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Analysis: The 'Blue Wave' That Wasn't

While it appears likely that Joe Biden will win the presidential election, the 'blue wave' expected by many pundits and liberals simply did not materialize.  In fact, there was something of a red ripple down ballot, resulting in an array consequential outcomes that favor the GOP.  At the presidential level, Trump is poised to crack 70 million votes won.  He has already blown past Barack Obama's previous all-time record from 2008.  The president's vote total has surpassed his 2016 tally by approximately the population of the entire state of Massachusetts.  Huge turnout did not wash him away; it boosted him, and if a few factors were different, he very well could have won re-election.  The bad news for Trump is that the new all-time US vote leader is his opponent.  Biden will win both the 'popular vote' and the electoral college comfortably.  If one solely knew this electoral result, one could be easily forgiven for presuming that Democrats benefited significantly elsewhere at the federal and state level.  But that's not what happened.


As we've discussed, Senate Republicans have likely managed to maintain their majority with an incredible string of victories in targeted states.  Two of their most vulnerable incumbents lost, as polls suggested they would, but another highly vulnerable member (Maine's Susan Collins) won handily.  They've swept literally every other race Democrats and the media had circled as potential pick-ups.  Crucial to this achievement were Joni Ernst's decisive victory in Iowa, and Thom Tillis' highly likely (see here) win in North Carolina, defying the polls.  Alaska remains uncalled as of this writing, but Republican sources I've spoken to are supremely confident that race is well in hand.  That puts Mitch McConnell's conference at 50 seats.  If the GOP can win one or both of the Georgia runoffs (they will be favored to do so for several reasons, which I'll write about soon), that's an outright majority.  It's very conceivable, if not probable, that the GOP will end up dropping just one net Senate seat on a night Joe Biden will rack up roughly 75 million votes.  Extraordinary.

But the Senate was always in play. What's happening in the House of Representatives is a bigger surprise.  One of the reasons some smart analysts like Dave Wasserman repeatedly said they thought Trump could lose a real blowout was district-level Congressional polling, which looked quite ugly for the GOP, and did not show any of the telltale movement that presaged Trump's 2016 upset.  The most established political prognosticators were unified in agreement that House Democrats were on the brink of swelling their majority, further empowering Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  I bought into that, writing that single-digit losses would be a decent outcome for House Republicans.  In reality, the GOP has gained at least ten lower chamber seats as of this writing, and plugged-in sources tell me they will probably end up controlling between 209 and 214 seats in the new Congress, compared to 197 currently.  This would render the Democrats' position the smallest House majority in decades.  It would also set up the GOP for a relatively light lift to win back the chamber in 2022, a cycle that would historically favor the party opposite the newly-elected president.  One additional note: House Republicans are diversifying and recruiting well -- winning or being extremely competitive in races in which their candidates are women and/or people of color, and/or military veterans.  One small snapshot:


The angry recriminations are well underway, boiling over on livid conference calls, and into the press. Hilariously, Pelosi attempted to claim a "mandate" after presiding over this mess:

Even with tens of thousands of ballots still to be counted, shell-shocked Democratic lawmakers, strategists and aides privately began trying to pin the blame: The unreliable polls. The GOP’s law-and-order message amid a summer of unrest. The “hidden Trump voters.” The impeachment hangover. The lack of a coronavirus stimulus deal...Democrats including Bustos and Speaker Nancy Pelosi were boasting about the opportunity to expand their majority, with some even predicting they could win as many as a dozen seats in the House by clawing back GOP territory in the suburbs of Texas, Ohio and Illinois. But by Wednesday morning, party officials and the rank and file were in panic mode...Some Democrats were privately more blunt: “It’s a dumpster fire,” said one lawmaker, who declined to be named.

AOC is dismissing her less radical colleagues' frustrations as ultimately undergirded by racism, so this is going well:


At the state level, only one governorship was really in play this cycle: Montana's.  With the state's outgoing Democratic governor running for Senate and losing (pretty handily), that was an open seat, and Republicans have won it.  The GOP will now control 27 of the country's 50 governorships.  In state legislative elections, Republicans have a lot to cheer about, while Democrats gained nothing.  Despite an enormous showing from Joe Biden nationally, state-level Democrats failed to flip a single state legislative chamber anywhere in the country, while Republicans padded their leads in several, and won back both houses in New Hampshire (where the Republican governor won re-election by 32 points, despite Trump losing the state by seven).  Some of the state-level wreckage extended to Democratic leaders in very Democratic places:

The real upshot of Republican successes and Democratic failures pertains not just to legislation but to Congressional redistricting:


Here’s something else Republicans can be happy about after Tuesday. An abysmal showing by Democrats in state legislative races on Tuesday not only denied them victories in Sun Belt and Rust Belt states that would have positioned them to advance their policy agenda — it also put the party at a disadvantage ahead of the redistricting that will determine the balance of power for the next decade...The results could domino through politics in America, helping the GOP draw favorable congressional and state legislative maps by ensuring Democrats remain the minority party in key state legislatures. Ultimately, it could mean more Republicans in Washington — and in state capitals. By Wednesday night, Democrats had not flipped a single statehouse chamber in its favor. And it remained completely blocked from the map-making process in several key states — including Texas, North Carolina and Florida, which could have a combined 82 congressional seats by 2022 — where the GOP retained control of the state legislatures

This was yet another misfire by the experts, on this front:


I'll leave you with a few rays of sanity in...California:

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