Friday, November 09, 2018

A D.C. Statehood Dilemma (and a Solution)

D.C. should be a state. I find that indisputable, on the same basis by which I find intolerable the existence of any territory permanently governed by the US which nonetheless lacks full voting rights in the US. That covers D.C. as well as Puerto Rico, and also the U.S. Virgin Islands and several of our Pacific island territories. Each should be, or be part of, a state.

But D.C. it seems has a particular problem associated with its statehood, centering around two constitutional clauses: Article I, Section 8, clause 17 and the Twenty-Third Amendment.

The first is the one that enabled the establishment of D.C. in the first place: it gives Congress the power to "exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States."

The second gives that territory  -- "[t]he District constituting the seat of Government of the United States" -- electoral votes "equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State", provided that it cannot be more than the least populous state (which is to say, it can't be more than Wyoming's three). That last proviso has been moot since the Amendment's adoption, since D.C. would only be entitled to three electoral votes anyway.

These two clauses together pose a problem.

Because Article I, Section 8, clause 17 gives Congress superior power to exercise legislation over the "District" which is the "Seat of Government", one could not form a state -- or at least, a state whose statehood is equal to that of California or Arizona -- in that "District". An important part of making D.C. a state is precisely that it gets the same authority to govern its own affairs just like any other state (no more Mayor Franks!). And of course, if the state of D.C. does grow populous enough, then it should be able to gain its rightful proportion of electoral votes.

So D.C., the state, has to be a separate entity from the constitutionally-described "Seat of Government" "District". On its own, that's easily surmountable: Congress shrinks this "District" (whose area only has a maximum, not a minimum) to the barest possible limits -- probably the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court, and National Mall -- and then grants statehood to the remainder (another possibility is to retrocede the territory back to Maryland -- but the below problem still applies)

But the problem is that in that world, the 23rd Amendment remains in play, and that rump "District" -- which (hopefully) has no people in it -- still is entitled to the amount of electoral votes it would be entitled to were it a state.

How many electoral votes is that, and how do they get appointed? Well, that depends on how many "Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State". One answer is zero: since nobody lives there, it would get no congressional representation at all. But that doesn't actually track the constitutional text: Article I, Section 3, clause 1 gives each state two Senators, period, without respect to population. And while Article I, Section 2, clause 3 does apportion congressional representatives be population, it also guarantees that every "state" shall receive at least one representative.

So now we have a problem: even after D.C. statehood, there still will likely be a rump "Seat of Government" that has no people but three electoral votes. What to do? I see two possible solutions:

  1. Have no "Seat of Government". The Constitution permits the establishment of this Seat of Government, but it doesn't require it. Moreover, the same provision which permits Congress to establish a seat of government also allows it to exercise authority over places "purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings." So Congress could "purchase" the White House from D.C. for a nominal fee, at which point it is a federal building (like a fort) but still in the state of D.C. (rather than the Seat of Government).
  2. Allocate the "Seat of Government's" electoral votes to the national popular vote winner. The Twenty-Third Amendment guarantees the Seat of Government three electoral votes, but it also specifies that these electoral votes shall be appointed "in such manner as the Congress may direct". So Congress could "direct" that they appointed really any way it likes, but the most natural choice is to whichever candidate receives the most votes nationwide. This would have the additional salutary effect of -- in a very slight way -- giving meaning to the national majority in Presidential elections, which (as 2000 and 2016 have painfully shown) currently has no weight whatsoever.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Election 2018: Predictions Results

I made a few election predictions this year -- not too many, but some. Time to hold myself accountable.


West Virginia: Manchin (D hold)
North Dakota: Cramer (R flip)

These were the two races I said I was "confident" in, and both turned out correct. But I also at least pointed to a lean in the following races:

Missouri: Hawley (R flip)
Nevada: Rosen (D flip)
Florida: Nelson (D hold)

And I suggested that Dems would split Arizona and Tennessee, though I wasn't sure which would go where -- but it looks like Democrats went 0 for 2 (albeit with Arizona still counting). Overall, I was slightly too bullish on Democratic prospects here.


CA-39: Cisneros (D flip)
CA-48: Rohrabacher (R hold)
FL-27: Shalala (D flip)
IA-04: King (R hold)
MN-01: Hagedorn (R flip)
MN-02: Craig (D flip)
MN-03: Phillips (D flip)
UT-04: McAdams (D flip)
VA-02: Taylor (R hold)
VA-10: Wexton (D flip)

A few of these races aren't done counting, but I'm going by current vote totals. I won't exactly say these were the boldest of choices, though the MN-01 pick is one I can be (sadly) proud of. My over/under for Democratic House seats was 220, which now looks slightly too bearish.


Alaska: Dunleavy (R sorta-flip)
Florida: Gillum (D flip)
Georgia: Kemp (R hold)
Illinois: Pritzker (D flip)
Iowa: Hubbell (D flip)
Kansas: Kobach (R hold)
Maryland: Hogan (R hold)
Minnesota: Walz (D hold)
Nevada: Sisolak (D flip)
Ohio: Cordray (D flip)
South Dakota: Noem (R hold)
Wisconsin: Evers (D flip)

Technically, Georgia still hasn't been called (but my prediction was that Kemp wins the run-off anyway). Overall, again, somewhat too bullish for Democrats -- though not be a ridiculous amount.

Finally, I predicted Jovanka Beckles to defeat Buffy Wicks in my home 15th Assembly District, but that turned out to be way off -- Wicks cruised to a double-digit victory.

Overall, though, I think this was a decent performance for me. I think all of my misses were at least within the realm of reason, and I got some tight races (MN-01, UT-04, WI-Gov, NV-Gov, NV-Sen GA-Gov) correct. I remain today at least as trustworthy as I was yesterday.

Election 2018: How Did Anti-Semites Do?

A few days ago, Tablet Magazine published a list of eight "antisemites running for Congress". It was a good start, but woefully incomplete -- there are so many more antisemites to choose from! Moreover, it doesn't really properly gradate antisemitism (there's a huge difference between a literal Holocaust Denier and someone who's been in a room with Louis Farrakhan). So while you can read how Tablet's 8 fared here, for a more comprehensive picture this post has you covered.

First, the good news: the absolutely, positively, most blatant antisemites generally did not win.

In state legislative races, the same basically held true:

The two biggest antisemites to win were both incumbents.

Now, those guys represent the worst of the worst. Most (not all) were running on the GOP line, and most (not all) lost. But the Tablet list itself evinces a clear antisemitic spectrum, and once you move past the obvious cases the story gets more complex.

On Tablet's list were two definite borderline entries, for whom I think it's fair to question if they are properly called antisemitic at all (certainly, they're far further afield than some of the names further down on this list):

  • The case for including Indiana Rep. Andre Carson (D) appears to boil down to "he's been in a room with Farrakhan and the Iranian president", which isn't exactly on the level of denying the Holocaust. Call me jaded, but this felt very thin to me. Carson's Indiana district is gerrymandered to be reliably blue, and so it was -- Carson took his race 63-37.
  • Lena Epstein -- the Republican candidate in Michigan's 11th congressional district -- also has fair grounds to question her inclusion. Yes, inviting a Jews for Jesus Rabbi to eulogize the Pittsburgh victims was stupid, and insensitive, and baffling, and did I mention stupid? -- but was it antisemitic? I'm not sure. But we no longer need to expend much effort figuring it out: Epstein was soundly defeated by Democrat Haley Stevens, flipping this open GOP seat blue and I suspect signaling the last we hear of Epstein in national politics.
The next tier of antisemites comprises people who aren't really accused of saying anything antisemitic themselves, but who have endorsed antisemites or antisemitic movements.

  • On the Democratic side, Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) is the poster child -- while the past few weeks might have you believe that every Democrat in the country is a Louis Farrakhan fanboy, Davis is one of the few who actually has praised the man (the NOI has a large presence in Davis' Chicago district). Davis' district is one of the bluest in the country, and he took 88% of the vote against nominal Republican opposition.
  • On the Republican side, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) endorsed a Holocaust denier for school board (and that wasn't even his only connection to the Holocaust denying set). "Putin's favorite Congressman" looks to have gone down in his toss-up race, losing narrowly to Democrat Harley Rouda. 
  • Also falling into this category (though arguably shading into the class below) is California GOP Rep. Steve Knight, who ran an ad featuring a far-right activist notorious for antisemitic and racist online comments (Knight plead ignorance about the guy's views, but you'd think the t-shirt he was wearing in the ad -- a US flag with "infidel" stamped over it -- would be a giveaway). Knight lost his seat 51-49 to Democrat Katie Hill.

Next, we get to people who have themselves said or done antisemitic things -- albeit perhaps not as vividly as a Steve King sort.

