Monday, November 12, 2018

Madeleine (1950)

Film: Madeleine (1950)
Stars: Ann Todd, Norman Wooland, Ivan Desny, Leslie Banks
Director: David Lean
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 4/5 stars

You may notice in the coming weeks a series of seemingly rarer or more obscure films being reviewed on the blog than usual, and this is intentional.  Unless Barbra Streisand & Guillermo del Toro are successful (bless them for trying), FilmStruck will shudder its services on November 29th, and as a result I will no longer have access to some of the greatest films ever made, many of whom have never been released on home video or whom I don't have access to anywhere on Netflix, Amazon, or the like.  I've made a bucket list doomed to fail (there are too many films on the list that I want to try), but I'm going to go out swinging with the service, and as a result I'll be seeing as many movies on the platform as I can between now and November 29th, its last day in existence.  This weekend I caught two such movies, and we'll be reviewing one now-David Lean's largely forgotten film Madeleine.

(Spoilers Ahead) Going into this picture, I knew very little about the movie.  One of the many "list" projects I'm currently working on viewing is a list of ten of my favorite directors whom I want to see all of their movies, sort of to understand the ways that a career ebbs and flows creatively.  Lean is on that list, and he had a relatively interesting career.  Most noted today for his grand epics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago, he made a number of smaller, more intimate dramas in the 1940's and 50's that I also enjoyed, albeit ones that few people discuss anymore.  Madeleine was one of those films, and is one that Lean personally disliked (it was his least favorite movie he ever made), and that he created as a "wedding present" for his then-wife Ann Todd who played the role on stage.

The film features Todd as Madeleine Smith, a woman whom Scottish history remembers in the same way Americans remember Lizzie Borden, but whose story I was not remotely familiar with, so this is the rare biopic that I genuinely didn't know was going to end the way that it did.  The film follows Madeleine, a seemingly respectable young girl with a wealthy father, as she has a torrid affair with a French man named Emile (Desny), who is of a lower class.  At the same time, she's dating someone of her social stature named William Minnoch (Wooland), who wants to marry her but she's in love with Emile.  After a while, Emile starts to show that he's just as interested in Madeleine's position and money as he is her, and they break it off, but he begins to blackmail her, threatening to ruin her, and it's clear that either she'll be destroyed or he will.  And then the death happens.

The real-life case of Madeleine Smith ended in a verdict of "Not Proven," and the film does an exquisite job of making this seem as plausible as possible, neither convicting her onscreen nor letting us know that she's innocent.  Todd plays Madeleine as a sweet, but smart girl-someone who knows how the world works and frequently can put on different masks.  It's not a role necessarily made for sympathy (we understand she got into this situation herself, and her treatment of Minnoch raises an eyebrow), but a domineering father and an increasingly abusive Emile makes you empathize with her.  I had seen Todd in other films (other than her work in three Lean pictures, she's most well-known as the leading lady in Alfred Hitchcock's bomb The Paradine Case, which I have seen but have little memory of), and I'll admit to quite liking her work here.  In many ways she reminded me of Joan Fontaine, a sort of edgy stillness in her best moments in the movie, particularly the final moment after she is pronounced "Not Proven" and she slyly breaks the fourth wall.

Because what I didn't know about the case was that it was unsolved, though most modern crime historians believe that Smith likely did kill her lover, and there was just no proof.  This is pretty rare for a film of this era to end so ambiguously, and it was quite titillating.  The first half of the movie I'd argue was relatively dull, but once the "murder or suicide" occurs and we get to trial, watching Madeleine face the salacious downfall of her affair is jolting for a film of the 1950's.  Todd plays her as both respectable and clearly someone who has had sex before (there's a seen where the camera cuts away from her removed scarf that pretty much implies this has happened), and it works.  I'm not sure why Lean didn't like this movie, but I was a fan, and think it is comparable to a number of his films.  If you still have FilmStruck too, first sign the petition, and then make room for Madeleine on your Watchlist-it's a hidden gem that made this platform so magical.

The State of the Senate

Sen-Elect Jacky Rosen was one of the biggest names of the 2018
Senate cycle-who will be the biggest names of 2020?
I said throughout the midterms that I would not talk about the 2020 race until the midterm voting was done, and I stuck pretty damn close to that.  I didn't want to steal focus from the midterms, because they are where the focus should be-we don't realize how close midterms are or how consequential until we look back on those races.  I have said all cycle that had Democrats delivered the four Senate seats they lost by less than two points in the past six years (Berkley in NV, Hagan in NC, Udall in CO, and McGinty in PA), they wouldn't have Neil Gorsuch or Brett Kavanaugh on the bench (they win all of those seats, they would have probably been able to sneak Merrick Garland into the Court on January 3rd, however, though that would have needed some moxie I've never seen from Chuck Schumer to confirm him with a looming inauguration on the horizon).  This year, we'll find out if Kyrsten Sinema or Bill Nelson are added to that list (Berkley is now taken off as it's officially been six years since her nailbiter...plus that seat is about to be held by a Democrat).  But the point is, I wanted to focus on the midterms, and I did just that.  I also stand behind my decision to not endorse any candidate that declared before the midterms, and I will maintain that in the primaries.  Thankfully, it was only John Delaney, who I was never going to endorse in the midterms anyway.

But the midterms are over, and while I won't do a presidential article for a bit (I'm still sorting through my opinions on the late-breaking midterms, which look rosier for the Democrats than they did on Tuesday), I do want to do one time capsule article.  One of the recurring articles we have on this blog is our "State of the Senate" articles, where I go through which Senate seats are the most likely to flip.  While we don't know the results, based on the margins, we now know with relative confidence what the order of those Senate races were in terms of "most likely to flip," and I wanted to quickly compare them to my first State of the Senate article of last cycle (as a reminder, these are ranked by the likelihood that the seat will change hands, with #1 being my guess for most likely):

March 2017

10. Arizona
9. Wisconsin
8. Ohio
7. Florida
6. West Virginia
5. Nevada
4. Montana
3. Indiana
2. North Dakota
1. Missouri

Actual "Top 10" Based on Midterm Results

10. Ohio
9. Montana
8. West Virginia
7. Texas
6. Florida
5. Arizona
4. Indiana
3. Missouri
2. Nevada
1. North Dakota

I have to say, while the rankings changed around a bit, I'm pretty darn proud that I called all but one state in the final Top 10 (Tammy Baldwin vastly over-performed Trump's shock win of the Badger State in 2020, while I completely under-estimated the ability of Beto O'Rourke to win Texas).  I suspect, though I might eat these words, that we'll see a similar vein this year.  The last two cycles have seen a downturn in split-ticket ballots, and I anticipate that might also course-correct 2020 as well.  You can also see in 2016 and 2018 that campaigns appear to matter less when you look at just the checkmarks.  While men like Jason Kander and Beto O'Rourke can grossly over-perform their states, they don't end up winning them.  The same can be said for incumbents that seem well-liked but aren't of the right party (look at Heidi Heitkamp or Dean Heller getting clobbered in their states).

