I was in an odd place on Election Night of 2002. I was suffering from mono, and had just decided to not try to return to running track and field or cross-country once cleared. I wasn’t playing the drums anymore, and was only about 20 months removed from my last wrestling bout (a 15-0 win), after 11 years in that sport. At that time, I was simply a young political science major, driven mostly by my opposition to the Iraq War and my support for the working class and unionized labor. I had no idea that politics would replace sports and music as the central meaning in my life yet, or the places it would take me. I thought I was majoring in political science at that time as a pathway to law school, not to be heading into 2020 still working on campaigns, but life doesn’t ask permission when moving you in a direction.
What I wouldn’t give to be back on a wrestling mat today, or run down that windy back-stretch on Easton’s track, or jam out on my drum set for a jazz band competition. All of those things once defined me as a person, and their fading from my life is part of why I am where I am this morning- running a regional boiler room, over-seeing the Charlotte area for the Democratic Party. Politics has taken me all over the place, and let me see places and things I never would have expected to see. I’ve managed Congressional, county and State legislative races, been a statewide field director, run a statewide early and absentee vote program, and of course been a regional field director. I’ve worked for members of the progressive caucus in Congress, and downright conservative Democrats. I’ve been exposed to people, places, ideas, and issues that I never would have seen otherwise. Politics has come to re-define who I am, what I am, and how I see the world. It truly filled the voids I previously left.
Father Time is not my friend though. If I want to retire at 65, I need to start moving in that direction sometime soon. Politics, and yes the Democratic Party, have changed a lot since I was a 19 year old intern for the PA Dems coordinated campaign. I don’t honestly know how I feel about it, if I’m honest. It’s not what I signed up for as an anti-war, pro-union youth. At the same time, these values are who I am now, at this point.
I’m not sure how many of today’s I have left. Let’s hope this is enjoyable.
GOTV is not a place or time for intellectual thought- you just do it. You do your job, as instructed, and just hope it works out. Freelancers who try to do their own thing and be heroes usually end up doing more harm than good. It’s a place for people who are orderly and follow directions. I find that Democrats aren’t so hot at that.
By 11pm tonight, one of two narratives will take hold:
- Democratic passion and enthusiasm, buoyed by anti-Trump fever, swept the nation up in a Blue Wave that at a minimum flipped the House, and maybe more. I also imagine that inside of this narrative will be a sub-story on whether “Berniecrat” lefties or mainstream, establishment figures lead the way, which will shape the opening salvos and days of the 2020 Election.
- Donald Trump’s stark rhetoric, his barnstorming schedule, and the awakening of the right-wing over Brett Kavanaugh’s “treatment” by Democrats stoked Republican enthusiasm to perform better than expected. Trump’s tough talk on immigration and Republican tough rhetoric against Democratic candidates in Georgia, Florida, and more saved the day. While many races were tight, Republicans held on in Republican seats. Donald Trump looks nearly impossible to beat.
For what it’s worth, be careful to not over buy on either story. The Democratic “Resistance” of these past two years may or may not work in a mid-term, in which Donald Trump is not actually on the ballot. Either way, that doesn’t mean you should conclude the same for 2020, when the Democrats will have to pick an actual person to run against him.
Just to make things clear, on no other level has the national political environment helped Democrats as much as the U.S. Senate. We are not talking much today about normally swing state seats like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Virginia. If Hillary had won in 2016, all would be in serious danger today. Even so, the road to winning a majority is brutally hard tonight. Democrats must:
- Win tough races they currently lead in West Virginia, Indiana, and Montana.
- Win at least one, if not two of Florida, Missouri, and North Dakota, all of which are within a point leads or much worse.
- Pick up at least three of Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas, all of which are razor close.
- Get Mississippi to a run-off and hope Republicans pick a nut, if they fall short on any of the above.
To be clear, it’s possible that Republicans pick up like five seats, and Democrats get none of their pick-ups. A 56-44 GOP Senate could happen. By the same token, so could a 53-47 Democratic Senate. Neither seems likely. I still would expect the GOP to hold the Senate with 50-53 seats after this election. That, by the way, is not a bad outcome for the Democrats, relative to where they started the cycle.
