Before I get into the main subject of today’s column, I just want to make quick statement about the Virginia election and what it would mean for next year’s Senate and House races if McAuliffe doesn’t win.
Despite all kinds of fake news warnings that the Virginia election is a ‘make or break’ deal for the Democrats, I don’t think this contest means very much at all.
According to 270toWin, right now there are 10 Senate seats which could change color next year, of which currently 6 of those seats are in GOP hands. Two of those seats in Ohio and PA will be open since GOP incumbents have decided not to run again and predicting a race in which neither candidate holds the office can be a little dicey at best.
In the House there are 77 seats which are considered to be in play because the winner in 2020 had a margin of victory of less than 10%. Right now, there are 40 GOP House members in this group, and 37 from the blue team, which is more or less an even split. The Democrats control the House by a margin of 10 seats.
So, to gain control of the lower chamber, the GOP would have to hold onto all its vulnerable seats plus grab 10 of the 37 Democratic in-play seats. To quote the discussion in Godfather II when Michael Corleone and his henchmen were trying to figure out whether they could knock off Hyman Roth on his return to the states: “Difficult, but not impossible.”
In everyone’s mind, of course, is what happened in the last mid-term election when the Democrats picked up 41 seats in the House and reversed what had been a Republican-controlled chamber since 2010. But there are some clear differences going into next year as opposed to the 2018 mid-term results, chief among them being the fact that two years into his Presidency, everyone was sick and tired of Donald Trump.
From the number of rallies that Trump held in 2018, you would have thought that he was running for re-election rather than waiting until he ran last year. And he made a point of saying that the mid-terms were a ‘plebiscite’ on him which, if anything, couldn’t have turned out to be more true.
One thing from 2018 that has been largely overlooked is that the turnout was the highest of any mid-term election since 1914. I am increasingly convinced that voter turnout is the key to which party will control the White House or the two chambers on the Hill. And this metric is not so much a factor in terms of the overall results, but it can play a major role in determining how the voting goes in critical, swing states or contested Senate and House races in any state.
The national turnout rate in 2014 was 36.7%, the lowest mid-term turnout since 1942. In 2018 it jumped to 50%, a turnout which according to Trump reflected all those fake votes. But I think that what really resulted in a negative plebiscite against him and the GOP was how he couldn’t bring himself to denounce the Nazis at Charlottesville as well as his endless vulgarisms and profanity which did nothing except demean the office he held.
I don’t think the Democrats need to spend one second worrying about the strength of the so-called Trump ‘base.’ It’s the GOP which needs to figure out how to create a political narrative that doesn’t sound like two drunks sitting on bar stools in a saloon in Richmond Hill, Queens arguing about the Yanks versus the Mets.
When Trump led ‘lock her up’ chants in 2016, this was something new, something different, something which challenged the usual scripted and contrived, staged elements of most political campaigns. Except once Trump took office, people realized that you don’t deal with global warming, income inequality, ISIS, endemic racism, and most of all, the Pandemic, by screaming insults or mouthing platitudes on Fox News.
The real question for 2022 is whether the GOP will figure out how to become a political alternative to the blue team without continuing a lemming-like march to oblivion by remaining in the thrall of Trump.
If they do, they’ll have a shot at winning back some of what they lost in the last two elections. If not, not.
Vote Early – Vote Often! I can’t say it often enough. And I mean it, too.