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Watching Arizona

[ Posted Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 – 17:21 UTC ]

Arizona held a special House election last night, and while the Democrat overperformed the historical partisan makeup of the district by double digits, the Republican managed to eke out a win. It was closer than it should have been, but in the end the deep-red district stayed in the GOP column. So you could say both sides can feel good about the outcome, although in reality only one of them is actually worried about what it might mean for the future.

Donald Trump won Arizona's 8th district by 21 points. Last night, the vote spread was only 5 points. This means eight percent of the voters who voted for Trump shifted to voting for a Democrat, resulting in a 16-point shift in the margin of victory (as in all such shifts, when one percent of the voters change their minds, the margin goes up by two percent -- as in: "from 50-50 to 51-49").

Republicans were relieved to hold onto the seat (the special election was called due to yet another Republican stepping down in disgrace), but then again they never should have even been worried about it in the first place. This is not normally what anyone would call a "swing" or "battleground" district. In fact, there are 147 other House districts that are less reliably Republican than this one. Which is precisely why Democrats see this as a real opportunity for November.

Democrats only need to pick up 23 seats to win back control of the House of Representatives. And they've been pretty consistently overperforming in all of the special elections to date, since Trump got elected. Win or lose, the Democrats have been turning out tens of thousands more voters than they normally do, in district after district and in state after state. Not one of these elections has shifted in the Republicans' favor. And if Democrats can get within five points in a district Trump took by 21 points -- and actually win in a district where Trump won by 20 points (in Pennsylvania) -- then it opens up an enormous number of districts for Democrats to target in the fall. A 16-point shift didn't do the trick in AZ-08, but it would indeed insure victory in dozens of other districts which are less deeply red. And remember, Democrats only need 23 of them to switch.

What intrigues me more is what it might mean in Arizona itself, for the other house of Congress. Donald Trump only won Arizona by three points. Before 2016, Arizona voted much more Republican -- Mitt Romney won it by nine points, and favorite-son John McCain also won it by nine points. Could this trend mean Democrats might be competitive in the Senate race this year?

That might even turn out to be "Senate races this year," depending on the state of John McCain's health. If McCain either retires or dies in office, Arizona could have two open Senate races at the same time. This is incredibly rare -- usually states have to wait years (sometimes decades) to even see a single open Senate race, since incumbents have such a huge advantage in statewide races. If it does turn out that Arizona runs two open Senate races at the same time, then a lot will depend on who runs for which race. If the strongest Democratic candidate faces the strongest Republican, that would be a fairly even matchup. However, if the strongest Democrat faces the weaker Republican candidate (and, of course, vice-versa), then Democrats might have an excellent chance of picking up an Arizona Senate seat this year. Especially since Joe Arpaio seems likely to toss his hat in the ring. And if the Democratic wave turns out to be bigger than expected, Democrats might just miraculously pick up both Arizona Senate seats. At this point, that's the longest of longshots, to be sure, but the fact that it's now even a possibility explains why Republicans aren't exactly happy about the results from the special election last night.

Almost every president's first midterm election in the modern era means a loss of seats for their party. It's the nature of the two-party political game, after all. The losers in the last presidential election are usually the ones most fired up about voting the next chance they get, after all. This year that is proving to be true once again. Democrats are incredibly enthused about the midterm elections, while Republicans are hunkered down in a defensive crouch.

This can be seen in what the two parties are planning on running on this year. Democrats have proven that they don't even have to stoke the anti-Trump flames, because that dynamic already exists among their base. This has freed the candidates up to talk about the issues that really matter to the voters -- and the number one winning issue for Democrats right now is healthcare. The Democratic Party has shifted considerably on the subject since they passed the Affordable Care Act, and are now proposing significant expansion of public health services such as Medicare. Not all Democrats are running on "single-payer," but most Democrats have moved closer to that position than ever before. Bernie Sanders is about to introduce a "jobs for all" bill, and Chuck Schumer has introduced a bill to end the criminalization of marijuana at the federal level. Hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour is now the mainstream Democratic position. None of these things were true (or "true to this degree," at the least) in the 2016 election. What used to be seen as radical ideas are now gaining mainstream Democratic support among the political class. Most of these ideas already had mainstream support from Democratic voters, but the politicians have gotten noticeably less timid about them. This is all to the good, because the biggest beef Democratic voters had (before the Bernie Sanders campaign caught fire) was the lack of bold visions and big ideas from the party. Incrementalism was the watchword, but this is increasingly less true among Democratic candidates for office.

Meanwhile, Republicans have to defend Donald Trump's antics on a daily basis. Since the Republican Congress has only stood up to Trump once (on Russian sanctions), they have no standing to declare themselves independent from Trump's agenda. The Republicans in Congress have largely failed to chart their own legislative course as well, leaving their issues cupboard remarkably bare for a party that controls both houses of Congress and the White House. The only thing they've got to show for two years of such sweeping control is a single tax cut bill that so far has gone over like a lead balloon with the voters. The old Republican "if we give your boss a big tax cut, eventually you'll do great!" snake oil just doesn't seem to be working much anymore, to put it bluntly. Yet due to their own lack of cohesiveness in Congress, this is all they've got to run on. That and: "I haven't seen what Trump tweeted today, please don't ask me about it," of course.

