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What exactly happened in yesterday’s midterm elections? Well, we wish you could tell you with some precision. That’s our job, but we can’t, because in a number of key races around the country, we still don’t have a vote total. In Arizona, for example, there is no declared winner in the Senate race or in the governor’s race. At this point, it seems likely that both Kari Lake and Blake Masters will win. We’ll be speaking to Kari Lake in just a minute about that, but according to news reports, the official results may not be in for more than a month. A month!
Officials in Arizona told CNBC today that they are “prepared to work through Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas as well.” That means results by New Year’s in a race that was held in early November. That seems late. How late is it? Well, by comparison, the results of the 1862 midterm elections, which were tabulated by candlelight without machines or even electricity in the middle of a raging civil war, were clear before the end of the week. That was the entire country. Arizona is a single state, which, by the way, is a fraction of the size of Florida, which, as you may have noticed, counted its votes in less than a day—so did Brazil, an entire country.
That seems embarrassing, if not like a full-blown emergency. Counting the votes isn’t some added extra you get from government if they have a surplus, like fighting climate change or bringing equity. Counting the votes is a core function of government, along with law enforcement, maintaining the roads and keeping the border secure. Efficient elections are the reason you pay taxes, but Arizona doesn’t seem to have them. Why is that? Don’t ask, commands CNN. If you’ve got questions about this or any other election, no unauthorized questions. Instead, watch CNN or if you don’t have cable, simply trust your local officials.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You see, that’s our first votes and that’s the wonder of democracy, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican and I wanted to point that out to be a little bit of the crank in the room following Brianna there. Stay off social media, people, if you’re trying to figure out, “Are there really issues with voting?” Trust your local officials. Trust us here. Trust a news source that you know and trust to be honest about this. They’re doing their job and they’re doing it right.
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They’re doing their jobs. They’re doing it right. Really CNN? Can we get a little more reporting on that? How right are they doing it? It’s pretty funny, but we digress. The state of our election systems in many places is indeed pretty embarrassing, but so, honestly, were the results of last night’s elections. Republicans swore they were going to sweep, a red tsunami. That’s they told us and we, to be honest, cautiously believe them, but they did not sweep, not even close to sweeping.
The Republican Party in the end, may take control of the House and the Senate, but only by a tiny margin at best. That’s great, but it was not the plan. The plan was really simple. It seemed easy a week ago, an unpopular president, a faltering economy, an open border, the looming risk of nuclear war (How about that?) put all those together, how could there not be a massive Republican win nationally? Wins everywhere?
Well, there weren’t—some exceptions—but overall, there weren’t. Joe Biden was not punished back. He was out there bragging about himself today. Pretty frustrating. You want the Republicans to win not simply because they’re so great, but because Democrats are so very bad and that’s not an overstatement. What happened? Well, before we give you our theories as to what happened, one obvious point is the people whose job it was to win, but did not win should go do something else now.
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We’re speaking specifically of the Republican leadership of the House and the Senate and of the RNC. There’s nothing personal. Some of them are no doubt nice people, but they took hundreds of millions of dollars to paint the map red and they didn’t. It doesn’t mean they’re evil. It doesn’t mean they should be jailed. It does mean they shouldn’t be promoted. No one should ever be rewarded for failure. If there’s a truly conservative principle in life, it’s the principle of the meritocracy. You reward excellence. You do not reward mediocrity and when you do, things fall apart.
Democrats kept promoting Tony Fauci despite his obvious ineptitude. What is that? That’s corruption. Republicans should never do anything like that and if they do, what’s the point of voting for them? They’re no different. The question is, why did Republicans underperform last night? You’re hearing a lot of people saying it was about abortion. Suburban ladies were mad about Roe. That’s certainly plausible in some places, probably true. On the other hand, a number of resolute, pro-life Republicans thrived statewide. They would include Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Brian Kemp in Georgia, Ted Budd in North Carolina, a pro-life result. Abortion may have been a factor, but it’s not the whole answer.
