Editors’ Blog

The Polls Or Your Lyin’ Eyes Prime Badge
 Member Newsletter

Tuesday was another example of an election where polls had raised a lot of doubts about the environment for Democrats. But election results told a different story. Democrats ended up doing quite well. Of course “polls” covers a lot of ground. The “polls” that have atmospherically sent shivers down Democrats’ spines and launched a thousand media think pieces tend to be ones not about Democrats or signature Democratic issues but President Biden. Indeed, just as the results were starting to come in Tuesday night CNN published a poll showing Biden down four points to Trump. So are the polls wrong? Or is reality wrong?

With these questions in mind, it was with no little curiosity that I read this piece by Nate Cohn in The New York Times: Tuesday Was Great for Democrats. It Doesn’t Change the Outlook for 2024.

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Reader Beware

There’s a report out there which claims that reporters from AP, Reuters and stringers for CNN, NYT et al were actually embedded with the Hamas death squads that swept into southern Israel on October 7th. If they were embedded they had some foreknowledge of the operation. They might even have been able to stop it.

I first saw this story posted by a writer for The National Review and I read the report. I was highly skeptical but I was curious to see what the argument or evidence was.

In short, the whole ‘report’ was a crock. I wouldn’t even say it contains false information per se. It’s really just a matter of a pile of leading questions or questions framed as leading inevitably to very dark conclusions when that’s not the case at all. It basically amounts to saying, hey there were photos and video of Hamas fighters with hostages or streaming through the barrier fence. How did the reporters know to be there? How did they get into Israel from the Gaza Strip? Did they go through the fence too?

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Will Republicans Take No For An Answer On Abortion? Prime Badge
 Member Newsletter

A couple pod episodes ago I told Kate Riga that I didn’t quite understand what was going on in the Virginia legislative races. It was being treated as a very close run thing in which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin stood a very real chance of getting the full control of the state legislature he needed to pass a 15 week abortion ban. Was that really plausible since Virginia is basically a blue state, with maybe a few shades of purple, and abortion bans have been a loser pretty much everywhere? As she rightly explained, that was the consensus. But it was more vibes than data. There wasn’t much polling. (There seldom is for state legislative races since news organization don’t have the incentive or the money to poll multiple key races.) It was mainly based on the continuing perception of Youngkin as an electoral golden boy who managed to win the governorship in what is now a reliably blue state.

And yet, he put it all on the line and got … well, smoked. He didn’t capture the Senate and Democrats have also taken back the House of Delegates. In electoral terms, abortion remains a way that Republicans abort themselves. And a lot of them keep doing it. Moths to a flame, really. And here we are.

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Watching the Results #4

10:15 PM: I think we’re about set for the night. A pretty solid night for the Democrats. Looks like they hold the Virginia Senate and retake the House of Delegates. Bad night for Youngkin. Abortion referendum and pot legalization referendum both win in Ohio. Huge D wins in New Jersey. Gov Beshear wins and wins big in Kentucky. There are other races but that really tells the story. Solid Dem night. In general tonight seems to be continuing what had been a trend of special elections with Democratic over-performance. But there’s different kinds of over-performance. There’s over-performance against 2020, against current polls, against expectations. So we’ll have to sort all that out in the coming days.

9:48 PM: It seems like rather than Youngkin getting unified control Democrats are on track to reclaim the state assembly.

Watching the Results #3

9:42 PM: The abortion referendum in Ohio is definitely going to win. It’s been called. It’s currently at about a 10 point spread and I’ve seen some saying this is a slight underperformance against expectations. But just looking at the big urban counties it seems like there are a lot pro-abortion votes still out there. This is me eyeballing the counties myself rather than cribbing from some smarter person. But it seems like that percentage should go higher.

9:36 PM: Check out this little update at 538 about Democratic turnout advantage in Ohio.

9:25 PM: Just to make this official: The Ohio state constitution will now guarantee abortion rights and other reproductive rights.

9:19 PM: Also, doing my best to avoid typos tonight. But I’m flying solo tonight and eyeballs deep in numbers. So more difficult than usual. Appreciate the congrats.

9:18 PM: Definitely seems possible that Democrats recapture the Virginia Assembly, thus sending the battleship of Youngkinism to a watery grave.

9:12 PM: I’ll restate the point I made below. You’ve got this pretty bad poll out tonight for Biden. Trump four points ahead of him according to CNN. But Democrats are having somewhere between a decent and strong night. That’s not what you’d expect if that poll is accurate. I’m not saying the poll is wrong, as in technically flawed. But is it predictive? Or is it that we’re in a strong Democratic environment but Joe Biden himself is just wildly unpopular and so is losing to Trump? I’ll try to discuss this tomorrow. But there are decent arguments for both interpretations. And for the first interpretation the argument would be that a lot of Democratic voters are expressing dissatisfaction with Biden in these polls but when it actually comes time to vote will tend to come home for him.

8:58 PM: Another key question. There’s been this idea out there that Democrats have only been over-performing in special elections because they’re super low turnout contests. But tonight’s numbers really put that in doubt. The trend seems to be continuing. Some of that is relative to Joe Biden in 2020. But some of it is relative to expectations. And “expectations” requires some explanation. Democrats are generally having a pretty good night tonight. But it’s hard to get a handle on the battle for a state legislature since there’s so little race by race polling. A lot of it is conventional wisdom and vibes. Those seem to have at least slightly overstated Republican chances. We still need more results and I still need to look at more races. My sense is largely impressionistic so far. But at least so far it really seems like we continue to be in a post-Dobbs electoral environment in which Dems tend to out-perform recent benchmarks. Just keep it in mind.

