Happy Friday! Well, we (almost) made it. After approximately two years, $14 billion (yes, you read that right) and countless hours of our attention, the 2020 campaign is finally coming to a close. While it seems Joe Biden may have won the presidency, as of writing this, several states are still counting ballots and President Trump is still contesting the results. Today, we’re bringing you a panel that truly meets this historic moment. Our all-star panel includes The Cook Report founder, Charlie Cook, Co-Founder of the Lincoln Project, Rick Wilson, and former Senator and SNL writer Al Franken, with award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart, as our moderator.
“PUT A FORK IN IT”, Charlie Cook
Reassuring many, Charlie made no qualms about it – Biden won the election. While each media organization has a specific, sometimes arduous set of criteria that they must meet before calling a state (or an election for that matter), political analysts don’t, and Charlie coolly pointed out that the uncounted ballots are disproportionately from Biden-friendly districts and therefore, the only logical conclusion is a Joe Biden victory.
Al Franken, seeming to speak for many, complained that inaccurate polling made for a terrible election night.
- While Charlie agreed that it was the “strangest election I’d ever seen,” he reminded us that the end result was not surprising; rather, it was the route taken that was so weird.
- Presidential polls got the degree wrong, but the direction right and getting the degree wrong has implications for down ballot voting, not so much for the Electoral College, because most states are winner take all.
- In summary, there was lots of party line voting, with Maine being the only state in which the Presidency and the Senate went in opposing directions (for now – looking at you Georgia).
- In addition to the hyperpartisanship, there was also tremendous voter turnout. Charlie credits targeted voter registration as playing an important role.
Al Franken wasn’t having any of the sympathy for pollsters, and neither was Chris Rock apparently. Al told us about a conversation he had with Chris (we’re close like that), in which Chris described noted pollster, Nate Silver, as the closer (baseball) who the manager really likes, but always gives up a home run. Fair or not, we invite Chris to elaborate on a panel in the future.
- Al added that he was unsure how the presidential election would impact the TWO senate runoff races in Georgia, but that expects an “inky,” weird period between now and then.
NOW FOR THE SURPRISE
- Republicans were expected to be blown out in House races, especially in suburbs, but instead, Republicans actually gained seats.
- Rick Wilson and Charlie Cook reminded us of a few factors: Many of these seats were moderate to rightward leaning in the first place, with Trump on the ballot (as opposed to 2018), voters could vote against Trump, while supporting their Congressperson, and a lot of the Democratic messaging didn’t help either.
- “Defund The Police” – Although a misnomer, resonated with suburban voters who were fearful of civil unrest, moving them back to Trump.
- Packing The Court – Similarly off-putting and Republicans seized.
- Abigail Spanberger (VA-7) pleaded with fellow Dems to never use the word Socialism again.
- More Conor Lambs, fewer AOCs if you want these moderate districts.
- Green New Deal – Has become pejoritve to many, symbolizing big government and threatening older industries.
- Al Franken agreed that we need more nuanced language to frame the debate about climate change, noting that most Americans recognize the scale of the threat it poses and that our response can really be a Win/Win.
CHARLIE COOK ISN’T INTO “TRUMP PORN” (new term for us)
- Therefore he didn’t watch Trump’s press conference where he simultaneously claimed voter fraud and touted the GOP’s electoral victories.
Rick joined us a few minutes late as he was trying to “land the plane” that is our democracy. Rick confidentently described the next few months as such:
- Donald will act like a child and do dangerous, dumb things.
- *Not all children are like this*
- Biden will put his hand on that bible in a covid safe ceremony and be sworn in. “It’s over except for the MAGA world’s crying.”
- Litigation: At the very least, Trump will make noise with the hopes of reaching the Supreme Court and although his legal team is led by Guiliani and most constitutional lawyers think their case is spurious, The Lincoln Project is responding with their own legal team.
- The Lincoln Project cannot work directly with the Biden Campaign by law. However, they anticipated this moment, so are well-prepared.
- Attorney Marc Elias is also all over this, as Al Franken adds that the fight is large.
FUTURE OF THE GOP?
Rick quoted his friend and fellow Lincoln Project Co-Founder, Steve Schmidt, describing the GOP as a “Dwarf star” that gets progressively smaller and crazier (these guys love and are great with analogies)
- It’s hard to scale when you have a “dear leader” model and then your “dear leader” loses. Moreover, Rick contends that the GOP is hopelessly broken and cannot be fixed. The GOP needs “a hard reconciliation with the country and with the culture.”
