nazism were the wave of the future, threw in with Hitler to gain some cheap real-estate around the Med, and then it all went badly for him. Even the Fascists kicked him out.

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  3. However, Democrats do have the polling, the forecasting, the history, the environment, the candidate quality, and voter enthusiasm on their side. If they manage to let this one slip away on election night, as if 2016 returned to haunt them again, it could dampen Democratic hopes for 2020 and give Republicans a much needed morale boost half-way through Trump’s stormy term in office and into his anticipated to be tough re-election campaign.

    Bold added for emphasis, cuz, I mean, let’s get real here. If the Dems actually do have all the structural, contextual and candidate/political advantages you mention and do not reclaim the House, that result wil be a lot worse than merely dampening Democratic hopes in the next Presidential election. It will be like an earthquake tearing apart the foundations upon which the contemporary Dem party is constructed.

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    • Agreed. To me the test is can the Democrats take the House. If they do, even narrowly, I think we are still within the realm of American politics as usual. If not, I’ll be a lot more open to arguments that a major realignment is in progress.

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      • What if the Dem’s win the popular House vote by six points, but the GOP still holds the house? To most of my liberal friends, that would only further the argument that the Republican’s are basically illegitimate, holding power through undemocratic means. At least the GOP has usually won the House vote to take or keep control of it.

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        • To most of my liberal friends, that would only further the argument that the Republican’s are basically illegitimate

          Not being snarky, but what would complaining about GOP illegitimacy accomplish? They would still hold all the power, yes?

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        • It would mean nothing. Gerrymandering is BS but at the end of the day losers blame the ref. Winners go home, document affirmative consent, and fuck the prom queen, king, gender non-binary what-have-you.

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          • Gerrymandering is BS

            Well, then let’s not call it “gerrymandering”. From what I’ve read the Dems need to vote at about +7 nationally to retake the House. Which suggests to me there there’s something wrong with districtng regardless of whether we pin it on Republican gerrymanders. Whatever *it* is, it’s an issue.

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            • There’s definitely something wrong with it. The challenge is that fixing it through the normal process has become a prisoner’s dilemma. Doing something about it is going to need to come from the people via referendums or something similar. My guess is that activists who are smart enough to understand it are mostly committed partisans themselves. I have no viable solution.

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            • Which suggests to me there there’s something wrong with districtng…

              You literally have to make that “wrong with voters”. Consider the urban/suburban/rural split in a state of medium population. Essentially no one wants to be in a mixed district. They want a Congress critter that will look out for the interests of a particular type of district. In Colorado, the rural parts of the state want a Congress critter who is on their side — favoring agricultural subsidies, preserving historical rural water rights against growing cities, etc. Denver voters want a Congress critter who is on the side of urban interests.

              In the 2011 redistricting, serious consideration was given to a map that would have put the red SE rural counties in with red Colorado Springs. The rural areas screamed because they believed — probably correctly — that the Congress critter from such a district would need to side with the Springs on water rights and expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in order to get elected.

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              • Colorado is a great example of what I’m talking about. CO votes blue at the presidential level, is split on Senators, but is 5-2 GOP in the House. Seems effing crazy to me. Where’s all the noise from the “that’s unfair!” community. :)

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                • Well, currently 4-3 GOP in the House, predicted to go 3-4 in November with Coffman finally losing to the steady blue shift in his district.

                  Consider things since the 7th Congressional district was added. The House delegation has been as far as 5-2 GOP and 5-2 Democrats. The Senate lineups have included all of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one of each. Electoral votes have gone to both a Republican and Democrats. At the state level, both parties have held the trifecta at different times. Earlier this year active registered voters were 31.7% Dem, 31.5% Republican, and 36.8% unaffiliated (ignoring the minor parties). Given occasional “wave” elections, nothing there strikes me as being unfair or out-of-line.

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      • My non-scientific gut tells me that if Kavanaugh is confirmed prior to the election… the Dems will have a good mid-term (not sure if that includes flipping the Senate, but that’s probably their best shot). If the Kavanaugh situation lingers (absent a breakthrough with any of the accusations) polling seems to show some surprising surges on the right (and among women on the right) which might make the mid-term very… interesting?

        From a purely political point of view, I suspect a Justice Kavanaugh will make for Democratic political gains in 2018 and probably 2020 (though a lot of things could happen between now and then).