Many others are saying that Donald Trump is the reason Republicans didn’t do as well as they thought they would. That’s a more complicated question. The truth is, we can’t really see the entire picture this early. The truth is, Trump has always been a mixed blessing politically. The downsides are marbled in with the upsides, but in this case, he’s certainly not the single cause of anything. Republicans last night suffered a fair amount of down ballot losses in races that had nothing to do with Trump, in Michigan, for example. Whether you like Trump or not, and many don’t and a lot do, it’s a lot more complicated than just him.
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Then there’s the most amusingly stupid explanation of all: bad candidates were the problem. That’s all over Twitter. All the Twitter pundits are telling you now the candidates were subpar and that was the problem. Candidate quality matters. Well, of course, strictly speaking, that is true. The quality of a candidate does matter, but really, how much does it matter? Well, let’s see. Joe Biden got elected president two years ago from his basement. John Fetterman became a U.S. senator last night. Does anyone think John Fetterman was a quality candidate? Is that why he won, because they had quality candidates on the left? Do the voters of Pennsylvania really want a brain damaged candidate who’s never had a real job? Did they think he was more impressive than the guy who spent his career doing heart transplants? Probably not.
You’ve got to give them credit for at least knowing who they were voting for and they voted for John Fetterman. He won anyway. What does that tell you? It tells you that in some cases, candidate quality is not actually the most important thing. What is? Well, the mechanics of an election. They matter. In fact, they matter sometimes more than any individual running in the election. The way people vote makes a big difference to the outcome and so, by the way, does access to channels of communication. Why does that matter? Well, because you can say whatever you want, but if no one hears you, you’re not really speaking and that’s the case for Republicans so often, as if Republicans can communicate their message unencumbered on a single cable television channel and a handful of relatively low traffic websites. That’s it.
The rest of the American media amounts to a gigantic filter designed to distort what Republicans are saying. It’s a campaign apparatus and only the Democrats have it. Now you can whine about that (“The media are liberal!”), but it’s not about liberal or conservative. It’s about winning elections and Democrats can win because they have that. If Republicans want to win elections, too, they might spend some money to fix that, to achieve parity.
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To restate, as of tonight, Democrats have far more control of the election machinery and almost total control of the American media and Republicans don’t. These are not ideological problems. It’s not a question of who’s right on the issues. That’s settled, certainly in our mind, but probably in the minds of even people who would vote Republican if it occurred to them, but it doesn’t because they don’t know what they stand for.
These are questions, again, not of who’s right and who’s wrong, but of who makes it into elected office, of who wields power and many on the right don’t seem to understand this at all. They don’t care about the details. Two and a half years ago, the last administration, its Republican allies in Congress, watched passively, seemingly in glassy eyed sedation as the Democratic Party used the pretext of COVID to rewrite election laws around the country in order to get its own candidates into office. They didn’t do it by accident. They knew what they were doing. Last night those laws, many of which are still on the books, paid off generously. John Fetterman bombed in his one public debate. You saw it. He humiliated himself. He made a mockery of the election, but it didn’t matter by that point.
Thanks to early voting, Fetterman’s margin was already in the bank. Nearly 70% of Democrats had voted early in the Pennsylvania races. Only 20% of Republicans did. It’s over, but it doesn’t need to be repeated. These are fixable problems. You can get your message out. You can force the other side if you try hard enough to agree on fair election rules, but you can’t do any of that unless you acknowledge these problems exist. Those are probably the real problems, but enough for the depressing recap. There were bright spots last night. There were, as dispirited as you may have been, and we think it’s important to enjoy them always.
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The good news is worth savoring. The first piece of good news is actually the flip side of the worst piece of news, which is that John Fetterman won in Pennsylvania and not only did John Fetterman win, but he won without speaking a single, coherent sentence for the entire campaign. Now, you may be appalled by that, but in some sense it’s an achievement. John Fetterman, in winning, shattered the thickest of all glass ceilings, which for centuries has prevented the unapologetically brain damaged from winning statewide election. So, John Fetterman is not just a U.S. senator now. He’s a pioneer and there’s nothing the Democratic Party loves, reveres and elevates more quickly than a pioneer. Take a look at the White House press secretary.