- However, Rick does believe the country needs a center-right party, but for now he is
focused exclusively on beating Trump and then Trumpism, or in other words, to paraphrase, they “killed the big zombie, and are now going after the smaller zombies, the Ron Johnsons, Marcos and Hawleys.” The Lincoln Project will remain a political organization to fight them.
Al Franken playful interrupted Rick to remind him that the soul of the GOP that he is fighting for was never actually there, continuing with “Where were you in 2004? They’re all zombies”
- Rick mostly agreed.
Trump got half of this country, his die-hards aren’t going away. Were people voting against Trump? What will it take for Trump’s supporters to break with him?
AF: Two information sources. Conservative media machine. No easy solution.
CC: Ideological silos on both sides – we need common news, common thread. This whole project doesn’t work without it.
RW: Roger Ailes – love him or hate him – he’s a television genius.
- Hermetic bubble of Fox and talk radio that unifies and energizes the party completely, and then Social media exponentially amplifies the message of crazy people.
- When there’s an “agenda” behind everything, nothing can’t be substantiated and we can’t function as a democracy.
- Panel agrees that we have to rethink anti-trust law.
- Tools are morally agnostic until they are not.
What happened in Kentucky and SC?
CC: Places in the south that are changing – some that aren’t
Sunbelt – NC, AZ, CO TX, GA are following VA
- Jamie Harrison was a great candidate, but he got a lot of votes because Lindsay proved to a fake, untrustworthy politician.
- Law of diminishing returns on campaign spending. After what’s really needed, can actually be hurtful.
- South Carolina is going to be South Carolina. Plausible to get close, but those last couple of points are hard.
States that Aren’t
LA, MS, AK, TN, AL KY, SC
Watch the video below:
Charlie Cook is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on American politics and U.S. elections. He is the editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report which serves as one of the leading sites and informational platforms for election predictions and results in the United States. He is also a political analyst for NBC News and National Journal.
Since the 1984 US presidential election, Cook has provided election night commentary for various television networks. The Wall Street Journal has referred to Cook as “the Picasso of election analysis” and the Washington Post has called him “perhaps the best non-partisan tracker of Congressional races.”
In 2010, Charlie was the co-recipient of the American Political Science Association’s prestigious Carey McWilliams award to honor “a major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics.”
Rick Wilson is a longtime Republican political strategist, infamous negative ad-maker, and commentator. He has successfully worked for numerous GOP campaigns including, presidential, senate, mayoral and gubernatorial. Since 2015, he’s been a leading conservative critic of Donald Trump. He went on to co-found The Lincoln Project, a group of Republican and conservative leaders who are critical and oppose Donald Trump.
A pioneer of and leader in the Never-Trump movement, Wilson released the best-selling Everything Trump Touches Dies in August 2018. In the book, Wilson brings his dark humor and biting analysis to confront the absurdity of American politics in the Age of Trump. He mercilessly takes down Trump and exposes the damage Trump has done to the country, to the Republican Party Wilson served for decades, and to the conservative movement that has abandoned its principles for the worst president in American history.
Wilson writes several opinion and columns for newspapers like The Daily Beast, Politico, and The Federalist.
Al Franken is an American comedian, politician, media personality, and author who served as a United States senator from Minnesota. He gained notoriety for his work on Saturday Night Live.
After leaving SNL, Franken went on to become a political activist including hosting a radio show, offering commentary and insights and writing several books. He supported military members and often worked on entertaining soldiers. He decided to run for the Senate and win. While in the Senate he supported same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and gun control. In addition, Franken was active in health care reform and fought to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
After leaving the Senate, he now hosts his own radio program The Al Franken Show on SeriousXM which covers global affairs, politics, the 2020 presidential election, and entertainment.
Jonathan Capehart is an American journalist and television personality. He writes for The Washington Post’s PostPartisan blog and is a contributor for MSNBC.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Capehart was a researcher for NBC’s The Today Show. Subsequently, he worked for the New York Daily News (NYDN), serving as a member of its editorial board from 1993 to 2000. At the time of his hiring, Capehart was youngest ever member of that newspaper’s editorial board. In 2000, he left the NYDN to work at Bloomberg News. Afterward, he advised and wrote speeches for Michael Bloomberg, during Bloomberg’s 2001 run for the mayoralty of New York City.
He joined the staff of The Washington Post as a journalist and member of the editorial board in 2007. He continues in that capacity and is a contributing commentator for MSNBC. He also hosts the Cape Up podcast, in which he talks to newsmakers about race, religion, age, gender, and cultural identity in politics.