Two more Democratic members of Tablet's list -- Leslie Cockburn and Ilhan Omar -- fit in this category, albeit for comments that are several years or (in Cockburn's case) decades old.

  • Cockburn wrote a book in the early 90s that was basically a "Israel is responsible for all awful things" screed; she lost her VA-05 race to Republican Denver "bigfoot erotica" Riggelman, because America is awesome and that was really a choice. The margin was 53-47 in a race that was viewed as a decent, if not top-of-the-class, Democratic pickup opportunity.
  • Omar, running in Minnesota's 5th district, has come under fire for a tweet where she accused Israel of "hypnotizing" the world to prevent it from seeing its "evil". While she has seemingly moderated her views on Israel, she pointedly declined to walk back this comment or recognize how it seems to traffic in antisemitic tropes (in contrast to her 5th district predecessor, Keith Ellison, who pointedly disassociated himself from prior Farrakhan affiliations). Omar won her race by a crushing 78-21 margin.

Finally, it's worth looking at some local races where Republicans (albeit not always the Republican candidate) ran antisemitic ads.

What are the takeaways here? Well, for starters, the most virulent and explicit antisemites generally lost. That's good, though given that those candidates generally ran in ideologically lopsided districts it's easy to overdraw from that. The Steve King victory shows that where the partisan lean works in the antisemite's favor, partisan allegiance generally trumps (seriously, does anyone have confidence that if Arthur Jones ran in Steve King's district as the Republican candidate, he would lose?). And if that holds true for to a blatant bigot like King, it certainly applies to more mild or sporadic offenders, like Davis and Omar.

The more interesting -- and troublesome -- story is how less overt but still clear antisemitism played out in more closely contested races. Those who assume that America just doesn't tolerate antisemitism are in for a surprise. Hagedorn's antisemitic past (and present) didn't seem to dent his chances in Minnesota's toss-up first district, for example. This isn't to say that antisemites were universally winning -- more that antisemitism, even when expressed, generally isn't a losing issue either even in the sort of closely contested districts where you might expect candidates to tread more carefully.

Moreover, there's a partisan lean to this that cannot be ignored. Certainly, there are incidents of antisemitism in both Democratic and Republican politics. And because American Jews (and Jewish politicians) are so overwhelmingly liberal, there are far more progressive "targets" for antisemitism than there are conservatives. Still, between Soros conspiracy theorizing and "Jews clutching money" ads, there seemed to be a noticeable step-up in GOP appeals to this sort of antisemitic sentiment that doesn't have a clear parallel among Democrats right now. 

And Republican strategists must have come to a conclusion that these ads work. Yes, maybe they turn off some Jewish or more liberal-leaning voters. But Republican campaign operatives must think they make up for it by revving up the conservative base (or even independents -- for a variety of reasons I strongly suspect that right-leaning independents might be even more susceptible to this sort of appeal). 

There was certainly no systematic punishing effect for Republicans going to this well -- and so we can expect they'll keep doing it. And that is a worrisome conclusion.

Election 2018: Post-Mortem

We're not 100% "post-" yet, as there are still a decent number of races outstanding. Here in California, the mail vote could yet push around some House race numbers (though Montana just was called for Jon Tester!).

Nonetheless, we've got enough of a picture to give a pretty solid account of yesterday's events. Here are my takeaways:

* * *

Dems winning the House is huge: This was not something to take for granted. Let's not forget, there was a good chunk of time where people thought GOP gerrymandering had placed the House out of Democratic reach. And control of the House doesn't just prevent Congress from ramming through far-right pieces of the Trump agenda. It also gives Democrats a key fulcrum from which to launch investigations into the deep cesspool of corruption that characterizes the Trump administration.

On that score, I actually don't recommend starting with Trump necessarily. There are so many targets to choose from, and if there's one thing I think we learned from how the GOP handled the Benghazi (non-)story, it's that a steady and constant drip-drip-drip of scandal is far more powerful than blowing everything in one shot.

Start with easy marks like Zinke, and the noose will slowly begin to tighten around the inner circle.

This was a continuation, not a reversal, of 2016's trend: One theory about 2016 was that it was a fit of temporary insanity, whereby good-hearted Americans had a bout of temporary insanity or rage or anti-Clinton derangement and chose a President whom they didn't really endorse or even like. Under this view, 2018 would be a "snapback" election, where these voters would revert to form and go back to supporting sensible candidates while repudiating Trump's extremism.

Another theory about 2016 takes Trump voters more seriously. It posits that in certain very conservative parts of the country -- generally more rural, generally less-educated, concentrated in Appalachia and the American southeast -- they liked Trump, and they continue to like Trump. All the lying and racism and extremism and utter off-the-wall demagoguery -- the love it. Meanwhile, other parts of the country -- more suburban, more diverse, and especially in the southwest -- were moving away from Trump and Trumpism.

Last night, I think, decisively ratifies the second theory. By and large, the people who like Trump still like Trump. Rick Scott's numbers in Florida were almost perfectly correlated with the 2016 presidential race. And at the same time, we saw a more decisive shift away from the GOP in the sort of districts where people already didn't like Trump. From what I saw, Democrats did better in Romney-Clinton districts than Obama-Trump ones, which verifies this instinct. And Democrats are continuing to make big strides in Nevada and (yes, even in defeat) Arizona and Texas.

The partial exception to this view is the midwest (where Democrats won governorships in Wisconsin and Michigan, and a decent clutch of House seats as well). But even here, the news was mixed: Democrats lost the Senate races in Indiana and Missouri, the governorship in Iowa (albeit while winning 3 of 4 House seats) and Ohio, and their two pickups in Minnesota House races were offset by at least one and probably two GOP flips (which were some of the only such GOP wins nationwide).

There is a truth that is important for pundits to get through their head: conservative Americans like Trump. He's not an aberration. He's not deus ex machina. He's not someone they begrudgingly tolerate. American conservativism, right now, is Donald Trump. If that's a scary thought -- and it is -- start reporting it like something scary rather than pretending that most Republicans basically pine for Gerald Ford but somehow got sucked into an authoritarian nightmare they wish they could escape from.

State Races Matter

The national focus also has somewhat obscured how Democrats did on the state level. A bucket of governor's mansions have just turned blue -- Maine, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, and Kansas -- and there were no blue-to-red flips (solid holds in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon, and Colorado). And it looks like they've turned over at least six state legislative chambers too -- not bad!

Priority #1 in any state with Democratic majority: lock in voting rights. It's embarrassing that a state like New York has a train wreck of a voting system, and it needs to end immediately.

Republicans really did overperform Senate side

Yes, it was a brutally tough map for the Democrats. But Republicans nonetheless exceeded at least gameday expectations. Democrats taking back the Senate was always a longshot, but if the GOP holds onto their leads in Arizona and Florida (likely), then they'll have come close to running the table on their best realistic Senate scenario (with only Montana and Nevada as the blemishes). That's legitimate GOP ammo for the spin cycle. And, of course, it does give Trump the ability to continue to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues, which is substantively terrifying.

The Democratic Party Neither Needs To Pivot Left Nor Pivot Center

The favored post-election parlor of any pundit after an election is to explain why the results decisively demonstrate why a given party needs to adopt the political positions they already supported. Among Democrats, this has typically shaken out along the Bernie/Establishment divide that we're apparently doomed to relive forever because this is The Bad Place.

But the fact is, there was no clear trend in which sort of Democrats were winning and losing last night. A bunch of more conservative voices went down in the Senate, but in states which were already punishing turf. And some progressive darlings -- like Ben Jealous in Maryland and Andrew Gillum in Florida -- lost too. On the other side, some establishment picks did their job and won their race (think Jacky Rosen in Nevada, or Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan). But progressives had their stars too -- Beto O'Rourke's campaign in Texas certainly performed better than Texas's red tint should've allowed, and there were a bunch of more progressive challengers who are among the entering House class. Which is to say: different races are different, and different candidates are good fits for different districts. The Party isn't the enemy here.

What I think has been shown is that the more extreme "Bernie" accusation -- that there were a bunch of winnable races that Democrats were quasi-deliberately letting go Republican because something-something-corporate-money, and if we only ran Real Democrats they'd be ours -- has been decisively refuted (I don't think Ben Jealous necessarily did worse than Rushern Baker would have done in Maryland, but he certainly didn't do better). But that was a colossally stupid take anyway. Which probably means it still won't die the death it deserves.

Briefly on Beto -- Yes, He Deserves Praise

This isn't even a hot take anymore but obviously O'Rourke deserves a ton of credit for how he performed in his race against Ted Cruz. I'm seeing some mockery from the usual conservative suspects on this, since he lost, but that's a dumb take. Yes a loss is a loss, and yes everyone hates Ted Cruz, and yes Texas has been slowly purpling. But a sub-three point victory in a statewide race in Texas (by contrast, Governor Greg Abbott -- no political superstar -- won reelection by 13 points) is a monster performance. And his tailwind likely carried a few House races over the finish line as well.

