Wednesday, October 31, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Late-Breaking Mid-Term Developments

Once GOP State Treasurer Josh Mandel withdrew from the 2018
Ohio U.S.senate race for family reasons, it was generally considered
no serious contest for incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown’s
re-election. Even after Ohio GOP Congressman Jim Renacci won his
party’s nomination, Brown led in the polls by double digits, despite
the fact that Ohio had been trending clearly Republican recently, and
conservatives held virtually all statewide seats, including governor and
both houses of the legislature. Donald Trump had carried Ohio in 2016,
and Senator Brown obviously held views to the left of most Ohioans.
Perhaps, then, it should not be a surprise that at the end of the campaign,
this race has sharply tightened, with Sherrod’s lead narrowed to only a
few points over Renacci. This does not mean that the Republican will
win, but it does provide new suspense for election night.


The Arizona U.S. senate race is one of the most difficult in the nation
to assess and predict. An open seat vacated by retiring GOP Senator
Jeff Flake, the contest is between two women members of Congress,
Martha McSally, a Republican who had been an Air Force fighter pilot,
and Democrat Krysten Sinema, a one-time radical who had created a
new political image as a more moderate liberal. Because center-right
McSally had to endure a contentious primary, she has trailed Sinema
in the polls until recently when she seemed to surge ahead a few
points. Newer polls go back and forth between them, and each has
asserted controversies about the other.The GOP candidate for
governor is leading by double digits in this slightly red state, and
President Trump has held a rally for McSally, but the contest remains
too close to call.

Conventional wisdom throughout this cycle has contended that a
Democratic takeover of the U.S. house was a virtual certainty with
a likely pick-up of as many as 35-55 seats from the GOP majority as
part of a blue wave.When reality set in as the campaign was coming to
a close, it became clear that Republicans were probably going to add to
their current slim U.S. senate majority (51-49), and following the
Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, probable conservative voter turnout
would negate any wave. Nevertheless, the almost certainty of a liberal
U.S. house takeover persists, albeit on a more modest scale. Recent
polls, however, have called conventional thinking into question with
Democratic challengers leading in only 25-30 seats ---and often with
shrinking margins. With GOP challengers now likely to pick-up 2-5
Democratic seats, the magic number for control is even higher, and the
new house majority could be a toss-up

The We’ve-Got-Something-For-Everyone battleground state of
Minnesota continues to defy prognosticators with its panoply of close
races and potential pick-ups on both sides. Governor, a special U.S.
senate election, 4 close U.S. house seats, a contentious attorney general
race and control of the state legislature are all up for grabs ---and late
polls indicate virtually all of them could go either way.

It initially appeared that the nation’s only independent governor was
headed to re-election over his Republican opponent, but then a former
Democratic U.S. senator got into he race, and the GOP nominee was
way out in front in a three-way poll. Then the independent sitting
lt. governor had to resign after a scandal, so the governor called it quits
and endorsed the Democrat who still trails in a two-major party person
poll! There are also third-party candidates on the ballot who could now
affect the outcome. Predictions, anyone?

The two biggest young fresh stars of 2018, one a Democrat and one a
Republican, have got a lot of attention, but both are behind and might
not win. Democratic Texas gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke and
Republican Michigan U.S. senate nominee John James each have
enough charisma to fill a dozen statewide races, but each of them  have
an uphill task against favored incumbents of the other party.
Nonetheless, remember their names --- win or lose, they will likely be
running again.

The biggest technical question of this cycle might be whether or not
the public pollsters and the mainstream pundits who have relied on
them got it right. Most went for the notion of a blue wave, but that
does not seem, at the end, to be happening. Yet it’s possible that the
polls were not so wrong. Either way, there will be some gloating after
November 6, or some troubled attempts at rationalizations --- as we
saw after election night, 2016.      

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Senate Crimson Tide?