This leads me to this year's Top 10.  Obviously, I anticipate these will change around.  Unexpected retirements (I make some guesses here, but I could be off), could play a major factor, and the strength of President Trump's presidential campaign will also be a component (if the economy goes South or Trump is in legal jeopardy, we could see a repeat of 2018 but with a map that Democrats can take advantage of in the Senate).  But here's where I think 2020 looks right now:

Honorable Mention: It remains to be seen what Beto O'Rourke does next in his career.  Wunderkinds can't keep their stamina forever, and it's entirely possible that he overplays his hand with a run for president in 2020 or decides to cash in on his newfound fame.  But if he runs against Sen. John Cornyn, we should include him on this list.  Sen. Mitch McConnell seems unlikely to retire, but he's by-far the most unpopular senator in the country, which could count for something, but considering the Democrats' best shot is former Gov. Steve Beshear, I'm not holding my breath (considering what happened to Evan Bayh & Phil Bredesen in similar situations).  Finally, I think that Tina Smith could face a primary challenge (either from newly elected AG Keith Ellison or former Sen. Al Franken) that could complicate her getting a full-term in Minnesota (it's also possible Smith doesn't go for a full-term to a Senate seat she didn't actively pursue, but her campaign this year feels like she'll want to stay in office)-a messy primary in a likely 2020 swing state could land the Gopher State on the list, but she won a solid victory this year so I'm not quite at the point where I'd put her on the list.  Watch all three of these races if the dynamics change.

Worth Noting: We still don't know who will win the Arizona & Florida Senate seats, as well as the Mississippi runoff, but my best guess is the Democrats take the first while the GOP grabs the second two.  As a result, we're probably looking at Democrats needing three seats (plus the VP) or four seats (with a Republican in the White House) to take control.  There are also a couple of Democrats rumored to run for the White House (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren specifically) who have Republican governors in their states that could matter in the balance for the Senate.  So keep that in mind as we look at this race as the Democrats will need somewhere between a 2-5 seat gain depending on other races going into 2020.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
10. Iowa

Hawyeke State Democrats had a mixed night on Tuesday.  They saw a promising shot by Fred Hubbell to take the governors' mansion disappear, and longtime Rep. Steve King couldn't get ousted in northwestern Iowa.  But the state did pickup two House seats from sitting Republicans, as well as knocked out the Republican State Auditor.  As a result, Democrats in the state have a bench to go after first-term Sen. Joni Ernst.  The question here for the D's is whether or not Trump's strong 9.4-point margin was a fluke or whether this state is a bridge-too-far.  Ernst is not a controversial senator, and as Chuck Grassley has shown, Republicans can hold Senate seats here for a long time.  Newly-elected Reps. Cindy Axne or Abby Finkenauer would be Tier 1 candidates (as would sitting-Rep. Dave Loebsack), though they may want to establish themselves a bit more.  Fred Hubbell could make a play for the seat if he so chooses, though he just lost a race he should've won so that doesn't make him an ideal candidate.  Former Govs. Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver are always rumored for runs, but they never pull the trigger (and 2018 would have been a good year for one of them to mount a comeback).  And Attorney General Tom Miller would make a good choice (though he may also be eyeing a run in 2022 for governor or senator).  The Iowa Democrats have a pretty robust bench, but it remains to be seen if such a high-profile race can actually be won by the Democrats or if Iowa is just an extension of Missouri at this point.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)
9. Michigan

While she didn't quite make it it the Top 10 above, Debbie Stabenow was #11, a shock on a night I assumed that New Jersey, Tennessee, or Minnesota would be closer to that position.  Stabenow's underwhelming victory comes two years after Trump stunned at a presidential level and won the Wolverine State.  Is this a sign that Michigan is moving slowly away from the Democrats?  If so, it could make Sen. Gary Peters' run for a second term that much harder.  I suspect Peters runs again, and I wonder if, considering his tighter-than-expected race against Stabenow, 2018 nominee John James would begin as a frontrunner.  Frequently candidates who get close in Senate races get a second chance (we'll see that below in some speculation), and James appears to be a good candidate in a state that was too blue for him in 2018.  2016 had some races where Democrats outperformed Trump, but no races where Trump won and the Democrat won a Senate race.  If Trump takes Michigan in 2016, by how much can Peters outrun him?

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) & Kelly Ayotte (R-NH),
once colleagues...soon rivals?
8. New Hampshire

In 2016, two states stand out as ones that Trump lost by a very slim margin and will clearly pursue in 2020-Minnesota and New Hampshire.  I sided with putting Jeanne Shaheen's race on this list rather than Tina Smith's because Shaheen, who will be 74 in 2020, is more likely to retire.  Shaheen has made no comments one way or the other, but as a Democrat in their 70's facing a tough reelection campaign and no promise that she'll be in the majority at any point during her next term (or that she'll get a Democratic POTUS for most of it), would she pass on a chance to run?  If she does, look for Rep. Annie Kuster or Rep-Elect Chris Pappas to make a jump into the race (possibly they both would considering that New Hampshire promotions are hard to come by).  If she does run, I still think she could be vulnerable to the right challenger, but with Gov. Chris Sununu declining the race (vehemently) already, the only serious challenger to Shaheen would be former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whom Republicans are already trying to woo into the race.  If Shaheen stays and Ayotte doesn't run, this probably is too much for the Republicans unless Trump is truly dominant in 2020...but that's enough "if's" to keep New Hampshire in the Top 10.

State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
7. Georgia

One of the truly staggering things about 2018 is looking at the down-ballot elections in Georgia.  Not only did Stacey Abrams come very close to winning the office (it's still undecided, but Abrams will need a bit of a miracle to get into office at this point), but she dragged a lot of Democrats with her.  The Georgia Secretary of State election will go to a runoff (which few expected), and at least one (perhaps two) Atlanta suburbs will have House flips.  That means that Georgia may be more in-play than you'd think in 2020 when Sen. David Perdue is expected to seek a second term, especially if there is a candidate who can turn out voters in a similar way to Abrams.  That candidate could, in fact, be Abrams herself, who may quickly turn around and try to capitalize on her momentum by running against Perdue.  Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed may see Abrams' campaign as a way in for an African-American Democrat to finally win here (no black Democrat has ever won a Senate seat in the Confederacy, only African-American Republicans), and I could see 2014 nominee Michelle Nunn seeing a more favorable environment and making another play after a relatively close contest that year (given the environment).  But Abrams definitely opened the door on this race, and would likely get rite-of-first-refusal should she want it.

Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT)
6. Montana

Every cycle, there's a couple of races that hinge almost entirely on if you can get one single candidate into the race.  Bill Nelson would have been reelected over virtually anyone other than Rick Scott, and were it not for Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz would be looking at a 20-point victory right now.  Though we don't always know who that candidate is (O'Rourke came out of nowhere), in 2020 the next chair of the DSCC has one job for the first few months of his or her tenure: get Steve Bullock to run against Steve Daines.  Bullock, the sitting governor, is popular and Sen. Daines is hardly unbeatable.  Jon Tester proved in 2018 that a Montana Democrat can definitely still win a Senate seat (witness how he won despite voting against Gorsuch AND Kavanaugh, and emerged victorious in a way that Braun & Hawley didn't), and Bullock has few options unless he is a presidential hopeful (where he'd be too moderate to likely make it through the primaries).  If Bullock runs, this is a true race, as his being a sitting senator makes him different than Bredesen or Bayh.  If he gets out, it's hard to imagine there's an obvious Democrat sitting around who can beat Daines in a state Trump will be winning by double-digits.