The question is, given his inspiring achievement, how can John Fetterman not be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2024? We can’t control that. We want him and Kamala to fight it out, but in the meantime, expect a huge amount of uncomfortable entertainment value from Senator John Fetterman. Savor every moment.
The second piece of good news for Republicans that they really should celebrate because it’s great: sometimes watching your enemies get vanquished is a virtue in itself. The D.C.C.C. congressional chairman, Sean Patrick Maloney, lost, probably the oiliest, slipperiest and by far not the stupidest member of Congress on the Democratic side. Maloney lost to a man called Michael Lawler in a race that nobody thought a Republican could ever win.
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In a moment, we’ll speak to Lawler and ask how he did it, but it seems like Lawler won for a couple of reasons. The first is that Sean Patrick Maloney, like so many other Democrats, spent the last year and a half huffing and puffing about January 6. They’re going to win on January 6! Unlike most of them, clever as he is, Maloney seemed to actually believe it. He’s the one who claimed that Officer Brian Sicknick “was killed” on January 6. Last night after his defeat when he once again invoked, can you guess it? January 6.
MALONEY: A short while ago, I spoke to my opponent, Michael Lawler, and congratulated him on a good win. We hope the high watermark of some of the anger and the division that we have dealt with this entire cycle from January 6 on through, and we hope for something better for our country because that’s what all Americans deserve.
We mentioned he was clever. What seemed like a gracious concession (and we’re all in need of those on both sides) was, in fact, another attack on January 6, the insurrection. What’s interesting is that Maloney’s district is fairly upscale and includes the north suburbs of New York City. It went for Biden by five points just a couple of years ago and that support collapsed last night. Now, if there’s one group Republicans have had trouble winning recently since the inversion of 2016, it’s upper income white-collar voter, but in that district, they went Republican. Republicans should study what happened there and not just there, all over New York.
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Democrats lost several seats across the Hudson Valley, in Long Island, in very blue areas and that means that Democrats (this is their base, upscale suburban voters), are more vulnerable than they believe they are and again, Republicans should study how exactly that happened. One race that will be studied for quite a long time and enjoyed for at least six years is what happened in Ohio last night.
Republicans in Ohio stunned the Democratic Party. Now they’ll tell you, “Oh, it was a Republican state,” but even by the standards of a so-called Republican state, Republicans dominated in Ohio last night. No Democrat came within ten points of any Republican in races for executive positions or Supreme Court races. Now, in the now famous race for Senate in Ohio, Democrats spent tens of millions of dollars more than the winner did. That would be JD Vance, but JD Vance won and then why did he win? He won as a decent person and that’s rare in any legislative body and he won on the right message. Watch this.
VANCE: Now, the people of Ohio have given us a job and what we need to do over the next couple of years, over the next six years for the full length of this Senate term, whoever is in the majority, whatever the president looks like, we have a very simple job to do. It’s to go to work every single day and fight for the people of Ohio, fight for our workers, fight for our families, fight for the people struggling with the opioid addiction problem, fight for the people, the single moms struggling to raise babies just like my mom raised me. We have got a great state. Whether you voted for me or not, the things that I promise to do is go to the United States Senate and fight every single day for the people of Ohio. Thanks to you, we get an opportunity to do just that.
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We’ve lost more than 100,000 Americans in the last year, mostly young people from drug ODs. That’s just the last year. Many hundreds of thousands over the past five years and yet, when was the last time you saw someone mention it in a victory speech? I will fight for them, their families, the people left behind from this epidemic from China through Mexico, destroying huge parts of America. JD Vance said that and he clearly means it and he won by a lot, despite being outspent by a lot.