The New Redemption is (Sort of) Upon Us

I'm by no means the first to come up with the idea that we're going through a "second redemption" to undo the "second reconstruction" that was the civil rights era. But I think there is something to be said about the re-energizing of White racist attitudes that's occurred in America over the last few years. People have talked a lot about Trump and, before him, the Tea Party, not so much creating prejudice as "activating" it. I think that in places like Georgia or Florida, there was some demoralization among the White racist crowd where they had basically given up on the possibility that open racism was something they could "do" anymore. Now, they're downright jazzed -- and from that we get both Kemp and DeSantis likely entering a governor's mansion.

That said, the story does seem too pat in some ways -- especially with the passage of Amendment 4 (felon re-enfranchisement) in Florida. It's no exaggeration to say this might put Democrats firmly in the driver's seat in a state as evenly divided as Florida (a full 40% of Black male adults in the state regained their right to vote through this measure), which makes it all the more surprising that it managed to clear the 60% threshold. And to be fair, some amount of credit thus has to be given to those voters who punched a ballot for both Amendment 4 and DeSantis/Scott (there must be a lot of them).

One-State Wave!

With Rashida Tlaib's victory in Michigan, we not only have our first Palestinian-American Congresswomen, we also will have the first Democratic Representative to openly support a one-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. She will join approximately 2/3 of the House Republican Caucus in taking this view (and if you're a pro-Israel type who's about to respond "that's not fair -- Republicans only support a one-state solution where Palestinians aren't allowed to vote!" stop and listen to yourself).

Mixed Results for Anti-Semites

Tablet did a whole bit on "antisemites running for Congress", but I found their list far too restrictive (or in a few cases -- most notably Rep. Andre Carson and GOP challenger Lena Epstein -- too expansive). Overall, it seems like the worst-of-the-worst antisemites -- the open Holocaust denier sorts -- lost, but some more "moderate" cases did fine. I may do a more in-depth exploration of this later.

Early Frustration is Misleading

There did seem to be an extent which last night felt like a letdown for Democrats. Obviously, the Senate is a clear case where that sentiment is justified. At the same time, it seemed like the night got better for Democrats as it went on -- a couple of races which seemed to be slipping away (Wisconsin, Connecticut) broke blue late, and some of our biggest victories (Nevada) were also well into the evening. On net, there's no question this was a big night for the good guys.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Election Liveblog: 2018

It's Election Day, and I'm liveblogging! We're in this until the bitter end -- or until the news gets too depressing and I make up for 11 years of not drinking alcohol in one fell swoop.

Updates will continue throughout the day below (though obviously, there won't be much here until results start coming in this afternoon). Join me!

(All times Pacific)

* * *

2:25 AM: Okay, I'm calling it for the night. The Montana count has slowed to a crawl, and I've been at this almost continuously for nine hours.

Make no mistake, this was a big night for Democrats. Yes, the Senate was a disappointment. But the House was a huge victory. And -- Florida and Georgia notwithstanding -- we did a solid number on the gubernatorial races too. Seven states will welcome in new Democratic governors -- including some critical 2020 states -- and that matters a lot going forward.

1:49 AM: The main race I'm hanging on for is the Montana Senate race, which stubbornly remains red (Rosendale leads by 1.5 with 78% reporting) even as for a long time Tester still seemed to be in good statistical shape. The problem is that the blue parts of Montana just aren't reporting their numbers -- most notably, both Missoula and Gallatin counties, which are by far Tester's strongest turf, are each more than half out. Tester's winning Missoula by 31 and Gallatin by 21 so far, but that's actually a bit short of his benchmarks (another Dem fade!) -- he needs 37 and 23 point margins, respectively.

1:46 AM: See, this is why you need local experts. Turns out that Mower County is the one place on the Minnesota/Iowa border that leans blue. And good thing too, since it still has 40% left to report with Hagedorn up by less than 600 votes. I'd still say Hagedorn has a big advantage, but this isn't quite over yet.

1:36 AM: Unless there's something really skewed with the absentee and other late-counted ballots in Arizona, I have to think Martha McSally has taken this. But there's down-the-line silver lining for the Democrats: holding a solid Republican candidate like McSally to a sub-1 point victory in Arizona is definite proof that this state is trending, if not blue, then at least purple.

1:31 AM: More bright news from Wisconsin: It looks as if Democratic challenger Josh Kaul has defeated Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel.

1:27 AM: Okay, now I think we might be able to make a call in the California's 15th Assembly District. With 77% reporting, Buffy Wicks has what seems to be a commanding 57-43 lead on Jovanka Beckles. Congrats to Wicks, who will make a superb Assemblywoman.

1:23 AM: California races can change after the buzzer, thanks to all the mail-in ballots, but for the moment at least it looks like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has lost his race against Harley Rouda. Rouda leads 51/49 with 99% reporting. And since late ballots tend to favor Democrats, Rouda should sleep well tonight.

1:17 AM: In a D-on-D California Assembly race, Speaker Anthony Rendon is beating Maria Estrada 57-43 with 2/3 reporting. While that's a comfortable margin, it's not as comfortable as I'd like given that Estrada is a raging antisemite.

Meanwhile, in my Assembly race, Buffy Wicks still has a 17 point lead over Jovanka Beckles, with just over half of all precincts reporting.

1:11 AM: I mean this about, I dunno, 70% seriously, but there's something to be said for all the Florida voters who voted for Scott or DeSantis and Amendment 4 (felon re-enfranchisement). There must be a lot of them, since A4 passed with over sixty percent of the vote, and given the sharp racial skew in Florida's ex-felon population, the sheer number of people who had been barred from voting who now will be eligible, and how closely divided Florida is, there's a very strong chance that these voters have basically signed away their political future to the opposing party.

If they knew that, and did the right thing anyway -- well, I tip my hat to that, at least.

1:06 AM: While "Democrat comes from behind to win in Connecticut" isn't exactly something to crow about, it is looking pretty good for Ned Lamont, who's been trailing all night in the Connecticut gubernatorial race but now appears to have pulled into a narrow lead.

1:04 AM: It's still overwhelmingly likely that Rick Scott has defeated Bill Nelsen (which -- come ON Florida!), but it is worth noting that the race has quietly crept back into automatic recount territory as Broward County processes its absentees.

12:59 AM: Apparently the California Senate race has been called for Dianne Feinstein. Kevin de Leon certainly ran a spirited contest and made it close, though his final coalition looks to be a bit of an oddball mix of "progressives thirsting for a lefty challenge to Feinstein" and "conservatives who instinctively vote for the not-Feinstein".

12:48 AM: Oh, in case you were wondering, yes, the Green Party vote is about twice the margin between McSally and Sinema in Arizona.

12:44 AM: Looks like Hurd is back ahead for good (provisionals, absentees, etc. TBD). And absentee votes have already made an impact in one race: in the GA-06, Rep. Karen Handel is now losing to Democratic challenger Lucy McBath by about 1,000 votes.

12:37 AM: The UT-04 race continues to tighten: Democrat Ben McAdams now has a 2.5% lead over GOP Rep. Mia Love. The remaining vote looks like it leans ever-so-slightly red (Utah County is 62% unreported and is blood-red, while Salt Lake City -- not as blue, but much more populous -- has around 30% left to report). This will be a nail-biter.

12:23 AM: I think McSally is in a good position to hold Arizona's Senate seat for the GOP. She's consistently led by about a point, and while Sinema is narrowly winning Maricopa, she needs to increase her margin by at least a little bit and she's running out of time to do it. Again, Maricopa is so geographically diverse that it's not impossible to make up the difference, but McSally is in pole position.

12:08 AM: Oh good: another "reporting error" puts Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd back ahead. That's two in one night (the other was in Georgia's 7th district).

12:06 AM: Calling California races is a fools' errand, given all the mail-in ballots. Still, if you had told me that the closest of the toss-up CA race's would be Rohrabacher/Rouda, I'm not sure I would have believed it. Rouda has a half point lead with 70% reporting.

12:02 AM: With 20% reporting in my Assembly race (California AD15), Buffy Wicks is beating fellow Democrat Jovanka Beckles by 20 points. But I strongly suspect this is a race where different parts of the district will vote very differently, so I wouldn't read too much into that (though Wicks certainly should be pleased!).

12:00 AM: Poking our head into Montana, where Jon Tester is still down by about a point. But there's a lot of blue territory still outstanding, and again, he's hitting his marks there.

