Guest: Data researcher Tom Bonier of TargetSmart; Also: Hilarious Republican failure to select a House Speaker continues into Day 2...
By Brad Friedman on 1/4/2023, 5:59pm PT  

As the ingenious GOP on GOP rebellion continues in the U.S. House today, we cover that and some clarifying new insights from the 2022 elections regarding the "red wave" that never came (as we long told you it wouldn't) on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

Day 2 of the GOP Rebellion Without Any Actual Cause That I Know Of continued on Wednesday, with Republicans failing on Ballots 4, 5 and 6 to secure a majority of votes of those present and voting for any candidate for House Speaker. The Democratic nominee on every ballot, their new leader Hakeem Jeffries, continued to be the top vote-getter in every round, receiving a unified 212 votes on each ballot.

On the GOP side, their leader Kevin McCarthy received just 201 votes on each of Wednesday's three ballots, down one vote from the third vote yesterday and still well shy of the 218 votes needed for a majority. The new trick today from the Republican "rebels" was nominating African-American second-term back-bencher Byron Donalds of Florida to be Speaker even though (or, perhaps, because?) he pleaded guilty to felony bribery charges back in 2000 in a scheme to defraud a bank. A bit on-brand for today's GOP but otherwise perfect for the job!

There were a few tiny nuances and the slightest movement (away from McCarthy and toward the Gaetz/Boehbert-led rebel group of 20) in the afternoon's three rounds of voting. We'll see what, if anything, happens when they reconvene for an evening session at 8pm ET on Wednesday night. (They just reconvened. The GOP moved to adjourn until Thursday at noon, and won that chaotic vote by the barest of margins.)

But, hey, so far, for two days in a row, the GOP House has been unable to do any legislative damage to the country!

Next, it's on to our guest today, the great TOM BONIER, master Tweeter and CEO of the Democratic data research firm, TargetSmart. Bonier joined us on the program a number of times since late last summer, in the run-up to the 2022 elections and in the days that followed. He was one of very few publicly on record (along with Simon Rosenberg of New Democrat Network) who presented hard data that correctly countered the false "red wave" narrative promulgated in the months before last year's November midterms.

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a 4,000-word analysis headlined "The 'Red Wave' Washout: How Skewed Polls Fed a False Election Narrative". It explores no small amount of what we'd been trying to tell you since early last spring. Namely, that Democrats were likely to do much better than both history and professional pundits were telling you, and that, as Bonier and Rosenberg detailed in the face of mockery by some last year, the polls late in the season were actually misleading voters.

Specifically, as the paper reports, beginning in September last year, a bevy of partisan Republican polls with dodgy methodology were released, almost all suggesting the GOP was on the verge of not only a "red wave" election but a "red tsunami". The partisan numbers, cited with great excitement by rightwing media outlets initially and then by non-rightwing media, seemed to conflict with polls from most legitimate, nonpartisan polling outfits. But the public release of a ton of partisan polling served to game the polling averages at highly-trafficked forecast sites like 538 and RealClearPolitics. More disturbingly, the skewed numbers resulted in Democratic campaigns changing strategies and spending in hopes of shoring up otherwise safe seats, while abandoning races --- such as U.S. Senate contests in Wisconsin, Ohio and North Carolina and a bunch of House districts around the country --- that were almost certainly otherwise winnable.

Why did this happen? Was it a concerted strategy by Republicans to game the public polling averages? And, if so, why did the supposed polling gatekeepers --- like Nate Silver at 538, who dismissed and mocked folks like Bonier and Rosenberg for relying on "hopium" in their accurate data analysis --- fail to protect against the partisan manipulation? Also, while the Times analysis suggests otherwise, did those false numbers actually serve to goose Dem turnout in some races last year?

In short, when I ask Bonier directly today if Republicans figured out last year how to game the polling averages, he responds, "Yes. Simply, yes. That's what happened. And it couldn't have happened without others playing along with it and empowering it."

"In the end, they were successful," he tells me. "Were they successful to the point where they were able to create a red wave? No. But they were successful to the point where Republicans won some races that I don't think they would have without this happening."

So, what to do about it moving forward? We dig into details on that and much more with Bonier today, and also get his insight into whatever the hell is going on in the Republicans' dumpster fire failure to select a House Speaker to begin the 118th U.S. Congress after two days (and counting) of trying...

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