Tom with the BTRTN November 2022 Month in Review.
November was dominated, of course, by the midterms, which were
notable, even historic, for many reasons.
Technically speaking, they are not over yet, because two races remain
unresolved, California’s 13th House District, where the GOP
candidate is ahead by 599 votes (in an election where over 130,000 ballots have
been cast) with 96% of the vote in, and, of course, the runoff Senate election
in Georgia on December 6.
Joe Biden and the Democrats, the reality. Clear winners, you
think? Well, except for the minor matter
of losing the House, which will have
– there is no other way to say it – a devastating impact on Biden’s agenda in
the remaining two years of his first term.
It may still be possible to pass meaningful legislation in a few areas
where common ground might be found, but it’s all over for the “progressive, but
realistic” agenda that Biden artfully executed when he held the trifecta in his
first two years. Now Biden can look
forward to excruciatingly painful negotiations over budgets and debt ceilings, while
hoping the GOP overreaches in the myriad investigations it will launch in the
· Joe Biden and the Democrats, the perception. Ah, this is where Biden and the Democrats were winners. Against the backdrop of history, and the media/pundit expectation of a “red wave,” the Democrats wildly over-performed expectations by holding the Senate and losing what appears to be only nine net seats in the House (eight, if the Dems can take California’s 13th). By this scorecard, Biden’s performance was the best by a first-term president since 2002, when George W. Bush, on the heels of a fine start in dealing with 9/11, managed to actually pick up a net of eight seats in the House and two in the Senate. Biden did not do well enough to hold the House, but there was clearly a hop in his step over the outcome, thanks to the off-track pre-election red wave hype.
Kevin McCarthy. It’s hard to keep track of where McCarthy
sits in the midterms drama. He would
seem to be a winner in that the GOP took the House, setting him up to achieve
his lifelong dream of becoming Speaker.
But between his outrageously awful prediction of the GOP picking up 60
seats (a prediction he made, to be fair, in happier-looking times for the GOP)
and the rocky road that lies ahead for him to actually achieve the Speakership, he sure doesn’t look like one. Plus, even if he achieves that goal – for
which he sold what passes for his soul to an orange-haired devil – he will
likely end up envying the poor wildebeest, who at least suffered his fate
quickly. McCarthy, on the other hand,
will be doomed to being tortured, for at least two years, by the mob known as
the Freedom Caucus, the small but, by virtue of the slim GOP majority, highly-empowered,
deeply conservative faction of the GOP.
They are comprised of the dregs of the party, featuring such luminaries
as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ron Gosar and the barely re-elected Lauren Boebert. McCarthy
needs almost every single one of them for any vote (including his own fate as
Speaker, on January 3). But if he leans
too far to the right, the moderate GOP representatives (yes, there are some)
who need sane GOP behavior to survive
in their own swing districts, will inflict their own pain on McCarthy. They, too, possess the need-every-vote leverage
of a small voting bloc.
The media/pundits. Our first unambiguous losers. “Media” and “pundits” are two big terms, and
they cover a great many individuals, and surely some of them must have been right about the midterms. But, in general, the dominant, if not sole
narrative heading into the midterms was the Eve of Democratic Destruction, a
slaughter that would result in the loss of the Senate and House, the latter accompanied by a loss of 30 to 50 Dems
seats. “Red Wave Coming” is simply a
more interesting headline than “Close Race Coming,” and hysteria is somehow
more fascinating than the truth (and it certainly might have helped get out the
blue vote). If only the media and the
pundits had ignored the midterms’ history and instead listened to the real
winners of the night…
The pollsters and the aggregator/predictors. The villains of 2016
(when Hillary lost instead of won) and 2020 (when the Dems lost seats in the
House instead of gaining them) were on their game in 2022, emerging as clear
winners. The polls – when aggregated, at
the very least – never, ever signaled anything approaching a “red wave.” Most of the aggregators (except for far-right
Real Clear Politics, which blew it completely) saw the midterms exactly as they
ended up being, generally a toss-up for the Senate and a modest loss of House
seats for the Democrats. Some, like Nate
Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, shaded it a bit too red, but others, like us, BTRTN,
came about as close as one can come to nailing it. (And for that story, read this: http://www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2022/12/btrtn-how-we-nailed-midterms-with-near.html)
The Election Deniers. When the history books are written, the lead paragraph on the 2022
midterms will likely focus on the demise of the Big Lie. Unfortunately, the death of the deniers did
not come out of some long overdue collective sense of moral outrage among
Republicans, but rather, ironically, from the reality of the ballot box itself
– pushing the Big Lie was proven to be a losing strategy. The GOP nominated a bunch of deniers, 291 by
one count, and while many won, most of the consequential ones – the ones who
could directly influence election apparatus -- lost. These included gubernatorial candidates in
New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan; secretaries of state in
Arizona, Michigan and Nevada; and state Attorney’s General in Arizona and
Michigan. One measure of the poison of “election
denial” in the post-midterm conversation is that Donald Trump barely even
mentioned the Big Lie in the speech he gave to launch his 2024 campaign. Speaking of which….
