'Dumpster fire': House Democrats trade blame after Tuesday's damage

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Leroy N. Soetoro

Nov 4, 2020, 3:59:00 PM11/4/20

House Democrats are asking themselves one question after Tuesday’s
election stunner: What the hell happened?

In the House, bleary-eyed Democrats were still sorting out the wreckage
when they awoke Wednesday with dozens of their members’ races still
uncalled and not a single GOP incumbent ousted — an outcome that virtually
no one in the party had predicted in a year in which Democrats were going
on the offense deep in Trump country.

Even with tens of thousands of ballots still to be counted, shell-shocked
Democratic lawmakers, strategists and aides privately began trying to pin
the blame: The unreliable polls. The GOP’s law-and-order message amid a
summer of unrest. The “hidden Trump voters.” The impeachment hangover. The
lack of a coronavirus stimulus deal.

Some corners of the party were also beginning to question the message and
tactics at the top, with several Democrats predicting — and some even
demanding — a significant overhaul within the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee, including possibly even ousting chairwoman Cheri
Bustos, whose Illinois race has yet to be called.

Just 24 hours earlier, Democrats including Bustos and Speaker Nancy Pelosi
were boasting about the opportunity to expand their majority, with some
even predicting they could win as many as a dozen seats in the House by
clawing back GOP territory in the suburbs of Texas, Ohio and Illinois.

But by Wednesday morning, party officials and the rank and file were in
panic mode as they awaited the results of nearly 20 members of the
Democrats’ historic freshman class that handed the party control of the
House just two years ago. And already they were saying goodbye to at least
a half-dozen of their centrist Democratic colleagues, who were stunned by
GOP challengers on Tuesday, including Abby Finkenauer in Iowa and Donna
Shalala in Florida.

“I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty. I would say the high
expectations that a number of pollsters and pundits created obviously have
not been met,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said in an interview Wednesday.
“We’ll have a Democratic majority in the House, and it remains to be seen
how big that will be.”

Some Democrats were privately more blunt: “It’s a dumpster fire,” said one
lawmaker, who declined to be named.

For now, multiple Democratic lawmakers said they are like much of America
— glued to their phones and TVs as they wait to see final vote tallies in
the three critical Midwest states, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin,
that will decide the presidency. Many critical counties, including those
that will determine the fate of incumbents in the Pennsylvania suburbs,
are expected to be counting mail-in ballots for days.

“I think it’s going to be tight but I think Joe Biden wins Michigan,” said
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who has repeatedly sounded the alarm for
Democrats since Trump toppled Hillary Clinton there four years ago.

Just in Michigan, two Democratic freshmen struggled to fend off GOP
challengers in races — Reps. Elissa Slotkin, who was declared the winner
Wednesday afternoon, and Haley Stevens, who had narrowly pulled ahead in
the polls.

The full extent of fallout was just beginning to become clear on Wednesday
morning, with lawmakers and aides expecting a far tougher internal
leadership process, with Pelosi herself facing trickier math as she
attempts to seal another term as speaker.

None of the roughly dozen Democratic lawmakers or aides interviewed said
Pelosi should step down or would face a challenger. But several of them
privately speculated that what was just days ago expected to be a glide
path to the speakership will be more difficult as Democrats lose seats in
the House.

Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers — overjoyed after they unexpectedly padded their
ranks — were beginning to shore up their leadership teams, including House
GOP campaign chair Tom Emmer, who began making calls Wednesday morning to
lock up support to serve another term.

Democrats were already engaging in rapid-fire finger-pointing about who is
to blame for Tuesday’s embarrassing showing, with the private angst likely
to spill out into the public in the coming days as the full House
landscape becomes known. Several centrist Democrats blamed their more
progressive colleagues, saying moderates in Trump-leaning districts
couldn’t escape their “socialist” shadow.

Others argued that the DCCC had been far too bullish in seats the party
was realistically never going to pick up — citing races such as Arkansas’
2nd District — while missing the looming disaster in South Florida, where
incumbents Shalala and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell were ousted. Several
Democrats said the party operation was not focused on a cohesive,
proactive message that went beyond simply opposing Trump, who proved to
remain popular in many districts.

And some said DCCC wasted time battling the party's left flank with its
contentious policies designed to stymie primary challengers.

So far, House Democrats have flipped just two seats — and they were
guaranteed pickups created by court-ordered redistricting in North
Carolina. They had not ousted a single GOP incumbent or won a single open-
seat contest as of Wednesday morning. Instead, they suffered a string of
demoralizing losses.

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Some of those falls were expected: Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota,
Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico and Kendra Horn of Oklahoma all faced
tough reelections in Trump-won districts. But the others shocked
Democrats. The DCCC never bothered to place Shalala in its front-line
program for endangered incumbents. And private polling from both parties
had Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham with a large lead in his South Carolina
district, but he fell to GOP state Rep. Nancy Mace.

Texas was a massive disappointment for Democrats, who invested millions in
targeting 10 seats and even opened a satellite DCCC office in Austin. They
failed to flip the massive West Texas seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Will
Hurd — a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

Republicans held on to a rapidly diversifying seat in the Houston suburbs
with a win by Troy Nehls, and they have a lead in another in the Fort
Worth-Dallas area. Democrats had felt confident in flipping all three.

So far Democrats have lost six incumbents. And more could be coming. Many
of their other members trail challengers in races too close to call.

There were some early warning signs in Trump country, Democrats
acknowledged, but said the party still failed in a huge way to predict the
level of GOP engagement that blindsided them in 2016. In Bustos’
reelection fight, the Illinois Democrat had repeatedly declined financial
help from her colleagues until the final three weeks leading up to the
race, according to several Democratic sources.

Multiple Democrats said they were already dreading a contentious lame duck
Congress, with a potentially emboldened Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell as his party appeared on track to narrowly keep the Senate. Many
said McConnell — whose party was able to hold onto key seats in Iowa,
Kansas and Montana — was even less likely to engage with Democrats on a
massive stimulus package, which is still badly needed by many U.S.
industries and families amid the pandemic.

Democrats were hopeful Biden would eke out a presidential victory as the
ballot count continued Wednesday in the Midwest. But many said they were
still stupefied about the string of losses in the House and Senate.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a senior Blue Dog in south Texas, said some in his
party underestimated Trump’s strength, particularly in the farm-heavy
counties outside the urban centers, where Democrats have long struggled to
develop a message.

“This is what I’ve been saying over and over and over. Urban areas are
important, but you still gotta look at the rural areas,” Cuellar said. “If
we don't change the strategy, it’s going to be the same in 2022.”

Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

No collusion - Special Counsel Robert Swan Mueller III, March 2019.

Donald J. Trump, 304 electoral votes to 227, defeated compulsive liar in
denial Hillary Rodham Clinton on December 19th, 2016. The clown car
parade of the democrat party ran out of gas and got run over by a Trump

Congratulations President Trump. Thank you for cleaning up the disaster
of the Obama presidency.

Under Barack Obama's leadership, the United States of America became the
The World According To Garp. Obama sold out heterosexuals for Hollywood
queer liberal democrat donors.

President Trump has boosted the economy, reduced illegal immigration,
appointed dozens of judges and created jobs.

Senile loser and NAMBLA supporter Nancy Pelosi got "Trumped" on February
5, 2020. "President Trump, Not Guilty."
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