Sec. Anthony Foxx (D-NC)
5. North Carolina

North Carolina has given Democrats very close results in the past two presidential contests (Obama lost it by 2.0, Clinton lost it by 3.7), so I'd anticipate that the Democrats will be making a serious play for the seat in 2020.  It's probable that first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R) runs again, but it's not clear who the Democrats pick as their standard-bearer.  I had thought for years that well-liked former Sen. Kay Hagan would be an option for the Democrats, as she seemed to turn down a 2016 race mostly because she wanted to take her seat, but she had a lot of health issues in 2018 and may not be well enough to run such a rigorous campaign.  Gov. Roy Cooper is likely going to run for reelection, but one of the statewide Democrats could make a run for the seat (State Auditor Beth Wood hasn't made a play for higher office since winning statewide in 2008, and Attorney General Josh Stein seems ambitious enough to go for the seat).  Former Charlotte Mayor and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx could also make a play, but we have seen the Bradley Effect be more effective in North Carolina than in most states (though President Obama did win here in 2008).  Suffice it to say, if the Democrats want the Senate (or the White House, for that matter), they need to find a way to make North Carolina come into play, and likely, actually win here.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
4. Maine

As a nation, we're probably sick-to-death of Susan Collins' inability to make timely decisions, but I hate to break it to you-that's what's going to matter in the Maine Senate race, and quite frankly, it could have a great impact on the battle for the Senate.  Collins is one of only two Republicans running in states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and as a result she needs crossover votes who may be harder to come by after she dragged out her confirmation vote against Brett Kavanaugh.  It's doubtful that a (by-then) two year old Supreme Court vote would matter, but she endorsed him in such a public way that it's hard to imagine that it won't be levied against her, or that she's not about to endure the toughest election since she was brought to the Senate.  Collins may decide to end her career rather than endure six more years of such public scrutiny, and there's not a great GOP bench to succeed her.  Regardless of whether he wins reelection or not, this would be Rep. Bruce Poliquin's nomination for the taking if Collins skips town, but he's not as good of a fit statewide as she is.  If she does skip the race, the Democratic Primary could be a race to the left as there won't be the same need to moderate for the general.  However, Maine is still a centrist state, and Collins is still well-liked.  As a result, if she sticks around I have to hope the Democrats pick someone local like House Speaker Sara Gideon or Rep. Chellie Pingree rather than NSA Advisor Susan Collins, whose slim ties to the Pine Tree State make her an easier target for attack from Collins than someone local.  Let's remember-Jacky Rosen, about as boring of a candidate as you can get, ended up being able to win in a blue state by being as close to "Generic Democrat" as you can muster, and that's probably what Democrats will need to counter Collins, not someone that liberals will rally around as a celebrity.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ)
3. Arizona

Though it's still undecided, it seems increasingly probable that the next senator from Arizona will be Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema's election, along with a strong statewide push by Democrats that could result in two more offices as Secretary of State and State Superintendent both appear to be strong possibilities in a state Clinton only lost by 3.5 points, means that this probable swing state for 2020 is very much in-play for a pickup for the Democrats.  Sen. Jon Kyl (who was appointed to the seat after the death of John McCain) won't run, so it's our first open seat...probably.  There has been a theory going around that if Martha McSally lost the Senate race (again, quite likely) that Kyl would resign early and Ducey would appoint her to avoid a messy primary in 2020 (in possibly a slap-in-the-face to voters, if they did this before January 3rd, McSally would become the senior senator over the voters' choice Sinema).  Regardless, I think that McSally would run if she loses (same for Sinema), and she'd start as a frontrunner for the nomination, though it's hard to imagine Reps. Paul Gosar or David Schweikert letting her have a free pass on a rare open Senate seat in Arizona, and Attorney General Mark Brnovich could consider it if he doesn't have his eyes set on the governor's mansion.  Former Governor Fife Symington is signaling he wants in, but he'll be 75 in 2020 and I doubt they go with a retread, and there's always the threat of a conservative firebrand like Kelli Ward or Joe Arpaio, but they both got clobbered in 2018 so I'd dismiss them at this point.  On the Democratic side, former Attorney General Grant Woods seems likely to jump into the race, and would be a decent candidate, but his status as a former Republican might turn off primary voters, especially if a more liberal candidate like Rep. Ruben Gallego or Rep-Elect (and former Phoenix Mayor) Greg Stanton got into the race.  Finally, I'm still not convinced that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, term-limited in 2022, won't want this seat for himself, but depending on the recounts, there's a catch here.  Despite the AP calling the Secretary of State race for Steve Gaynor, Democrat Katie Hobbs is now only 2k votes behind Gaynor with a number of ballots still to cast.  Should Hobbs win, she'd be first in the line of succession to the governor's mansion, and as a result the Democrats would have veto power for redistricting.  A little-watched down-ballot race in 2018, therefore, could decide who controls the Senate in 2020.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-CO)
2. Colorado

No person saw the shellacking Dean Heller took in 2018 and got more nervous than Sen. Cory Gardner.  A relatively generic incumbent who won during the Republican wave of 2014, Gardner knows that Nevada and Colorado are moving leftward at a similar pace, and Heller losing even against a relatively inexperienced challenger makes it probable that Gardner will endure a similar fate in two years.  Democrats are not at a shortage of candidates.  House Speaker Crisanta Duran should be toward the top of the list, and could help drive Latino vote in the state.  The Centennial State just elected four new constitutional officers who might take a play out of Josh Hawley's book and run for this seat, knowing that there may not be a chance to run for a promotion for a while in a state with a blue governor and senator already (the same could be said for failed gubernatorial candidates Donna Lynne and Cary Kennedy).  And then there are the two titans of the race: former Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper.  Udall lost this seat six years ago, but is young enough that he might fight to get it back, and would be formidable against Gardner (though obviously he has lost in the past), while Hickenlooper clearly has his sights set on the White House.  Should he bomb in the primaries, though, running for the Senate would keep his name relevant for a future run.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL)
1. Alabama

Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Donnelly proved in 2018 that "borrowed time" senators are not sustainable in hyper-partisan times.  In 2017, Sen. Doug Jones pulled off a miracle when he bested Roy Moore for the US Senate, but it's hard to imagine in a presidential election, when he's not facing an accused pedophile, that Jones can pull off the same in such a red state.  Jones should be able to win the primary no problem (I read some news sources suggesting that someone might challenge him, but...why?), but there is a orchestra full of Republicans who could challenge Jones in the general.  Rumor has it that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions may run for his old seat again, while Rep. Mo Brooks (who lost the primary to Moore) could be a possible contender.  Reps. Mike Rogers, Martha Roby, Bradley Byrne and (especially) Robert Aderholt are all names that have been thrown around, and any one of them could put Jones into a double-digit defeat.  About the only candidates that Jones might be able to beat are Roy and Kayla Moore, and while I doubt they'd do it, if they ran, they've proven in the past to be able to best Republicans in primaries.  Otherwise, Jones is more likely running for Attorney General in a new Democratic administration that reelection to the US Senate.  If he doesn't stay at #1 in every iteration of this list between now and next November, something truly bizarre will have happened.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Mitt Romney, and the Second Acts of Presidential Losers

Sen-Elect Mitt Romney (R-UT)
In an election cycle dominated by Donald Trump and the Democrats who fought to counter him for the final two years of his first term, it's easy to gloss over some major stories happening across the country, but indeed, it's worth remembering that one of the freshman senators who will join the likes of Jacky Rosen & Mike Braun this January is one of the most well-known figures in politics.  Yes, Mr. Romney after 24 years of attempting to get there, has finally gone to Washington.  Mitt Romney's run for the Senate still perplexes me (what, precisely, does a man who came this close to the presidency get out of randomly becoming a junior senator at the age of 71 to a president who will almost certainly run in 2020, making Romney unlikely to be the presidential nominee until he is at least 77, likely too old to be president), but that's neither here nor there.  His win was such a good source of trivia I needed a separate article from our election night tidbits to compliment it.