Donald Trump. Trump was easily the Biggest Loser of the
night. The man who said the GOP would
get “tired of winning” under his leadership instead has become synonymous with losing
– the House and Senate in 2018, the presidency in 2020, and blowing a very
favorable map and political environment in 2022. The latter occurred in some measure because
Trump insisted on making the Big Lie the Big Issue for the GOP, and his inept
hand-picked candidates failed abysmally, losing eminently winnable races in
Pennsylvania and Arizona, and perhaps Georgia.
But it was a bad night for Trump not only for his indelible fingerprints
on GOP disasters, but also because of the rising star of…
Ron DeSantis. The Florida governor had a sensational night, the kind of trajectory
changing event that ends up filling a chapter in a future presidential
biography. DeSantis won by 19 points, a reelection effort that
boggles the mind, considering he first won the governorship in 2018 by a mere 0.4
percentage points (and the two prior Florida gubernatorial races were each
decided by less than two points).
DeSantis’s win was the largest in 40 years in Florida, and he carried
the entire Florida slate to great heights, including Marco Rubio’s 16-point win
over Val Demings in the Senate and three flips in the House. But most importantly, DeSantis set himself up
as THE Trump-alternative in 2024 – in the words of the Murdoch-run New York Post (punning Jon Landau on
Bruce Springsteen), he became Ron
DeFuture. But as good a night as it
was for DeSantis, it was just that bad for…
Sean Patrick Maloney and the New York Democrats. The coattails of Governor Kathy Hochul, author of an exceedingly
underwhelming 6-point win over Lee Zeldin, were shallow indeed. Maloney, head of the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee, and responsible for doling out funds to Democratic incumbents
and challengers across the country, hardly expected to be shoveling millions of
the largesse into his own House campaign, which he ultimately lost by a single
point. Three other New York Democratic House
incumbents in purple districts also lost, meaning that the Democrats would have
held the House if they’d managed to hold New York plus California’s 13th.
Pro-choice advocates. This win is another mixed bag. Democratic turnout was clearly juiced by the
abortion rights issue, and election night saw five victories on abortion rights
ballot initiatives (three wins enshrining “pro” initiatives in California,
Vermont and Michigan, and two rejections of “anti” initiatives on Montana and
Kentucky). But the impetus for all of
this Election Day motivation was, of course, the Dobbs decision in June that overturned Roe and denied abortion
access to tens of millions of women as a consequence. Election Night was a dramatic statement on
behalf of women’s reproductive health rights, but the net for the year was
still a seismic loss.
Thus election night – or should we say election month – was far more of a mixed bag than
was universally reported. An
unexpectedly strong performance by the Democrats cannot overcome the fact that
they lost the House, in a year when they lost Roe, and the GOP may have finally shucked off Trump in favor of a
formidable rising star. The battle
begins anew, and it starts in Georgia next week.
Trump’s announcement was perhaps ill-advised and certainly
ill-timed, coming on the heels of a disastrous night for Trump and with the
Georgia run-off looming. His speech was
scripted and relatively disciplined, for Trump.
But it surely lacked the fire that his base craves, and at a time when
Trump is clearly losing independents and less-crazed Republicans, you have to
wonder where the path to a Trump victory lies.
The pundits were pointing to a potentially large GOP field working in
Trump’s favor, splintering the anti-Trump vote, but that analysis ignores the coalescing
around DeSantis. That group will not
likely splinter unless DeSantis goes the way of Scott Walker circa 2015, another
wonder boy GOP Governor, which seems unlikely.
