The Dem Wipeout: It’s Not Just the Midterms


Steve has started a midterm wipeout watch series that I hope will have many more installments, culminating in November. I want to note this piece by a Democrat who warns his fellow Democrats that the wipeout likely will extend well beyond 2022.

The author is Simon Bazelon, just a kid but a kid who can do arithmetic. He argues that even if the Democrats are able to maintain their average edge in popular vote over the next two cycles, Republicans are likely to gain strong control over the Senate:

Overall, the combination of decreasing incumbency advantage and a poor national environment for Democrats means we should probably expect Democrats to control between 46 and 47 Senate seats after 2022 — depending, essentially, on whether or not Maggie Hassan manages to hold her seat in New Hampshire. And indeed, that’s what betting markets like PredictIt seem to think will happen.

The landscape is worse for 2024:

Since the Reagan Era, Democrats have averaged roughly 51% of the two-party vote in Presidential elections. If Biden gets this percentage of the vote, and the correlation between the Senate and presidential vote stays at close to .95 (as it was in 2020), then basically every Democratic senator in a state Biden won by less than 2% who is up in 2024 is likely to lose.

That includes:

* Jon Tester in Montana (Biden -16.3)
* Joe Manchin in West Virginia (Biden -29.9)
* Sherrod Brown in Ohio (Biden -8)
* Bob Casey in Pennsylvania (Biden +1.2)
* Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin (Biden +0.7)
* Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona (Biden +0.3)

In addition, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan (Biden +2.8) and Jackie Rosen in Nevada (Biden +2.4) would likely be in toss-up races.

The real point is not the Democrats’ unpopularity at the moment, it is the structural challenge they face in the Senate:

As the table demonstrates, “normal” electoral results will likely result in the loss of a large share of the Democratic Senate Caucus — pessimism about the outlook here is not driven by any particular pessimism about Democrats’ share of the national popular vote.

Instead, the issue is that the growing polarization of the electorate around educational attainment and the urban/rural divide has generated a Senate that is incredibly biased against the Democratic party.

And the Electoral College is even worse for Democrats.

If Joe Biden receives 51% of the vote in 2024 (again, this is the long-run average for Democratic presidential candidates), he will likely lose the Electoral College — and with it, the presidency.

“Business as usual” will result in President Trump or President DeSantis, with somewhere between 56 and 62 Senate seats.

Joe Biden won’t be on the ballot in 2024, but the point remains. Most interesting of all, to me, is a comment on this post by one Ray:

As Democrats write off more and more states I find the arguments about senate/EC bias less compelling.

To an extent, at this point the entire debate hinges on the idiosyncratic unpopularity of Republicans in California. If Republicans gain there (or Democrats fall) you’ll see the skew disappear.

Moreover, it’s one thing to argue that Democrats are the more popular party nationally but their votes are grouped inefficiently. As this “inefficiently” starts to just mean “in California” they begin to resemble any regional party in a parliamentary system whose vote share outperforms their seat total.

The Bloc Québécois is not the victim of a bad system but of their own intentionally targeted appeal.

Echoes of Spinal Tap! But the point is a good one: over 5 million of Joe Biden’s alleged 7 million popular vote margin came from California.



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