Arguably the best trivia moment of Romney's win is that he is the first person since Sam Houston, the famed military leader, to be a governor of one state and a senator from another state; Romney served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007 and is now Utah's senator, while Houston served as governor of both Tennessee & Texas, as a senator from Texas, and as a congressman from Tennessee (he also, unlike Romney, served as president, in this case of the Republic of Texas).  The only other person in American history to do both is William Bibb, a largely now-forgotten politician from the early 19th century who is most-noted as Alabama's first governor, but also served in the House and Senate from Georgia.  But what I want to focus on today is Romney's status as a failed presidential candidate, a slightly less exclusive club than "men who have served in the Senate from one state and governor from another," but one with a bit more data to compare Romney's run for the Senate against.

Since the Election of 1824, the election that started the two-party system, 43 men and 1 woman have gotten "second place" in the electoral college, and therefore lost the presidency (four of those people got "first place" in the popular vote & therefore were the first choice of the country, but that's a gripe for a different day).  It's a pretty select list of individuals who were near giants of their era, people who came so close to glory but never got there, and Romney is one of them.  All of these 44 people had to get past an enormous number of hurdles to even get to the point to lose the White House, that I wondered what most of them did with the rest of their lives.  Below you will find what happened to the 44 presidential candidates after losing the White House, and how Romney's decision to run for the Senate is odd, but not so odd when you look at 200 years of presidential losers.

Sec. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
The Private Citizens

Until the retirement of Sen. Orrin Hatch, Romney appeared likely to join the presidential candidates' most common post-loss activity: just fading into history.  Of the 44 individuals who lost the White House, 17 of them never again held political office.  One of them, Horace Greeley, didn't have much of a choice as he died before the next inauguration.  Others, like Samuel Tilden, Benjamin Harrison, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter were courted to make a comeback and run for the presidency again, but declined, instead choosing a life of retirement.  It's worth noting for this column that many of these people remained active as local powerbrokers and statesmen.  Carter, for example, arguably had the most successful period of his public life after serving as president, with his work for Habitat for Humanity and with the Carter Institute.  It's also worth noting that of these 17, six of them are still alive (Carter, Michael Dukakis, George HW Bush, Bob Dole, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton), so there's always a chance that they change their mind and throw their hat into the ring, but only Gore or Clinton are even under 80, and it's doubtful they will join Romney in making a political comeback.

Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes
The Supreme Court

Only one failed "second place" candidate for the White House went on to join the highest court in the land: Charles Evans Hughes.  Few American politicians have as storied of careers as Hughes does without also having the line "President of the United States" on his resumé, and one of the oddities of Hughes' career is that he gave up a seat on the Supreme Court to run for the White House, lost the White House, and then was returned to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice years later by President Hoover.  Despite being 68 when he was appointed (something we would never see in the era of "make a lasting imprint on the Court for decades"), Hughes served as Chief Justice for 11 years, throughout all of the first two terms of President Roosevelt's time in office.

No other second place finisher has ever been put on the Supreme Court, though it's worth adding the caveat that a third place finisher, President Taft, did make it to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice after being appointed early during the Harding administration.  Taft is the only person who has ever served as president and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Sec. John Kerry (D-MA)
Presidential Cabinet

Though private citizen is by-far the most common post-presidential election career path after losing the White House, the second most common is a tie between the next two spots on this list.  Nine former presidential candidates have served in future administrations in varying capacities, something Romney considered when he publicly courted being Secretary of State for President Trump.  Secretary of State is, in fact, the most common position that a man who came so close to the White House was willing to accept-five men have done so.  Lewis Cass, James Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, Charles Evans Hughes, and John Kerry all followed their losses with service in the next administration of their party as Secretary of State.  It's hard to tell how many of these men envisioned the position of Secretary of State (historically a very strong spot to launch a bid for the presidency from), as a stepping stone back toward the White House, but I suspect at least a few had such aspirations.  In recent years, a common post-loss career path would be as an ambassador of sorts.  Adlai Stevenson served as UN Ambassador for Presidents Kennedy & Johnson.  George McGovern also served as a UN Ambassador under the Clinton and Bush administrations, and Walter Mondale was Ambassador to Japan (a position frequently filled by "political celebrities" as Tom Foley, Mike Mansfield, and Caroline Kennedy also had this job at some point) for President Clinton.

The most notorious losing presidential candidate, though, would surely be John Breckenridge, who did in fact serve in a presidential cabinet after his loss to Abraham Lincoln in 1860, but the presidential cabinet for Jefferson Davis.  After being expelled from the Senate for joining the Confederate Army, he served as a military leader for the South, eventually rising to the position of Secretary of War for Davis.  It's worth noting in a war that pitted "brother against brother," that Breckenridge's cousin Mary happened to be the wife of President Abraham Lincoln.

Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN)
Congress

We now move into those people who decided to stay on the ballot after losing their election, ten of whom didn't even want to leave DC-those who ran for Congress after their time in office.  This is of course what Romney did, though his return is unusual compared to the majority of these men, as the bulk of them were already sitting members of Congress, so they simply ran for reelection in order to stay in Congress.  Romney is, in fact, the only former presidential candidate to start a congressional career after losing the White House (Romney ran for the Senate in 1994, but lost that bid to Ted Kennedy).  Sens. Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, John Kerry, and John McCain all ran for at least one term in office post their losses for the White House, in the case of Goldwater he served the bulk of his career after his 1964 loss.  Hubert Humphrey and Lewis Cass both had served in the Senate prior to their runs for president, and then returned quickly after to that body.  Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams are unusual in that they had congressional careers prior to their losses, but both men chose to serve in a different branch of Congress after being denied the White House.  Clay went from being Speaker of the House to serving multiple abbreviated terms in the United States Senate, while Adams had served for five years in the Senate before his presidency and then spent the vast majority of his time in elected office post-presidency in the United States House of Representatives, frequently as a foil to his nemesis President Jackson.

It has to be noted that Walter Mondale tried to be on this list, but failed.  Mondale, a Minnesota Senator from 1964-1976 before becoming Vice President and then failing to win the White House in 1984, was a substitute candidate for the Senate in 2002 after the death of Paul Wellstone.  Mondale lost that bid (which would have put him among these men, even though Mondale didn't actively pursue the office in the same way), and as a result became the first (and to date, only) person to have lost an election in all fifty states.

Gov. George McClellan (D-NJ)
Governor

Three men decided to stick to the ballot box, but didn't want to pursue time in DC post their runs for the White House.  Unlike the Senate, here it appears to be unusual for you to be running as an incumbent and continue on-only Thomas Dewey ran for his (at the time current) office of Governor of New York again after losing the presidential election of 1944.  John Fremont and George McClellan, both major figures in the Civil War, both became governors after their runs for the White House.  Fremont eventually became the Governor of the Arizona Territory, while McClellan toward the end of his life served as Governor of New Jersey.  And like Mondale above, we also have a man who couldn't win the office even after being the presidential nominee for his party.  Richard Nixon, after his election in 1960, ran for Governor of California in 1962 but lost to Pat Brown.  This is the source of the famed phrase "you want have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore," not as it is frequently attributed to his failed run against John F. Kennedy.