But Trump’s own base may shrink as well. Did Trump really think that taking a dinner
with Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes was the best way to
light a fire under the multitudes? If
his launch announcement was “ill-advised,” then what in the world would you
call a dinner with a known white supremacist, Holocaust denier and
anti-Semite? (And Ye is also an
anti-Semite.) The Great Trump Revulsion
may actually be underway. Trump has
claimed that he did not know West’s guest, but all that means is ridiculously
bad staff work (note: there is no staff
anymore) topped by sheer stupidity.
And since he surely knows who Fuentes is by now, where is the apology?
Major donors (including primo enabler Steven Schwartzman) are fed up and
sprinting for the exits; Bibi Netanyahu and Trump’s own ambassador to Israel
have denounced Trump; and even Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota – a panting
Trump-VP aspirer – rather shockingly refused to endorse Trump after his
announcement. A special counsel has been
named by the DOJ to investigate both January 6 and the Mar-A-Lago DocuGate, a
Georgia indictment may be imminent, and Alvin Bragg has reopened the Stormy
Daniels case in New York. Those Mar-A-Lago
walls are closing in, for good, one can only hope.
It certainly did not help Trump that Oath Keeper leader Stewart
Rhodes and a henchman were convicted of sedition at the end of the month. Perhaps a small part of the faithful will now
understand the treasonous behavior motivating the January 6 crowd, and Trump’s
role as, at the very least, the inspiration for and enabler of the sedition at
work that day. Of course, even if it
cannot be established that Trump was part of the direct January 6 planning,
there is already ample evidence that he orchestrated the entire plot to
overthrow the election, starting well before the election itself, and thereby
displayed seditious behavior of his own accord.
The month was also notable for protests in both Iran and China, as
totalitarian regimes were challenged by extremely brave citizens who
spotlighted overly extreme Covid policies in China and sickeningly brutal
behavior toward women in Iran. The
triggering incidents were surreally grisly.
In China, ten people died in an apartment fire, as the fire department was
unable to traverse overzealous lockdown barricades. In Iran, it was the death of 22-year old
Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the morality police for allegedly wearing her
habib too loosely -- and subsequently died in police custody.
The U.S. suffered its own array of senseless tragedies in November which, while not at the hands of the governing administration, certainly can be linked with far too permissive gun laws and far too widespread gun availability. The carnage of American lives at the hands of killers in mass shootings continued unrelentingly with 14 deaths across three brutal events, one in a Walmart in Virginia, another on a bus, also in Virginia and a third in a nightclub in Colorado. But to better understand the forces at work on this horrific issue, read our piece from last week, which became our most widely read piece in the ten years of our existence:
The data show little change for Biden and the Democrats in November. Biden’s approval rating remains in the low
40% range, and his issue ratings showed only marginal changes at most. The “Bidenometer,” our aggregate record of
economic performance, continued to improve, from 37 to 41 (more on the
The Bidenometer is a BTRTN proprietary economic measure that was
designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven
question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign: “Are you better
off than you were four years ago?” We reset the Bidenometer at this
Inaugural to zero, so that we better demonstrate whether the economy performs
better (a positive number) or worse (a negative number) under Biden than what
he inherited from the Trump Administration.
The Bidenometer measure is comprised of five indicative data
points: the unemployment rate, Consumer Confidence, the price of
gasoline, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average and the U.S. GDP. The
measure is calculated by averaging the percentage change in each measure from
the inaugural to the present time.
The +41 for November, 2022 means that, on average, the five
measures are 41% higher than they were when Biden was inaugurated (see the
chart below). With a Bidenometer
of +41, the economy is performing markedly better under Biden compared to its
condition when Trump left office. Unemployment is much
lower, consumer confidence is higher, the Dow is higher and the GDP is
stronger. On the flip side, gas prices
have soared (as has overall inflation, of which gas prices are a primary
Using January 20, 2021 as a baseline measure of zero, under
Clinton the measure ended at +55. It declined from +55 to only +8
under Bush, who presided over the Great Recession at the end of his term, then
rose from +8 to +33 under Obama’s recovery. Under Trump, it fell
again, from +33 to 0, driven by the shock of COVID-19 and Trump’s mismanagement
of it. Now we have seen it move upward to +41 under Biden.
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Notes on methodology:
BTRTN calculates our monthly
approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or
weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You
Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and
does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters. The
outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise
For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election
time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly
generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You
Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.
The Bidenometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Biden Inaugural on January 20, 2021, on an average percentage change basis. The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump left office. The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.