What I nailed and missed in 2022
Flexes and lessons from this spellbinding midterm year of Substacks.
2022 HITS: What Too Close To Call Got Right
“I like Val Demings, but she’s going to get killed,” a Democratic digital fundraiser told me back in February when Demings’ early fundraising numbers lended Democrats false Florida hope. Despite raising $79 million, she lost to Marco Rubio by 16 points. Don’t think donors will take any lessons from this; they’ll continue to pour money into doomed, if not fairly charismatic figures because hope is as romantic as it is dangerous.
The Risk of Herschel Walker seemed immediately obvious to any conscious observer and yet all wings of the Republican Party closed rank around the vacuous football star, putting their hands over their eyes and ears and trying desperately to point to Raphael Warnock’s liberalism as the real problem. Walker limped into a runoff and still netted 49% of Georgia’s vote, which shows you the floor for an atrocious GOP candidate remains quite high in the purple Peach State. Funny how no R is blaming Trump for booting this one. By the way, Cyrus Garrett told you Georgia was going to a runoff a month before it happened. Lesson: Candidates do matter, especially in the thinnest margin-of-error states. Voters will stomach a lot of imperfections but they don’t want to be embarrassed.
I professed since JULY — and reminded readers all the way to NOVEMBER —that Nevada was the toughest Senate race on the entire map to call. Hell yeah it was. The .9% win for Catherine Cortez Masto made Nevada the closest Senate margin of the cycle. A difference of just 9,007 votes! Not enough analysis has been done on Adam Laxalt’s defeat, clearly because he was the most generic (read: boring) Republican to come up short and not as easy a mark to pinpoint flaws, other than being Republican.
New Hampshire fell OFF the competitive map right after Don Bolduc won the Republican primary in September, Tom Rath told me on the #pod. Republicans will swear to you Chris Sununu would’ve won. But Hassan won with a 10 point spread!
My overall Senate map projection ended up being goddamn perfect. 51-49 D. (Pre-Sinema’s declaration of independence.) I predicted Republicans at 224 House seats in the new Congress and was only off by 2 seats. They’ll have 222 when they convene in 2023. Someone pour Dave a NEGRONI.
Colm O’Comartun was astute in pointing to Steve Sisolak as the most endangered governor in 2022 on the #pod. Republican Joe Lombardo was the only candidate to knock off an incumbent governor this year, by a mere 13,965 votes.
My reporting in mid-October that House Democrats’ new goal was to hold down their losses to single digits proved prescient. Republicans ended up with a 9-seat gain, leaving the House uber-competitive in 2024 and likely far beyond that, as Kelly Burton flagged for me. Another worthwhile POD to push through your ears.
Arizona’s Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes predicted on the podcast his Republican opponent wouldn’t concede a loss. Fontes was correct as Mark Finchem continues to protest and refuse to concede.
2022 MISSES: What I Got Wrong
J.D. Vance’s late surge in the Ohio Republican primary I did not foresee. I thought his celebrity intellectualism would turn off base voters in a state that usually goes with bland low-key Republicans like Rob Portman and Mike DeWine. Of course twas Trump who turned the tide. Now at just 38 years of age, Vance is set to become one of the forefront populist conservatives of the ascendant Capitol Hill generation and his loyalty to 45 will surely be tested in 2023. Though banning porn doesn’t seem like a winning message in America, J.D.
Kari Lake, destined to be America’s MAGA Queen. She’s still trying, though admittedly I thought she’d be victorious against Katie Hobbs, a subpar candidate who ran a defensive campaign void of inspiration or bold ideas. Even Democrats privately conveyed their discontent with Hobbs’ candidacy and communicative skills. Silly Dave thought Hobbs looked weak in running from a debate against the hypnotic Lake. A risk in looking cowardice? Nah, debates are reporter bait; voters have better plans on a Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. Turns out Lake’s constant inflammatory invective freaked out that many center-right Republicans who could’ve easily propelled her to victory. So she’s chosen the path of denialism and outrage, even as other down-ballot Republicans in Maricopa County prevailed. Now she’s in court on the path to blaming a “corrupt, rigged” judicial system when she loses her challenge. If she’s willing to burn down the system when she lost, imagine what she might’ve tried if she had won.
Early voting numbers looked shaky for Democrats in Nevada, but when dealing with margins of just thousands of votes — like in most battleground states these days — be careful to read too much into early totals.
Don’t expect winners in Pennsylvania on Election Night, they said. That came directly from the state’s secretary of state into my ears and yet both the Senate and gubernatorial contests were called on Nov. 7. John Fetterman’s margin (4.5%) over Mehmet Oz was also bigger than I expected, as most Republicans privately expressed extreme confidence in Oz’s chances at a comeback. A lesson from this experience: Not to buy into the psycho-ops of self-assurance from professional operatives who have a vested interest in the outcome. Strategists, even with access to internal information, can predict an electoral outcome about as well as smart observers can. Or perhaps not as well, because they’re blinded by their own biases.