Nothing is set in stone, of course. The election is still over six months away, and in most states the primaries haven't even happened yet. A lot could happen in the meantime, both bad and good. But the basic dynamics of the midterm race are continuing to shape up in a very positive way for the Democrats. They continue to outperform their 2016 totals in district after district. In fact, as we get closer to November, Democrats have actually been increasingly improving their scores. What it means is that every current Republican-held House district where the margin of victory was 15 points or less should really be considered a battleground district this time around. This means Democrats will be heavily targeting something like 100 or more districts, forcing Republicans to spend a whole lot of money on defense and almost nothing playing offense (trying to flip Democratic districts). If voting patterns continue along the same path that Arizona's 8th district just took, then not only will Nancy Pelosi be the next speaker of the House, but she'll probably have a comfortable majority to work with as well. And if Arizona does wind up having two open Senate races this year, it will increase the chances of Democrats winning back the Senate.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


25 Comments on “Watching Arizona”

  1. [1] 
    neilm wrote:

    This means eight percent of the voters who voted for Trump shifted to voting for a Democrat, resulting in a 16-point shift in the margin of victory (as in all such shifts, when one percent of the voters change their minds, the margin goes up by two percent -- as in: "from 50-50 to 51-49").

    This reasoning is correct if 100% of the electorate voted in both elections. But it is more likely that almost nobody switched their votes, but that Republicans who voted in 2016 didn't turn up yesterday and a bunch of Democrats who didn't bother last time around are pissed and got out and voted.

    Elections seem to be more about losing due to apathy vs. enthusiasm rather than changing people's minds.

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    Yes, indeed, November is going to be interesting. So many shoes still to drop... so many sealed indictments still to be made public.

    If I were a candidate looking for ideas for television commercials, I believe I would look no further than this clip right here:

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    Of course, no one can participate in One Demand at the present time because your website is dead again, Don. Why don't you fix it and preach your solicitations from there instead of trolling others to do it for you? :)

  4. [4] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Fair point, but there is a lot of published political science arguing that both party loyalty and party mobillization are currently very volatile and have been for decades.


    Amen. There appears to be no there there. On so many levels.

    I am now returning to Orangey Snickets, A Series of
    Unfortunate Polirical Events featuring Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels.:)

  5. [5] 
    dsws wrote:

    This means eight percent of the voters who voted for Trump shifted to voting for a Democrat

    What neilm said. Probably hardly anyone shifted between D and R; probably almost all the shift was in turnout.

  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Just in - Ronny Jackson out.

    Somebody needs to intervene before the Doc goes on bender, crashes his car and self-medicates his injuries.

  7. [7] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Kick is half right. Looks like the redirect from VoucherVendetta to OneDemand is dead. Click on your name and see what happens. It will be dead any where else your site is linked to in a similar manner.

    It does bring up a possibly more catastrophic problem. You seem to be invisible to google. A mixture of never updating your site mixed with an unfortunate name conflict. Google seriously penalizes you in it's search algorithm for having a stale site. You really need to add to it regularly to keep google and the rest of the search engines interested (and probably humans as well, but we have already gone over that...). Though One Demand is a much better name than Voucher Vendetta, it is too close to "on Demand" as in on demand TV, a vastly more searched for term. Unless you update with fresh content on a regular basis, television is going to beat you out every time and kick you back to beyond five or six pages of results, which is a far as I bothered to look and probably more than most people will...

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    The website was working when I checked it last week and is working now.

    Wrong again, Don.

    I comment here because I want CW to address One Demand.

    You troll the author and therefore the entire group; yes, we know.

    Why don't you stop trolling me and complaining about my comments and address the substance of my comments?

    Been there, done that. You seem to NOT understand what trolling is. Do you understand that people aren't interested in discussing your repetitive solicitations?

    Are you willing to say that the scenarios in comment 2 are not correct? If not, why not?

    Not interested. Sell it somewhere else. Get your own blog. :)

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    people care about many issues, and when people are asked why they vote (or not), campaign finance isn't even in the running. The last candidate that i know of to run primarily on a campaign finance platform was doris haddock of new hampshire. in spite of her personal popularity, she lost by 32 points to a wall street lobbyist.

    russ has mentioned many times the reasons why single-issue voting is not for most people, and if it were, why campaign finance would not be at the top of his list, nor most people's list. here's the most recent data:

    so, unless you have some new magical way of making people care about your cause more than they already care about all those other causes, to continue soliciting CW and his readers is really not appropriate, and in some states possibly illegal.


  10. [10] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "Are you willing to say that the scenarios in comment 2 are not correct? If not, why not?"

    Sorry for the late reply, but Oh My, Yes!

