First Reads

I was on an airplane most of the day en route to New York (and the in-flight internet didn’t work), and then off to dinner with a group of distinguished conservatives at the Harvard Club on West 44th Street, where I was surprised to look across the room and spot another table full of distinguished conservatives! At the Harvard Club! What are the odds? I felt like tweeting out to the New York Times that conservatives weren’t even waiting for the election results to come in—we were plotting our next perfidy at the Harvard Club! Krugman’s cat would have to go into the witness protection program.

The votes are still coming in of course, but it is pretty clear that the blue tsunami did not happen, and the blue wave is a three-footer with barely a curl and not much of a riptide or undertow. The GOP held on to several tough districts that would have been swept away in a true wave election. Some of the Democrats gains in the House came in districts that will be hard for them to hold in 2020. We’ll have to wait until all of the west coast House races come in to know what the margin is going to be, but I suspect putative Speaker Pelosi is going to have a miserable time. At the very least, we’ll have gridlock on Capitol Hill, and as I always like to say, gridlock is the next best thing to constitutional government.

Meanwhile, the Senate races are a disaster for Democrats. Notice that in the closely contested races with incumbent red state Democrats, every one who voted against Brett Kavanaugh lost (Donnelly, McCaskill, Nelson [it appears], and Heitkamp), while Joe Manchin, who voted for Kavanaugh, hung on. The GOP won several of the key governors’ races (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Ohio—Wisconsin is still out) where a lot of people expected them to lose. (See below.)

So Democrats are in a peculiar position. They will claim victory for their House takeover and be all smiles tomorrow, but are otherwise going to be very disappointed, and the disappointment may grow as the House fails to impeach President Trump, or even get very far with committee investigations. It is going to be the mirror image of the Republican base from 2010-2016, constantly frustrated and complaining that John Boehner and then Paul Ryan didn’t do enough to confront President Obama. It is going to be interesting to watch the spin on the election over the next few days. We’ll try to highlight the best examples of Trump Derangement Syndrome in action.

Bottom line: The GOP losses tonight are fairly modest by historical standards. I’m going to be following the academic political scientists who apply their model to this election over the next several months, and I predict many studies will conclude that Democrats underperformed.