That is really good news. Almost as good, we will not see for quite some time the likes of Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams again because they lost yet again. How many offices have these two run for? How much money have Democratic donors spent to get them elected? A lot. Hundreds of millions of dollars and both are unemployed because it doesn’t matter how much you spend on the advertising campaign for the dog food. If the dogs don’t like it, they won’t eat it. That’s an old saying from political consultants and in this case, it is true. Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams rejected thoroughly in favor of people who are not professional politicians in a number of cases on the Republican side.
Now the last and probably biggest piece of good news, as you already know, is what happened last night in the state of Florida. Put bluntly, Ron DeSantis absolutely killed it and the closer you look at the numbers, the more interesting and revealing and heartening it is. Voters of every education level supported Ron DeSantis over Charlie Crist. That has not happened typically in elections statewide. Ron DeSantis even won among post grads by 7%. If you think that sounds normal, go look at the past five elections.
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Republicans do not win statewide among people with post-graduate degrees, but DeSantis did. He won all but five counties in Florida. To the astonishment of MSNBC and the entire Democratic political establishment, DeSantis even managed to flip Miami-Dade County. Now, Miami-Dade is, by definition, a Democratic county, but he was not the only Republican who won there. Another did as well. Miami-Dade went for Hillary Clinton by 30 points in 2016. Listen to the audible gasp at MSNBC as they realized Hispanic voters had betrayed their lesson instructions.
KORNACKI: I’m told we just got Miami-Dade. This is a big one in Florida. Let’s take a look at this.
OFF-CAMERA PANELIST: Wow.
KORNACKI: Yeah, so let’s put this in some perspective. Miami-Dade County has two and three quarter million people. In 2016, this was a Democratic county by 30 points. Hillary Clinton won this county by 30 points. Miami-Dade is 70% Hispanic and look at this. In the mail-in and early vote, which again tends to be more Democratic friendly, Marco Rubio, the Republican, is outright leading in Miami-Dade County by seven points.
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Exactly and good for them for being honest about what happened. Really no lying about it and again, it wasn’t just Ron DeSantis. It was also Marco Rubio. No Republican has won in Miami-Dade County in 20 years, but Ron DeSantis did it. Marco Rubio did it. In the end, DeSantis won by nearly 20 points. Things were so bad for Democrats in Florida that CBS went looking for Charlie Crist supporters and couldn’t find any in public. Watch.
DOKOUPIL: By the way, I got to point out that once we started digesting our food and digesting the day, we realized that on that day long trip, we spoke to dozens of people up and down the coast of Florida, all in precincts, by the way, that voted for President Biden in 2020, but to our surprise, we did not run into a supporter of Ron DeSantis’ Democratic opponent. That would be Charlie Crist.
Poor Charlie Crist, but this… I mean, of course, Charlie Crist was the lamest possible candidate the Democrats ever could have run, probably because they knew that DeSantis was going to win. This is one of those rare elections in which voters were, of course, rejecting the other side, but in this election, a lot of those voters appear, and the polling shows this, to be affirming the side they voted for. They weren’t just voting against. They were voting for. They’re voting for Ron DeSantis. Pretty amazing, actually. According to DeSantis, this is a realignment. Here he is. You know, over these.
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DESANTIS: Past four years, we’ve seen major challenges for the people of our state, for the citizens of the United States, and, above all, for the cause of freedom. We saw freedom in our very way of life in so many other jurisdictions in this country wither on the vine. Florida held the line. We chose facts over fear. We chose education over indoctrination. We chose law and order over rioting and disorder. Thanks to the overwhelming support of the people of Florida, we not only won election. We have rewritten the political map.
As disappointed as you may have been by the results last night, what happened in Florida is legitimately a big deal. It will probably a while before we know exactly what it means, but we know for certain that it was out of the ordinary, unexpected and profound and as we told you a minute ago, the other thing that happened that was kind of great that we’re enjoying is that the guy in charge of getting Democrats elected to Congress himself lost. His name is Sean Patrick Maloney. He represented the Hudson Valley. He was beaten by Mike Lawler who is now the congressman elect.