The true political hue of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections is not yet
discernible with a week to go, and might not be correctly identified
until after the polls are closed. Governorships, state legislatures, and
U.S. house seats offer the Democratic Party an enviable opportunity
to make important gains, and perhaps even to win back control of one
of the bodies of Congress.

Their mathematical advantage, however, does not exist in the races for
the U.S. senate which the Republicans currently control 51-49. In that
body, approximately three times as many Democratic incumbent seats
are up this cycle, and about a dozen of them are usually describable as
competitive. Four of the GOP-held seats are also considered vulnerable.

A further obstacle for the Democrats is that many of their incumbents
running for re-election are in states that Donald Trump had carried by
big margins in 2016, including Montana, North Dakota, Missouri,
Indiana and West Virginia. Five other incumbents were in states Mr.
Trump had more narrowly won, including Florida, Wisconsin,
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Only two vulnerable Democrats
were running in states Hillary Clinton had won, Minnesota and New

Going into the final week, the incumbent Democratic senators from
Ohio, Pennsylvania and probably West Virginia now seem likely to
win. The Democratic senate seats in New Jersey, Michigan and
Minnesota --- thought to be “safe” at the beginning of the cycle ---
now are each in play. GOP challengers have pulled ahead of
Democratic incumbents in North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana.
Montana and Florida seem total toss-ups, and Democratic poll leads
in New Jersey, Minnesota and Michigan are narrowing in the closing
days. Only in Wisconsin, does the liberal incumbent maintain a
double digit lead.

Of the four vulnerable GOP senate seats, Republicans in Texas and
Tennessee lead in these clearly red states. Only Nevada Republican
Senator Dean Heller is running in a blue state, but he is narrowly
ahead in the polls there. Mr. Trump carried Arizona by a small margin,
and GOP senate nominee Martha McSally has a small poll lead over
her Democratic opponent.   If present trends continue (and they might
not), the GOP might avoid losing even one seat.

Democratic senate net losses seem likely now, but how many is
anyone’s speculation. One or two pick-ups are probable but it could
be several more.

I will  in a subsequent post examine the circumstances in which
Republican losses seem likely.

As the 2018 cycle comes to a close, there is not only the usual
intensity, but also a surfeit of complication, scattered public violence,
name-calling, excessive finger-pointing and outright deceptive noise.
In spite of this, the voters are going to make some key decisions and
register their opinions at the most appropriate location --- in the
profound and private quiet of the ballot booth.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Implosion In Minnesota?

Several last-minute developments in many of the Minnesota 2018
races, including governor, a U.S.senator special election, four close
U.S. house races, and a controversial contest for state attorney general,
have thrown outcomes here on November 6 into mystery and doubt.

Most notably, the state Democratic Party (here called the Democratic-
Farmer-Labor Party or DFL) has seen a wave of bad news at the
campaign’s end.

This includes the tightening of the races for governor, the U.S. senator
special election, and attorney general --- each of which initially showed
the DFL candidates with substantial leads, at least in public polls. All
three races are now considered competitive, and controversial DFL
nominee for attorney general, Keith Ellison, has fallen behind his GOP
opponent by 7 points. DFL nominees still lead in recent polls by 3-6
points in the other two races, but their advantage is clearly shrinking as
election day approaches.

In a major unforced political error, appointed DFL U.S. Senator Tina
Smith skipped a much-watched TV debate on the leading Minnesota
station (KSTP-TV) in which the candidates of both parties for governor,
both U.S. senate races and attorney general participated. Senator Smith
said she had a scheduling conflict, but so did the other senate race
where, also with a scheduling conflict, incumbent DFL Senator Amy
Klobuchar and her GOP opponent arranged to tape their debate earlier
so that it could be broadcast with the others. By not showing up,
Senator Smith gave her opponent, GOP State Senator Karin Housely
a whole hour interview by herself. It is difficult to understand the DFL
strategy to present an empty chair and an uncontested interview to
their opponent only two weeks before the election when so many
undecided voters are making up their minds in a clearly competitive
race. Her senate colleague Amy Klobuchar’s  arrangement to tape her
own debate undercut Smith’s scheduling conflict alibi.

