It was just two days ago that ABC News’ election forecaster FiveThirtyEight suggested “Two Special Elections On Tuesday Could Hint At Another Blue Wave In 2020.”
The case made by Geoffrey Skelley and Nathaniel Rakich was simple: Supposedly Americans strongly prefer Biden and Democrats over Trump and Republicans, and they are particularly upset with Trump and other Republicans’ attempts to reopen the country as the global Coronavirus pandemic rages.
“On Tuesday, we’ll get a taste of whether Democrats’ electoral advantage on paper will hold up in practice, as California and Wisconsin hold special elections for two vacant congressional seats. The main event is in the California 25th Congressional District, a bellwether seat in the north Los Angeles suburbs, where both parties see a chance to add to their ranks in the House. But if Democrats are also competitive in the quickly reddening, rural Wisconsin 7th Congressional District, it could signal another blue wave in the fall,” they argued.
The contest in California’s 25th Congressional District was an open battle for a seat vacated by Katie Hill after the married representative got in trouble with Democratic leadership for intimate relations with some of her staff members. The House had just passed rules forbidding such relationships. She won her seat by nine points in 2018 in a district Hillary Clinton won by seven points. Wisconsin’s blue collar-heavy 7th Congressional District went for Obama by eight points in 2008, but now favors Republicans such as Trump. Trump won the district by some 20 points in 2016, when Republican Sean Duffy won re-election with 62 percent of the vote. Even as a very popular incumbent, Duffy’s support ticked down to 60 percent in 2018. The FiveThirtyEight fellas reminded readers that Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin lost the district by five points in 2018, and Democrat-favored Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice-elect Jill Karofsky lost it by 6 points last month. Suspecting a Republican victory might be eked out, they said to pay special attention to margins.
“Still, pay attention to the final margin, both here and in California. When a party consistently overperforms its usual partisan baseline in special elections, it bodes well for that party in the general election as well. So even a narrow loss by [Democrat Tricia] Zunker, if paired with a comfortable [Democrat Christy] Smith win, would add to the evidence that another Democratic wave is building.”
Well, the results are in and Republicans won both seats. And not by small margins. In Wisconsin, Republican Tom Tiffany beat Zunker by 14.4 points.
In California, with some precincts still reporting, Mike Garcia is currently winning his election by 12 points. According to Dave Wasserman, it’s the first time the GOP has picked up a seat in the state since 1998.
As Alex Berenson, a skeptic of the government-mandated economic shutdown, asked, “But Democrats are the party of lockdowns, and voters love lockdowns, amirite?”
How do we jibe these results with the pre-election media spin? There are a few factors to look at. The most obvious one is that members of the Resistance– whether official Democrat Party leaders or the unofficial ones who dominate legacy media — are hoping that Trump’s handling of the global pandemic can be spun into a Trump-specific “Katrina” debacle. They’ve been trying to convince sufficient voters of Trump’s failure for many years, but have thus far been unable to do so.
The media spin against Trump’s handling of the global pandemic is not data-driven or reality-based so much as emotive. The media could be harshly critical of Democrat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose decisions regarding public transportation and nursing homes wreaked tragic results in his state. Instead, they have uniformly praised him. After criticizing Trump for overreacting to the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, by enacting a travel ban, they then said he didn’t do enough. Their latest spin is that he is prioritizing the private sector too much by encouraging a reopening of the economy. Whatever the ever-changing charge, the topline argument remains the same. Trump’s handling is so poor, they say, that many Republicans will suffer in November.
What’s weird about this narrative is that the underlying data do not support it. Trump’s approval during this unrelenting media assault has not gone up, but neither has it gone down. And he remains more popular than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The promised Blue Wave special election victories turned instead into Republican victories.
Privately, all this narrative spin in the face of facts might relate to what many people know but are worried about admitting publicly. Democrats have a lot going for them headed into November — legacy media support being a huge structural advantage worth countless dollars and voters — but they’re holding a weak hand with their nominee Biden and know that they’re in trouble. Since Trump won, Democratic strategists and other anti-Trump activists have known that the key to preventing a Trump re-election is to peel off enough Republican and independent voters to hand a Democrat a victory.
The Russia collusion hoax didn’t do it, not even with all the resources and support given to the Democrats working in the Robert Mueller Special Counsel probe. The Ukraine impeachment effort was so silly and such a waste of valuable time that the only Republican in the country to fall for it was the emotionally invested NeverTrump senator Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT. For years, Democratic strategists inside and outside the media have worried that a strong economy would help Trump win re-election. The global pandemic may harm that advantage, they may have reasonably surmised.
The media and others may be hysterical right now, though, because even at the pinnacle of their heightened anti-Trump offensive, polls show him doing fine.
Take a CNN poll that just came out, supposedly showing Biden beating Trump by five points. It is being spun, of course, as excellent news for Biden. But Biden was supposedly trouncing Trump by as much as 11 points in recent months, according to the same CNN polling. Since CNN last polled, it and other media outlets have done nothing but run pieces claiming Trump is a lunatic forcing innocent Americans to ingest bleach. And yet his standing improves? Even worse for Democrats, the CNN poll shows Trump doing well in key battle ground states.
Surely in the midst of this round-the-clock negative coverage of Trump, pollsters should be able to find double digit leads like the ones they put forth last year. In late October, NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had Biden up 9, ABC News/Washington Post had him up by 17, and Fox News claimed he would beat Trump by 12 points. Why isn’t Biden doing better than that in the midst of the media’s uniform criticism of his opponent?
Democrats may be in trouble. Their polls show Biden slipping, he hasn’t even begun to experience the rigors of a legitimate campaign, and Democrats can’t easily replace Biden so long as Bernie Sanders and his supporters continue to exist. And all while even CNN admits that Trump’s 49 percent job approval is “matching the highest it’s ever been” and betting markets are favoring Trump so much that Axios was recently forced to admit it.
None of this is to say that there won’t be a Blue Wave on election day or that Biden won’t win. We’ll have a poll on election day, just like we had polls yesterday in California and Wisconsin. We’ll see what happens. What we do know is that if the media were telling an even remotely accurate story about the political situation thus far, there is no way those two Republicans would have won. So let’s hold off on the “Blue Wave” and “Trump can’t win” narratives.
And as for the talking point that Tuesday’s results would be a sign of what’s to come for Democrats, Republicans may hope so.
Photo KABC News.