Democrat Conor Lamb's upsetting of Republican and Donald Trump endorsed Rick Saccone in the Pennsylvania special election 18th district is yet another sign of an impending blue wave in the coming midterm elections. It's a heavily Republican district that Trump won by 20 points, and Mitt Romney won by 17.
It's also the heart of steel country, so perhaps a message was sent tonight about those steel tariffs.
We've heard all about the blue wave that's supposed to be washing ashore this November, but it won't be coming unless the enthusiasm gap is closed; and then some. The gap needs to be surpassed because Democrats just aren't as good (bad for us the voter) at gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the old fashioned style of election hacking, done domestically without the use of Russian trolls on social media. The practice of redrawing districts, often in ridiculously unsightly and utterly nonsensical shapes, is true voter fraud, because it makes so many votes in so many districts utterly meaningless.
Both parties do it, but the Republicans are much better (worse for us, the citizens) at it.
That's why all eyes are on Pennsylvania right now, for reasons that go above and beyond the race for the 18th district congressional seat. The state's supreme court ruled that its gerrymandered districts were unconstitutional, and that precedent could easily spread far beyond just the Keystone state. It will be great news for the blue team if our democracy has truly reached a tipping point regarding gerrymandering.
A true blue wave won't happen unless the Dems can flip the 51-49 disadvantage that they currently have in the Senate and pick up 24 seats, nationally, to retake the House of Representatives. It looks like they could win four in Pennsylvania alone, and that's an extremely good sign for them.
However, there is date to inspire pessimism too. Five Senate Democrats would lose to Republican candidates if the elections were held today and three have approval ratings under 50%, according to new Axios/SurveyMonkey polls
Axios poll shows trouble for Senate Dem hopes:
MT: Tester (D) 42% - Unknown (R) 55%
WV: Manchin (D) 43% - Unknown (R) 52%
MO: McCaskill (D) 44% - Hawley (R) 52%
IN: Donnelly (D) 45% - Unknown (R) 51%
ND: Heitkamp 47% - Unknown (R) 49%https://t.co/9dte5hDcb1 pic.twitter.com/nEmWErpx5W
— Ellen L. Carmichael (@ellencarmichael) March 8, 2018
This same poll shows Republicans closing gap in WI, MI and OH, with PA and FL not far behind.
If I were a Democrat, I'd be especially concerned about Ohio, where Renacci is nearly in MOE and Trump has a 54% approval rating.https://t.co/9dte5hDcb1
— Ellen L. Carmichael (@ellencarmichael) March 8, 2018
The polls above show problems in the same exact states that cost Hillary Clinton the Electoral College, largely because she neglected campaigning there.
Also FiveThirtyEight.com points out that while there are plenty of numbers and data to indicate a blue wave, it won't be a blue wave crashing uniformly on every shore.
As state-by-state polling of Trump’s approval rating shows, the national mood really isn’t so national. Voters in different corners of the country differ in how deep their anger runs — and at whom it’s directed. This could have big implications for the midterm elections, considering how important political geography is these days. An inefficient distribution of Democratic support could (and has in the past) severely curtail the party’s prospects for gains.
(For example, according to some simulations, Democrats could win the House popular vote by double digits and still lose the chamber because of Republican advantages in how the districts are drawn. And to take control of the Senate, it doesn’t much matter how Democrats perform elsewhere if they can’t win both Nevada and Arizona and defend red-state Democrats in places like Missouri and Indiana.)
We had an exclusive interview with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif) on the eve of his gun reform town hall with Steve Kerr, and we talked about the blue wave. Youth turnout is key.
"What we're seeing across the country is young people get involved in a way that we've never seen before, using the tools of social media in a way we haven't seen before," Khanna said.
"I anticipate we're going to have a huge turnout in the midterm elections."
In the year and change that we’ve had a one party state, we’ve seen that the only thing that actually DOES matter to Republicans is their ambition to stay in power, and in control of all three branches of government.
In making their devil's bargain with Trump, they have already shown an allegiance to party over country, and a willingness to sellout any principle of conservatism that they once had.
Since Trump took office, we’ve constantly heard this idea that GOP leadership would potentially hold him in check.
The exact opposite has happened. The party has conformed to him, not the other way around because what the GOP values in Trump, above and beyond even his ability to sign legislation into law, is his ultra-passionate voting base.
On election day they are waking up early and kicking ass until very late at night.
However, they only really seem to get this fired up if Trump's name itself is on the ballot. The Grand Old Party wants that cult following to turn out with similar zeal for mainstream Republicans, but it’s highly questionable that will actually happen in November.
Trump has now endorsed three candidates (Ed Gillespie, Luther Strange, Roy Moore, Rick Saccone) who all lost. This trend, combined with Republican retirements, and the uncertain future of Paul Ryan could indeed point to "a thumping," as George W. Bush described the 2006 midterms rout, in November.
However, the Democrats can’t get complacent. The polls all said Hillary was going to win with ease on November 8 2016, and her winning the popular vote by three million still wasn't enough. When it comes to the issues, the American people are on the same side as the Democrats, and all the polls show this.
The main problems are with communicating the message and turnout. Progressives need to do a much better job getting their base to turn out with the same zeal as the #MAGA people.
“If they (youth demographics) come out to vote, it could make an enormous difference for progressive policies," Khanna said (full audio of entire interview is below)
Most importantly, the Democrats need to show that they really stand for something, and that something has to be a whole lot more than just #NeverTrump. John Kerry ran as “not George W. Bush” in 2004, and he lost.
A blue wave will only happen in 2018 if the Democrats pay attention to the important lessons of recent history.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune corporation blogging community Chicago Now.
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