Still Waiting For the Red Wave - A Recap of Our Heralded 2022 Election Analysis

Sunday 11/27 - As the votes have come in it's clear our pre-election take - not a typical midterm, close competitive election, rather be us than them, red wave may be coming but not here yet - is what happened.

With COVID receding, the economy doing well and things returning to something close to normal, voters choose to stay the course, once again choosing normalcy over chaos.  Americans could feel safe staying with the incumbent party because things are better. Joe Biden has been a good President. We are on the other side of COVID. The economy has recovered, Despite MBS and Putin trying to push gas prices up they did come down these last few weeks. We have made historic investments in our future prosperity and in tackling climate change.  We passed the first gun safety bill in 30 years. In the last few months we saw the lowest uninsured and poverty rates in American history, the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. We have successfully mobilized a global coalition to defeat Putin in Ukraine. The West has been revitalized. 

The American people chose to stay the course because Joe Biden has been a good President, and MAGA remains too extreme.  This has made the 2022 election a good one for Democracy, Democrats, Biden and Zelensky, and a bad one for MAGA, Trump, Putin and autocrats everywhere. 

Let's dive a little deeper on this election full of hope and promise:

Our Core 2022 Election Analysis - Simon's first articulation that 2022 was not likely to be a typical midterm, and that Dems could overperform expectations, was in this Nov 1st, 2021 memo, 3 Reasons Why 2022 Won't Be 2010.  A lot of the thinking in this memo flowed out of a conversation Simon had with Joe Trippi on his podcast a few days earlier, "Simon Rosenberg: 3 Ways To Win in 2022."  This memo from May of 2021, Learning To Talk about Democracy, Patriotism and the GOP’s Radicalization, also heavilty informed our view about the need for Democrats to center their 2022 election narrative around the GOP's pernicious embrace of MAGA. 

In mid-May of 2022, we, along with Future Majority and Fernand Amandi, did a series of polls of Hispanic voters in AZ, NV and PA.  These polls found something which surprised us - Dem overperformance, Rs struggling.  This was the first real data we had other than the stubbornly strong Dem performance in the Congressional generic that this election may not be playing out as everyone thought. This polling and other data Simon was seeing led him to then write a memo, The Strategic Context Of The Election Is Changing, which posited that a combination of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Uvalde, the Jan 6th Committee hearings and the ending of Roe was creating a new electoral environment far more favorable for Democrats.

NDN was perhaps more open to the idea that the election could change because it was our belief that a deeper and more thorough read of polling suggested the impact of inflation on consumers was being exaggerated, and that the recovery itself was stronger than the media was portraying.   In June, a few days before the Dobbs decision, Simon did a comprehensive review of public polling, "Red Wave? Hard To See One Now," and found this same electoral dynamic - Dem overperformance, R struggling all across the country. Then Dobbs happened, extremist trigger laws went into effect and "a better than expected election for Democrats" went from a possibility to the defining dynamic of the 2022 election. 

In the months which followed Simon wrote daily, did pods and presentations, and was cited frequently in the media about the new, bluer election we were seeing.  It came quickly in the early polls post Dobbs and the strong Dem overperformances in the AK, KS, MN, NE, NY elections.  We saw more of it through the great analysis Tom Bonier did of spiking Dem voter registration rates.  We saw it in Dems just crushing Rs in candidate fundraising.  And then we saw it in the early vote in our work with Tom and his remarkable site, TargetEarly.  In this October 3rd memo, Five Weeks To Go, It's A Very Competitive Election, Simon wrote: "All this data suggests that the Democrats have a real shot at keeping both chambers this fall."

Despite some very public challenges to our analysis, the data kept telling the same story and so did we. We closed the election with this memo, On This Election Eve Would Rather Be Us Than Them, and this Election Day thread, "Media commentators shouldn't be surprised if Ds outperform expectations today."  In his Monday afternoon pre-election memo Simon wrote: "At this point the non-partisan polling in the states have Dems ahead in AZ, GA, NH, PA.  NC, OH, WI perhaps lean a little R but we consider them toss ups. In the polling NV is a true toss up now, but we will go with Ralston and give it to the Dems.  All this means the Senate is leaning Dem today.  But it is very close."

Of course we were very pleased to see everything go as we hoped. As new data has come in, and new understandings develop, Simon has offered new insights in this post from Saturday 11/12, another from last Wednesday and a new one from yesterday.  To stay in touch with our emerging post-election analysis sign up for our newsletter (if you have not already done so), keep checking back here on our site, follow Simon on Twitter and subscribe to Simon's growing YouTube channel. 

In our efforts to challenge the red wave narrative, we also publicly identified a GOP effort to flood the zone with very R heavy polls and game the polling averages.  Here is a bit more on that, though we will be talking more about all this, and steps we need to take to prevent this from ever happening again, in the coming days.  Here's a clip of Simon talking about the GOP's campaign to game the polling averages with MSNBC's Joy Reid on October 31st: "In six major battleground states more than half the polls conducted in October have been conducted by Republican firms... basically we can't trust the data on RealClearPolitics or FiveThirtyEight any longer... it's essentially Republican propaganda."

