15 Election Winners and Losers
Clarke to the cabinet? Should pollsters be fired? RoJo trumps Trump. And much more.
It was an election night filled with surprises. To say the least. While pundits and polls had Hillary Clinton winning big, Clinton failed to secure a number of battleground states. It took into Wednesday morning for the race to be officially called for Trump, but by 10 p.m. the mood was pretty dire for Democrats. Say hello to Donald Trump, our next president.
Now to continue a post-election tradition, who are the big — and overlooked — winners and losers? There are the obvious ones, including the candidates themselves, but what about others like Charlie Sykes, Gov. Scott Walker, pollster Charles Franklin, Reince Priebus and you the voter?
Loser: Hillary Clinton
She may win the popular vote, but clearly lost the electoral vote. Her political career is over. She’s not going to jail. Let’s move on.
Loser: The Democratic Ground Game
Much has been made of the vaunted Democratic ground game going back to Howard Dean in 2004. Barack Obama‘s campaign took it to the next level in back-to-back elections. Then came Hillary’s crew. The narrative was that Donald Trump’s campaign was a mess at the local level and that the Clinton campaign had everything boiled down to an exact science. Only the exact science was wrong. Case in point, Clinton hasn’t set foot in Wisconsin since April, clearly a state she needed to win, yet Clinton was missing in action.
Winner: David A. Clarke, Jr.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff, who runs as a Democrat, got to speak at the Republican National Convention. He parlayed that into trips across the country the past few weeks stumping for Trump. How will Trump reward him? It’s not out of the question that Clarke could gain a post as high as National Security Advisor. Will Milwaukee County be looking for a new sheriff soon? It’s possible, but bear in mind the governor gets to appoint someone to finish the term.
Loser: Charlie Sykes
The conservative talk show host drew an admirable line in the sand on Donald Trump. It probably looked like a brilliant move at the time, Sykes could come out looking smart as Trump looked sure to lose. Sykes, who will retire in December, would have crafted the perfect narrative for himself as someone who knew right from wrong in the Republican Party. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way and now David Clarke is smearing his face in it. Sykes, ever one to use his platform to fire back, authored a piece this morning entitled “Sheriff David Clarke, Gracious in Victory. Oh Wait” The Sheriff emailed Sykes at 2:32 in the morning to gloat and baited Sykes into sharing his email. Sykes response to Clarke? “Does this mean you will actually show up and do your job now?”
Loser: Third Parties
In a number of states, third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson earned more votes than the difference between Trump and Clinton. This obviously drew the ire of many Clinton voters, resulting in my Facebook feed turning into a series of hate-filled screeds accusing Stein and Johnson voters of wasting their votes and gifting Trump the presidency.
The third parties, despite earning millions of votes last night, end up as losers in all this not because they elected Trump president (they didn’t), but because their long-term viability didn’t increase. There has been no evidence that either the Green Party or Libertarian Party will be more formidable operations going forward, despite just emerging from a presidential campaign where the two mainstream candidates were perhaps the most disliked in history.
Winner: The New York Times
On a night dominated by television networks, my social media feeds were overwhelmed with screenshots of the New York Times election forecast. It was adjusting on the fly, leaning more and more in Trump’s favor as the votes came in. All the while, FiveThirtyEight was stuck, as their model relies on a state being officially called. With so many tossup states not yet called, FiveThirtyEight was stuck showing Clinton with an edge while the New York Times new tool kept moving towards Trump. Among the less analytical public, the FiveThirtyEight brand is undoubtedly damaged. Policy wonks will note Nate Silver‘s site actually was right on the money, giving Trump a roughly 30 percent chance of winning based on the polling data. But about those polls…
Loser: Charles Franklin and other pollsters
It couldn’t have been a more embarrassing night for pollsters and poll analysts, who all predicted a Clinton win. Case in point, the final Marquette Law School poll, led by Charles Franklin, had Clinton up by six percentage points over Trump and Feingold over Johnson by a point. The stated margin of error was 3.3 percentage points. Both races exceeded the margin of error. Franklin can take solace in this being a national trend, but what can be done to improve the methodology? Look for pollsters to review and perhaps improve their methods, even if the much of the public hates them.
