One of the many big surprises in this month's surprising election was the Democrats' failure to overturn Republican majorities in state legislatures. Various Democratic committees budgeted $88 million to flip majorities in big states such as Texas, Florida and North Carolina. Total gains: zero.
Commentary by Michael Barone
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Among the most surprising of the multiple surprising results in this election was California's rejection of Proposition 16. The ballot measure was supported by the Democratic supermajorities in the state legislature; by long-established corporations and Silicon Valley tech firms; by leaders of mainline churches and nonprofit organizations. Some $20 million was spent on its behalf and only $1 million in opposition.
"I like a good contrarian argument as much as the next guy," tweets mild-mannered RealClearPolitics senior elections analyst Sean Trende, "but there's really no getting around the fact that the 2020 polling was a pile of steaming garbage."
1. This was not a good night for conventional polling. My review in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal of a book on the history of "polling failures" took perhaps too positive a view of contemporary polling. I find it remarkable that polling has been as accurate as it has been in a country where the completion rate for pollsters' contacts is below 10% -- but it got worse this week. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls showed Joe Biden with more than 51% of the popular vote and Donald Trump with 44%. As this is written, Biden has 50% of the tabulated national popular vote, which will probably rise as California's data comes dribbling in, but Donald Trump has 48%. So, the current 1.9% Biden plurality is far lower than the polls' 7.2% Biden plurality.
If the final election returns, when they finally come in, match the current polls, Joe Biden's Democrats will win a trifecta: the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress.
Are both presidential candidates trying to lose? Or at least pursuing campaign strategies which put them at grave risk of defeat?
On Monday, Joe Biden finally broke his monthslong silence on court packing. Previously, he refused to take a stand -- "whatever position I take in that, that'll become the issue," he said in the Sept. 29 debate, said voters didn't "deserve to know" his position or would know it "when the election is over,"
Now that Donald Trump exited from Walter Reed Hospital and the vice presidential debate aired, let's turn to an apolitical analyst to understand what's happening. Vaclav Smil, 76, native of communist Czechoslovakia and former University of Manitoba professor for four decades, has written 39 books on energy, technology and demography. "Nobody," says Bill Gates, who has read every book, "sees the big picture with as wide an aperture as Vaclav Smil."
"Chaos." "Painful." "Dispiriting." "The worst presidential debate in American history." "The lowest point in American political culture in my lifetime."
Norms, we are told, matter. Violating norms, recklessly disregarding norms -- these are charges on which President Donald Trump is often arraigned in the court of public opinion.
What happens if, as seems much more likely now than it did a year or six months ago, Democrats overturn the Republican majority in the Senate?
Joe Biden just can't get his story straight on his green energy promises.
In Pittsburgh, in front of union workers last month, he declared: "I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me."
The presidential campaign is at knife's edge. Both parties' campaigns assume that patterns of support will closely resemble those in 2016. And both are making surprisingly little effort, considering how close that contest turned out to be, with the 46 crucial electoral votes decided by just 77,744 votes, to increase their levels of support.
To that nagging question, the answer increasingly seems to be yes.
You know the first two nights of the Republicans' virtual national convention have gone well when you see that Politico's morning Playbook leads with a lame joke about the U.S. Postal Service hiring a new lobbyist, aimed at reviving the post office non-scandal. Ho, ho, ho!
Give Politico's chief Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, some credit. After Michelle Obama's speech capping the first night of the Democrats' virtual convention, he tweeted: "Story of an era in two convention speeches: Barack 04: 'There's not a black America and white America . ... there's the United States of America.' Michelle 20: 'my message won't be heard by some people' because 'we live in a nation that is deeply divided.'"
Just as Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his vice presidential nominee, and a week before the Democrats' virtual national convention is scheduled to begin at various sites, the basement strategy he's been pursuing, hailed as the political equivalent of "The Emperor's New Clothes," was starting to look tattered and torn.
If the presidential nominating process is the weakest part of our political system -- and, perhaps not coincidentally, one not referenced by the founders -- the vice presidential selection process comes solidly in second place. Some might even argue it's a contender for the top spot.
"Protestors in California," tweeted ABC News, about an incident in Oakland, "set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified."
If things had proceeded according to schedule, we'd be checking the polls this week to see if Joe Biden had gotten a bounce from his acceptance speech in Milwaukee. That's because the Democratic National Convention was originally scheduled for July 13-16.