The Home Stretch: Five Big Numbers to Know From The Week in Politics -- August 10, 2018

Posted: Aug 10, 2018 2:05 PM

Happy Friday, y'all.  Here we go...

[Eight] - Of the nine House special elections held in red districts during Donald Trump's presidency, Republicans have won eight of them.  Despite some concerning trend lines beneath that overall result, batting .888 ain't nothing.  In another piece of potentially promising news, the generic Congressional ballot has again been closing in recent weeks:

Perhaps terrific economic news has bolstered the party in power a bit -- and don't forget that any uptick in the GOP's national standing likely means even better news in a handful of states hosting crucial Senate contests this fall.  But even as Republicans breathe a sigh of relief over their scary-close apparent win in OH-12 on Tuesday, here's another 'eight'-centric stat that serves as a sobering reminder that it's a tough electoral environment, in which the opposition is fired up:

In other words, Republicans have been playing defense in (mostly) very safe districts, and Democrats have been consistently over-performing.  The 'eight-out-of-nine!' talking point probably isn't especially reassuring to GOP incumbents representing purple districts.  Meanwhile, read Karl Rove's assessment of our current ("receding"?) Blue Wave status.

[48 percent] - That's the percentage of the Latino vote carried by Marco Rubio in his 2016 Senate re-election victory.  Representing a large and diverse state, Rubio roughly split this demographic with his Democratic challenger, en route to a fairly dominant victory.  Why bring that up now?  Well, in light of a re-ignited 'demography is destiny' debate over immigration and a shifting US electorate this week, I tweeted this:

My replies filled up with many people insisting that my view was naive, and that racial minorities will not be persuaded by conservative arguments.  My point is that as America grows less white, conservatives accomplish nothing by complaining about the new challenges presented by that reality.  We don't have to abandon our support for common-sense immigration enforcement and reforms (such as the president's reasonable proposal to move away a chain migration regime and toward a merit-based system), but we do need to adapt our message and tactics to communicate to a changing audience.  It's true that Republicans often struggle to compete with Democrats for Hispanic votes, but it's not a hard-and-fast rule.  George W. Bush won 44 percent of Latinos in 2004.  That's very competitive.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott also carried 44 percent of that cohort in his sweeping 2014 win.  And check out this nugget from a recent Florida survey: 

"More than seven in 10 of the 1,000 Puerto Ricans interviewed for the poll commissioned by Florida International University have a bad a very bad opinion of President Trump. By contast, more than 55 percent have a good or very good opinion of Gov. Scott — a whopping 82 percent among those who moved to Florida since 2017 when Hurricane Maria devastated the island."  

Governor Scott has demonstrated leadership and made serious inroads with a specific population (Puerto Ricans) that political experts have been saying for years will invariably turn Florida blue.  That may end up happening, but Gov. Scott didn't get the memo.  Part of winning hearts and minds involves earning trust.  And the best way to earn trust is to deliver positive results for people, which is what he's done in his state.  He's actively engaging and competing, and it's paying off: In a blue-tinted year, defeating an incumbent in Florida should be off the board for Senate Republicans, yet Scott has put himself in a position to possibly win the seat.  More broadly, rather than declaring that demographic changes will doom us, conservatives need to lean into those changes.  We abhor the Left's identity politics; we shouldn't stew in our own version of that swap.  Improving perceptions and moving votes will not be simple or easy lift, and I'm not Polyannish about the obstacles Republicans face (hello, California).  But treating an evolving electorate as a death knell is the surest way to guarantee that outcome.

[$785,000] - The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, is dropping a substantial sum of cash in West Virginia to turn the screws on Sen. Joe Manchin.  In addition to pressuring him over the Kavanaugh nomination (Manchin remains officially undecided, but is perhaps the likeliest Democrat to back Trump's pick), SBA is dinging him in a statewide ad campaign for over pro-Planned Parenthood voting record:

The Senator did vote in favor of a popular late-term abortion ban (unlike nearly all of his partisan colleagues), but he's opposed other pro-life measures.  Let's just say he appears a bit conflicted on the matter:

[100 percent] - Like it or not, that is the mortality rate among human beings, unchanged since...forever.  We're all going to die one day, an unavoidable if morbid fact that demonstrates the comical ridiculousness of something Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on CNN this week.  Lashing out at critics of her "Medicare for All" scheme, she chided the naysayers for ignoring the 'savings' garnered by fewer funerals for people who die due to lack of healthcare.  Yeah, why don't the haters calculate that?  Probably because...literally everybody dies, so there are no savings in that department, no matter what kind of healthcare system we may have.  And if we're worried about needlessly premature deaths, perhaps single-payer isn't the way to go.  Also, contra Ocasio-Cortez, her plan would not curtail overall health spending by trillions (three Pinocchios for that one); it would increase the nation's tab by trillions, at a total cost of an estimated $218 trillion over three decades.  Until people like AOC are willing to talk realistically about the crushing tax increases they'd need to impose to fund their stunningly expensive agenda, their ideas shouldn't be taken seriously.  Alas, many of those ideas will be taken seriously, even if their advocates never level with the public about a viable path to implementation and sustainability.  Click through for a further dismantling of the rest of her healthcare answer, via Ed Morrissey.  

As she's emerged as an instant media darling, with the DNC Chairman extolling her as the future of her party, Ocasio-Cortez has been struggling to articulate a coherent case to back up her word salad of buzz phrases, even in relatively friendly interview settings.  It is little wonder, therefore, that she's rejected Ben Shapiro's invitation to debate.  It's even less surprising that she did so with a lazy, motive-impugning accusation of sexism.  But the fact that it's so predictable doesn't make it any less of a lame dodge.  Weak:

Yes, the 'catcall' cop-out deserves to be mocked:

[Zero] - First term California Sen. Kamala Harris -- who's all but declared her presidential campaign, and with whom I took issue yesterday -- is demanding to review some more Brett Kavanaugh documents, you guys:

Setting aside the substantive seriousness of this Democratic talking point, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton was having none of it in this blunt clap back:

Sure enough, Harris is already on-the-record opposing Kavanaugh, having neither met with him nor heard one word of his confirmation hearing testimony.  Indeed, she'd declared him to be an agent of the constitution's destruction before he was even named by President Trump.  As things stand today, they've got nothing on him, which explains Harris' transparently cynical, bad-faith fishing expedition.

[Friday Fun] - Oops: