Politicians are the Worst (But Most Important) Political Analysts

The 2020 elections are still more than two months away, but I’ve got one piece of advice for when they’re complete: Listen carefully.

Specifically, listen carefully to the politicians and party strategists, because what happened in the elections matters less than what the politicians think happened in the elections. Because what politicians think happened in the elections will drive future behavior.

In 2018, Republicans lost a net of 41 seats and the House majority. It was the largest GOP loss of House seats in a cycle since 1974. But instead of coming to grips with the reality of the midterms as a referendum on Donald Trump’s polarizing presidency, Republicans dismissed the losses as a historical guarantee when a party controls the White House and blamed ballot harvesting by Democrats.

If GOP elected officials had come to a different conclusion, closer to reality, more of them (or even some of them) would have treated their relationship with Trump differently. And while Republicans spent months explaining away the 2018 results as a Democratic high-water mark and looking ahead to brighter days when Trump would top the ballot and draw base GOP voters out to the polls, they now find themselves cozied up to the slumping party leader atop their ticket.

The perceived lessons from past elections are also likely affecting the president’s behavior. 

In the run-up to the 2018 elections, Trump focused on a caravan of future criminals from Central America bearing down…

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