Winner: Ron Johnson
In a single day Johnson went from a very vulnerable first-term US Senator with a 20% chance of winning re-election (according to FiveThirtyEight) to a veteran member of the Senate that earned more votes than his parties winning presidential candidate (1,447,367 to 1,407,401). Johnson won statewide, but crushed Trump (and Russ Feingold) in Waukesha County.
Winner: Mass Transit
It’s hard to believe that a Republican landslide could take place on the same night referendums to support mass transit were approved, but it happened. The Seattle area passed a $54 billion sales tax plan to greatly expand the region’s transit system and Los Angeles voters approved billions to fund new rail lines. It wasn’t just blue states approving more funds for mass transit though, Indianapolis voters, backed by big business and civic groups, approved an income tax to support mass transit and a bus rapid transit project despite every statewide race being won by a Republican. North Carolina, which went for Trump, saw a $2.3 billion sales tax referendum succeed which will support building a commuter rail line and funding bus service to link up the state’s Research Triangle.
Loser: Wisconsin Senate Democrats
One featuring incumbent Democrat Jennifer Shilling is still too close to call, but Democrat Julie Lassa‘s race in the Stevens Point area has already been called. The incumbent Lassa lost. If Shilling also loses Republicans will hold a 21-12 edge in the Wisconsin State Senate, their biggest margin in decades. Democrats were “bullish” according to Shilling on picking up a seat or two going into the election. Ouch.
Winner: Reince Priebus
The Wisconsinite is chair of the national Republican Party and looked to be captaining a sinking ship for months on end. Instead he just presided over the Republicans asserting control of the Presidency, Senate, House of Representatives and possibly the Supreme Court. Ironically, Priebus could end up with a role like Chief of Staff under President Trump, when just weeks ago there were rumors he would be shown the door after the election.
Winner: A second edition of The Big Sort
The award-winning 2008 book explores how Americans “have sorted themselves geographically, economically and politically into like-minded communities over the last three decades.” We’re another decade down the road and the problem is worse. Now we have social media polarization to contend with. Look for author Bill Bishop to write an update to his work and look for the polarization to only get worse. Don’t believe it? According to Bishop “in 1976, only about a quarter of America’s voters lived in a county a presidential candidate won by a landslide margin. By 2004, it was nearly half.” Watching CNN break it down last night, it’s well over half now.
Loser and Winner: Scott Walker
Scott Walker is clearly a short-term winner here. The upcoming state budget debate just got easier for him with more Republicans in the Capitol. The Republican Party didn’t implode. But look at it more long-term and things don’t look so great. Walker has long succeeded in using any Democrat in power as a punching bag and now there aren’t any. And don’t expect any Walker 2020 buttons, as the governor is unlikely to challenge a president from his own party. He’s going to have to wait at least eight years to run for President. Also Walker might have his own challenges running for re-election in 2018, given his low approval ratings and the fact that mid-term elections always seem to come with a pendulum swing. Will Walker just jump ship for Washington D.C.? He told Sykes this morning that he’ll finish his term and will not take a cabinet post in the Trump administration.
Winner: Wisconsin School Districts
A number of school district referendums were on the ballot last night across Wisconsin, and they almost all won. Voters in Franklin, Cudahy, Beaver Dam, Waupun, Oconomowoc, Elkhorn, Germantown, Fort Atkinson, Sheboygan, Whitewater and more approved new or improved school facilities. Despite the rapid rise in voucher school support since 2010, voters in Republican strongholds went to the ballot box and approved spending more money on public schools. This is good news for firms like Milwaukee’s Bray Architects, but even better news for a future generation of students.
In the final vote, Clinton will likely receive more votes than Trump but still lose the election. It’s the second time the popular vote and electoral college have been at odds in the past 16 years, but still there doesn’t seem to be a movement to fix the problem. The electoral college disenfranchises large numbers of voters in non-swing states and punishes voters in swing states with absurd amounts of advertising. There is no rational justification for keeping the arcane system in place. Like every other election in the United States, let’s have the candidate with the most votes win.