11:58 PM: Some tough early results (and the true disappointment in Florida) has masked a pretty solid night for Democrats. Not only taking back the House, but winning eight Governor's mansions (including a real feel-good victory in Wisconsin).

11:52 PM: Nevada carries on its slow but steady blueward march: Steve Sisolak will be its next Governor.

11:49 PM: What makes Arizona impossible to project is that 60% of the state's voters are in Maricopa, County, which includes Phoenix ... and a lot of rural areas that are not really much like Phoenix. On net, it's a swing county, but that's less because the whole county is purple and more because it has both some deep blue and deep red regions. So when it's 40% in and basically a tie, that could mean pretty much anything.

11:42 PM: Sometimes a race gets called and then those last few votes trickle in and suddenly ... the "loser" ends up ahead. So it appears to have gone in the TX-23, where GOP Rep. Will Hurd -- who had been called the victor earlier this evening -- is down 300 votes to Democrat Gina Ortiz with 100% reporting.

11:33 PM: And Nevada was just called for Jacky Rosen, finally putting Democrats on the Senate board tonight. Meanwhile, Arizona keeps on doing its thing -- McSally has a 1 point lead, with 55% counted.

11:30 PM: Will we ever tire of Danny Tarkanian losing? We may never find out! He lost again tonight, this time in the NV-02 district, to Democrat Susie Lee.

11:29 PM: And Wisconsin has officially been called for Democrat Tony Evers, who takes the Governor's mansion from one-time GOP star Scott Walker.

11:26 PM: Nevada is looking strong as Clark comes in 54-41 for Rosen and 53-52 for Sisolak. They needed a 53-45 margin, so while this isn't a blowout, they're both in a strong position (especially because both are winning in swingy Washoe County).

11:15 PM: I think Hagedorn will pull out the win for the GOP in the MN-01. Not only is this a rare D-to-R flip, but as I've mentioned this is the district where my in-laws live, so I'm especially less-than-happy that it elected a guy who likes to talk about how George Soros "owns" his opponents and accused Joe Lieberman of only voting for the Iraq War because he's a Jew.

11:05 PM: It's hard not to feel a bit nervous watching the California House results come in, but remember that a ton of the vote in California is by mail and gets counted late -- and that vote tends to lean liberal.

11:04 PM: Democrats flip the SC-01 -- probably an even bigger upset than the Oklahoma seat they won earlier tonight.

11:01 PM: So I knew that Democrats had taken control of the New York State Senate, but I hadn't realized just how badly they demolished the GOP in doing so -- they netted eight seats there tonight (they only needed one).

For me, the top two Democratic priorities in NY should be (1) reforming the state's awful election rules and (b) placing Simcha Felder on a raft and leaving him to fend for himself.

10:59 PM: I don't want to jinx it but ... Tony Evers might have pulled off the win in Wisconsin. Apparently a bunch of absentees were just counted in Milwaukee and Evers cleaned up there.

10:53 PM: Arizona continues to creep, creep, creep along. Republican Martha McSally leads Democrat Kirsten Synema by about a point. Almost all the remaining vote is in three counties: Pima, Pinal, and especially Maricopa. Synema needs to win Maricopa by one point, Pima by 17, and lose Pinal by 15. Right now she's winning Maricopa by one, Pima by 15, and losing Pinal by 16. Then again, Sinema has done slightly better than she needed in some of the more outlying rural areas (which is to say, she's losing there by bruising margins instead of lethal margins). This will be tight.

10:46 PM: I'll do a real post-mortem tomorrow (or maybe a little later -- I deserve a break). But one takeaway I have immediately is that this was not a "snapback" election from 2016, this was a continuation of a trend. Trump-y areas continue to back Trump. Suburban areas, long a redoubt for a sort of old-school Republican conservatism, continue to loathe him. States (Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and yes, Texas) and districts which had been moving towards the Democratic Party continued to do so. Places which liked Trump in 2016 continue to like Trumpism in 2018 (Florida, Indiana, Missouri). If there's an exception to this, it's in the midwest -- but even there, look at Minnesota, which bucked the "blue wave" harder than perhaps anywhere after being closer than expected in 2016.

The thing pundits are really going to have to reckon with is that conservative Americans really like Trumpism. He's not an aberration. He's not an exception. He's not outside the Republican mainstream. There are segments of the country where racist, xenophobic appeals are really popular -- and right now, those are the locales where Republicans win.

10:30 PM: With Elissa Slotkin's victory over Rep. Mike Bishop in the MI-08, Democrats have officially won enough called races to take the House (I don't know if that count gets subtracted by one if Hagedorn pulls out the win over Feehan, but if not her there will be others).

10:27 PM: According to exit polls (I know, I know), 79% of Jews voted for Democratic House candidates this cycle.

10:22 PM: Nevada finally posts some damn numbers. Carson City is 88% in, with Republican gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt and Senator Dean Heller up about 13 points. That's decent news -- Democrats can lose that county by 16 and still win tonight.

10:13 PM: The called, uncalled, called again race in NY-27 goes to indicted Rep. Chris Collins. And Duncan Hunter likewise looks to have prevailed in the CA-50. With Greg Gianforte still ahead in Montana, this is a banner evening for Republican criminals.

10:04 PM: There's a big upset brewing in the SC-01 -- a deep-red district whose incumbent, Mark Sanford (yes, that Mark Sanford) lost a primary challenge to Katie Arrington. But now Arrington is shockingly down three points to Joe Cunningham, with 92% reporting.

9:59 PM: The MN-01 race is going to kill me. With 86% reporting, Democrat Dan Feehan has moved into a 300 vote lead. I have to think that the two remaining counties (there might be one more Rochester precinct) lean Hagedorn -- though if there are any experts on Jackson and Mower county, Minnesota, now's your time to shine.

9:54 PM: I want to be very careful, and very precise, in how I say this: a "data error", in a Georgia congressional race, that puts a Republican incumbent over the top in a race where it looked like he had lost to his Democratic challenger, looks very, very bad.

9:49 PM: A college buddy of mine ran for the Minnesota State House. He got smoked -- but don't worry: while I love him as a friend, he'd make a terrible legislator. (Democrats looked poised to win the State House outright, flipping it from GOP control).

9:42 PM: Democratic Rep. Colin Peterson has won reelection in the MN-07, but it was close, again, even though Republicans didn't really invest much effort in the race, again. I have to think that's going to change in 2020.

9:37 PM: Apparently the margin of victory in the KS-02 race, where Rep. Steve Watkins held off Democrat Paul Davis, was provided by a libertarian candidate who was a Democratic Party official planning to run in this race as a Democrat before the party consolidated around Davis. So he ran third party. Dead to me.

9:35 PM: Democrats have won the governor's race in Maine, thus bringing the hellish Paul LePage era to an end.

9:33 PM: As California starts to report (22% in), Senator Dianne Feinstein begins with an eight point lead over fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon. Interestingly -- given that de Leon is mounting a from-the-left challenge of the incumbent -- he's doing best in the less liberal inland parts of the state. I imagine some conservative voters just dislike Feinstein and reflexively vote for her opponent, even if he's a Democrat too.

9:29 PM: Rep. Steve King has reportedly held onto his western Iowa seat. It was close, but this goes to show that if your district is conservative enough there's no limit to how racist you can be.

9:25 PM: I think Scott Walker is going to squeak out another victory in Wisconsin. The rough Senate night was expected, but it's really been a deeply mediocre performance for Democrats on the gubernatorial side as well.

9:17 PM: Kim Reynolds looks poised to hang on to the Iowa governorship -- another GOP hold (and an extra impressive one given Democratic strength on the House side of things). She leads by 1 point with 85% in, but it looks like more red turf than blue is left outstanding.

9:07 PM: If the Democratic wall in the Senate really collapsed we would have lost Montana too, but fortunately that doesn't look to be happening. Jon Tester continues to hold down a 7 point lead with 27% reporting.

Meanwhile, the House race is also surprisingly close: Rep. Greg Gianforte (best known for bodyslamming a reporter) is up just 1 point over Democrat Kathleen Williams. And so far, it seems like she's right at her county targets -- which is to say, it may well stay this close down the stretch.

9:01 PM: Back in Minnesota, Angie Craig has pulled out to a 4 point lead in the MN-02 with 91% reporting. It doesn't look there are enough Republican votes to close the gap for Rep. Jason Lewis. A bit further south in the MN-01, Jim Hagedorn has a .4% lead over Dan Feehan with 68% reporting. Still plenty of Olmsted out, and I was right that it was D terrain. But if Hagedorn does hang on, he'll have won only the second GOP flip this House cycle -- both in Minnesota!

8:59 PM: On the other hand, maybe the call for Rep. Chris Collins was too soon too? He's trailing by 10 with 50% in, and the outstanding turf doesn't look great for him (though it's a bit hard to say, since some counties haven't reported at all).