Sec. William Jennings Bryan (D-NE)
Another Failed Bid for President

It has to be assumed that all of the candidates who lost their bid for the White House eventually explored another run for the office, even if it was just mumbling to themselves over a glass of whiskey at the end of the day in the comfort of their living room.  Some even speculated publicly about another run (Romney did this in 2016, and I'm guessing Hillary Clinton will do this at least to test the waters before deciding against it in the coming months).  However, by my count only nine actually ran for the office again...and still couldn't sink the basket.  Since the modern primary system is very different from the backroom choices of previous generations, it's hard to tell who did this unsuccessfully even in the primaries, but it seems like four couldn't even get the nomination again.  Al Smith tried again for the nomination in 1932, but lost it to his arch-rival Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Wendell Wilkie made an ill-informed campaign in 1944 after losing in 1940 (Wilkie probably could have gotten the nomination that year, but seemed to be a bad campaigner).  Hubert Humphrey ran what he hoped to be a coronation run in 1972, but couldn't get past the insurgent George McGovern, who in turn made a half-hearted attempt to win the nomination in 1984.

It's easier to find the five men who did get nominated again but weren't successful.  Martin van Buren lost reelection in 1840, then lost his party's nomination in 1844, and then again ran for president under the Free Soil party's nomination in 1848 but got third place in a contest against the victorious Zachary Taylor and Lewis Cass.  Thomas Dewey followed his 1944 defeat (closer than history remembers it) with a stunning defeat in 1948 against Harry Truman, eliciting one of the most famous photos in American politics. And Adlai Stevenson ran against Ike Eisenhower twice in 1952 and 1956 as the Democratic nominee, losing both times by a pretty robust margin.

Finally, there's the cases of Henry Clay and William Jennings Bryan.  Clay received second place in 1832, but at that point he had already run for president in 1824 (getting third and striking up a deal that would doom the presidency of John Quincy Adams by basically cheating Andrew Jackson out of the White House...an act Jackson would get revenge on both of them for by defeating them both in subsequent elections).  Clay would be the nominee of his party in 1844, and also run for the nomination in 1840 & 1848, but despite a distinguished career as a senator, Secretary of State, and Speaker of the House, would never be the president.  The only person who approaches him in this regard is William Jennings Bryan, a man who served as both a congressman and Secretary of State, and had the ignoble fate of being his party's presidential nominee thrice (1896, 1900, 1908), but got a silver medal each time.  In 1912, after three defeats, Bryan refused to pursue the Democratic nomination, which went to Woodrow Wilson instead...who then became president.

President Richard Nixon (R-CA)
President of the United States

The final career option for losing presidential candidates?  Winning presidential candidate.  Four men in American history have turned a second place loss in a presidential race into an eventually winning run for the White House.  The first was Andrew Jackson, who took the 1824 election (essentially stole from him), and turned it into two successful campaigns in 1828 and 1832.  William Henry Harrison is most frequently remembered as the shortest-served president in American history, but he actually might have had a full term if he'd won in 1836 when he was first nominated rather than in 1840.  Grover Cleveland is the best-remembered of this bunch since he won the White House in 1884, lost it in 1888 (though he won the popular vote), and then won it back again in 1892; I'd like to imagine that every one-term president from Hoover to Carter has had a secret photo of Cleveland hidden in their house that they whisper "someday" to each night.  Finally, there's Richard Nixon, who is the only person to lose the presidency, skip an election, and win the White House later.  Nixon did this by losing a nailbiter in 1960, the California's governor's race in 1962, and yet still defeated George Romney (Mitt's dad) at the 1968 convention and with the two leading Democrats out of the race (Johnson declining and Robert Kennedy assassinated), the Democrats lost in a close race that year, with Nixon following four years later with a hugely successful reelection campaign (and then a disgraceful second term).

In an era where political comebacks are increasingly common, it's entirely possible a fifth person could make it onto this list.  Though it's hard to tell how seriously their names are bandied, some have discussed John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore as potential candidates in 2020, and Romney's ascension to the Senate gives him a perch if the opportunity ever presents itself for him to run for POTUS.  I guess we'll just keep watching, but don't forget in all of the hubbub of new names headed to DC that there's one who has been trying for decades to make it, and will likely be a pretty loud voice when he gets there.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Random Trivia from the 2018 Midterms

I have three final election articles left (or at least planned) before we say goodbye to politics for a while (I need a break).  I will say that my mood has markedly improved since Wednesday morning (watching my hero Claire McCaskill lose put a giant damper on the night for me, though in the days since the victories of Jon Tester and a number of House Democratic challengers, not to mention potential for Kyrsten Sinema & Bill Nelson to join the Senate in January has lifted my spirits), and as a result I want to share some trivia from last night.  I'm going to steer clear of most of the major firsts, but bravo to people like Jared Polis, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Sharice Davids, Deb Haaland, and Angie Craig who broke down barriers on Tuesday.  Instead I'm going to focus on one woman who bucked a lot of political trends this week and then check in with some of our trivia articles I've written in the lead up to the election.

Rep.-Elect Lucy McBath (D-GA)
1. Lucy McBath Makes History...Twice

Arguably the coolest bits of trivia that I've seen involve Congresswoman-elect Lucy McBath of Georgia, who pulled off an upset on Tuesday (though a small one if you had looked at the polls leading up to the election).  McBath, before Tuesday, was best known as the mother of a teenager who was murdered in Jacksonville Florida in 2012.  McBath, with her election, becomes the first person to limit a special election winner to less than a full-term since Colleen Hanabusa in 2010, and before that it hadn't happened since 1994 with Mark Neumann.

Essentially what this means is that Karen Handel, whom McBath defeated, won the special election last year for the open seat of Tom Price, who resigned to join the Trump administration.  Normally if you win the special, you tend to win the next general election.  However, Handel's opponent in the special election declined to run, and as a result McBath was able to run a more stealth campaign, capitalizing off of strong turnout from Stacey Abrams' run for governor to defeat Handel.  Since Djou's inclusion here is due to a technicality (he only won his seat to begin with in 2010 because Hawaii foregoes primaries when they have special elections), this is weirdly similar to Neumann's win over Peter Barca during the 1994 Republican wave.  Considering Neumann only held the seat for two terms before three ill-fated runs for higher office, I suspect McBath would prefer that the similarity ends there.

McBath also joins her future colleague Lauren Underwood of Illinois in another, perhaps more monumental distinction: McBath and Underwood are the first black women to defeat a white incumbent in a general election for Congress.  Historically, black women who have successfully won public office have done so either by winning open seats or defeating an incumbent in a primary, frequently another African-American.  Only two times has a black woman defeated a white incumbent in a congressional primary (Carol Moseley Braun over Alan Dixon in 1992 and Ayanna Presley over Michael Capuano earlier this year), but it's never happened in a general.  This is a sign of real progress considering that frequently African-Americans experience a "Bradley Effect" when they challenge Republican incumbents, and will hopefully open up more opportunity for black women to run in areas that are not super liberal or "safe" seats for the Democrats.

Rep-Elect Cindy Axne (D-IA), the first woman to serve
in the House from Iowa
2. Checking in With Our Trivia Articles

We write a lot of trivia articles on this blog, so I'll be doing a bunch of links for them here so you can check them out if you haven't read them previously, but I wanted to see if the trivia actually panned out for any races on the map in 2010.  This is an older article, but it's worth noting that while Iowa elected its first female senator in 2014, it also elected its first female representatives this year with Abby Finkenauer & Cindy Axne, meaning that only Alaska, Vermont, Mississippi, and North Dakota haven't elected a Democrat to the House after this year.  Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn will be that state's first female senator, and Maine, South Dakota, and New Mexico all elected their first female governors.

