Saturday, May 16, 2020

Race for the White House # 72

There remains not much to be written about a campaign that does not actually feel like a campaign.

However, there was one event this week that I have to write about in regards to an incorrect electoral prediction in a Congressional Special Election.

On March 1, when the world felt like a different place, I issued predictions on three races to fill vacancies in the U.S. House. One has since been delayed due to the virus, and two went as expected. However, in what was the most competitive of these open races, this past Tuesday saw a result in the Los Angeles area that surprised many people, especially since it appears to be one decided by a solid margin.

Millennial freshman Congresswoman Katie Hill, a Democrat, resigned her seat after being caught up in salacious and scandalous circumstances involving alleged affairs with staffers of both genders and the leak of some unfortunate photographs. She blamed it all on an estranged controlling husband, but nonetheless, she resigned the seat in a district that had once been solidly Republican, but like many suburban areas was gravitating towards Democrats. Hillary Clinton won her four years ago with 50 percent of the vote and in 2018, Hill unseated a GOP incumbent.

When I made my prediction, which was before the "jungle primary", I categorized it as Leans D/Leans Smith. Democrat Christy Smith was indeed the top place finisher in the first round and considered the favorite for the general election. Republican Mike Garcia, the establishment choice, advanced though to the runoff by beating both the recently defeated former GOP incumbent and a more liberal Democrat. Garcia was thought of as a promising candidate, but Republicans had not flipped a Golden State House seat since 1998.

Then, Covid 19 hit, and this election became exclusively vote by mail. With the votes counted, Garcia, the son of Mexican immigrants in this increasingly Latino district, pulled off an upset by beating Smith by what will apparently be close to a double digit margin. So, special elections often produce unusual results and the weirdness of this sort of election amid a pandemic was no exception. Republicans were better organized and more willing to vote by mail than Democrats were here. There seem to be a lot of indication that young voters voted in this race in very low numbers. Older people are used to putting things in mailboxes while younger folks may just not be too familiar with the entire concept of "snail mail."

What does this mean for the 2020 Presidential election? Both sides of course were prepared to say that a result they liked meant that their party was going to win in November while the other side was willing to say this makes no difference. Of course, Garcia will have to defend this seat now against Smith in November and while he may win a full term, I still would assume that Donald Trump will lose this district.

How then did an openly pro-Trump Republican like Garcia manage to win here? It was all about turnout via the mailbox. Democrats who are calling for nation-wide vote by mail now this year better take heed and up their game to make sure their core voters understand what to do and how to do it. Interestingly enough, Democrats won a big Supreme Court race in Wisconsin not long ago, after the state GOP demanded in person voting, virus or not. The party there was motivated to risk danger and turn out. If vote by mail will be far more common this November, they need to up their game.

Older Republican voters look more than willing to vote by mail which makes the claims of Donald Trump against it a bit hypocritical. Local and state Republican Parties have been working the vote by mail strategy for many years now. Yes, there are also potential problems for fraud associated with it. Many California House races have seen thought of Republican wins overturned once mail in votes were counted days and weeks later in recent years. This is all very interesting because the fear of "ballot harvesting" and party operatives either filling out or altering ballots in favor of Democrats has been alleged before. With that sort of door to door activity now prohibited due to the virus, and with Republicans on equal footing, the Democrats lost a race they were expected to win.

Might is also be said that while the vast majority of the country seems willing to be more cautious on "re-opening" those who feel that America "must get back to business" are more energized to make their voices heard. There is a big political divide over this these days. As I have said many times now, nobody is suggesting that the country or economy should be shut down forever, but it's been two months now only. Are we not strong enough to last another month maybe? I remain perplexed and disappointed about those on the right who are willing to gamble with life and death over money matters. Yes, capitalism is crucial, but so is life itself. Death and destruction will not be good for our economy in the short or long term. Those thirsty Cheeseheads in Wisconsin who rushed to temporarily opened bars should have maybe given it some more thought.

Most likely, this is all but a small footnote in the Presidential race that continues to grow closer, amid more states reopening more things and the fear of virus cases potentially rising again. We now know that Jesse Ventura and Justin Amash, who both took steps to run as third party candidates two weeks ago, have now said nevermind. That leaves a contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Anybody else who may possibly run has almost certainly never been elected to any major office. This is of course still an unfortunate matter for someone like myself, being a NeverTrump conservative, who cannot vote for Biden (though I suppose I will on some level be rooting for him) out of principle.

Trump acolytes think (at least publicly) that the incumbent is going to be reelected, while many on the left are certain he will be defeated. Probably though, overall optimism and enthusiasm is higher on the Trump side, though negative motivation can be a very powerful thing in politics. For all of Biden's negatives and virtual invisibility during this period of national self-isolation, he is still the "non-Trump" option, and that might be good enough. Trump lashed out a lot this week, both at a press conference and online. He is said to be very upset about trailing Biden in the polls and mad at anyone who tries to tell him that he might not have a second term in the bag.

Partisans on the left make a mistake in underestimating Trump's political appeal and Biden's political weaknesses. Partisans on the right continue to overstate allegations of senility against Biden and by understating the desire that exists to end the Trump era. The polls, both national and in key states, are likely to be relatively close for some time and it will be harder to see a full picture until things seem more "normal" both in society at large and on the political scene.

As has been the case though since the 2016 election, both parties are going to battle with far from an All-Star leader.


Post a Comment

<< Home