8:46 PM: Just to connect the dots, with these results there will no be an abortion ban in Virginia. Youngkin needed a trifecta. He’s not going to get it.

8:40 PM: Things are looking pretty good for Dems in the Virginia Senate. Having a hard time keeping track of all the different races. But the ones that are showing are good for Dems.

Watching the Results #2

8:15 PM: Early but the abortion rights referendum in Ohio certainly looks like it’s on its way to victory. We’ve expected this to win. So that’s not a surprise. And we still need to see more. But looks like it’s going to win.

8:09 PM: There’s another poll out tonight to send Democrats swooning. CNN has Trump 49% to Biden 45%. Yet Democrats seem to be doing at least fairly well tonight. So polls vs. results. What’s also interesting is that that pattern of Dems overperforming polls seems to be continuing. So the idea that it’s just extremely low turnout elections where Dems do well with voters who also turn out doesn’t seem right. That CNN poll … yikes! But again, we need to look at the overall picture.

8:05 PM: Earlier I said that Kentucky was “widely called” for Andy Beshear. I should have been more clear that it’s the more niche watchers I follow, people like Dave Wasserman, Split Ticket etc. But it seems like many networks haven’t called it yet. I’m quite confident of those calls. But just to be clear the networks may be holding off.

7:46 PM: As we’re waiting for more results, here’s something to keep an eye on tonight and going forward. As we know, Donald Trump heavily partisanized early voting. True Republicans voted on election day. But over the last three years Republicans have increasingly decided (correctly) that this is incredibly stupid when it comes to anything but sustaining the myth of the rigged 2020 election. So they’ve started telling Republican partisans to forget all that and start voting early. While early and same day voting will likely continue to have a clear partisan split it will be getting smaller over time.

7:37 PM: Race widely called for Andy Beshear now. Not close.

Watching the Results

7:17 PM: Continuing to see the strong Beshearmentum. As I said, he’s his own brand in Kentucky. So that doesn’t tell us a huge amount about the national environment but certainly better than him doing poorly. And yes, if he were doing poorly it would be treated as a sign of the Dempocalypse. But just trying to keep it real here.

7:07 PM: Looking very solid for Andy Beshear in Kentucky.

7:01 PM: Continuing to see good signs for Beshear. Still too early for people to be confident about the result. But the benchmarks all seem to be pointing to Beshear. The bad thing for Democrats is that in Kentucky there are Republicans, Democrats and Andy Beshear. He’s really his own brand.

6:55 PM: I’ve mentioned it many times. But my go to for election nights is my numbers analysts Twitter list which you can find here.

6:48 PM: Over the last few years Nate Silver has really leak his idiosyncratic, contrarian flag fly. But whatever Nate’s current opinions, 538 legitimate spurred a generation of young data analysts who’ve revolutionized the kind of data and analysis you can get on election nights – and the months and years between elections. Some of them started at 538 and have fanned out to other organizations. One of these is a small outfit called Split Ticket. I don’t know too much about their inner workings. But they’re really good. Tonight they’re doing a livecast that I’m watching on Twitter. You can see it here. Literally four guys and a spreadsheet. Really good. (7:18 PM: And yes, hardcore election nerd stuff. But I’m here for it. And maybe you are too.)

6:37 PM: Not much to report so far. Some decent early signs for Andy Beshear in Kentucky. But just hints. Exits look good for the abortion referendum in Ohio. But we expected that. And remember: exit polls get revised. So don’t put too much stock in any exits.

A Brief Note on Tonight’s Elections

As you know there are key elections today across the country. The ones we’re following most closely are the constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights in Ohio and the legislative elections in Virginia, in which abortion is also a major issue.

One big thing to remember is that in something like the Virginia legislative races, the battle for control of the state Assembly and Senate will likely come down to a pretty small number of votes, perhaps just one or two races. A win is a win. That’s our system. But the electoral significance of a win for the future is much less clear. Given the frenzied panic among many Democrats right now, if Republicans take control of the Virginia House and Senate, it’s likely to send Democrats into full apoplexy and the national news media into a full Biden death watch. But the difference between that outcome and a Democratic win, which would led many to think that Times/Sienna poll wasn’t such a big deal after all, is likely to be a pretty small number of votes. Just keep this in mind as we go into the evening regardless of the result.

Further Observations on the Israel-Hamas War Prime Badge
 Member Newsletter

As with my post yesterday, this is a notebook of observations about various issues tied to the Israel-Hamas war.

Invisible War

As I noted yesterday, what amazes me is how little we know about what is happening on the ground in the battle between Israel and Hamas. The US press is filled with reporting on the domestic repercussions of the conflict; there’s lots of reporting on the civilian death toll in Gaza. Those issues deserve lots of attention. But Israel’s core goal is to physically eliminate Hamas’s de facto army, usually estimated to number around 30,000 militants; its arsenal of weaponry; and its complex of tunnels. It is very hard to find much solid information, from either side, on how much success they are having accomplishing that.

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Death of Jewish Man Reported at Dueling Demonstrations in LA

A Jewish man in his late 60s (reports about age vary), Paul Kessler, has died after being struck by a pro-Palestinian protestor in Westlake Village (a city in Los Angeles County) yesterday afternoon.

Reports are still sketchy. But there were apparently dueling demonstrations at an intersection in Westlake Village. There was some sort of interaction between one or more pro-Palestinian demonstrators and Kessler, a pro-Israel demonstrator. The pro-Palestinian demonstrator apparently hit Kessler on the head with a megaphone. Kessler then fell back and hit his head on the concrete. Looking at all the reports together, it seems like hitting his head on the concrete may have been the injury that eventually killed Kessler. Not all reports include the hit with the megaphone. Some simply report a scuffle which led to Kessler’s fall.

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