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Our Best Stuff From the Closing Days of the Midterm Campaign
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Our Best Stuff From the Closing Days of the Midterm Campaign

Where the polls stand, how election laws have changed, and more.

(Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.)

Hello and happy Sunday. Since you’re reading this, it means I did not win the $1.6 billion Powerball drawing and, well, it looks like none of you did either. Don’t worry, if I ever did win the lottery, I’d (probably) still keep working. But I might take the weekend off! After what feels like forever, we are closing in on the midterms so I thought I’d use this space to highlight some of our work that will help you know what to look for on Tuesday night.

Sarah has a great roundup in The Sweep that covers a few topics, but it’s especially useful in showing which down-ballot candidates are benefitting from the coattails of strong gubernatorial candidates and a few races where there might be ticket-splitting. In Stirewaltisms, Chris looks at where the polls are right now, noting that President Joe Biden’s approval rating is about 13 points underwater and that the Republicans have a 3-point advantage in the generic ballot. If you missed them, he did forecasts for key House races, gubernatorial races, and the Senate.

We’ve certainly spent a lot of time reporting on big races in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and Ohio. This week we took a slightly different tack. Price explained how election laws have changed in the last two years as states try to navigate which COVID-inspired measures to expand early and mail-in voting to keep and where to return to normal. Meanwhile, Harvest reported on a category of elections that don’t usually get too much attention: statewide secretary of state races. She calls attention to the fact that many “Stop the Steal” proponents are on the ballot and could soon find themselves in charge of overseeing elections.

Getting out ahead of the recrimination game, Nick asks three big questions: Why didn’t Donald  Trump spend more money on the candidates he supported? Why didn’t Kyrsten Sinema campaign for Democrats in Arizona? And why did Democrats run so hard on abortion? 

That’s a lot of homework for you, so I’ll stop there. Thanks for reading, and know that we’ll be burning the midnight oil on Tuesday to give you the best coverage of the elections on Wednesday.

Was the man who attacked Paul Pelosi a “hemp-bracelet-peddling hippie” or a right-wing MAGA conspiracy theorist? Is it possible to be both? Kevin looks back at the long and sordid history of political violence in this country and finds that “sorting out the crazy from the politics can be difficult.” He offers examples as wide-ranging as Manson cult member Squeaky Fromme, who tried to assassinate Gerald Ford and John Salvi, who killed two people at an abortion clinic in 1994. He was opposed to abortion, but also believed that “the Vatican was involved in some daft scheme to manipulate international currencies, possibly in league with the Freemasons, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Mafia.”  He writes: “There were an awful lot of yoga enthusiasts in the January 6 mob, and the link between imbecilic political radicalism and health-and-fitness kookery, including anti-vaccine kookery, goes back through the 1960s to 18th- and 19th-century utopian communities. Squeaky Fromme didn’t think she was a homicidal cult moll—she thought she was a crusader for the environment, social justice, and a more sustainable economic policy.”

While the perpetrators of political violence don’t always follow predictable patterns, the response to such violence does. Especially on social media. In Boiling Frogs (🔒), Nick borrows an analogy he credits to our own David French to explain how people essentially become lawyers in these situations. In the case of Paul Pelosi, liberals were the prosecution and conservatives the defense. He walks through the various excuses being offered up by conservatives displeased to be associated with David DePape, Pelosi’s attacker—”DePape was crazy but not political,” “but the media,” and, “It’s all a conspiracy” —and debunks them one by one. He argues that while political violence is definitely a “both sides” problem, there are presently more reasons to be worried about the right. ”The media ecosystem of the fringe right is sufficiently robust that it can attract tens of thousands of consumers even without being boosted by mainstream sites.  … In a party culture that’s deteriorating into paranoia as quickly as the GOP’s is, a nut wanting to break Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps unless she tells him ‘the truth’ feels not so much surprising as inevitable.” 

The Supreme Court heard two cases this week challenging affirmative action in college admissions, one involving Harvard and the other the University of North Carolina. David wrote ahead of the oral arguments in French Press (🔒), highlighting how egregiously Harvard’s admissions practices stack the deck against Asian Americans. The school uses as one criterion a “personal rating”—does the applicant have “integrity” or “courage” or “empathy”?—and Asian American students fare the worst, records show. Essentially, Harvard uses this process to filter out otherwise qualified students to create more spots for underrepresented minorities. David notes there is a way to increase diversity without resorting to racial discrimination. “If schools truly want to prioritize diversity, they should focus on class,” he writes. “Fostering greater class-based diversity can help achieve greater diversity across the board: More racial diversity, more economic diversity, more ideological diversity, and more diversity on the basis of religion.” 

Back in July, the U.N. and Turkey brokered a deal with Russia and Ukraine to allow shipments of grain and other agricultural products through the Black Sea. The war had created the potential for a global food shortage, and the deal has allowed 10 million tons of food to be sent from Ukraine since it was implemented. But Russia threatened to renege on the deal after Ukrainian drone strikes on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet last weekend. But, as Charlotte notes, ships have continued to sail, meaning Ukraine has successfully called Putin’s bluff: Putin “agreed to let Ukraine resume exporting food not out of the kindness of his heart but from fear of turning neutral countries against Russia in the conflict. Russian state coffers are also padded by food and fertilizer exports traveling through the Black Sea.” 

It’s a good question, and the answer is, “We don’t know.” Andrew offers up an explainer detailing why. For starters, Georgia is deploying a runoff. If neither Herschel Walker nor Raphael Warnock reaches 50 percent of the vote, they will go to a runoff in January. And it might take a few days just to figure that out. Even aside from Georgia, the increased prevalence of mail-in voting means we might be waiting  a while in other races. Andrew writes: “Tabulating mail-in ballots is always more time- and labor-intensive than counting Election-Day votes—envelopes have to be opened, security measures like voter signatures need to be verified, and ballots need to be physically prepared to run through machines.” He does offer some cause for optimism: “The good news is that 2022’s midterm contest has all the makings of an extremely nationalized election: If Republican or Democratic turnout ends up being significantly higher or lower than polls anticipated, that effect is likely to show up more or less everywhere. So it’s likely we’ll know whether Republicans retake the Senate by Election Night. If things look close, though, don’t stay up.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Jonah kicks off his Friday  G-File by saying “You are all losing your frickin’ minds,” but bear with him as he castigates those who are claiming that our very democracy is at stake in this election.
  • However unlikely it is that the ongoing protests in Iran will actually upend the regime, they have Danielle Pletka imagining how much better off the Middle East might be without the malign influence of the Islamic Republic’s ayatollahs. 
  • The Biden administration had hoped to pass legislation that would reclassify many freelancers as employees, similar to a law passed in California a few years ago, but it failed. In Capitolism, Scott lays out all the reasons such a measure would be bad, and he highlights that, having failed in Congress, Biden is now trying to implement it through bureaucratic rulemaking. 
  • In Uphill (🔒), Haley previews what might be on the agenda if Republicans take control of the House as expected in Tuesday’s midterms. 
  • And on the pods: The Supreme Court hearings for affirmative action were such a big deal that David and Sarah could not keep their analysis to a single episode of Advisory Opinions. Listen to both Part 1 and Part 2 of their conversation. Sarah, David, and Jonah answer all your questions about the midterms on The Dispatch Podcast. On Good Faith, David and Curtis talk to one of the architects of a big new ad campaign designed to “introduce Jesus to a culture that is actually quite intrigued by him.” And, after starting The Remnant with a rant about how little he cares about the midterms, Jonah discusses Trump’s continued influence on the GOP and Vladimir Putin’s overall awfulness.  

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.