Bill Nelson’s concession this week marks the fourth Democratic Senator to lose his re-election during President Trump’s first midterm, meaning Trump defeated twice as many opposing incumbent Senators in his first midterm as any other president in history except for Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
However, before the champagne bottles pop for Trump supporters, they must acknowledge that pollsters and Nate Silver had an incredible night that completely debunked the oft-repeated theories that “polling doesn’t work anymore,” “Trump supporters don’t take polls so there is a huge hidden Trump vote,” and “No one has really changed their mind since Republicans took Congress in 2016.”
Nate Silver’s compilation of polls and experts like Larry Sabato produced some of the most accurate projections in history — as Silver still has the chance for an incredible perfect prediction of Democrats winning the House 234-201 and losing the Senate 48-52 with just six races unsettled.
Polling indicates many reasons Americans and their representatives need to find some cross-partisan areas of common interests even while fighting hard for other areas of ideological disagreement. The rural-urban split was evident in places like Minnesota. Only six percent of all voters nationally were LGBT according to CNN exit polling. However, voters went for greater diversity and LGBT candidates including Angie Craig, defeating Jason Lewis in the southern suburbs of Minnesota’s twin cities, while rural Minnesota gave the GOP its only two true flips in the House, even though both those districts backed the Democratic governor. As big as the Florida wins were for the GOP, having only 8 of 53 California seats is scary for them.
One of the few issues that could unite people across the Rural vs. Urban and Coasts vs. Middle America chasm is money-in-politics reform, where we helped achieve a great referendum victory for campaign finance reform and an ethics board in North Dakota the same day the state also handed the GOP their most lopsided Senate flip.
Silver’s accuracy should also cause conservatives to question some of the leaders' opposition to any rules on money in politics.
Silver’s calculations indicate that if the money were even for the final month the Republicans would have won five more seats to potentially trail only 229-206. If money were even through all of 2018, it likely would have resulted in a much smaller Democratic majority of something like 219-216 instead of around 234-201.
Some Republican leaders egged on by the big money political consultants and lobbyists continue to insist on no rules on huge pay-for-play contributions in a “wild west” system, but that system dramatically hurt the Republicans in this election. This may be the reason many Democratic big money political consultants and lobbyists also seek to maintain the big money on the pay-for-play system.
Trump has shown an incredible ability to overcome being outspent, both while being outspent 2-to-1 by Hillary Clinton and with his unprecedented success via rallies in Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, and Indiana. However, unless you are a candidate who can overcome a money disadvantage and need to purchase ads by talking directly to tens of thousands who attend a rally for you or 53 million Twitter followers like Trump does, being dramatically outspent in a campaign finance world with almost no rules will be tough to overcome and may well discourage you from running and giving voters a good choice.
From a historical perspective, Trump’s ability to convince voters in four states that they chose the wrong Senator in 2012 is historic.
The media tried to belittle this by referencing how favorable the map was for Republicans, but the fact is voters almost always want to continue to balance a president of one party with their incumbent Senator of the other party no matter how much they support the president.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only president to ever top Trump in this regard, but even he had a much easier task in defeating seven Republicans who were elected in 1928 during the huge wealth of the roaring 20s and were now running after the stock market crash in the Great Depression (1934). The only other president able to pick up seats and change the minds of voters in more than one state was John F. Kennedy, who defeated two Republican Senators during his midterm of 1962 — half as many as Trump.
All the other presidents in history defeated a total of only nine opposing Senators out of hundreds who ran during their first midterm. Click here for a list of the only 22 who lost, broken down by the opposing president.
For all that success in the Senate, I do believe the GOP would have cut losses in the suburban House if Trump focused on the economy, where his 53 percent approval was 8 points better than the average president, rather than immigration, where most suburban voters think of hard-working laborers building homes and nannies.
John Pudner is Executive Director of Takeback.org, a non-profit home for Americans seeking true political reform. Our conservative solutions include: stopping illicit foreign money from impacting elections; ending pay-to-play in government contracting; and restoring the Reagan-era federal tax credit for small-dollar political contributions, which will encourage more citizens to become donors and help re-balance the campaign finance system. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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