In the northeastern Eighth congressional district, historically a DFL
stronghold, incumbent DFLer Rick Nolan is retiring, and the GOP
challenger, County Commissioner Pete Stauber has built such a
commanding lead that the DCCC has pulled $1.2 million in ads, and
in effect, conceded the race to he GOP. Not only would this now become
a rare Republican pick-up, but if the final result resembles Stauber’s
latest 15-point lead (Donald Trump carried the district by 16 points in
2016), Eighth District voters are also likely to contribute GOP margins
of tens of thousands of votes to Republican statewide candidates.
(During most of the past half century, this district gave margins of
tens of thousands of votes to the DFL.)

President Trump has recently held huge rallies in Duluth in the north
and Rochester in the south on behalf of his party’s candidates,
reinforcing a post-Kavanugh resurgence of the GOP base which has
occurred across the nation, especially in red and purple states.
With DFL enthusiasm seemingly blunted by the controversial Keith
Ellison candidacy for state attorney general, momentum has apparently
shifted to the conservatives in the closing days of the campaign.

But all is not rosy for the GOP. DFL Senator Kobuchar is sailing to an
easy re-election, and two incumbent Republican congresmen, Jason
Lewis in the Second District and Erik Paulsen in the Third District are
facing very serious DFL challenges, and could lose. A second potential
GOP congressional pick-up in the southern First District is also too
close to call with two weeks to go.

Republicans hold the state house of representatives by a notable
margin, but all of these seats are up for election in 2018. The state
senate is currently tied at 33-33, and control will be determined by a
special election this year, the only state senate seat on the ballot.
This seat is in a usually conservative outstate district.

Unexpected national developments and a possible third Trump visit
to the state could enhance or diminish any political momentum, but
the purple state of Minnesota is now, with only days to go, both
electorally and psychologically a toss-up.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Pre-Election Dizzy

About a month before election day, the actual voting begins to occur
as each state with its own rules allows for applications for absentee
voting, gives them out, receives them, and in many cases, permits
early voting itself.  Many states also allow party registration
switches. Most of this is public information, and analysts from each
political party and some individual campaigns can pour over this
data, compare it with the data from previous elections --- and then
try to glean clues, signals and patterns of what will result when the
votes are actually counted.

We are now in this curious and obviously recently created interval,
and already the number-crunching folks are busy at work, feverishly
going over each day’s data. Secretaries of state are ballyhooing their
statistics, especially if they are improving, as evidence of their work
to “get out the vote.”

At the same time, many volunteers are making campaign contact
with large numbers  of voters by phone, internet and in personal

Many pundits rely on ubiquitous polling of varying reliability and
credibility, while others assess the impact of fundraising and
campaign advertising, lawn signs and the ever-increasing revelations
from opposition research.

Conventional election wisdom usually ranks polls, fundraising and
advertising very high --- primarily because they are in full view and
easily quantified. Voter ID and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts are
mostly under-the-radar, and thus more difficult to assess, as is the
impact of unpaid publicity and deeper voter psychological reactions
to events, personalities, issues and public anxieties.

In 2016, conventional election wisdom crashed because the traditional
models failed to accurately predict the outcome. Hillary Clinton
consistently led in the polls, raised and spent the most money, and had
most of the media on her side. Her opponent was outpolled, outspent
and broke virtually all of the conventional rules of campaigning and
political discourse. Yet Donald Trump won the election by winning
the electoral college votes in the individual states, not the overall
popular vote that was measured by the polls which conventional
wisdom had made a greater priority. His appeal to voters was also
judged by conventional standards which no longer applied.

