Republicans Getting More Worried About The Blue Wave

[ Posted Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 – 17:13 UTC ]

Another Wednesday, another Democratic win in a special election to celebrate. That's the way it feels, at any rate, hearing the news from Wisconsin, where a liberal judge beat out an N.R.A.-supported conservative by a 12-point margin (56 percent to 44 percent). This follows on the heels of Conor Lamb's victory in Pennsylvania, and the incredible upset of Doug Jones over Roy Moore in Alabama. Throughout much of last year, special elections got Democrats fired up nationwide, only to fall short when the votes were counted (such as Jon Ossoff's painful loss in Georgia). But since November, this tide seems to have turned. Now Democrats are not just posting big gains but actually winning these elections, many in states and districts where they really should be losing big-time. Wisconsin's was the latest of these, although Wisconsin is admittedly more of a purple state than, say, Alabama.

Republicans, not to put too fine a point on it, are freaking out. As well they should. There's a change in the air, and it's not going to benefit them in the midterms, to state it bluntly. The smarter Republicans realize this and are steeling themselves for the outcome. Mitch McConnell, in a recent interview with a Kentucky newspaper, admitted as much: "This is going to be a challenging election year. We know the wind is going to be in our face. We don't know whether it's going to be a Category 3, 4, or 5." By "a challenging election year," McConnell really means "a challenging election year for Republicans," of course. This is significant, since McConnell's leadership of the Senate is much less at risk than Paul Ryan's continuing as speaker of the House. Democrats have a much steeper hill to climb to win back the Senate, but even McConnell is getting worried, in other words.

Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, is a lot more worried. After the winner was declared last night, he issued forth a storm of tweets, with dire warnings of an impending Democratic blue wave. Such a wave might just sweep him out of office, since he is up for re-election in November. Esquire magazine's report on this tweetstorm began with a poetic overview: "Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, had a rough Wednesday morning." That sentence should really win some sort of award for most snark packed into the fewest words, or something. The article continues in the same vein:

Not as tough a Wednesday as that experienced by his constituents, who awoke to discover that Walker still was their governor, but, still.

Very rarely will a politician receive the kind of ass-kicking that Walker got on Tuesday, when Wisconsin held an election for local and state positions. (Even more rarely will people have the misfortune to be governed by a politician who deserves one more than Walker does.) The marquee gut-punch was the election of Rebecca Dallet to the state supreme court over conservative Michael Screnock, reducing the conservative majority on that body to one vote.

But back to Walker's tweetstorm. Walker began by desperately attempting to frame the narrative to his advantage:

Tonight's results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI. The Far Left is driven by anger & hatred -- we must counter it with optimism & organization. Let's share our positive story with voters & win in November.

Walker also deployed a standard Republican tactic, which is to accuse the other side of doing the thing that you are most guilty of:

Big government special interests flooded Wisconsin with distorted facts & misinformation. Next, they'll target me and work to undo our bold reforms. We need to keep moving #WIForward & make sure a #BlueWave of outside special interest money doesn’t take us backward.

In a subsequent tweet, Walker used the occasion to beg for donations. The responses to Walker's tweets have not exactly been kind. The funniest answered his plea for donations with: "Why do you need the hard-working constituents to give their money to you when you have the Koch Brothers?" Walker's own attempt at "distorted facts & misinformation" is obviously not working very well.

Walker didn't just have a bad Wednesday morning, he's been having a rather rough year. Back in January, a special election was held for a state senate seat in an overwhelmingly-red district. The Democrat won. Walker's response was a desperate attempt to ignore his own state's laws by refusing to call two other special elections for the state legislature. Democrats sued, and won. The special elections will be held in June. The loss of the supreme court justice seat was just another indication that Walker is in serious political trouble -- it didn't happen in a vacuum. The only big difference was that this race was held statewide, not just in one particular district. This is probably what has Walker so worried, since the governor's race is also a statewide election.

The result, as noted, wasn't even close. The Democratic voting base is fired up. Perhaps it is "anger & hatred" which is motivating them, perhaps not. Whatever the reason, though, they sure are turning out to vote in large numbers.

Now, special elections don't always predict future results. They can be intensely local affairs as well, far removed from national politics. But this is not always the case. Sometimes they can be part of a trend, which looks increasingly like what is going on. Perhaps the best case of one race not being applicable elsewhere was the loss of Roy Moore, since by election day he was carting around a mountain of baggage -- baggage that doesn't exist for other Republican candidates elsewhere. But even discounting the pickup of a Senate seat in Alabama, that still leaves what happened last November in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as Conor Lamb's win in a Pennsylvania House district that Donald Trump won by 20 points.