8:56 PM: Josh Hawley is projected to beat Claire McCaskill in Missouri -- another Senate loss in what has been a really tough night for Dems in the upper chamber (off-set, of course, by our many victories in the lower chamber!).

8:50 PM: Retraction alert! Now I'm seeing reports that Rodney Davis has held on to his IL-13 seat. Sorry Illini.

8:47 PM: It'll be down to the wire in Wisconsin, where Democrat Tony Evers has a lead of less than 2,000 votes over incumbent Scott Walker. 78% of the state has reported, including virtually all of Milwaukee (though there are still some Democratic pockets in and around Madison).

8:44 PM: Democrats have won three of Iowa's four House seats. The fourth, held by White Supremacist Steve King, is almost deadlocked with two-thirds reporting.

8:41 PM: Indicted Rep. Chris Collins (NY-27) will be re-elected -- California's Duncan Hunter is hoping to make it two-for-two for the accused criminal House set. That said, Democrats have picked up at least three seats in New York: defeating the aforementioned Donovan (NY-11), John Faso (NY-19), and Claudia Tenney (NY-22). They've also officially won complete control of the New York State Senate. No more IDC shenanigans, please!

8:37 PM: We mentioned the NJ-02 earlier, where Republicans had cut loose Seth Grossman for being racist (and thus, they thought, non-competitive -- obviously they don't care about racists who might win). But this race has been tighter than expected, though now Democrat Jeff Van Drew does have a three point lead.

8:35 PM: Another Illinois Democratic pickup is projected, this time in the 13th district. Congrats to Betsy Londrigan, and all the UIUCers who helped make this possible.

8:33 PM: Claire McCaskill is down 10 in Missouri, albeit with much of St. Louis still to report. Still, it might be that the GOP basically runs the table on meaningfully contested Senate races (obviously, we've still got Arizona and Nevada outstanding. Montana also is only 20% in, though so far Jon Tester is hitting his marks).

8:29 PM: A Republican pickup in the MN-08 is their first House flip of the night. This was by far their best chance to win a Democratic seat, though the MN-01 race is still close and has a good chance of falling their way too.

8:26 PM: While we were distracted, Rep. Steve Watkins has pulled back into a (.5%) lead over Democrat Paul Davis. With 90% reporting and (I think) mostly red turf out, this looks like a GOP hold.

8:23 PM: With Kobach losing in Kansas, but DeSantis and (probably) Kemp winning in Florida and Georgia, it sometimes feels like the battle against the greatest GOP demons is like we're fighting H.Y.D.R.A.. "Strike down one head, and two will take our place!"

8:22 PM: Even if you're a cynic like me, it's virtually impossible to imagine Democrats not taking the House. They've already flipped 20 seats out of the 23 seats they need -- and there are some ripe pickings to be had out west.

8:18 PM: In case you were wondering, that UT-02 race has been slowly reverting to form. Now Republican Rep. Chris Stewart is back in the lead by 2 points -- but while not all of Salt Lake City (the only Democratic territory here) is in, there's a lot of brutally red terrain down south that hasn't reported at all.

8:11 PM: It's a photo finish in the NJ-03: GOP Rep. Tom McArthur trails Democrat Andy Kim by less than 400 votes with 99% in.

8:05 PM: In the cruelest "Florida man" story, Florida men have elected Ron DeSantis governor (Andrew Gillum just conceded).

8:03 PM: We will net at least two Illinois seats: Lauren Underwood has defeated GOP Rep. Randy Holtgren in the IL-14. He joins Rep. Peter Roskam and, of course, Governor Bruce Rauner, among the defeated Illinois Republicans.

7:57 PM: Rep. Rodney Davis has crept back into the lead in the IL-13. He's up by a little over a point with 78% reporting. The good news for Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan? The most outstanding turf appears to be in Dem-leaning Madison County.

7:55 PM: Tim Walz has won the Minnesota governorship, keeping the seat Democratic. But can team Blue keep Tim Walz's seat in the D column? Right now, Democratic nominee Dan Feehan is trailing Jim "my opponent is owned by Soros" Hagedorn by about 2 points, with 26% reporting.

7:50 PM: Why is Florida so tough for Democrats to capture? My hypothesis right now is that the more rural and tempermentally "Southern" parts of the state (paradoxically, in North Florida) have pivoted hard to the right faster than suburban Florida has gone blue. Consider that Nelson and Gillum both won suburban Pinellas County, historically a bellwether, even while (probably) losing statewide.

Of course, with the passage of Amendment 4, which will re-enfranchise 40%(!) of the state's African-American adults, this analysis might be moot faster than you'd think.

7:44 PM: Feeling good about Angie Craig's chances against Rep. Jason Lewis in the MN-02. She's up 2 with about half reporting -- but half of Dakota (the bluest part of the district) is still out along with all of Rice County (home of Carleton College!).

Things are a bit harder to predict in my wife's native MN-01. It's dead even with 21% reporting. I assume (though I don't know) that Olmsted County, aka Rochester, will be the strongest territory for Dan Feehan as he tries to keep this seat blue.

7:40 PM: It's not called yet, but Kendra Horn still has a 1 point lead over Rep. Steve Russell (R) in the OK-05, and 97% of precincts have been reported.

7:36 PM: Georgia continues to creep along in its reporting. The Governor's race is hard to process given just how divided this state is. But on the House end of things, there's some news: Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux is up 6 on GOP Rep. Rob Woodall in the GA-07. The more marquee race was thought to be the GA-06 race: Incumbent Republican Karen Handel has a small lead with less than 15% reporting.

7:31 PM: Out in Utah, Mitt Romney will be a US Senator. More interestingly, in the UT-04, GOP Rep. Mia Love is trailing by about 10 points to Ben McAdams with 53% reporting. There are a bunch of different narratives in play here: this is very conservative territory, but also not particularly Trump-positive territory. And Love -- one of the few African-American Republicans -- has always had to reckon with more than a bit of racism in this part of the country.

Also in Utah, Shireen Ghorbani is way up (like, 40 points up) against GOP Rep. Chris Stewart in the UT-02 with 18% reporting. I assume this is a mirage though, since I've never heard a whisper about this race.

7:29 PM: While O'Rourke may not have won himself, there's no doubt he gave Democratic House challengers down ballot a significant tailwind. And the first of those challengers to officially get a call is in the TX-32, where Colin Allred has unseated longtime Rep. Pete Sessions.

7:25 PM: We're looking at a rough Senate night for Dems (with Donnelly, Heitkamp and -- probably -- Nelson going down at the very least, with McCaskill still very much on the chopping block too). But we might have the weird scenario of a significant Democratic underperformance on the Senate side being paired with strong results on the House.

But while the brutal Senate map is probably responsible for most of the GOP's victories, their overperformance against the numbers certainly will give their spin doctors some ammo in the event the Democrats take the House, as seems increasingly likely.

7:24 PM: Rep. Rodney Davis's IL-13 seat has always been tantalizingly out of reach for Democrats, dating back to my time at the University of Illinois. But maybe this is the year: with about half the vote counted, he's trailing by 8 points.

7:19 PM: It looks like Ted Cruz is going to hold off Beto O'Rourke. Disappointed, but the very narrow margin is testament to the fact that everyone hates Ted Cruz, and we can take solace in that.

7:16 PM: A sleeper GOP upset pick would be the MN-03 (the non-sleeper GOP pickup district in MN is the MN-01, the non-sleeper and non-upset pick is the MN-08). Rep. Colin Peterson represents some very red turf, and he was held to a much tighter than anticipated margin in 2016 against a no-name opponent. The race is dead-even right now, albeit with less than 10% reporting.

7:13 PM: Not to keep picking on the early Kentucky/Indiana races, but the early angst might have been skewed by the fact that this is arguably the most pro-Trump area in America. Democrats are doing considerably better elsewhere -- including in generally red heartland areas like Kansas (and -- maybe -- Oklahoma: Kendra Horn is up a point on GOP Rep. Steve Russell in the OK-05 with just under 80% reporting).

7:07 PM: And we get some more AP calls: Luria has eked it out in the VA-02, and Rose has unseated Donovan in the NY-11. Two more very solid Democratic pickups.

7:04 PM: Just saw a call in Kansas -- Kansas -- where Democrat Laura Kelly apparently has defeated voter suppression maestro Kris Kobach. That feels real good. She's up 52-40 with 35% reporting. Also in Kansas, Paul Davis has a 6 point lead in the KS-02 with half the vote in. That'd be a nice Democratic pickup (his district was considerably tougher turf than Davids').

