Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Listen: Kansas-04, California-34, and the future.

Today was one of several special elections following the 2016 general election.  The race was in the Kansas 4th Congressional District.  If you barely heard of it before now, don't worry, you're not alone -- this race wasn't on anyone's radar.  It was being held to replace Mike Pompeo, the new head of the CIA, and it was a comfortably Republican seat.  Pompeo won his last three elections by margins of at least 30 points.  There really wasn't much reason to pay attention to this district, especially not with a lot closer elections pending (like in Georgia).  Republicans couldn't convincingly point to a safe seat as evidence of support for Trump or national policies, and Democrats didn't want to waste time or money highlighting a likely failure.  So it was left local.

That has changed.

Over the course of just the past couple of days, a race that had once looked like a lock... wasn't.  The Republican candidate (Estes) was dull and rambling, and the Democrat (Thompson) was a veteran with good messaging.  A Republican internal poll had Estes with only the narrowest of leads.  Cue the alarm bells.

The national Republican leadership and associated super-PACs poured money into the district.  Senator Cruz visited and did a rally.  Even the president made a robo-call for Estes.  Over two days, Republicans did everything they could to shore up Estes' numbers.

Why did the national party bother with all of this?  It's one single seat that the Republican was still pretty likely to win... doesn't it look bad to put this much effort into this?  After all, couldn't they very reasonably point to local factors -- a mediocre Republican candidate, an incredibly unpopular Republican governor who has crushed his state with insane policies, a special election with low turnout?

Here's the thing, though.  Last week, there was another special election to replace Kamala Harris in California (she's now a senator).  That was a comfortably Democratic seat... but it has swung even further to the Democrats, to the tune of nineteen points.  The Republican got 3.4% of the vote.

Right now, it's too early to say what the final vote in Kansas will be.  We can say pretty definitively that the Estes (the Republican) did win, but it's going to be hours before all the votes are counted in notoriously slow Kansas.

However, we can also say pretty definitively that this race was competitive and it was never supposed to be.  Even with Governor Brownback dragging down his party, even with a lousy GOP candidate and great Democratic one, even with a weird special election...

It's looking like only a single-digit victory for the Republican in KS-04.  That's crazy, but true.  And when combined with the California vote, we can reach a further tentative conclusion:

That's Trump.

For months now, the president's polling has been slowly dropping.  He had a brief high point, as aggregated by 538, of 48% approval and 43% disapproval.  Since then, he has sagged to 42% approve and 53% disapprove.  Moreover, his chaotic leadership and the utterly bankrupt Republican policies have left his entire party scrambling to achieve some scraps of their promised policies.  Obamacare remains intact and healthy, tax reform is being pushed back to August (still optimistically!), and there's no movement on trade at all.

Yes, the Republican is going to win, but this should have been a cakewalk.  It was a fight.  Two is the start of a trend, and this is the sort of data point that no one can ignore.  Both of these elections swung twenty points to the left, compared with 2016.

There's blood in the water, and everyone can smell it.  Tentative Democrats are going to run for office, when they might have been shy.  Republicans are going to start worrying about their seats, even in "safe" districts.  Everyone has their eye on the next election.

Do you?

Are you ready for this?

Are you ready for 2018?

Are you ready to win?

Because there's only 573 days to get ready.  And we'll need to be ready.  Because we're going to storm every district in every state.  Because we're going to make the GOP answer for their actions at every podium we can find.  Because we're going to march and call and write and vote.

California spoke.  Kansas is speaking.  America is speaking.

Soon, it will be your turn.

Be ready.



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