In all of these elections, including the Wisconsin judicial contest, a lot of money did pour in from outside the state or district. But this money poured in from both sides -- it was not (as Walker would have us all believe) one-sided at all. The National Rifle Association just spent millions on the Wisconsin race alone, but it didn't move the needle much, if at all.

The midterms will be different, because there will be so many individual elections. It's easy for both sides to pour money into a special election, because not much else is going on. But when over 30 senators and all 435 House members are up for election simultaneously, both sides will have to pick and choose where to invest their resources. So far, it's looking like Democrats will be playing offense on the House races, but mostly defense on the Senate races. Republicans don't have much offense even available to them, at least not outside the Senate. They are hunkering down and preparing for a hurricane-force wind at their faces instead.

What is most heartening about the Wisconsin result is that Democrats are even turning out in force for what are normally pretty sleepy and obscure contests. How many people normally vote in a special election for a state senator or representative? Not that many. Even special elections for a House of Representatives seat are usually pretty low-key affairs.

This feels different, however. Democrats are enthusiastically voting in elections they normally wouldn't even hear about (much less participate in). Nationwide, they have flipped 39 state legislative seats, while Republicans have only flipped four. That's a pretty impressive result for off-year (or off-off-year) elections. It clearly shows which side the energy is on.

Right after Donald Trump was sworn in, millions of women marched in protest. At the time, the big question was whether what became known as the Resistance had any staying power. Sure, it's fun to organize a giant march and all, but will those marchers sustain that level of opposition in the voting booth? Will anyone remember in two years, and make the effort to turn out for the midterms? The answer is increasingly positive, in special election after special election.

Again, 2017 was kind of a tough year nationally for Democrats in special elections, at least until November. Trump appointed four members of the House to executive branch positions, leaving four vacancies. The Democrats also had a special election due to the elevation of Kamala Harris to the Senate (she was replaced in state government by a Democratic House member, leaving his seat open). None of these five seats flipped parties in their special elections. Trump liked to brag about the four seats Republicans held (while ignoring the seat that Democrats held onto). But in each of these four elections where Republicans won, the Democrat did a lot better than Democrats normally do in such red districts. They moved the needle considerably, but failed in each case to push it past 50 percent. While Trump was bragging about these wins, though, wonkier Republicans began getting seriously worried. If there was that much shift in deep-red districts, what would happen in all the districts that were politically a lot closer?

This is why the map is expanding in the Democrats' favor in the House. If a Democrat can win a plus-20 Trump district in Pennsylvania, then any district which voted for Trump by a smaller margin might just be at risk. And there's a lot of those -- over 100, by some estimates. With Lamb's victory, Democrats now only need to pick up 23 of these to regain control of the House.

No wonder Scott Walker and Mitch McConnell are so worried. They have every right to be.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


13 Comments on “Republicans Getting More Worried About The Blue Wave”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    My experience is that the Resistance energy remains high - not as high in the first few months after the first Women's March, but part of that is because there was a lot of scrabbling around at first as people tried to figure out just how they, personally, were going to participate in the resistance. Groups sprang up spontaneously and people were checking them out. After awhile many of us found our "homes" and activities and settled in. When specific pieces of legislation were up there was a ton of phone calling of congressional offices, and protests, etc. I think there's less of that now because Congress isn't doing anything. But people are watching events - we talk about it all the time - and, as you are noting - we're showing up at the polls.

    This administration is so catastrophic - from the perspective of non-Trumpers - that I find it highly unlikely the energy will abate, especially the closer we get to the mid-terms. We can't wait to vote out Republicans - we are salivating over it.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i had an interesting talk yesterday with my father in law, who is a staunch republican but is not under any illusions about what kind of man the president is. i think it's important to remember that republicans include some very smart, sane people who just have a very different view from us about how governments and businesses ought to interact with the population.


  3. [3] 
    neilm wrote:

    Trump is eviscerating his base with the trade war he is proposing with China, and not only will the Republicans risk facing an invigorated Democratic base in November, but a demoralized Republican electorate.

    Republicans will have had complete control of power for two years by the election, and as CW has pointed out several times, the question "What have you done for regular Americans?" is going to stump them.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    Poor Scottie is worried again; his Twitter feed again betrays his fear. It's like mid January all over again when the state legislature seat flipped red to blue and Scott Walker flipped his lid. I'd still wager Scottie is having nightmares about losing his governorship to honey badger in November and running scared in his dreams because honey badger don't care. Honey badger will chew off his lopsided head and eat it for breakfast, but it's an empty head so honey badger will no doubt still be hungry afterwards. :)

  5. [5] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    So far, it's looking like Democrats will be playing offense on the House races, but mostly defense on the Senate races.