7:02 PM: While I'm ready to lock in the VA-07, the VA-02 remains comically close (oddly, I think the VA-07 was thought of as a harder Democratic target). With 94% reporting, Democrat Elaine Luria has a 44 vote lead over Rep. Scott Taylor. And there's no clear lean to the remaining precincts to count, either.

6:59 PM: A bunch more Democratic pickups. In the KS-03, Sharice Davids will become the first Native American woman in Congress (Democrats are hoping to make it two later this evening with Deb Haaland in New Mexico). Meanwhile, Haley Stevens has flipped a GOP open seat, beating Lena "let's bring out Jews for Jesus to eulogize Pittsburgh victims" Epstein in the MI-11.

6:56 PM: Sleeper race in New York: Democrat Max Rose has a 4 point lead on GOP Rep. Dan Donovan with 89% reporting. This was a race that wasn't really on anyone's radar as one of the marquee Democratic pickup opportunities.

6:51 PM: Still no call, but I think it's over in the VA-07 -- a big Democratic pickup given how the evening is progressing. Right now I think we'll see a Democratic House, but by a relatively narrow margin. There's no crushing wave, which makes it all the more imperative that Democrats win at least some races like this.

6:47 PM: Most of Minnesota hasn't reported yet, but one district has gotten ahead of the rest: MN-03, a suburban Minneapolis seat where Democrat Dean Phillips is smoking GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen. He's up 12 with over 70% in -- another affluent suburban district which is snapping back hard to the Democratic Party.

Over on the Senate side, both Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar look solid in early returns.

6:45 PM: GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo has conceded in the FL-26, giving a key toss-up race victory to the Democrats.

6:43 PM: Congrats to Jared Polis, who holds down a Democratic governorship in Colorado and becomes the first openly gay man to be elected Governor in American history.

6:34 PM: The Democratic pick-ups so far have been in districts we were expected to win (if Spanberger beats Brat, that would probably be our best victory so far). That would include Jason Crow defeating Rep. Mike Coffman in the CO-06. But if Laura Underwood takes down GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in the IL-14, that would be a good get. She leads by 5.5 with 42% in.

6:30 PM: Now the VA-02 is back to a teeny-tiny GOP lead -- .4%! About 13% of Virginia Beach is left to report, and that's been bouncing here there and everywhere tonight.

6:21 PM: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is projected to comfortably win reelection in Maryland over Ben Jealous. While this isn't as big of a deal in the scheme of things, given MD's Democratic supermajority in the legislature, it's still embarrassing that we can't elect a Democrat in a state as a blue as this (see also: Massachusetts).

6:15 PM: While it is good that Corey Stewart will lose to Tim Kaine in the Virginia Senate race, he isn't projected to do materially worse than Ed Gillespie did in 2017. That's worrisome, given that Stewart is basically an open White Supremacist and neo-Confederate fanboy. Moral of the story: Being a White Supremacist and neo-Confederate fanboy costs you precisely zero Republican votes.

6:12 PM: With 22% reporting, Republican Seth Grossman is up by 3 over Democrat Jeff Van Drew. This is an open GOP seat, but one the Republican Party had basically written off once they learned that Grossman was really, really racist. It's geographically large for New Jersey though, so this may not be a representative sample.

6:05 PM: Donnelly wasn't exactly expected, but it wasn't exactly wrenching either. But losing both the Governor and Senate race in Florida? That would hurt. A lot. Particularly when we're talking about a sociopath like DeSantis.

6:00 PM: West Virginia has been called for Joe Manchin -- an expected, if still nice, Democratic hold (particularly with Donnelly falling).

5:55 PM: KY-06 has been called for Barr -- a GOP hold.

5:53 PM: What goes around comes around! I think Rep. Dave Brat, who soared to prominence by defeating GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary, will lose to Abby Spanberger in the VA-07. He's down by only .2, but nearly all of the remaining vote is in D- or D-leaning turf.

5:51 PM: Democrats have just pulled into the lead in both the VA-02 and VA-07 -- but both by tiny margins (less than a point). At least 85% of the vote is counted in both districts.

5:50 PM: Just saw the first projection that Joe Donnelly will lose in Indiana. While there's still plenty of vote to count, Donnelly just isn't hitting his margins in the big cities.

5:49 PM: Christ, Florida, must we do this every time? "This" being insanely tight elections that boil down to how much vote is left in South Florida, and "this" being "possibly electing Rick Scott to offices by tiny margins."

5:41 PM: Checking back in on Virginia, Rep. Dave Brat (R) is up by less than a point -- and Chesterfield County (a blue -- albeit light-blue -- tinted county) is only half in. That's by far the largest source of outstanding ballots here.

5:39 PM: Some unambiguously positive news, if it holds: Florida looks poised to restore ex-felon voting rights!

5:29 PM: The VA-02 race in coastal Virginia is a little hard to parse. Incumbent Scott Taylor (R) is up three on challenger Elaine Luria with 70% reporting. But it feels like there should be a lot more votes from Norfolk. I don't know what to make of it, really.

5:27 PM: Statewide in Florida, both Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis are clinging to very small leads with 70% of the vote in. The good news: It seems like a lot of south Florida Democratic turf (e.g., in Palm Beach and Broward Counties) is still out. The bad news: I feel like I have a bad memory of thinking the same thing in 2016 and being very disappointed....

5:26 PM: Another very close race is in the FL-26 -- a south Florida district where GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo has long been a top Democratic target in a district that went heavily for Clinton. With 77% in, challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell leads by less than a point. But virtually all the remaining turf is in the much bluer Miami-Dade part of the district, so if I'm Mucarsel-Powell I'm feeling pretty optimistic right now.

5:16 PM: The VA-07 race is going to be tight. GOP Rep. Dave Brat is clinging to a one point lead with 79% of the vote in. But much -- though not all -- of the remaining vote is in Chesterfield County, where Democrat Abby Spanberger is currently up by 7 points.

5:12 PM: 77% in, and Barr has pulled into a 1 point lead in the KY-06. About 12% of Fayette County (where McGrath is leading by 21) is left to report, and that's her best turf. But there's some red (or at least reddish -- pretty much anything not Fayette or Franklin County here is at least "reddish") territory also is still outstanding. The closest thing to a "swing" county left is Woodford County, which "only" went for Trump by 20.

5:08 PM: Comstock was basically a gimme, but Democrats had a few more targets in Virginia. The two largest were the VA-02 (Rep. Scott Taylor) and VA-07 (Rep. David Brat). Both incumbents are currently leading (though the Brat race has been oscillating a bit) -- a more distant Democratic target (VA-06) has already been called for the Republican.

5:02 PM: Another D flip is called, this time in south Florida where Donna Shalala has apparently taken an open GOP seat. There had been some griping about Shalala's campaign skills, but she's up 5 with 62% reporting.

4:59 PM: I'm going to be honest -- not feeling great right now. 22% of Marion County (Indianapolis) is reporting, and Donnelly is up by 28. DKE county benchmarks say he needs to win there by 42.

4:50 PM: Pinellas County is about half in, and both Nelson and Gillum are holding onto leads there (Nelson's is larger -- 5.5 points vs. 3 points). Again, that's fine if it holds up -- this is a very swingy county.

4:49 PM: Comstock, of course, was a "moderate Republican", which means she was substantively virtually identical to Paul Ryan on every issue except -- occasionally -- rhetorically.

4:43 PM: We have a House pick-up, and it's for the blue team! Rep. Barbara Comstock has gone down in Virginia's 10th District (suburban DC). With 60% reporting, she's trailing Jennifer Wexton by a bruising 16 point margin. Lest we get too excited, this is a district that Republicans had basically written off -- this part of the country loathes Trump.

4:41 PM: Franklin County is all reported in Kentucky, and McGrath ended up winning it by 8. That's not good -- she needed a 12 point margin. If you wanted to read this into a national trend -- and I highly encourage you not to -- the worry is that Democrats succeeded in getting more people to vote early but not more people to vote period. That might translate to a difficult night where early returns look good and then it slowly slips away.

4:34 PM: Finally, a biggish county starts to report in Indiana. St. Joseph's County, in the northern part of the state, is going for Donnelly by 27 points with about 20% of the vote counted. He needs a 20 point margin there -- but again, watch for backsliding if early (potentially more D-leaning) votes are the bulk of the count.

4:23 PM: As more votes are coming in, McGrath is backsliding a bit. The Clark County numbers were always a mirage, but now (with 42% in) Barr is up by 25 (he needs 20). Montgomery County is all  in, now with Barr holding down a 27 point margin (he needs 24). And while McGrath is still beating her numbers Franklin County (up 15, needs to be up 12, 48% in), she's lagging a bit in Fayette County, by far the largest in the district and a place where the Democrats need to dominate. Her 20 point margin is good, but it isn't good enough -- she needs to be up 25.

