Thanksgiving, among many traditions, is a time for football.
I don’t know if a game still comes on every year on that last Thursday of November, but it did when I was a kid and, sure enough, my family would have it on in the den. I would see my dad, my uncles and my grandparents cheer and jeer over something on the television, but I could never quite understand what on Earth they were fussing about.
For me, I guess elections have a similar effect. It’s football season for eggheads maybe. This next year will be when the election cycle really kicks into gear, although in recent years it seems the cycle never ends. We will see the caucuses and the straw polls and the scandals. All the good stuff.
From this vantage, the general election looks good for Democrats but that might not mean much in the long run.
Earlier this month, Virginia Democrats won the state’s House of Delegates and Senate as well as the governorship. This turns the state solid blue for the first time in almost 30 years.
Kentucky ended with a tight margin in its gubernatorial race in which Democrat, Andy Beshear, claimed victory but the incumbent, Republican Matt Bevin, refused to concede.
Bevin even received last minute help from the President who asked voters to vote red because, ““If you lose they [the media] are going to say, ‘Trump suffered the greatest loss in the history of the world.” Before bellowing, “You can’t let that happen to me!”
The New York Times reported that within hours of the polls closing a strange message appeared on Twitter. A user claimed to have “just shredded a box of republican mail-in ballots.”
The tweet was re-posted by many other right-wingers without any shred of legitimacy attributed to it and it may have even led Bevin to make the choice not to concede.
Bevin, like Eddie Rispone, has cribbed much from Trump’s playbook. Bevin specifically noted “inconsistencies” in the returns. For his part, Trump has gone so far as to claim that the popular vote, won by Hillary Clinton, was rigged which had no direct effect on the election he won.
Kentucky officials are recounting the votes at the behest of Bevin so we’ll have to wait and see how that washes out.
This trend led to the possibility of some kind of “blue wave” crashing over the country but on last week’s Meet the Press Senator Rand Paul shot that idea down by saying that five of the six statewide races in Kentucky had been won by Republicans.
A republican strategist, Alex Conant, told the Associated Press, “Republican support in the suburbs has basically collapsed under Trump.” Conant went on to say that something has to be done to “regain our suburban support over the next year.”
Neither Virginia nor Kentucky, however, will be a battleground state in the presidential election and Democratic candidates in both states downplayed the more “radical” aspects of their presidential nominee hopefuls like healthcare-for-all.
In Mississippi, the governor’s seat remained red and we will see what happens in Louisiana’s runoff.
An internal poll by incumbent John Bel Edwards finds him leading his contender Eddie Rispone by 16 points; in the primary, Edwards led by a similar margin. Regarding Edwards’ poll, it was done by his campaign so it should be read with a grain of salt.
Looking ahead to the presidential election next November, Politico (along with Morning Consult, a “non-partisan media and tech company”) reports that their survey of voters found that, “55% of voters expect the president to be re-elected next year.” The same poll also found high motivation to vote in the next election.
However, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the top three Democratic nominees leading Trump by at least 10 points.
Polling in 2016 showed Hillary Clinton leading by similar numbers.
So where does all this polling come from?
A Time magazine story recently covered the birth of polling and the man who started our modern version of it, George Gallup.
George Gallup was an eccentric man who had an interest in “measuring the world.” A friend said of Gallup, “He wished he’d invented the ruler.”
Up to 1932, polls done by the Literary Digestmailed out postcards to voters based on telephone & auto registrations and, because of that, a large amount of people received the mailers, but they tended toward demographics that left out poorer voters.
Gallup used a smaller portion of the population to reflect nationwide demographics, some 3,000 people leading to a more scientific approach.
The only thing Gallup couldn’t account for was voter turnout. Time said, “High voter turnout had helped Democratic tickets ever since the New Deal,” but since Gallup could never know how high voter turnout would be it made polling for elections more complicated than other polls Gallup conducted, generally for advertising.
This is evident in one of the most famous polling mishaps when pollsters incorrectly predicted Thomas Dewey’s victory over Harry Truman for President in 1948.
There’s a great picture of Truman triumphantly holding up a newspaper reading, “Dewey Beats Truman.”
If you’ve never seen it, look it up.