Moving to more recent articles, we had none of the Top 5 states end their gubernatorial "one-party" streaks this year, although South Dakota came pretty close.  Texas came close, but missed on the one-party streaks for the Democrats, though it does appear that Arizona could make it off of the list if Kyrsten Sinema's lead holds.  If that's the case, the new #10 will be Kentucky, which hasn't elected a Democrat since Wendell Ford in 1992.  Kevin Cramer, who initially ruled out a run for the Senate, changed his mind and end up winning a promotion in North Dakota as a result.  Despite initially dropping out (with no other options for the incumbent), Chris Collins reconsidered his run and ended up winning by just over 1-point in New York; it seems doubtful that he'll fulfill the term, however, considering the charges against him.  It appears that 2018 resulted in, from the looks of things, only two races that we qualified as "close," (though results are still likely coming in in Texas-Beto O'Rourke may well get within two-points before the end of the day).  Otherwise, it's just Kyrsten Sinema, who is currently up about a point though they're still counting ballots in Arizona, and Rick Scott, who leads Bill Nelson in Florida by 0.2 points.  Should Scott end up winning that race, Nelson will be the first Democrat in twenty years to lose a Senate race by less a percentage point (the last being Rep. Scotty Baesler in Kentucky in 1998).  This is a bizarre stat I just realized while researching this article-in that time eight Republicans have lost Senate races by less the a percentage point, but not a single Democrat (until, possibly, now).

Finally we have the tipping point election, which I'm actually reluctant to call just yet.  Though we don't know for sure who will win in Arizona and Florida, they certainly wouldn't be the tipping point Senate race, as they would, at most, get the Democrats to 48 seats when they need 51.  Texas is in third, followed by a near tie between Indiana and Missouri, both decided by just under six points at this juncture.  At this moment Claire McCaskill's race is the tipping point contest, though it's not entirely clear if that's how it will end as, like California or Arizona or Florida, it's likely that Missouri is still counting ballots, just not enough to make up the difference.  If that sticks, it will be toward the middle of the tipping point states-close, but not crazy close.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Final Thoughts on the 2018 Midterms

And after all of that, we finally have our results.  Last night, the American public gave a rebuke to Donald Trump, doing something that many would have though impossible just two years ago: giving the Democrats control of the House of Representatives.  No matter hat Donald Trump says this morning, and you know he's going to say a lot, this was an historic moment and one where the American people stood up and told Trump relatively loudly, "we blame Republicans for you, and we want a check on your power."

But it was also a message for the Trump supporters of the country to stand up and say "2016 wasn't a fluke-and we're here for the duration."  While the Democrats did well enough to win the House, it was definitely on the more conservative (small "c") side in terms of gains, and the Republicans did well enough to gain what likely will be a 4-seat net in the Senate (we'll get to why that's "likely" in a few minutes).    Donald Trump's last minute strategy, much like in 2016 when he focused in his final days on Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota (and stunned the planet by winning three of those states) worked once again; he abandoned the House, focusing entirely on ruby-red states with Senate contests where he won by a large margin in 2016, and in the end nearly took all of them.  It's hard to tell who was smiling more last night, but Nancy Pelosi & Mitch McConnell both had to be happy, though it's unclear at this point which one will get the last laugh.  Below I share seven of my major takeaways from last night, as well as my biggest "happiness/heartbreak/surprise" of the night.

Speaker (once and future?) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
1. The Republic Needed a Democratic House...and It Got One

You can say a lot of things about President Trump, but it's been clear in the past two years that his administration has needed a parent of some sorts.  The constant claims that he's going to fire Robert Mueller, the inappropriate behaviors of his administration (Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, and Ben Carson all come to mind, but there are dozens of figures in his administration who would normally have been brought before a congressional hearing by this point in the past)...these have been serious problems.  However, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have largely shielded these figures from such scrutiny, and Democrats (in the minority) appeared helpless in the face of such decisions because the Republicans were in the majority.

That is no longer the case, and while Democrats seemed reluctant to put "holding Trump accountable" at the center of their campaign, it's clear after last night that that's what Democrats need to do.  Looking at the results, it wasn't in areas of the country where the healthcare message worked (that was a smart cover, but my interpretation is that that didn't resonate well, otherwise we'd be looking at a closer Senate this morning), but in very Clinton-friendly areas of the country.  Though we don't have the final totals, almost all of the districts picked up by Democrats last night were in Clinton districts, and of the ones that weren't only two weren't in Obama '12 districts.   That shows to me that the decision to expand the map from 2016 didn't work, and instead they just made certain parts of the country a lot bluer (Cory Gardner and Susan Collins have to be quaking in their boots after last night).  If that's the case, those blue areas threw out longtime incumbents like Pete Sessions, Erik Paulsen, and Mike Coffman not necessarily because they were no longer well-liked, but because they wanted someone, anyone to beat Trump.  If Democrats don't get that message quickly, they're going to have a rough two years as they're going to have a frustrated Democratic base combined with a largely unmovable Republican opposition.

Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
2. Pelosi Should Stay, Schumer Needs to Go

Nancy Pelosi last night earned her spot as leader.  It's still unclear how many seats she'll have won, but Pelosi's healthcare focus worked well enough to win the House (even though I ultimately think it may have netted 2-3 seats at most & mostly it was Democrats falling in line in the era of Trump), but she's earned a spot at the table, and should get a third term as Speaker.  I think Democrats after last night need to replace Hoyer & Clyburn, and quickly (so that they have clear successors to Pelosi), and I was a little bit flummoxed/upset by Pelosi talking about "bipartisanship" already when this was clearly a "war room" sort of election result, but she's the best person to take on Trump for the final two years of his first-term, and got enough House seats last night to have earned a spot at the table.  If Democrats throw her out, they need someone better or stronger than Cheri Bustos or Tim Ryan, and no one is the clear heir apparent.

I'm going to say something that needs saying here, though, though no one is likely going to make it a headline (perhaps because he's a man, perhaps because he's very press friendly, I'm not sure): Chuck Schumer needs to be replaced.  Schumer took over as minority leader just two years ago, and no one should hold him accountable to the Democrats getting dealt some rough cards last night.  But he was the obvious incoming leader in 2016, and let Democratic seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, and North Carolina all slip through his fingers (Democrats only scored two pickups that night), and this year he watched as Democrats lost (what appears to be) five incumbents, and let (what appears to be) two very winnable pickup seats in Arizona & Texas disappear from under him.  It's clear that Schumer is still operating in an old DC, playing a game where he thinks he can beat Mitch McConnell rather than have to destroy him, and at this point it's worth noting that a more agile-and-modern Democrat (Patty Murray seems the best option, but Jeff Merkley, Kamala Harris, or Amy Klobuchar are all theoretically possible) is needed for the Senate Democrats, someone whose geography & ineffectiveness as an actual leader aren't in question.  This is particularly important because...

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of 5 Democratic senators
to lose last night
3. The Democrats Have Lost the Senate...Possibly Indefinitely

It should never be forgotten, though most younger pundits will, that for most of the mid-20th Century, Republicans taking over the Senate was essentially an unthinkable thing.  From 1933 through 1981, the Republicans only held the majority in the US Senate for a total of four years: from 1947-49 (as a reaction to the unpopularity of President Truman) and from 1953-55 (thanks to the landslide victory of President Eisenhower).  During this time, they did hold the White House for a number of years (Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford all serving for 16 total years), but the Senate map was impossible for the GOP to get past-there were, mathematically, too many states that wouldn't give them a chance.  Even in cycles where the Democrats would do poorly, geography was an insurance policy.