4:16 PM: Hey, we all remember Kim Davis, right? The Kentucky official who wouldn't process lawful same-sex marriages? Well, with almost 2/3 of the vote counted she's losing her re-election fight.

(Also, yes, she switched parties and now is a Republican)

4:13 PM: Let's turn our gaze to Florida, where the early vote in swingy Pinellas County (near Tampa) has incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson leading Rick Scott by 8 point. The benchmark figure Nelson needs to hit is a 1 point win. But again, early votes in particular are often non-representative, so caveat emptor.

4:06 PM: Montgomery County joins the large KY-06 counties with over 10% in club. And with a third of the vote counted, Barr is leading by 19. Again -- that's good news for McGrath: she just needs to hold him to 24 in this county to come out on top.

3:58 PM: Polls are about to close in a bunch more states, meaning that our deep analysis of the KY-06 race may be coming to an end. But so far, I'd say things look good for McGrath. Franklin  County is now half in, and she's still up 15 (remember, a 12 point margin there was her benchmark, so right now she's past it). The only other large-ish county to have reported over 10% is Clark (11.5% in), and McGrath is up 8 -- which would be stunning, given that her benchmark there is to only lose by 20. I can't believe that's going to hold, but hey, good news is good news.

3:51 PM: Another example -- albeit from a smaller county, albeit with more reporting. With about a third of the vote counted in Indiana's Bartholomew County, Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly is trailing by about 9 points. In 2012 he lost Bartholomew County by 8 points while winning statewide by six points. Trump dominated here by over 30 points.

3:45 PM: Okay, we're going to jump the gun a bit and report some early results from the Kentucky-06 race, where Amy McGrath is challenging GOP Rep. Andy Barr. These are very early, and I'm giving to you only to illustrate the point I made before regarding county benchmarks.

The two biggest counties in this district to report a non-trivial chunk of votes are Franklin and Montgomery ("non-trivial" is relative -- both are around 6% in. That's not a lot). In Franklin, McGrath is up 29. In Montgomery, Barr is up 23.

Okay, but what does that mean? Well, in 2016 Montgomery County went for Trump by 41 points -- if McGrath can bring that margin down to a 24 point loss, she's in good shape. So she's right on target there. But the news is even better in Franklin County: Trump won that by 15, and McGrath's target is to win it by 12. So being up 29 would be a massive overperformance.

But again -- it is early. There's still a lot of votes to count, including in these two counties.

3:38 PM: Results are starting to trickle in, but they're sporadic and too spread out to really paint any sort of picture. What we're waiting for is a decent-sized county (e.g., Franklin in Kentucky) to report a decent-size percentage of its votes. Once that happens, we'll start getting a sense of where the night (or at least, that county's race) is heading.

3:20 PM: Don't trust exit polls don't trust exit polls 61% of first-time voters are voting Democrat according to an exit poll don't trust exit polls.

3:05 PM: And here ... we ... go! Polls have closed in Kentucky and (most of) Indiana. The nation's eyes, hungry for any bit of data they can swallow, all look to the Indiana Senate and KY-06 House races (the two main competitive contests here). Can Donnelly run-up the score enough in Marion County to overcome Indiana's Trumpist lean?

2:37 PM: The polls don't close for at least another 30 minutes anywhere in the US. But they do things differently out on the islands, and we've got our first Democratic pickup of the night .... in Guam! Lou Leon Guerrero will be Guam's next (and first female) Governor. Republicans had held the seat for the last sixteen years.

Congrats to Guerrero and incoming Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio!

2:27 PM: Georgia Secretary of State and GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp -- who's been battling accusations of voter suppression all cycle -- struggles to cast a ballot after nearly being stymied by his own state's voter ID law.

1:28 PM: A poll worker in Houston is facing criminal assault charges after hurling racist remarks at a Black voter, then shoulder bumping her. The most interesting part of the story, for me, is what the worker said when the voter said she was calling the police: "I'm white. Have you seen the news? If you call the police, they're going to take you to jail and do something to you, because I'm white."

Now, to be clear, that's not what the police ended up doing (they escorted out the poll worker, as they should). But it is interesting to see how racist Whites are directly weaponizing the increased salience of police bias against Black people -- a sort of through-the-mirror-darkly upshot of the success of the BlackLivesMatter.

1:22 PM: Apropos of nothing, a new study published in the Journal of Politics finds that politicians no longer are punished for making explicit racial appeals to White voters. Some (albeit contested) evidence suggested that for a period such appeals had to be made implicit -- explicit racism being rejected by all -- but this study concludes that this era passed around when the Tea Party began organizing its anti-Obama backlash circa 2010.

12:19 PM: Still have three hours until the first results come in  (from Indiana and Kentucky). Quoth the wife: "What's the point of living in Pacific Time if the election isn't already decided by the time you wake up?"

12:08 PM: There's a lot of excitement over dramatically increased early voting numbers among young voters this cycle (see, e.g., here: it's up 2,500% in North Dakota). But while that's certainly not bad news, there are two reason to not overstate it. First, it's unclear what the base rate was (if virtually nobody was voting early in North Dakota, then a relatively small raw increase in early voting can yield a massive percentage increase). Second, it's possible that the rise is simply reflecting a shift where people who had been voting in-person now are voting early.

Put another way, my big worry this cycle is that voters who already voted Democrat are more amped up to vote Democratic (expressed, for example, by voting early) but that this isn't necessarily translating into getting new Democratic voters. And a vote doesn't count more just because its cast enthusiastically.

10:30 AM: You never want to generalize from a few tweets and reports, but voting in Georgia looks to be an utter trainwreck and all accounts are that's entirely by design from Secretary of State Brian Kemp -- who also happens to be the GOP gubernatorial nominee.

10:00 AM: One of the key resources I'm going to use throughout the evening is DKE's county benchmarks. Early returns can be deceiving, since often times it is only very particular parts of a state reporting. What looks like a GOP wipeout might be an artifact of certain conservative suburbs coming in before bluer urban areas. The benchmarks tell you what numbers Democrats need to hit on a county-by-county level. So it might be that even losing numbers early if they're nonetheless overperformances on the benchmarks in red parts of a state.

For example: if Jefferson County is first to report in Missouri and McCaskill is down 45-55 on Hawley, that would actually be a very, very good sign since it went 65-30 for Trump and DKE predicts McCaskill needs to move it to only a 42-58 loss in order to win statewide.

9:21 AM: The last bet I placed in Las Vegas (Jill and I were on a "mini-moon" vacation there) was on the Devils to beat the Penguins last night, at +150 (3:2). And they didn't just win, they throttled the Pens. All I can say is I hope that's the only upset pulled by a team of devils this week.

9:07 AM: The chalk picks, based on polling data, are Democrats winning the House and Republicans keeping the Senate. But like any severely-traumatized Democrat, 2016 has made me very nervous about chalk picks. What if the polls are wrong again?

Nate Silver would tell you that "improbable" events actually happen quite frequently -- that if something has a 75% chance of occurring, then statistically it should not occur 1 in every 4 times. If it occurs less frequently than that, then the 75% statistic is just wrong. And the most plausible explanation for why (some of) the polls were off in 2016 is simply that.

But there are other possibilities (or at least, I think these are distinct possibilities -- I don't really know enough about statistics to know if they're built into the above). Namely:
  • There was something systemically wrong in the polling model, that persistently benefits Republicans.
For example, that Republicans are always undercounted in polls now because of some sort of Bradley Effect. This is the nightmare scenario, because it suggests that Republicans will consistently outperform the polls over time. If the GOP starts pulling out win after win in close races where maybe they were thought to be a bit down, we have to start wondering about this.

But another option is:
  • There was something systemically wrong in the polling model, that does not persistently benefit any one party.
For example, suppose that the model has gotten really bad at predicting turnout among first-time voters. Maybe in 2016 Trump pulled out a bunch of never-before-voters who were really jazzed to have a White Supremacist speaking their language for the first time. But equally, maybe in 2018 first-time voters are more likely to be youngish members of the Blue Resistance. This skew doesn't necessarily cut one way or the other -- it could benefit Democrats or Republicans. And this is the story that probably needs to be told if Democrats are to take back the Senate.

Monday, November 05, 2018

America's Got Talent: Live!

Jill and I are in Las Vegas for a "mini-moon" (we plan to do a real honeymoon in a few months). The big "event' of the trip was seeing the "America's Got Talent: Live!" show, featuring Season 13 winner Shin Lim as well as several of the more popular runners-up: Courtney Hadwin, Vicki Barbolak, Samuel Comroe, and Duo Transcend.

You know what time it is? Review time! And if you stick it out to the end (or, you know, scroll down), you'll get a bonus review of the Hell's Kitchen restaurant at Caesar's.