        I’d be curious if anyone has done the analysis of what happens after the election to the Republican Kavanaugh votes even assuming worst case scenario where they lose the Senate, but vote on Kavanaugh on, say, Nov 13? Its not like McConnel is going to care about opprobrium for calling a vote during the lame-duck session before Jan. And, if they hold the Senate, then they have the advantage of taking as much time as they want (well, 2-yrs anyway) to decide if there’s a less boozy alternative with a really boring yearbook and a much nerdier calendar… and hopefully no accusations springing out of his/her past.

        Sorry, I diverged from Stillwater’s main point (with which I agree).

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        • From a purely political point of view, I suspect a Justice Kavanaugh will make for Democratic political gains in 2018 and probably 2020 (though a lot of things could happen between now and then).

          With nothing more to go on than my gut and conversations with lots of women … if Kavanaugh is confirmed I think Dems make gains for about a generation. They pick up women voters in the short term, but the identity of the Dem party changes as more (incredibly pissed off) women enter politics on the Dem side, reshaping the platform and politics in ways that I, obvs, cannot predict other than it becomes more female and will most likely diverge from the Schumer/Clinton model which has, frankly, been a disaster for the party.

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          • Perhaps in the mid-/long-term, but interesting polling on the short-term (including Republican women)… which is the much shorter way to ask the question why – from a Republican point of view – confirm Kavanaugh before the election?

            “Heightening the contradiction” seems to increase Republican enthusiasm to match Democratic enthusiasm… once he’s confirmed… democratic enthusiasm is boosted yet again, while Republican enthusiasm should (theoretically) fade as the goal was met. That’s my question above.

            I assume there’s some good whip analysis on why it needs to happen now vs. a month from now, and I’d be curious to see what that might be.

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            • In a pretty important sense it doesn’t matter unless you think McConnell is willing to let Kav’s nom fail in the floor vote for purely electoral reasons. Doesn’t seem like he is. So then we’re left not with an interesting cynical question about electoral political strategery but the consequences of whether McConnell’s strategy to squeeze wafflers succeeds or not.

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              • No, not fail… he controls the agenda… all he has to do is slow-/fast-walk it to whatever date he wants the vote to happen – either before or after the election.

                Clearly, the signal right now is a vote before the election… I’m just wondering why. A bird in the hand? Restless troops? Another High School or College Scandal lurking?

                There are plenty of Conservative Jurists… there’s no particular reason to die on Kavanaugh Hill – especially if Republicans hold the Senate. It’s really the deadline of Jan 3 and the prospect of losing the Senate that forces McConnell’s hand… but until they lose the Senate (21.7% chance) or Jan 3 rolls around if they do… he theoretically has as many votes as he needs today as he will on Nov 7 (or does he?).

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                • 9 out of 10 odds are it’s bird in the hand. McConnell probably doesn’t have faith that he can get his caucus to vote in a conservative jurist in a lame duck session if they lose the Senate. He’s a wily old vote counter and knows his Senators well. A conservative majority on the court is too important to him and his base to risk it for a possible electoral lift. Also the old fisher probably has mentally written the house off already.

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                • I think McConnell’s reasoning was (and is) that confirming Kav rather than leaving the seat open is better for GOP electoral prospects in the midterm. I believe that because I read reporting of him actually saying that.* Of course he *could* confirm a different nominee before the Senate flips (which is unlikely) but that won’t help him retain the Senate or retain the House. By his thinking anyway. In a demonstration of being a good soldier he rammed through a nominee he didn’t like for the good of the Party. So good on him (I guess).

                  *More accurately, something to that effect. McConnell never clearly says his underlying thinking so explicitly.

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                  • Just to clarify… there’s no scenario prior to the election where they get a different nominee… for now its Kavanaugh or nothing.

                    If they keep the Senate in the mid-terms… the hard deadline goes away… they could stick with Kavanaugh or would have an option/luxury to explore a different nominee.

                    I can tell by some of the comments here that folks are under-appreciating the importance of the deadline that was/is motivating a lot of the concerns (on the right) on the Kavanaugh confirmation.

                    Remove the deadline and new options open up… lose the Senate and the deadline holds and Kavanaugh is the only option.

                    In sales we have a saying to live by: He who has the deadline loses.

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            • My guess: Right now, on the right, the worst thing you can be is weak/beta/cuck. Team R needs to drive this very aggressively to satisfy the base and keep them motivated. If Kavanaugh flounders about for another month, it looks weak and capitulating to Team D.

