Readers of these pages will easily recall my relentless pieces on the U.S. Senate race in California. The final results are all in now, and Dianne Feinstein won easily, of course -- I had said she'd win by 20-30 points, and she on by 33. But to shut out Republicans, I recommended that Democrats switch their vote instead to Kevin De Leon since he was in a very tight race for the all-important second spot with Republican James Bradley, up by a few points in some polls, down by the same in a couple others. I had yammered for the past month that switch one's Democratic votes from Feinstein to De Leon was critical because "2-3 points could make the difference." Kevin De Leon finished second -- by 2 points! Gee, go figure... (Oh, and P.S. the neo-Nazi Patrick Little did indeed crash-and-burn after all the media attention grew, and finished with only a paltry 1.4%.)
Which brings us back to yesterday.
What a bizarre day yesterday was. When the only story should have been the primaries, there were two other stories that at any other time would have been banner headlines. And a third that would have been front page news, but -- this being Trump World -- they're almost business as usual. And with the primaries, they were pushed to the back seat.
The first was a story without many details that broke late in the day. But an employee in the White House, apparently in the National Security division (low level, apparently, but no one is sure yet) was arrested yesterday by the Secret Service on (are you ready?) and outstanding attempted murder warrant!!!! Honest. Talk about Trump and his “I only know the Best People.” And in the National Security division!!! Yipes.
And also, the Washington Post broke a story about emails between Secretary of the Interior Scott Pruitt’s office and the Chick-Fil-A company that showed him trying to set up a meeting about getting his wife a franchise!! And they not only have copies of the emails, but the company has confirmed them. And somehow, this being Trump World, Pruitt still has a job…
Any other time, any other administration, those are the banner leads.
And speaking of stilling having a job, Kelly Sadler -- the White House aide who made the "quip" about not worrying about John McCain because he's dying -- has finally, quietly been dismissed from her job. And that fell through the Tuesday Trump cracks, too. Oddly, the story is that she may not have been fired because of her comment (why on earth would Team Trump do something decent like that), but rather a turf fight over leaks about it with her boss. Whether that's the truth, or a cover story, who knows. All I know is that story yesterday largely got lost.
By the way, amide all this overlapping news, it's highly-worth noting that the Paul Manafort story of witness tampering is likely to get worse and worse for him. And importantly, I think a huge takeaway that is only getting some attention, and not nearly enough, is that Manafort trying to tamper with witnesses should show people how it speaks LOUDLY about how little he is relying on getting a pardon from Trump. He may get one, but clearly he's not counting on that -- otherwise, you don't do something SO incredibly stupid as witness tampering that may well get him in jail, losing his comfortable house arrest.
But still, all that is secondary to the primaries.
I’ was watching cable news, as well as local coverage on the state races, and I think most everyone has been missing what’s most important in Tuesday's elections.
Note: I'm writing this late Tuesday night, so the results will likely be very different in the morning. But the point here, as you'll see, is that the results don't matter nearly as much as another story about the voting.
Most of the attention through the night was on California. And specifically on four seats where Democrats were hoping to flip Red districts, some of which Hilary Clinton had won, but where it’s possible that Democrats could get shut out because they had too many candidates. (This is thanks to the idiotic open primary law -- idiotic even where it benefits Democrats, which is the case in some races.) Analysts are calling these four possible "shut outs" a Big Deal. Except the thing is, since all four have Republican representatives, flipping them wasn’t remotely certain. Even despite Hillary Clinton having won two of them. Yes, it would be too bad if they got shut out. But here's the thing -- I started writing this article at 10 PM Tuesday night. It's now 1:30 AM Wednesday (we live but to serve our readers. If there are a lot of typos here, though, that's why...), and here's where things stand now, after all the cable news shouting and "doomsday scenario" --
With 100% of the vote in, Democrats finished second in a very important district, against at-risk Dana Rohrbacher, the far-right "Congressman from Moscow."
Democrats will finish second in two of the other districts. (They're in second, third, and fourth place in one of them, and up by 5 points with 81% of the vote counted in the other.)
And in the fourth race, it's a toss-up, but the Democrat is in second place by a point.
So, of these four possible Big Shut Outs -- at worst, Democrats got on the November ballot in three of them. So, given all the split votes and media build-up of "shut out" angst, Democrats did extremely well in three of the four split-voting districts they had targeted for flipping in the General Election.