    Well, there's still time for more Republicans to drop out. They've been headed for the exits at a steady clip, and many of Trump's worst ideas have yet to really kick in.

    But they will have a GOP offense: get ready for the barrage of negativity directed toward Nancy Pelosi, who would regain the gavel if Democrats regain the house. They've already got the ads cut, and they've been testing some of them in these special election races. Democrats have been pointing to those ad's ineffectiveness in those races so far, but I think that they'll have more resonance in the national (Fox) echo chamber, where it can be sold as a crisis! in the making.

    But, on the other hand, you're right in another sense: attacking Pelosi is, politically, a 'last resort' argument. Ideally, GOP candidates should be able to be telling their constituents all of the good things they've done for them, but the Giant tax cut doesn't seem to have moved the needle at all, and the trade war is being targeted to strike directly at their constituents' livelihoods. What's their message to them going to be? "Hang in there"? All they've got left in their ammo box, really, are attacks against Pelosi and and Mexicans to gin up enthusiasm in the base. You could call that a 'zone defense'.

  6. [6] 
    neilm wrote:

    The real "Blue wave" could be the simultaneous failure of several Republican dirty tricks programs at the same time.

    1. Gerrymandering - either via courts or big losses in 2020.
    2. "Trickle Down" tax cuts.
    3. Fake news - Fox and Sinclair could overdo the crazy and end up cultural jokes nobody pays attention to.

    Cultures can change pretty quickly.

  7. [7] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Incredible commentary explaining why we should not worry — Trump is becoming the greatest president our country has ever known! Well worth the read.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:


    *LOL* What were we worried about?!

    Today Trump declared there is a caravan of rapists headed our way toward the Southern border. This makes two questions immediately come to mind:

    * How desperate is the orange pus bucket?
    * How ignorant does he think Americans are?

  9. [9] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    How ignorant does he think Americans are?

    Best he never gets asked that in a deposition.

    He did say once that he thought Iowans were stupid - just before winning that primary, if I recall.

  10. [10] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Today Trump declared there is a caravan of rapists headed our way toward the Southern border.

    Because, "Look! It's Hayley's Comet!" was too obvious.

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    11, 12

    He did say once that he thought Iowans were stupid - just before winning that primary, if I recall.

    Remember, Balthy, Iowa has those stupid quadrennial presidential caucuses and gets to go first every time. Virtually every candidate spends months and months there, usually goes to the Iowa state fair and eats meats on sticks. In 2012, Iowa switched to a proportional format from winner-take-all so Ted Cruz actually "won" there by earning the most delegates with Trump and Rubio not far behind. If I recall correctly, there were 9 or 10 candidates who picked up 1 or more delegates in Iowa in 2016.

    Because, "Look! It's Hayley's Comet!" was too obvious.

    And I guess, "Vote for Trump you stupid dumb helpless women or get raped by scary brown people!" was equally transparent.

    There will be a tipping point when Trump's utter nonsensical pathological lying bullshit will finally become obvious to even those with any semblance of gray matter whatsoever. Lest anyone doubt it, just ask one of the Trump fanboys/girls who fell for the Trump University bait-and-switch scam how they feel about their "hero" now.

    “If a district attorney arrives on the scene, contact the appropriate media spokesperson immediately.”
    ~ Trump University Playbook

  12. [12] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Kick [10]

    The crazy thing is that he tweeted,

    And yesterday it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don't want to mention that.

    He claims that the caravan is associated with an unprecedented number of rapes and sexual assaults against women — but the people in the caravan would be the victims, not the perpetrators of those crimes! Hell, the whole purpose of the caravan was to prevent the rapes and kidnapping that have in the past been committed against asylum seekers traveling alone or in smaller numbers.

    Trump has basically justified the caravan members reasons for seeking asylum. To deny them asylum would be the same as sentencing them to experience their sexual assaults all over again, or worse.

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:


    Exactly right. If only Trump had critical thinking skills and could think past his daily goal of saying/doing whatever it takes to win the day's news cycle by use of the blame game, pathological lying, and the constant spewing of propaganda to those sheeple not bright enough to catch on to the multiple decades of Dotard Donald's history of con artistry.

Comments for this article are closed.