              IMHO, best case for Team R may be Kavanaugh fails and a shiny new nominee is put up in the week leading to the election. A shiny new candidate that hasn’t had a chance to be beat up much that the voters have to go to the polls to save from evil Team D. That would do wonders to get the team fired up.

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            • I assume there’s some good whip analysis on why it needs to happen now vs. a month from now, and I’d be curious to see what that might be.

              I’m coming in a bit late here, but there is a possible reason. Google ‘Gamble v. United States’, which is a case that’s about to be decided _now_, like, at the start of this court session, about double jeopardy with regard to someone being charged for the same act at Federal and state level.

              Which, of course, has implications for Trump and his gang. If double jeopardy applies, Trump can pardon people for Federal crimes they’ve been convicted of, and they can no longer be charged for state crimes.

              Except this isn’t really workable, mostly because New York already has a law stopping such double-charging (Although they are considering putting in an exception for people pardoned.), so Federal prosecutors _deliberately_ left some crimes for state prosecutors to charge…and as Manafort discovered, the pardon power doesn’t apply to forfeiture either. Also, to actually trigger double jeopardy, Trump would have to let the trial play out and them getting found guilty, and then pardon them, which is…uh…problematic from a political standpoint. He could perhaps get away with pardoning cronies in advance, but…having the entire country sit through the trial, and see the evidence, and a guilty verdict reached, and _then_ a pardon? No.

              So, the obvious conclusion is ‘This is much too stupid to be the Trump administration’s reason to force through Kavanaugh right now ‘, to which I reply: Trump’s Razor.

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          • Welp, Sen Collins is doing her best to mitigate the obviously impending damage to the GOP’s brand, but I don’t think it’s enough. GOP loses women voters across the board for at least a generation. By focusing on narrow procedural trees she’s lost her view of the forest. Nevertheless, and unfortunately for her given the old-white-guy composition of the GOP judiciary, she is presenting the best case for Kav’s confirmation. Like, she’s presenting a great case. But the case-for sucks, and that’s not her fault. It’s her misfortune.

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        • Here’s what I want to say:

          Getting down to the horserace I think delaying a Kavanaugh vote is becoming more advantageous to the GOP but only if they can successfully pin the delays on the Democrats. If they install him now on a partisan vote (which it will be anyway, now, lame duck session, whenever) they may dampen their own partisan energy and simultaneously give Democrats something to be so livid about they might even show up en masse for a midterm.

          Here’s what a weird stalking horse in the back of my mind cautions:

          Since at least 2016 we keep being blinded by short-term hot takes. All predictions like the above are just projections by political junkies and not based on anything substantive. If the Dems retake the house it will be because their coalition and the pendulum of post Reagan politics is still basically in tact, not due to whats in the headlines. If they don’t it means Obama held the coalition together with duck tape and gum and its finally coming apart.

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      • Exactly. Taking the House but not the Senate would dampen enthusiasm going into 2020. (Dems won’t take the Senate.) Not taking the House would kill it. Something about a falcon and a falconer, then all hell breaks loose. :)

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        • Yes, and in that case the Dems will be fine and the GOP will be looking at 2 more years of Trump without a GOP congress covering his ass and a FAR less advantageous Senate map in 2020 (and likely little to no help in the house either).
          Basically 2006 and 2008 redux.
          If the GOP emerges from their period of total control with nothing to show for it but a massive tax cut that re-incinerated the ashes of their fiscal conservative claim, the ACA battered but extant and some judges they would have gotten from any Republican majority with a pulse that’s gonna be a pretty good cycle for the Dems/left wingers big picture wise.

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          • Except … the GOP isn’t an ideologically-based policy-passing institution anymore. It’s a culture-war institution which appears to be fueled, given the absurdity of the policy proposals, by owning the libs. What’s the shelf life of that meme?

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            • What’s the ambulatory life expectancy of their base? How much longer are they going to keep buying National Review Cruises, mega-preacher discount bulk salvation, gold and sleep number beds? The Fox News strain that’s devoured the GOP alive isn’t going to stop until the money runs out whatever happens to the GOP electorally.

              I mean the Dems and the left got walloped in the chops pretty hard over Obama’s term and in 2016 with HRC but their core desires are still generally intact, relevant and they still generally believe that their political party wants to try and address the things they want. Is the same true on the right? I don’t know, getting knocked back that hard could make the whole Republican edifice implode like a rotted out log. Or just contract the couple inches that keep them electorally viable.

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  4. I admit: I’ve never heard the term “Red Wall” before today.

