There is one thing that I can say for sure about today’s election: no one knows anything.
For the past few weeks, I have talked with dozens of pundits, candidates, campaign officials, experts, strategists, elected officials, and former politicians. The election is, of course, on everyone’s mind; we’re all looking at polls, reading articles, crunching numbers, debriefing canvasser feedback, running focus groups, and even trying to interpret the flight of birds in order to learn what is going on. Some have access to private polls and proprietary data, engagement numbers and other dark arts; others have talked with thousands of voters.
There is not much agreement in politics these days, but the consensus is pretty clear here: no one trusts the polls, and no one is quite willing to place a bet on what will happen once all votes are cast.
There are some things that seem to be more or less certain. Governor Lamont, thanks to his strong performance and a campaign that looks positively sunny compared to the doom and gloom from his opponent, seems poised to be reelected on the back of signing paid family & medical leave and raising the minimum wage to $15. Senator Blumenthal and much of the Congressional delegation appear to be mostly safe. Outside that, the level of certainty drops precipitously, and the tea leaves get much harder to read.
The big question, and one that is garnering national attention, is Representative Jahana Hayes in the 5th Congressional District. Hayes is a strong legislator and leader in Washington over the past four years on anything related to schools and education. With very few exceptions, however, the midterm elections tend to be very harsh on the party in power. Since World War II, the average swing away from the presidential party in the midterms has been 7.4 points. If this election follows the historical patterns, that will leave the fifth tied, and that is what we see in the only public poll that’s come from the district.
Let’s put it this way: before any vote was cast, before the election campaign, before the GOP nominated their candidate, the fifth congressional district in Connecticut was a tossup. This might be a weird assertion for someone that does politics for a living, but if we look at historical norms, the die had been cast the day Joe Biden walked into the White House. Pundits love looking for long, detailed, emotional narratives on what went wrong and who is to blame for election results, but quite often most of the cake is baked way before anyone starts sending email fundraisers.
This does not mean, however, that candidates and election campaigns do not matter. On the contrary, in an election that might end up being decided by a handful of votes, every single voter contact, strategy, and decision might prove decisive. So, the fact that Hayes has been an amazingly effective legislator, that she truly knows the district as a native (not as a tourist, like her opponent), and that she supports an economic and social agenda that is much more popular and much more appealing than the tax cuts for the rich and endless culture wars offered by the GOP matters a great deal. The ground game also plays a critical role in deciding a close contest. Here WFP has been really active, mobilizing activists, coordinating volunteers, knocking on doors, calling voters, texting, and doing everything we can to bring every single vote to the polls.
All this strategizing, polling, and organizing, however, is less important than the legislation Jahana and Democrats have passed. Progressives have achieved significant victories in Congress these last two years, from a remarkable infrastructure bill to the largest environmental bill in US history. The economy is much stronger today than two years ago, despite rising prices. The US has recovered much faster than any other nation from the pandemic, unemployment is at all-time lows, and even Connecticut’s budget is running a surplus. Connecticut lawmakers and the Lamont administration have been even more successful, in many ways, than their colleagues in Washington.
What will ultimately decide this election are these results. Jahana Hayes in the fifth, or other incredibly capable, active, brave legislators down ballot in state swing districts like Julie Kushner or Jorge Cabrera will prevail not just on the strength of their campaigns, but because they fought for working people. We endorsed these candidates, and are fighting like hell to re-elect them, because we believe politics should focus on addressing the real problems people are facing and do it the way only politics can do it: together, using solidarity and compassion, and a government for the many, not the few. Republicans, in contrast, have only been offering their usual recipe of lower taxes for the rich, cuts to social security, attacking our freedoms, and cultural grievances with the wonderful addition of occasionally threatening with staging a coup to abolish democracy. The choice is clear.
We don’t know what is going to happen today. What we know, however, is that the work that Jahana Hayes has done in Washington, and the work that Governor Lamont and progressives in Connecticut have done these past two years, have made a difference in the lives of working families across the state. This is what we are fighting for. This is what matters.
So, let’s go out and vote, shall we?