I don’t want to start 2020 before it needs to, but it’s worth noting- not many of the Democratic leading candidates are being invited into swing districts to close. You see some Barack Obama. You see some Joe Biden. You do see some Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, the occasional Elizabeth Warren, and a few others in blue areas to try and bump turnout, but you don’t see them going much to PA-10, NC-9, or any other moderate district we need to win the House. For the most part, this tells me that our field doesn’t have a broad enough audience to win the electoral college in 2020. A majority party that wins elections can win electorates that aren’t fully ideologically aligned with them, especially against a polarizing figure like Donald Trump.
If Democrats win back the House tonight as expected, it’s important to remember all the points on the road to this victory, beginning with Donald Trump’s victory speech in the early hours of November 9th, 2016 in New York. There was the GOP’s decision to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court striking down their Congressional map and putting their own fair map in place, the GOP pushing through two conservative judges after blocking Judge Garland, Charlottesville, Parkland, many Trump statements, Connor Lamb’s victory, and of course the tax cuts, to name a few moments.
When you watch tonight though, there are some key areas of the country to watch. The Philadelphia, Miami, and San Diego media markets look ripe for big Democratic gains. California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida all look like states where major gains are happening.
What are some districts that Democrats have to win? PA-5, 6, 7, 17, CA-49, NJ-2, 11, AZ-2, CO-6, FL-27, IA-1, IL-6, KS-3, MI-11, MN-2, 3, VA-10, WA-8. These 18 seats are prime pick-ups.
What are the toss-ups that Democrats need to win some of to win back the House? CA-10, 25, 39, 45, 48, FL-15, 26, GA-6, IA-3, IL-14, KS-2, KY-6, ME-2, MI-8, NC-9, 13, NJ-3, 7, NM-2, NY-19, 22, OH-12, PA-1, 10, TX-7, 32, UT-4, VA-2, 7. These 29 seats are where Democrats would tip the House and build their margin.
What seats would signal a huge Democratic wave? There are actually 56 additional GOP seats in their likely or leaning camps, which the Cook political report is still tracking. I can tell you for a fact that at least a couple of these seats are firmly in play after early voting. All told 103 Republicans are waking up in danger today. 80 of them could win, and they would still possibly lose the House. Remember, the Democrats are flat out favored to take 18 of these seats.
Down here in Charlotte this cycle, things have been eventful. My region has five state House races, all pick-up opportunities. It has two State Senate seats, also pick-ups. We also are doing GOTV for NC-9 on the Congressional level, a pick-up opportunity. It’s nice playing all offense, for a change. I expect us to pick up a State House seat or two, a State Senate seat, and possibly a Congressional seat tonight (though that will be tight). If things go well though, we could easily pick up much more than that. If you’re watching at home, you should keep an eye on HD’s 68, 98, 103, 104, and 105, SD’s 39 and 41, and CD 9.
Back up home, the only work I did for the general was PA HD-121. I have more than a passing interest in PA-115 (did work there last cycle) and 137 (my home district, I tried to push some personal capital with national organizations in there for our nominee). I did some Summer field work on PA’s CD-10 before it was targeted too. I am hoping for a Blue Wave to sweep them all into office.
My three tiers of potential Democratic Gubernatorial pick-ups tonight:
- Likely- Maine, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico
- Leaning- Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada
- Possible- Georgia, South Dakota, Kansas, New Hampshire
- Giant Blue Wave- Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Arizona
There’s less good forecasts out there for state legislatures than any other major level of government. Fortunately, the Washington Post recently published an article on this, and named the following chambers as “in play”:
- Michigan House and Senate
- North Carolina Senate
- Maine Senate
- New York Senate
- Arizona House and Senate
- Colorado Senate
- New Hampshire House and Senate
- West Virginia House
For what it’s worth, people in North Carolina think the House is at least as much in play. Carl Klarner did the forecasts for the Post, and you should check him out here.
No, Pennsylvania is not on here. Expect solid gains though tonight. I suspect the Democrats will end up with between 92 and 95 House seats, and 20 Senate seats. This puts both chambers at least marginally back in play moving forward.
Go vote. No, really, do it. Your country needs you, whoever you are. While I have interesting stuff to write here, none of it matters like you doing your civic duty. I have friends who are overseas right now representing our country, the least you can do is go vote.