Last night, we witnessed an entrenchment of the GOP in their bases that should scare the tar out of Democrats.  It is probable that, unless something unusual happens with the final count in Arizona and Florida (or the Mississippi recount), that the Republicans will have netted three seats, watching four incumbents lose reelection on the Democratic side: Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, Bill Nelson, and Joe Donnelly.  Democrats will have also lost very promising challenges from Kyrsten Sinema and Beto O'Rourke, with only Jacky Rosen successful in taking a Republican Senate seat.  The problem for the Democrats is, however, that the only states in general last night that gave them (statewide) much of a homecoming that didn't in 2016 were Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.  Yes, they won seats in Ohio & West Virginia, but with slimmer-than-expected majorities and with extremely popular incumbents (facing middling Republicans).  Put John Kasich & Evan Jenkins in those races, and you'd likely have seen two more Democratic senators go down.  Ohio threw aside a very promising challenge from a Democrat who led in most polls for governor-the same can be said for Iowa, Florida, and Georgia.  This should be the petrifying thing for Democrats, that the math doesn't lend itself well to them ever getting back the Senate unless they can figure out a way to break more states.

That's because, assuming that that the final math on the Senate ends up being 55-45 (the likeliest end result), if you assume that the best options for Democrats are MI/PA/WI plus every state that Hillary Clinton won (based on last night, the only states that feel Democratic-friendly or Democratic-curious in a real way), that's only 23 states, or 46 senators...not enough for the Democrats to ever get a majority in the Senate.  We live in an era where, after last night, only eight states will have senators of opposite parties, and it's quite probable in 2020 that that list goes down to four.  As a result there aren't enough senators like Manchin, Brown, Tester, and Alabama's Doug Jones to make up that slack, because they're the only Democratic senators after last night who represent states that aren't in that coalition.

Yes, the Democrats have prime options going forward.  Cory Gardner, in 2020, seems an obvious target for defeat, and it's probable that Susan Collins may revisit her attitude toward reelection considering what happened to Pete Sessions last night.  But Democrats now need at least five, if not six, seats in 2020 (and they're going to have to drag Doug Jones across the finish line, which seems an odious task considering what happened to McCaskill, Donnelly, et al last night).  The fact that they couldn't break through with candidates in Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and Texas this year, a year that should be better for the Democrats than 2020, shows that the Democrats may be in a similar situation to the Republicans for decades, and it's why I think Schumer has to step aside-you need new leadership and fast before it becomes too late, and Schumer is too old/established to change his ways at this point.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
4. The Supreme Court is Also Lost for a Generation

In many ways last night feels like a spot where you're watching a movie and someone makes it out of a chase, but they're injured so badly they're not going to make it to the end of the movie (I described last night as "disappointing, but not a disaster," and that's pretty much true).  Because in addition to the Senate, the Supreme Court likely got lost for a generation last night.  That's because, after the retirement of Justice Kennedy and the death of Justice Scalia, there is only one clear Supreme Court justice on the Republican side who is vulnerable to retirement, and I can't fathom a situation where Clarence Thomas doesn't end up retiring in the next two years.

Thomas has been the source of retirement rumors for years and years, and has never really seemed interested in the job.  A source of ire for many in the political community still, Thomas's position on the Court probably would have become similar to that enjoyed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg & Stephen Breyer's now-his political base praying that he doesn't leave the Court until they can replace him with someone of a similar political background.  Headed into the final two years of President Trump's term, it seems certain that that will happen.

With Thomas replaced, there's no obvious course-of-action for the Democrats to gain back the Supreme Court for thirty years.  Theoretically, in the best case scenario, Ginsburg & Breyer hang on long enough to be replaced by a Democrat, but that still leaves five relatively healthy conservative men on the Court.  People have surprise health issues all the time (discussing "winning" the Supreme Court is morbid, so I will put in the obvious caveat "no one wishes any harm to anyone" since that's obviously the case), but it's more likely that the Republicans, now entrenched in the Senate, just pull another Merrick Garland for when RBG or Breyer retire/die, and take the seat that way, knowing that even if a Democrat is president, they won't be forever, and unless the Democrats get better at the Senate, Republicans probably will be.

President Donald Trump (R-NY)
5. Donald Trump is the Favorite to Win a Second Term

I'm guessing I'll get a lot of questions today, but none more than "what does this mean for 2020?"  Well, I'll tell you-it means that Donald Trump is probably going to win reelection in 2020.

The reason for this is that if you do the math on the electoral college, Trump didn't lose that much last night.  As I said above, the Democrats found the code to win Hillary Clinton-districts by large margins across the country, ousting incumbents like Barbara Comstock & Erik Paulsen by double digits.  However, Donald Trump doesn't need Hillary Clinton districts to win reelection-he lost them in 2016 and did just fine.  And there appeared to be no indication that the Republican Party, which by definition is Trump these days, was punished for the past two years from Trump's behavior.

I cannot stress how badly I had counted on the Democrats winning the governorships in states like Florida, Iowa, and Ohio last night, because it would have indicated a unique vulnerability to Trump in states that the Democrats had kept most of the Obama 2012 states in play.  Combined with potential in places like Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina, we'd have a wide open field for a Democratic nominee to be able to get to 270.  That's not the case, though.  Time after time last night, the Democrats lost these states; sometimes it was by small margins, but they were all losses.  The only Trump states that the Democrats clearly proved that 2016 was a fluke for the Republicans (or at least proved they are very much in play for their eventual nominee) were Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Now, it has to be said that these three states would be enough for the Democrats.  Had Hillary Clinton won these states in 2016, we'd be having a very different Election Day today, but we'd be doing it with a Democratic president (had Democrats won the same states for Senate races in 2016, we'd also have a Democratic majority in the Supreme Court and Senate right now).  But she has no room for error in this situation-she's only at 278 electoral votes in this circumstance.  Essentially we'd view this as winning an inside straight, and we're relying on states that are notoriously swingy with no room for error.  As a result, you see why Donald Trump is the heavy favorite to win in two years, unless Republicans start punishing him if the economy goes south.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
6. The Democrats Need to Grow Up About Their 2020 Nominee

Here's my thoughts, then, on how they can win in 2020 even if they're the underdogs after last night-they have to first acknowledge that the most important thing about a Democratic nominee in 2020 is that they are able to win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  That is the most important thing for 2020, and if someone can't do it, they should be disqualified immediately.  Dreams of a blue Texas, Georgia, or Arizona are great, and they can target those states, but if you come to the table as a candidate who makes the path-of-least-resistance impossible, you're out as a nominee, no matter how great you are at making speeches.

This means that candidates that are easy to brand as "coastal elites" need to step aside.  Sorry, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, but you didn't prove last night that you can win here (I still think they'd make decent running mates, however, for ticket balance).  Bernie Sanders is too old and too liberal to do well in rural areas, and despite your love for them, Beto O'Rourke & Andrew Gillum both just lost elections so they need to win a race before we start giving them the keys to the Ferrari.  Mayors are going to heighten the rural/urban divide (and, at least for the electoral college, Democrats can't win that divide if they exacerbate it, so Mitch Landrieu & Mike Bloomberg should also be tossed aside).

So, you may ask, who does that leave?  Only a couple of candidates, quite frankly, which is why I think the "grow up" comment here is harsh, but needed-we have too many pipe dream candidates, and not enough reality based ones.  John Hickenlooper, current governor of Colorado, makes a decent candidate, for example.  He's progressive, but still from a swing state, and a governor so he doesn't come with DC stigma.  The same could be said for Terry McAuliffe, though McAuliffe feels too easy to link to the Clintons (though his tenure in Virginia is very impressive, so I wouldn't entirely count him out).  Gov. Steve Bullock is intriguing, but probably too conservative to make it through a primary.  Sen. Sherrod Brown is a really good candidate, and though he won a tight race last night, it's probable that he'd have won a better margin to the north and east.  He seems disinclined to actually run, and it has to be noted he comes with a Senate seat loss (and as I pointed out above, we can't just give away Senate seats anymore), but he'd be a good candidate.