[UPDATE: The final results are all in. Despite cries through the evening of Democrats possibly screwing themselves by having too many candidates, Democrats got onto the ballot in all four races and so were not shut out of any.]
Besides which, I haven't been able to figure out how well Democrats did in the state's other districts that were at-risk for Republicans where there wasn't a chance of being shut out. That got deeply under-reported, and by "under-reported," I mean like...not at all. It seems an important issue to overlook.
But more to the point -- there was much, too much attention on What This Means for November for taking back the House if they can’t flip these seats in California, when...it’s just a primary. And a bizarre, abnormal primary at that. So, analyzing California for almost anything needs detailed, meticulous perspective, not a big, basic, normal paint brush.
And related to that, focusing so much attention on the bizarre California primary ignores what is the far-larger issue all across the country – turnout and voter enthusiasm. If Democrats do get shut out in these few California districts (which may not happen), it DOESN’T -- does not -- say that it was because voters want to support Republicans, but rather because in this odd, open-system in California, Democrats had too many people running and votes got split. However, across the country, there are 23 districts with Republican representatives that Hilary Clinton won, and quite a few other toss-up districts within only 5-8 points (and Democrats have been increasing their vote totals from 2016 by 12-15 points!), and six newly-redistricted seats in Pennsylvania that Democrats are now expected to flip...and Democrats have to flip only 24 districts. And that’s why turnout and voter enthusiasm is what matters, indeed almost the only thing that matters. And that brings us to a little-noted item that got reported early in the evening. (Well, early California time)
In going over the district map of races, MSNBC off-handedly pointed to one example of turnout in New Jersey. It was a Red district in which Democratic turnout was 3,000 more than Republicans. That's very significant on its own, but even far more so when you look at history. Two years ago, there were 9,000 more Republican voters than Democrats in the district! And four years ago, there had been 14,000 more Republican voters than Democrats!! This year, as I said, Democrats had 3,000 more voters turn out, in a Red district.
Or look at another race that's "small" on the surface. The race for the Missouri 17th State Senate seat. It's been Republican for a decade. Trump won it by five points. Last night, the Democrat not only flipped the seat, but won it by 20 points!! (Oh, and winner was Lauren Arthur. One overlooks the women vote in 2018 at your own peril.) A 25 point turn-around. It's the 42nd red-to-blue flip in state districts since Trump was elected. That's turnout and voter enthusiasm .
That’s what’s important, period. And none of this "turnout and voter enthusiasm" takes into consideration the trouble Trump will be in as the year progresses. It's certainly possible there will be good news for Trump -- a booming economy that explodes through the roof, a major denuclearization treaty with North Korea. It is, however, more likely that the economy will get better in steps, maybe some setbacks as political uncertainty grows, that the North Korea meetings will fall apart, that people will see their "tax rebates" were peanuts, that the immigration story of parents ripped from their infants will grow, hurricane season has begun and Puerto Rico is still profoundly at risk, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen could be on the edge of pleading guilty, more revelations keep coming for Trump, and things just get worse and worse because the administration is full of incompetents and crooks who can't do better.
And then we're at November, and the General Election.
We'll see. There's a long way to go. But Democratic fury and voter turnout organization is high. And Republican interest is largely depressed, and the main GOP enthusiasm is the base for Trump -- but...Trump is not on the ballot.
Finally, a quick look at the two, "top of the ticket" races, where Democrats went into the night with a chance of shutting out Republicans in both, which could conceivably depress Republican turnout in November.
It didn't work out that way. In the race for governor, there will be a Democrat and Republican in the General Election. Former Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa who had been in a respectable second place most of the campaign season fell off the map the last month for some reason and finished a distant third. The General Election will be between behind Democratic Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox, who has only recently moved to the state from Illinois. Democrats will handily win that race -- as a party they got 60% of the vote in the primary and Republicans had just 38%. And for all the media attention on "Trump's endorsement" of Cox giving him such a boost, the GOP candidate only got 26% of the open California vote.
As I said above, Republicans did get shut out in the U.S. Senate race, where 2-3 points indeed made a difference. The question remains now whether being shut in one of the two top races and having an "out of state," little-known candidate for governor in the other, and with no Trump on the ballot for the base, will impact Republican turnout in November?
Next stop: November. We'll find out.