In 2018, the congressional Democrats have financially far outraised
their Republican opponents, especially in contested races, and are
spending the most money on advertising. Establishment media polling
has favored them throughout the cycle, including in many of the U.S.
senate races where they are vulnerable. The poll numbers in the latter
are now, it is true, changing at the end of the campaign --- and 
conventional wisdom is finally acknowledging the Republicans' clear
mathematical advantage in this cycle.

But in the U.S. house races, conventional wisdom continues to assert
that the Democrats will take back control by winning more than 23
seats net from the current GOP majority. In fact, most establishment
pundits rate 50-65 GOP incumbent seats variably “vulnerable” and
only 1-3 Democratic seats vulnerable to Republican pick-up.

Indeed, the much-touted “blue wave” could happen --- although since
the controversial Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, it would even
appear to conventional thinking that a blue “surge” might be limited
to U.S. house races and governorships.

There will now be an acceleration of speculation in the remaining two
weeks of the campaign. Airwaves, mailboxes, the internet and
billboards will be incredibly crowded with ads, propaganda and
sensational revelations from both sides. Some of it might impact the
now diminishing number of undecided voters. Conventional wisdom
will be tested one more time.

This cycle it might hold. But 2016 unleashed new forces in both
political parties --- and history suggests such forces don’t disappear

Surprises invariably happen in these circumstances. Prepare for them.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All right reerved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Unusual Movement In New Polls?

There appears to be, over the past few days, some unusual movement in
the major published polls. It is not entirely uniform, and there are still
almost three weeks until election day. This movement is also too new to
be conclusive, and my readers know that I take most polling with some
skepticism. Nonetheless, something appears to be going on with the
electorate in the final days of the 2018 midterm election cycle --- a time
when a large segment of voters who are undecided or uncertain about
their votes actually make up their minds.

This is a very short post, and deliberately non-specific, but if the current
movement continues and grows, I will report it.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. Al rights reserved.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Mid-Term Crunch Time

The 2018 mid-term elections are only three weeks away, and as I have
predicted, the polls are tightening and more “safe” seats have become

The key to this period is that many voters are only now paying attention
to the individual races, Those who are “undecided” or capable of
changing their minds seem to be a larger percentage this cycle, as
indicated by many polls.

What should we now look for?

First, watch for polls further tightening or changing leaders.
Double-digit leads can dive into lower single digits almost
overnight. When this happens, it’s a race worth watching.

Second, polls this cycle (and the last one) have undermeasured certain
kinds of voters. Conservatives and Republicans often distrust polls
and refuse to answer them, thus distorting the results.  But it is also
true that some polls have undermeasured the kind of voters who share
 Bernie Sanders’ political views. Some recent primary upsets attest to
that. Watch for pollsters to try harder to obtain polls results that will
reflect the final results credibly.

Third, it’s difficult to measure, but the so-called “Kavanaugh effect”
appears to be a late-breaking factor in 2018 --- with Republicans being
roused to vote, especially in red states, but Democrats in blue states
also being motivated more to vote. Conventional media assumptions
have been that women, in particular, were upset by the Kavanaugh
confirmation,and will vote  Democratic as a result. There is evidence,
however, that many women found the Democrats’ tactics objectionable.
Only the final results will tells us which is true.

Fourth, President Trump has appeared to “nationalize” much of the
election --- with his opponents and critics determined to give him a
defeat, but also his supporters roused to turn out to give him a victory.
His rallies on behalf of GOP gubernatorial, U.S. senate and house
candidates have drawn enormous and enthusiastic crowds, and the
candidates whom he supports have generally seen their poll numbers
rise after a rally. Democrats have some political celebrities on their side,
including former President Obama, and they clearly help their
candidates, especially in heavily blue state races, but most of the
competitive races this cycle are in red states.

Fifth, President Trump has the “bully pulpit” and particularly is
skillful in commanding media attention. Does he have an October
“surprise” or two ahead?