Joe Biden & Oprah Winfrey both come with some intrigue that cannot be denied.  Biden would arguably be the best candidate to pick up those three seats and hold the rest of the map, even though his age and foot-in-mouth-syndrome shouldn't be dismissed.  I will admit that Biden to me was more "a wish" as a nominee, but after last night, I think he's in my Top 3 now simply because he'd win, even if it'd only be for a term.  Winfrey also goes up in my estimation-though she wasn't a great surrogate in Georgia, she's perhaps the only politician who could reframe the map and reframe the debate around how Trump is discussed by the public.  I wouldn't dismiss her out-of-hand.

But it's actually pretty clear after last night who the nominee should be.  There's only one candidate who is young, has obvious appeal in rural communities, could hold the Midwest while being progressive enough to make it through a primary, and is a strong enough counter to Donald Trump that she could best him at a game he is very good at, and that's Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.  Looking at the county-level maps for Klobuchar, she crushed in rural counties that even Tina Smith & Tim Walz (both doing very well last night), didn't take.  She's liberal without being alienating, and she's a prosecutor who has done well in going after Trump.  Plus, she's clearly interested in the job, and thanks to Walz winning we wouldn't have to worry about holding her Senate seat if she won.  I had been reluctant to get on this train since I am a Minnesotan & it feels like nepotism, but it needs to be said-Klobuchar is, on-paper (and maybe in reality) the best, and perhaps only, candidate who has a clear path to beating Donald Trump in 2020.  I hope Democrats acknowledge that and start taking her seriously.

Vice President Al Gore & Sec. Hillary Clinton,
two people the country chose but weren't allowed to get as POTUS
7. We Have a Minority Party-Rule Problem in This Country

While the Democrats last night won the popular vote, possibly by as high as 8-percent when California & Washington eventually get to actually counting all of their ballots, it has to be said we still live in a country where we have a minority-rule problem of Republicans holding more power than the majority of the country wanted them to hold.  The Democrats, even if you make concessions for California (since the past two contests were between two Democrats, making the margin for them considerably higher), have received more votes for their Senate candidates of the people that will be in office come January...but they will be in the minority.  This is not an isolated incident-it is, in fact, a pattern of the country wanting a Democrat in charge, but getting a Republican because the rules are stacked against them.

Forget, for a second, that many election laws disproportionately target minority voters, and that the actions of someone like Brian Kemp border on full-on dictatorship.  Voter purges, voter ID laws, and the banning of felons from voting in elections has made it harder for people to vote across the country.  But looking at just the raw numbers, the Democrats still should be in a much better position than they are.  The Democrats have won the national popular vote every election save one since 1992, but were twice denied the White House due to the electoral college (a fate that has befallen no Republicans in American history): Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.  Despite having only 45 seats to the Republicans 55, the Democrats actually represent almost 13 million more Americans in the Senate than the Republicans do.  As a result of this, the last two Supreme Court nominees were actually appointed by senators who represented the minority of the country (this is a fact trotted out for Brett Kavanaugh because a majority of the country didn't want him appointed, but it's just as true of Neil Gorsuch).  Every single Supreme Court nominee appointed by a Republican save for Clarence Thomas was appointed by a man who lost the popular vote when he assumed the Oval Office (a fact that's not true of any Democratic appointment).  Of the thirteen senators or senators-elect that were elected with less than 50% of the vote, eight are Republicans and only five are Democrats, and that latter number is inflated by Nevada's weird "None of the Above" rule (where you vote, but vote for no one), as without it it's probable that Cortez Masto & Rosen would have gotten majorities.  With RCV as an option, it's also possible that Democrats would have the majority in the Senate even with their population disadvantages.

And then there's the House, the best, most consistent example of Republicans getting an advantage over the Democrats.  Twice in the past 25 years (1996 and 2012) the majority of the country voted for Democrats to the US House but the Republicans still maintained the majority thanks to gerrymandering (both of districts and of states); this hasn't happened to the GOP since World War II.  And while we're still waiting on the popular vote for 2018, if you look at the 435 seats in the House and multiply them by the Democrats' percentage of the popular vote, the party received less than their fare share of the vote in all but two of the last seven elections (2006 & 2008), while the Republicans received more than their fair share of the vote in every single one of those elections (third parties always get screwed).  If you take the House elections from 2010-2016, Democrats averaged a deficit of 10 seats compared to their share of the vote, while Republicans averaged a surplus of 24 seats compared to their share of the vote.

That's horrible-the Republicans regularly get more power with less actual votes, and the problem here is-I can't think of ways that Republicans are actually disenfranchised in the reverse.  Yes, gerrymandering obviously cuts both ways (Maryland's maps look like spaghetti), but other than that, there is no systemic, continual way in which Republicans are disenfranchised in a similar way to Democrats, and it's actually getting worse.  The House numbers were much closer from 2000-2008 (though Democrats consistently under-performed relative to the Republicans), and we're looking at 2020 with Donald Trump being the favorite to win the White House, but almost certain to lose the popular vote again.  A democracy cannot function, or call itself a proper democracy, if it consistently ignores the will of the people, and that's pretty much what we're coming to at this point.  Unless there are major reforms or Democrats start winning at the same margins, we're going to have an existential crisis over what we call American government-is it representative, or is it simply "representative as long as the Republicans win."  Countries with governments like that historically struggle.

Rep-Elect Joe Cunningham (D-SC)
Final Thoughts:

Favorite Win: I screamed and danced when Laura Kelly beat Kris Kobach.  Kobach's position on the Trump task force made him arguably the scariest potential governor, and it's a relief for Kansas to have some sane leadership after the Brownback years.
Runner-Up: I've watched Scott Walker win three unbearably tight races through the years-to finally see him lose after so many close calls was pretty fulfilling.

Toughest Loss: I can't even talk about it yet, but knowing that Claire McCaskill won't be a senator anymore breaks my heart.  One of my personal heroes, the best member of Congress in my opinion, and a damned fine public servant getting replaced by a guy who repeatedly lied about his fight for pre-existing conditions, in a word, sucks.
Runner-Up: Considering the sort of campaign that he ran, knowing the anti-democratic, racist, and violent ads that he put on television, it's beyond me how Brian Kemp gets to become governor over Stacey Abrams.  Also, considering how close he ended up, it's a bit heartbreaking knowing that Beto O'Rourke won't get to realize his potential in the next Congress.

Biggest Upset: I kind of called in my head that Kendra Horn was in a better position than expected in Oklahoma, but what he hell happened on Staten Island?!?  After everyone wrote off Max Rose when Donovan won the primary, I had no idea that this would be happening.
Runner-Up: I'm flummoxed how both Gillum and Nelson ended up losing in Florida, but it's Florida, where Democratic dreams go to die.  The better question may be what happened in South Carolina-1, a district that Obama lost (twice) and Hillary got shellacked in, and yet Joe Cunningham bested Katie Arrington even after Arrington defeated an incumbent congressman to get that nomination.  It's really rare that that happens to the GOP, where they have a challenger win the primary against the incumbent, and lose the general (the Democrats do it more often).  Cunningham will go to the top of the DSCC's call list to take on Lindsey Graham in 2020, I would have to imagine now.