    Here goes:

    1. Your scenarios are generic. Real elections are not. Time, place and current events are important. It is not credible to assign vanilla percentages like you do.

    2. You assume enough voters are single issue voters to make your strategy politically viable. This flies against political science studies that show most voters are NOT driven by a single issue. Campaign financing is rarely what motivates a single issue voting.

    3. You further assume that YOUR single issue is the dominant one, and will out compete other single issues like party preference, abortion,race,sex,Israel, Muslims etc. etc. etc.

    4. You assume that small donation single issue voters know you exist and can therefore be mobilized by your efforts. Website and piggy backing at suggest this is not the case.

    5. You assume that enough quality candidates are willing to commit to running on small donations only. Or rich, self financed candidates? Would that be better?

    6. You assume the above small money candidates can actually win elections, or that they and they and their supporters are OK with simply being political spoilers.

    7. You assume there is a mechanism in place to give everybody reasonable assurance the One Demand candidates doesn't cheat.

    8. Your strategy does nothing to combat Dark Money. Dark Money could be used to make One Demand candidates into more effective spoilers....and I think it would be completely legal to do so.

  11. [11] 
    Paula wrote:

    [15] TS: yep!

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:


    Excellent, TS! He won't listen. In fact, tune in tomorrow when DH claims you never discussed it; his same BS over and over ad nauseam.

    JL makes a great point too. DH's "magical way" is trolling... except he's achieving nothing and for some ridiculous reason thinks that'll change if he continues to whine that no one is addressing his issue when near everyone already has. Him not liking the responses he's getting is his problem... not ours... but him thinking he's going to get a different response is borderline insanity.

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:


    Excellent, TS! He won't listen. In fact, tune in tomorrow when DH claims you never discussed it; his same BS over and over ad nauseam.

    JL makes a great point too. DH's "magical way" is trolling... except he's achieving nothing and for some ridiculous reason thinks that'll change if he continues to whine that no one is addressing his issue when near everyone already has. Him not liking the responses he's getting is his problem... not ours... but him thinking he's going to get a different response is borderline insanity.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    Darn that double post! :)

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    While you did say that you think the scenarios are not correct, you never said why not. Simply making a statement that the scenarios are generic or vanilla doesn't make that statement true.


    ts did in fact say eight exact reasons why not. regardless of whether or not you want to call it "single-issue" voting, your proposal is to create a single-issue requirement that supersedes other issues which most people care about more. that's why as currently constituted it won't work, putting aside for the moment the logistical challenges that make your organization currently non-viable.

    in short, get your own house in order before you try posting demands on anyone else's. if you don't, there's exactly zero chance that anyone will take you seriously.


  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    whoops. close italics! close italics!

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    if you want to know a better way to do what you're attempting, look here:

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    Did you even read The website? They were inspired by a real small donation candidate and are dedicated to getting big money out of politics. The many reasons your organization will fail and theirs may not fall into four categories, which I'll address soon...

  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    ... but in the meantime, perhaps if you join NHrebellion and share your idea with some like minds, it might have a chance in Hades of ever getting some positive attention.

  20. [20] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Old fashioned citizen activism focused on legislative reform. I'm inspired! Very NH-ish!

  21. [21] 
    TheStig wrote:


    You seem to forget that voters put representatives in office to enact legislation and to, some extent, oversee how it is implemented. That's why they are called legislators.

    "Why do we need legislation to solve a problem that citizens can solve by using the tools provided by our founding fathers- our votes?"

    I dunno - if God had meant man to fly, why didn't he give us tickets?

  22. [22] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    NHrebellion has done extensive direct citizen action, not just lobbying for better legislation.

  23. [23] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    doris haddock, the NH group's founder, walked over three thousand miles at age 90 to bring attention to campaign finance reform, got arrested reading the declaration of independence in the capitol, and ran a REAL small donation campaign for senate, not just as a spoiler like ralph nader or cynthia nixon, but as the actual democratic candidate. ultimately she ran into the same problem you're running into, people generally don't care as much about campaign finance reform as they do about other issues, but she and the organization she left behind have certainly done a lot more to earn attention than you have.


  24. [24] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    No. I did not visit the website. I just took a wild guess that the website was the same old bullshit about public financing and legislation.

    Pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? Why should anyone bother with your website/idea if you can't be bothered to even look at theirs?

    As has been pointed out to you, most people don't really care that much about your issue, and even less about your particular solution. In most people's minds campaign finance reform is not the One issue to rule them all, One issue to find them, One issue to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. To move your issue forward, you really need to work all angles. This website and others like them, to which you choose to ignore, are on your side. You are all working toward the same end. Collectively, if you work together, support each other and attack all fronts, not just your chosen one, you might have an effect. If you act like sects of a religion, think only you have the true path and treat all other sects as heathen, you will all fail...

  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    3 out of 4 people wear underwear, so...

    Step 1: get underpants
    Step 2: ?
    Step 3: profit!

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