Sixth, opposition research is now a common factor in U.S. politics,
and late-breaking revelations can change a race quickly if credible.
This strategy was taken to the extreme by the opponents of Justice
Kavanaugh --- and they failed --- but some revelations can be
devastating  to a campaign. Opposition research strategies often
appear near the end of the contest.

Seventh, a great deal of money has been raised this cycle by candidates
and PACs in both parties. Campaign radio, TV, billboard, mail and
social media ads are already flooding everywhere. They will peak in the
next three weeks. How effective they will be is unclear, as many voters
are turned off by their sheer noise and clutter.

Eighth, and most important in my view, the key figure in any election,
and no less so this year, is the individual voter. Candidates, campaign
operatives and advisors, pundits and the media in general, like to
second-guess them. That’s what happened most notoriously in 1948
and 2016, but it seems to be true that only the voting results on election
day will tell us what really happened.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: International News Clips

The largest nation in South America, long known for its rich culture,
also has a history of political and economic instability. The latter trait
recurs with some regularity in Brazil, the Portuguese-speaking nation
with a population of 210 million, 3.2 million square miles of territory,
and so many natural resources. Settled in 1500 by the Portuguese,
Brazil separated from Portugal in 1822, and began a long history of its
own emperors, corrupt republics, military and civilian dictatorships.
Recent governments held out hope for economic stability and more
democracy, but after a series of scandals, the impeachment and
imprisonment of the president, crime waves, and widespread citizen
protests, a charismatic figure from the right, Jair Bolsonaro has
emerged as the likely new president. A Brazilian legislator for 28
years, Bolsonaro promises Brazilians a stable economy and a
crackdown on crime and corruption. In the first round of the
national elections, he received 46% of the vote, and will now face off
against the leading leftist candidate on October 29. A former army
captain, Bolsonaro has expressed praise for earlier military rule of
the country, which has been criticized by his opponents, but Brazilian
voters seem responding more to his calls to end corruption.

President Emmanuel Macron won as upset victory in 2017, routing all
the established political parties on the right and the left. Not only was
it a personal victory, the new centrist party he created won a majority
of seats in the French parliament. But his efforts to reform French
policies have run into snags as the nation’s economic growth lags
behind the rest of Europe, and chronic unemployment remains in
spite of his programs to create more jobs. This year so far, M. Macron’s
popularity has fallen from 50% to 29%. Asserting that his “cultural
revolution” will take time, his opposition has only stepped up their
attacks on his administration --- although with parliamentary control,
he remains in charge for now.

The long-festering separatist movement  in the northeastern Spanish
region of Catalunya, previously suppressed by the Spanish government
in Madrid, has re-emerged as a divisive force in the modern democratic
Spanish nation. Torn by a civil war in 1936-39 that turned out to be a
rehearsal for World War II, Spain was ruled by a dictator, Francisco
Franco, until 1975. Spain then reverted to a constitutional monarchy
under King Juan Carlos, although political power was in the hands of
a prime minister and his government --- and the parliament (Cortes)
which was democratically elected. Just prior to the civil war, in 1930,
the royal government under Juan Carlos’ grandfather and his powerful
dictatorial prime minister General Primo de Rivera was overthrown by
a coup which soon led to the creation of a brief and weakly constructed
republic. Although Spain had been a European power in its “Golden
Age” and for centuries, and had numerous colonies in North and
South America, Africa and Asia, the country itself was divided into
very distinct regions, including Galicia in the northwest, the Basque
Country in the north central, Andalusia in the southwest, and
Catalunya. Each of these regions has a distinct history and their own
language, but had been united by the Castilian kings in Toledo and
later in Madrid. Regional independence movements were
suppressed under Franco, but reappeared, especially in the Basque
Country. A much more civil movement  existed in Catalunya
and its capital Barcelona ---where much of the nation’s industry was
located. Catalan separatists argued that Madrid took much more
taxes from the region that it returned, and that they wanted to restore
an independent Catalan nation  When the conservative government
was replaced by a socialist government earlier this year, separatist
leaders renewed their call for a Catalan plebiscite on independence
--- which has been ruled illegal by the Spanish courts.


Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has submitted
her resignation to President Trump. Ambassador Haley has been an
outspoken and eloquent spokesman for the Trump administration,
and enjoyed notable popularity among many Republicans. A former
governor of South Carolina, she gained national prominence as a
leading woman conservative before being named to the cabinet
(and high profile) position by the president. At  the U.N., she was a
powerful and unflinching voice for U.S. foreign policy

Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suffered significant
losses in recent Canadian provincial elections, including Ontario,
New Brunswick, and most surprising of all, Quebec. This shift to the
right and the Progressive Conservative Party marks the first time in
many years that voters have rejected so many candidates of Trudeau’s
Liberal Party in these provinces.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


The political trauma of the confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh’s
elevation to the U.S. supreme court tested not only the nominee, but
some very basic American principles as well as the character of several
men and women who now hold high office.

Some commentators are now discussing the winners and losers
resulting from this battleground, and there are no doubt some
political winners and losers in this matter.

I suggest, however, the greatest good to come from this event was a
reaffirmation of an essential American value --- the rule of  law that
asserts a person is innocent until proven guilty.

The senate confirmation process was not designed to be a legal  trial,
but in recent years, this constitutional function of “advice and consent”
has often been cast as a judicial proceeding --- and increasingly with
fewer and fewer of the rules and protections that our system
provides to every citizen. This is part of a general phenomenon that
in some quarters has arisen to question the very assumptions of our
representative democracy itself. Such self-questioning is cited in
our Declaration of Independence as a healthy process, but only when
it represents the considerations of all citizens --- especially in the task
that sometimes occurs in many nations, namely the overthrow of

After separating us from a despotic English king, the founders of the
new republic established an evolutionary and correctable written
constitution grounded with basic unalterable principles. Perhaps
paradoxically, many of our rules of law were inherited from English
law. Over time and through a tragic civil war the U.S. has repaired
many of its initial flaws that reflected not only public opinion in the
18th century, but also certain compromises our founders made to unite
thirteen disparate North American colonies into a functioning nation.

The constitutional creation of a supreme court did not enumerate
fully its powers, especially to overrule acts of the executive and
legislative branches. As the nation matured, the supreme court did
become the ultimate arbiter of constitutional government while
usually restraining itself from intervening on clearly expressed
powers granted to the other branches.

Over time, many circumstances and conditions change, and even
an institution such as the supreme court evolves in its public role.
In recent years, there arose a national controversy over the “activist”
supreme court (and lower courts) which has assumed its right to
“revise” certain founding  ideas. This latest debate was
begun in the 1930s and has continued to the present day.

The current supreme court reflects a narrow majority of justices
who hold more “originalist” views than do the previous and
long-standing majority of activist justices. With the retirement of
Justice Anthony Kennedy,  a conservative who on some social issues
sided with liberal colleagues, the stage was set for a full new

This was the context of the confirmation hearings  of President
Donald Trump’s second nominee for the supreme court. That most
liberals and Democrats strongly oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s
legal philosophy, however, was not the question before the senate.
The decision about the ideological orientation of the judiciary is
decided in the presidential election. Only the president can nominate
a federal judge. The function of the senate “consent” to a nomination
is as a safeguard against a president failing to choose a judge of high

Lacking any credible grounds to oppose  Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s     
standing and ability in the law, his opponents decided to attack him
on his character and personal life. In order to pursue this strategy,
his opponents needed to promote a public relations atmosphere in
which Judge Kavanaugh would appear to be on  trial in the senate
with allegations that presumed he was guilty --- a complete reversal
of a fundamental American principle.

The leaders of the senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley rose to the occasion.
They began their confirmation work as partisans, but  because of
their opponents’ strategy, they ended the confirmation process as
constitutional champions as well. There were a number of high and
low moments as the process went on, but it was a speech by Maine
Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, which best expressed
the  largest and most critical issues. In fact, it was such a tour de force
that it is likely to be the one utterance in this matter which will be
read and quoted long after the present controversies are forgotten. It
was a moment of rare true political eloquence that ensures her place
in the history of the notable members of the U.S. senate.

