Republican politicians and pundits ignored signs election could be close

Election 2022 Nevada
An election worker processes ballots at the Clark County Election Department, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) John Locher/AP

Republican politicians and pundits ignored signs election could be close

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Republican politicians and pundits completely misjudged this year’s elections because (to mix metaphors) they spend too much time in their own bubbles, drinking their own bilge water.

It wasn’t just in the last two weeks, but all year long that the conservative political class expressed extreme confidence that the pro-Republican vote this year would be something between a very strong wave and a tsunami. Nuts to that. They were wrong all along.

They were wrong because they fell prey to the same human tendency that makes national Democrats think foisting sex-change treatment onto children while telling their parents to shut up, or any number of other radical ideas, amounts to good politics. Namely, they talk to only their own tribes while ignoring evidence that doesn’t match their tribes’ preconceptions.

Other columns have explained why Democrats are in long-term trouble, so for now, let’s concentrate on what made Republicans blow this year’s big chance.

It starts with a failure to process actual evidence. In both 2018 and 2020, Democrats showed they have cracked the code for producing countable ballots, especially with liberalized mail-in systems. In Pennsylvania this year, for example, registered Democrats comprised 70% of the whopping 1.4 million people who requested early or mail-in ballots, giving them on paper a half-a-million vote edge going into Election Day.

So why were GOP strategists surprised that Democrat Senate candidate Joe Fetterman handily defeated New Jersey resident Mehmet Oz?

Meanwhile, in five straight special elections beginning June 28, Republican House candidates did not better but worse than the 2020 Republican presidential vote percentage in their districts. They held onto three by narrower margins than expected, failed to flip a district in New York that had gone Democrat by only two points in 2020, and lost a seat in historically Republican Alaska. Not exactly a Republican tsunami. If voters were so ready to punish Democrats, why didn’t they do it in actual elections?

Meanwhile, Republicans told themselves that few people really cared about the Jan. 6 assault on democracy. They ignored poll results showing 58% of self-described independent voters saying they would be less likely to choose a candidate who asserts that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. If a party is trying to win independent voters who disapprove of “election deniers” while the vast majority of that party’s candidates are election deniers, that’s a problem.

In general, too many professional Republicans and conservative pundits convinced themselves that the “angry working class” would drive Republican turnout, while ignoring the fear or disgust Trump instills in so many otherwise (if vaguely) right-leaning Americans in suburbia. And they utterly discounted how anti-Trumpism inspires otherwise dispirited liberals (especially young liberals) to vote.

Because the GOP pol-and-pundit class viscerally hates leftists, they can’t imagine that most people aren’t similarly motivated against Democrats running for Congress. And because the GOP folks think Trump is at worst just guilty of “mean Tweets,” they can’t imagine how many otherwise apathetic voters are so scared by his lies, volatility, and viciousness that they will seek a mail-in-ballot to vote against his party — rather than just refuse to vote due to their own lack of enthusiasm for the results so far of Democratic governance.

The polls consistently show that although President Biden is deeply unpopular, Trump is even more so, both in raw numbers and even more in the degree of emotion accompanying the disapproval. In an electorate that often lets the party’s figurehead set their impressions of the whole party, it’s not an encouraging sign for Republicans that more people dislike the GOP leader than the Democratic one, and that of those who dislike either one, the degree of visceral distaste is stronger against the GOP as well.

Throw in the absolutely awful quality of so many prominent Republican candidates this year, many of them hand-picked by Trump, and the resulting bilge was hardly favorable for major Republican gains despite public frustration with the economy.

If Democrats have succeeded in foisting early-voting systems across the land and have twice proved really good at get-out-the-vote efforts with them, and if no red tsunami has shown up in recent special elections, and if independents are truly turned off by Republican election deniers, and if Trump scares so many people, why should Republicans win a landslide victory?

All year long, a very few of us on the right (more proof available upon request) have repeatedly warned that this year’s elections will be “a little bit nerve-wracking” rather than a blowout win for Republicans. Republican strategists were too insulated in their bubble wrap to pay attention.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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