NDN wants to formally thank all the NeverTrumpers, including Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, Michael Steele, Matthew Dowd and so many others.  Their work this cycle really made a difference, as it created a powerful permission structure for GOP leaders and voters across the US to break from MAGA.  For more on this see this interview we did with Bill Kristol in October. 

Finally, our understanding of the American economy and the role of inflation was heavily influenced during this year by the writings of our long time collaborator, Rob Shapiro. Rob wrote in January that employment was booming at historic levels, in May that inflation was having little effect on people’s incomes, in July that pundits’ talk about recession was flat-out wrong, in August that Americans were clearly better economically off under Biden, and in October that Democrats should tout their economic record.  Like the red wave, we think too many commentators in 2022 bought into the "inflation is killing the Democrats" narrative far too easily.

Podcasts/Public Discussions/Presentations - In the first few days after Election Day Simon has taken part in a series of great conversations with some of the smartest commentators in politics today: David Rothkopf's Deep State Radio, Meidas Touch, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, TPM’s Josh Marshall, Matt Lewis and Joe Trippi. Simon joined Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC to discuss why we got it right and so many got it wrong. 

On Friday 11/11, Simon conducted his first election briefing after the encouraging 2022 election.  You can watch it here.  This video is Simon's most comprehensive public discussion of the election so far.  Be sure to stay through the Q & A.  It was a spirited and illuminating back and forth. 

This conversation with Ryan Lizza for Political Playbook which took place just before the election is perhaps Simon's most comprehensive and far-ranging political interview ever.  This pre-election conversation with the venerable Rick Wilson was also memorable.

We also share this wonderful Democracy Dialogue conversation with Eric Farnsworth of the The Council of the Americas on the 2022 elections and the Hispanic/Latino vote, and this related presentation Simon did this fall on the success of the Democratic Party's Hispanic strategy over the past 20 years.

Media Citations - You can find Simon cited in these post-election stories in CNN, CNN/Ron Brownstein, Financial Times, The Guardian, Haaretz, LA Times, New York Times, The New Republic, Univision, Washington Examiner, Vox, Washington Post and in Jonathan Alter's Old Goats Newsletter and Campaigns and Elections

Some Memorable Stories, Quotes

Before The Election

Democrats' 'optimistic apostle' offers hope for the midterms - Politico

Meet the lonely Democrat who thinks his party can win in 2022 - Washington Post

Is there a serious case for a non-awful election for Democrats this fall? - The New Yorker

Meet the most optimistic Dem online - Politico

Forget the Red Wave.  Why '22 Could Go Blue - Jonathan Alter

Democrats hope a ‘tidal wave’ of Republican-sponsored polls aren’t midterm reality - Semafor

"If Democrats do better than expected, ⁦‪@SimonWDC⁩ is gonna look like a genius" - Jonathan Alter, Longtime Political Commentator, 10/26/22

After The Election

"There was no red wave. Few laid out such a case more forcefully and consistently than Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist, who had presented his arguments in this pre-election podcast, in interviews and on his Twitter feed. A flood of low-quality partisan surveys really did skew the polling averages to the right, as Rosenberg had asserted, while higher-quality nonpartisan polls proved to be much more accurate." - Blake Hounshell, NYT

"Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist, was telling anyone who would listen that the seeming movement to Republicans in the final weeks of the race was misleading – fueled by a series of Republican-sponsored polls that moved polling averages in a more favorable direction for the GOP. He was right. Period." - Chris Cillizza, CNN, "Winners and Losers In the 2022 Election So Far"

"The only person I paid any attention to about polls is @SimonWDC who was always right." - Lawrence O'Donnell, The Last Word, MSNBC

"Let's all give some credit to @SimonWDC, who has faced relentless abuse for simply arguing all along that this election would be a competitive one, which proved prescient. Here's my interview with him way back in July, and he didn't waver off this case" - Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

"The guy who got the midterms right explains what the media got wrong" - Nicole Narea, Vox

"MAGA performance issues? No better example than the last three elections. @SimonWDC does a deep dive into the why and how the #2022Midterms turned out pretty much the way he said it would." - Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, The Michael Steele Podcast

"Any thoughts on the polls?....Who won the Nate off? Is Simon Rosenberg our God now? I think so. Yes on Simon Rosenberg." Pod Save America, Episode 693, 59th Minute

"When all the experts were predicting a 'red wave,' one man called BS. He got the midterms right, and never backed down. On today's podcast, I ask @SimonWDC what he saw—& why he never backed down. (He also names names.) Don't miss this conversation!" - Matt Lewis, Matt Lewis Podcast

"While many analysts acknowledged that they were caught off guard by the midterm results, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said there was evidence back in the spring that his party would overperform." - Melanie Mason, LATimes

"Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg has been saying for months that the widely predicted Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections was greatly exaggerated and that Democrats would remain competitive in races across the country.

Rosenberg, whose hypothesis was roundly rejected by pundits on both sides of the aisle, was vindicated after the shockingly lackluster GOP showing at both the state and national levels this week.  Ben Samuels, Haaretz, 'Red Wave'? This Democratic Strategist Said All Along It Wasn't Coming