In the wake of the confirmation vote, some commentators are arguing
the U.S. supreme court is now “politicized.”  One wonders where
these commentators have lived for the past 40 years! The supreme
court has already been a political issue for most of that time. The
Kavanaugh confirmation was only latest chapter in this saga. Both
parties have responsible for "politicizing" the federal courts.

Beyond the political, however, this confirmation was the test of a key
threshold American principles --- the principles of the rule of law and

Considering the techniques now employed to bypass that threshold,
however, all of us --- liberals and conservative --- will need to
perform “sleepless vigilance” (Lincoln’s timeless phrase) to protect
our most essential principles from wherever threats to them might
yet come.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Each mid-term election has its own character, its own set of political
demographics and circumstances, its own hot-button issues, and mostly
its own center-stage personalities. At the same time, certain historical
patterns can often be found in the results after the votes are tallied ---
but rarely before election day. Historical similarities do often occur, and
there are characteristic patterns which appear in one mid-term,
disappear in the next, and then reappear in another.

One of the recurring patterns, in addition to the often cited one in which
the party in power loses seats in the U.S. house and senate, is the
circumstance of when the mid-term is a provisional report card on the
current president and his administration’s policies. Recent presidents
of both parties --- Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ---
each had problematic first two years in their first term, and did not do
well in their first mid-term elections. But each of them recovered, and
won a second term. Only Jimmy Carter failed to recover from his first
two years, and was defeated for re-election.

But not all mid-terms are so nationalized. Both Presidents Bush had
first mid-terms in either economic boom or, in the case of George W.
Bush, the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001..

We also need to remember that second-term mid-term elections are
different from those which occur two years after a new president is
elected. Those mid-terms also often result in the party out of power
making gains, but in 1998 during a booming economy Republicans
(who controlled the house and senate, but not the White House) lost
seats in the house and made no gains in the senate. After the election,
in December, 1998, the house impeached President Bill Clinton, but
failed to convict him in February, 1999. The two issues in 1998 were
the economy and the impending impeachment. Voters approved the
former and opposed the latter.

What about 2018?

The economy is booming. Democrats are so far delaying the
confirmation of President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. supreme
court. Many Democrats are saying that if they recapture control
of the U.S. house, they will attempt to impeach Mr. Trump. The
president’s popularity is under 50%. The Trump administration has
just completed a successful renegotiation of the NAFTA agreement.
Mr. Trump’s promised border wall with Mexico has not been built.
The president has nominated a large number of conservative federal
judges --- most of them replacements for retiring liberal judges. The
Democrats have no central theme to the mid-term elections, running
a variety of establishment liberal and much more radical candidates
across the nation. Donald Trump is the single most significant factor
in both Democratic turnout (against him) and Republican turnout (for

i think we can safely conclude, therefore, that the 2018 mid-term
elections have been nationalized. Of course, these same elections are
state-by-state and district-by-district, and local conditions and
individual candidate personalities are always important, but in the
final weeks of this cycle, the overriding questions appear to be about
President Trump, his nominee for the U.S. supreme court, and the
impact of the economy.

The reader can come to his or her own conclusion about which party
a nationalized mid-term election will most benefit. The national
popular vote remains divided, as it was in 2016, with Democrats
having an edge. But 2018 is not a national popular vote election --- it is
a state-by-state and district-by-district election. National polls thus
mean relatively little, even if they are accurate --- something very much
in doubt so far.

Nevertheless, 2018 is an either/or election --- a voter statement about
whether they are overall pleased or displeased with their national and
state governments.

There are still apparently a lot of undecided or wavering voters in key
competitive races, but election day is now approaching rapidly.

Place your bets.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.