Shin Lim

I had never watched AGT before, and the only reason I watched this season was because Shin Lim (whom I'd seen on Penn & Teller Fool Us -- watch these two sets!) was competing. I was rooting for him for the whole competition, and he won! This was very well deserved -- speaking as someone who enjoys magic acts but is by no means an aficionado, Shin Lim is a transcendent talent.

The main takeaway from seeing him live is that he really needs his own theater. Close-up card magic is, by its nature, difficult to translate to a live performance in a big auditorium (especially when you're, like us, sitting in the very back row). The theater had big screens behind him, but the camera work was iffy and so it didn't really capture the magic beyond what you could get from watching him at home.

Again: the moral of this story isn't that I was disappointed. He's still got a jaw-dropping act, and he has a truly fantastic stage presence. The moral is that Shin Lim is so amazing, and so much fun to watch, that he needs a team and resources dedicated to really making his work translate in front of a big live audience. I think he can do it, and I think he can be a legitimate draw once he gets it.

Duo Transcend

The best thing about this husband-wife trapeze act was that it was set to a rendition of Britney Spears' "Toxic" that sounds like it should be in a Batman movie. If that sounds like a backhanded compliment, it isn't -- it's a great remix that hits all my musical buttons. The act itself is good, albeit (haha) not transcendent. As a supporting act, it works really well, but I'm not sure I see a whole show around it. They attempt to stretch a bit with a routine on roller skates, which is well-executed but when you think about it is just a land version of pairs figure skating.

The couple is extremely sensual, in a good way, and I think (again, I don't mean this as an insult!) it would actually fit in really well in Cirque du Soleil's "Zumanity."

Also, the husband-half of the duo has a ridiculously -- I mean ridiculously -- muscular upper-body. He looks like a cartoon. I can't fathom it.

Vicki Barbolak and Samuel Comroe

Barbolak's comedic style isn't really mine, but that's okay. There's definitely an audience for what she does (the guy sitting next to me, who was rocking the thickest Missouri accent I've heard since my clerkship days, was definitely all-in for her), and that's what counts. I kind of find her a bit gimmicky. The "trailer nasty" catch-phrase is just that -- a catch-phrase -- and it's less an organic part of the routine than something shoved in for its own sake. Jill did observe, fairly, that Barbolak's brand of comedy almost certainly is raunchier than really permissible at a family show like AGT Live, so she was probably a bit hamstrung.

Samuel Comroe was, from my measure, the performer who shined brightest beyond expectations. I liked him on the show, but his set was just really, really funny. He's confident and has a unique style, and the way he works in his Tourette's into the routine is clever without feeling like it's a crutch. Obviously, as compared to Shin or Duo Transcend, he's benefited by the fact that he doesn't need any special space to perform in. Overall, I found the production values for the entire Vegas show to be "adequate", at best, but that's neither here nor there for a stand-up comic.

Courtney Hadwin

Watching Courtney Hadwin is like watching a high school baseball player who clearly has the goods, but also isn't quite there yet. There's no question she has some impressive pipes. And she has a style (Jill compared it to Janis Joplin) that -- if not entirely original, is at the very least due for a revival. The talent is indisputable.

That said, there's still plenty of work to be done (and plenty of time to do it -- she's only 14! She relies a little too much on the "Yee-oww!" scream -- it's distinctive, yes, but it gets repetitive. The dancing is basic -- it looks like she's recently got a choreographer and has mastered a few moves which she returns to over and over (then again, maybe it's deliberate?).

In short, she's an awkward teenager. And that's fine! She's super-charming (her "regular" demeanor is such a far cry from her singing persona that just listening to her describe her next song is an act in itself (she was also adorably weird trying to do the group bow -- you know, where the cast joins and hands and bows as one? She kept trying to grab Shin's elbow -- it doesn't work if you do that, Courtney!). And she literally signed off each set by saying -- very quickly -- "Thank you, bye!" and just running off.

So there's a lot of room for growth, but a lot of potential growing. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Hell's Kitchen

After AGT, we decamped for Caesar's to visit the new Hell's Kitchen restaurant (which happens to be the grand prize for this season of HK). I was actually happy that they didn't lean into the theme too much -- I was worried that there would be a whole scene of yelling at the chefs and vitriol and abuse which is fine on the show but actually doesn't make for a pleasant dining experience. But there was none of that: other than having a "red" and "blue" kitchen (which I'm 99% sure was only cosmetic anyway), the Hell's Kitchen aspect of the show was basically one of aesthetics. And aesthetically, the restaurant looked very nice.

In terms of food, the menu is similar-ish to the upscale GR Steak at the Paris, albeit cheaper. I ordered a caesar sald, a filet, and Jill and I shared a potato puree as a side and a sticky toffee pudding for dessert -- basically what I would have gotten at GR Steak.

The caesar was fantastic -- arguably better than the one at HK's more prestigious cousin. The steak was cooked perfectly (I've never had a less-than-perfectly cooked steak at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant), but the grilled preparation wasn't my favorite -- I tend to think grill marks on a filet don't go well with the delicate flavor of the meat. The potatoes were good, though nothing to write home about. The sticky toffee pudding was, as always, outstanding (they did substitute a different ice cream for the brown butter, and that felt like a downward move).

Overall, it was a good experience, but I don't think it will replace GR Steak in our rotation. That said, it is noticeably cheaper, and as a non-bank-breaking substitute it certainly works well.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Future of the "Special Relationship" Between American Jews and Israel

I was invited to write a short piece for a microsymposium on the future of the special relationship between American Jews and America (namely, the idea that America has been historically "exceptional" as being relatively free from antisemitism, and whether that status remains solid going forward).

Look forward to that piece coming out in a few days. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry when I read the prompt, and before I knew it I had written 175 words on the special relationship between American Jews and Israel. Weirdly, I had (mis)read the prompt in considerable detail: I recall being asked about the nature of the "special relationship" between Israel and American Jews, what its future is, whether it's under permanent threat and whether there might be a permanent rupture between the two communities.

None of this was germane to what I was actually asked to write -- so I had to go back to the drawing board. But why waste perfectly good verbiage when I have a blog that lets me publish whatever I want? So here's what I wrote (expanded -- another virtue of the blog is I'm not limited to 175 words) for the ghost symposium -- it's carrying forward themes I wrote about here about the Israeli government not caring what American Jews think.

* * *

The watchword for the American Jewish/Israeli relationship over the next few years will be “reciprocity”. Charles De Gaulle said that “Nations don’t have friends—only interests,” but a “special relationship” is supposed to be more than transactional in nature. For years, American Jews and American Jewish organizations have spent much time, money, and political capital going to bat for Israel and a strong Israel-American alliance. They've done this in even tough or inconvenient environments (one good example: the virtually wall-to-wall Jewish organizational opposition to the Iran Deal, which pitted these groups against a President wildly popular amongst American Jews and which occurred even though polling suggested most American Jews backed the agreement).

Much of the emerging tension in our relationship stems from the realization that the Israeli government feels no corresponding obligation to expend any effort on American Jewish priorities if it requires even a modicum of inconvenience. The “relationship” is entirely one-way.

This comes up with respect to the occupation, but it is even more evident in matters of religious pluralism. Nothing demonstrated Israel’s complete dismissal of American Jewish priorities (even when security issues are not at stake) than the collapse of the Kotel deal. More recently, the Netanyahu government’s response to Pittsburgh—seemingly focused more on propping Trump up than comforting Jews—was similarly self-centered on Israeli, not American Jewish, concerns. And yes, we noticed.

This asymmetry isn't sustainable, and the question is what will break first. On a purely transactional basis, it probably is true that Evangelical Christians can offer a superior deal to Israel than American Jews ever can.  It wasn't an oversight or a mistake when Netanyahu told a group of American Christians "We have no better friends on earth than you" -- American Christians don't make annoying demands for egalitarian prayer spaces or religious pluralism or preserving Israel's liberal democratic character.

The only reason to maintain a special relationship with American Jews is if we are, indeed, viewed as special -- a group for whom there is a genuine and reciprocal care and concern that goes beyond cold-blooded self-interest. It will require Israel to sometimes -- not all the time, not blindly, but sometimes -- take steps that are hard, or inconvenient, or go beyond nakedly political calculations (for example: standing up against anti-Soros conspiracy theories being used to buttress quasi-fascist authoritarian political movements, even if you don't much like the sorts of political organizations Soros backs in Israel. Yeah, it might not the easiest, most convenient political play for Bibi -- but you know what? Suck it up, buttercup: this is bigger than you).

In short, reciprocity is the future -- or not -- of the special relationship between Israel and American Jews. Either both parties will be willing to invest effort and sacrifice on behalf of the other, or neither will.