“There’s No Red Wave in the Data”: The Pollster Who Got the Midterms Right

On Tuesday afternoon, darkness rolled in from smart Democratic activists. The party would lose its majority in the House of Representatives but also lose the Democratic Senate majority. The most optimistic spin was that a red wave would be perversely good news for the president Joe Biden. Just look at 1994 when New Gingrich rode the treaty with America to Speaker of the House of Representatives; two years later President bill clinton was re-elected. Or the midterms of 2010, when the Tea Party Republicans fought their way to power; two years later President Barack Obama was re-elected. And hey, Biden might be personally unpopular, but he passed a number of laws that voters like. So a midterm wipeout was to be expected, but it wouldn’t be the end of the political world for the Democrats.

Let me paraphrase what they say in the old journalism movies.

With all the justified pessimism on Tuesday, however, there was a dissenting vote. It belonged to Cornell Belcher, a Democratic strategist who worked on both of Obama’s successful bids for the White House, among many other campaigns. Here’s what Belcher said to me yesterday, long before the polls closed: “I know this contradicts the narrative that Republicans have been really successful in pushing, but the closer we get to a majority of voters, the less likely it is that Republicans.” choose to win a majority. There is no red wave in the data. This is supposed to be a bloodbath. Let this be your wave choice. They have all the structural and dynamic advantages. If they don’t get 60 net seats in the House of Representatives, that’s a monumental failure.”

Cornell Belcher will appear at Meet the Press in Washington, DC on Sunday, October 23, 2022.

By William B. Plowman/NBC/Getty Images.

Much remains to be counted, but mid-term turnout numbers for 2022 are likely to exceed typical levels, which have been around 37% to 40% of registered voters lately. And forget that Republicans are gaining nearly 60 seats in the House of Representatives: the best they can do seems to be catching up by about 30. That would be enough for Republicans to win a majority and make a lot of noise over the next two years. But it’s a long way from a wave.

So how have Democrats defied modern midterm history and the conventional wisdom of 2022? It’s worth looking at a few individual competitions and a prevailing trend. Pennsylvania’s crucial Senate election has shown the importance of having a uniquely authentic and compelling candidate who connects with middle-class voters on economic and cultural issues — especially when the Republican opponent is a cakewalk. John Fetterman‘s campaign team – led by Brendan McPhillips, Rebecca Katz, and Fetterman’s wife, Gisele— not only endured Fetterman’s emergency three-month campaign absence when he was crushed by a near-fatal stroke. They filled the void with a sharp, clever social media campaign that defined Mehmed Oz as scammers and carpet diggers. Fetterman’s doctors also deserve credit for getting him back into credible fighting shape. Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer— who had to deal with life-threatening drama of her own two years ago — relied on similar authenticity to easily defeat a conservative Republican challenger.

In multiple races—Hillary Scholtenis running for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives, Wes Mooreis for governor in Maryland, JB Pritzker‘s for Governor in Illinois and Josh Shapiro‘s for the governor in Pennsylvania, to name a few – Democrats made a risky bet by funding extremist candidates in Republican primaries theorized they would be easier to beat in the general election. Every single one was worth it. As a strategist for the California Democrats, it was crucial to make clear distinctions Sean Clegg told me it would be way back in July. “This is not the Democratic Party versus the Republican Party. It’s the Democratic Party versus the anti-Democratic Party,” Clegg said. “These candidates are the brown shirts of the Trump movement. We face a choice as a country, and we might as well make that stark choice in advance.”

Roe. Dobbs. abortion rights. In short, as you will, but the Supreme Court ruling in June reflected consistently, from the defeat of an anti-abortion referendum in Kansas in August to the rejection of a similar measure in Kentucky last night. In the race for the governor of New York, the effects were less direct, but nonetheless clear. The incumbent, Democrat Kathy Hochul, ran a low-key campaign for months based on spending millions on television advertising; A major theme of these ads was Hochul’s pledge to protect abortion rights in her state. She got a lot of help in motivating Democratic voters on this front from her opponent, the right-wing Republican congressman lee zeldin, who co-sponsored a House bill to give embryos full personality rights.

Yet even with an effective last-minute Democratic freakout over the possibility of Hochul losing — Biden flew in to vote with her and from the congressmen’s left flank Alexandria Ocasio Cortez suddenly take to the streets with the governor – Hochul’s profit margin will likely be in the mid-single digits. Their weakness was reflected in five major New York House races, all of which went to the Republicans, who may determine control of the House. The most painful loss was over sean patrick maloney is running for a sixth term in a Hudson Valley district north of the city. This district and many others were reconfigured by a special master appointed by a Republican state judge in response to a proposed new district map that would have favored New York’s Democrats, a map pushed in part by … Maloney in his country’s role as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Given the surprising results across the country, it seems Maloney did a great job of helping Democrats vote elsewhere, and a lousy one at keeping his own seat: The county Maloney wanted to run in would be 10 by 2020 Points gone for Biden.

Speaking of the big picture, Belcher deserves the last word. The larger trend he points to in the midterms is generational. “There’s really two constituencies,” he says, “an older and a younger one fighting to take this country in very different directions.” For example: the young helped save Fetterman in Pennsylvania, and the old dominated Ron DeSantis in Florida. Abortion rights matter to voters in their 20s and 30s, as do climate change and student loans, and threats to democracy and racism. There will be a lot of turbulence over the next two years that will shake up the dynamics. But in 2024, Joe Biden will be the oldest president ever to run for re-election — and to win he’ll need to keep younger Democratic voters turning up.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/11/the-pollster-who-got-the-midterms-right “There’s No Red Wave in the Data”: The Pollster Who Got the Midterms Right


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