Last Tuesday, I wasn’t much thinking about that special congressional election in Pennsylvania. Honestly, why would anyone on a day when the Secretary of State got fired?
But by the time Karl and I settled in to watch the news of the day, the Democratic candidate Conor Lamb had a substantial lead over Republican Rick Saccone from early voting. Say what?
Checking in at CNN, Wolf Blitzer and John King were at a board with a map of the district, intoning (rhymes with droning) on about the voting returns. I knew if we stayed there, I’d have to go make coffee.
Over at Fox, there was a box on the bottom of the screen with voting results and an on air personality (whose name I can’t recall) teasing out a debate on whether Trump should send the National Guard into sanctuary cities. Recognizing that I wasn’t the audience for the steak tartare she was about to shovel out, we moved over to MSNBC.
And there he was. Kornacki. Steve Kornacki. Nerdy hot and openly gay. As The Week recently described him, he is “pleasantly frenetic.” While the panel of commentators were getting excited about the political prospects of an unexpected Democratic victory in a congressional district Trump won by nearly 20 points, my man Steve was interjecting with updates on the voting results. And, boy, could he interject.
He was handily acting as a human calculator, doing fractions and percentages as well as the arithmetic, live on television. He was talking about Saccone underperforming Trump by eight points, applying that to the outstanding precincts, and extrapolating the outcome. (Isn’t there something vaguely sexual about the word “extrapolating”?)
By the time my man Steve was pointing out that the absentee ballot count would be critical, indeed decisive, he was telling us how many there were and from which counties, how absentee results might favor Lamb by extrapolating (there’s that word again) from past voting outcomes. He was truly on fire and living his passion (as Oprah might say).
I hoped there were young math nerds all over the country watching, maybe with a sister or brother who is a baby political junkie, and seeing how far you can go with a pocket protector and a slide rule. (Do they still make slide rules? Or pocket protectors, for that matter?)
The only jarring moment was when Steve commented that the district was one that the Republicans had held easily since the “turn of the century.” He wasn’t referring to anything close to the Gilded Age. Or la Belle Epoque. I suppose I’ll just have to live with the fact that his fin de siècle is not my fin de siècle.
But as to the election results. I have some questions. Exactly how many congressional districts are in play in the fight for control of the House of Representatives? (Steve would know.) And how much bigger is the battlefield? (Steve could state it as a percentage increase and calculate it to at least three significant digits. In his head.)
So let the commentators commentate and the prognosticators prognosticate. I’ll be waiting for the next time my man Steve comes on and extrapolates. Nobody does it better.