    My assumption is that the Blue Wall would have held had it been Jeb! or Cruz (barring Ohio) or Rubio.

    I assume that the Blue Wall will be back the second Trump isn’t on the ballot.

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    • Sounds like a plausible assumption to me. Also I’ve never heard of the Red Wall either. I submit you probably need your barrier to hold for more than a single fluke election before you can call it a wall. Maybe the red leaning line of sticks with a piece of string?

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      • Sounds like a plausible assumption to me. Also I’ve never heard of the Red Wall either. I submit you probably need your barrier to hold for more than a single fluke election before you can call it a wall. Maybe the red leaning line of sticks with a piece of string?

        Yeah, there is no red wall. In kind of a weird overtone from 2016, there’s a blue wall, and it’s holding. Our Senate gains are capped at +6 if the blue wall holds, and realistically that means +5 since I think Manchin is safe at this point, and if I had to guess the single most likely outcome, that would be it.

        But, there are a number of secondary seats which I expected to be somewhat competitive, and the best you can say for them is that expectation has not materialized yet: Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. That’s where the GOP needs to make hay to have a legit good year.

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          • Well sure but if they’re winning those it’s a red wave.

            No, there is no red wave. I think what we’re going to see is a “permanent” GOP majority in the Senate though, permanent in the sense of our current demographic/cultural conflict. There’s been a lot of politicos and professor types who have been famously wrong predicting permanent majorities.

            As far as the “New Blue Wall” goes, we’re not going to get close to getting all of them, or even most of them. I was hoping for one or two, but if I had to bet we won’t even get that. We’ll need at least a little movement in the polls in the next three weeks, and a bit of luck on election day.

            But on the upside if the blue wave comes to the Senate you might finally be rid of Ted Cruz so there’s a silver lining there.

            Cruz is safe. He wasn’t for a while, but I think he is now. I do think he is finished as a national political figure, but he does have at least six more years in the Senate.

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  5. There are reports that Republicans are suddenly more motivated to vote than they have ever been in their lives, and that this is the first election in history where the Supreme Court is at the top of the voter’s concerns.

    Normally you’d guess that when Kavanaugh is confirmed this massive Republican uplift would subside, but perhaps not, as Democrats are vowing to keep trying to burn him as a witch.

    From the New York Times:

    House Democrats will open an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct and perjury against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh if they win control of the House in November, Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat in line to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on Friday.

    Speaking on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote this weekend, Mr. Nadler said that there was evidence that Senate Republicans and the F.B.I. had overseen a “whitewash” investigation of the allegations and that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court was at stake. He sidestepped the issue of impeachment.

    Perjury over what, saying that Renate Alumnius wasn’t a sexual slur? Just because you can find some teen who remembers it as a sexual slur doesn’t mean anything, because you can find some teens who say everything was a sexual slur, including “and” and “or”. Saying that Devil’s Triangle wasn’t a reference to a Satanic three-way? Well, Devil’s Triangle is a version of quarters using three glasses and four players. The person closest to the glass that the shooter hits has to drink.

    But threats like this will keep Republicans more fired up than they were in 2010 or 2014.

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  6. For a pushback against “OMG the Kavanaugh bump”

    A new Congressional poll came out today with the Democrats leading by 13 points, with women voting 63-33 for the Democrat’s.

    So, for every loud “independent” women scared that her son might get accused of being a rapist in college, there’s two or three women who are far more scared their daughter may be a victim of that son getting drunk and “making a mistake.”

    https://twitter.com/DavidWright_CNN/status/1049693272212430851

    Women’s views of each major party via poll:

    https://twitter.com/ryanstruyk/status/1049725470625939462

    Democratic Party:
    51% favorable
    38% unfavorable

    Republican Party:
    34% favorable
    57% unfavorable

    https://twitter.com/Taniel/status/1049706557074747392

    CNN’s new generic ballot poll has women opting for the Democratic candidate 63% to 33%. Gender gap is a net 35%.

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    • Pushback to the pushback-

      One of the tactics of bullies and abusers is to make good on their threats to make resistance painful.
      It is entirely possible that resistance to Trump infuriates and activates previously apolitical types.

      So be it. We can’t let it stop us from saying what we believe to be true, or acting on it.

      As the good Ms. Pelosi said, we came here to do a job, not keep one.

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    • As with real estate, location, location, location. Are the changes in states where that makes a difference? In districts where that makes a difference? The winner of the Senate race in California will be a Democrat — a million California women more or less has no effect on that outcome.

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