Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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We have a complicated picture so far but one that seems more favorable to Doug Jones than to Roy Moore. There is some evidence that traditionally blue parts of the state are over-performing in turnout terms while red areas are underperforming. Just how much that’s the case and whether more returns will muddy that apparent pattern we don’t yet know.

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As I mentioned below, the NYT has a very sophisticated realtime prediction widget that shifts its prediction as results come in. It had been bouncing around dead even with a mild advantage either way. Then it swung hard in Jones’ favor. I saw a number of people speculate that there had been some sort of reporting error. Here’s a tweet just now from a member of the team that runs it.

I would treat this as a tentative read, subject to change. What it points to is dramatic enough that it could be a reporting error or just a quirk in the prediction model. I am, however, seeing some indications of something we saw in Virginia: both candidates getting solid percentages from their strong regions but with Moore getting slightly weaker turnout. As always we need more data. But for the moment things look better for Jones than for Moore.

9:29 PM: This is starting to come into focus: differential turnout. Moore’s winning the red areas, and often with the percentages you’d expect. And vice versa. But turnout is a bit weaker in the red areas and a bit stronger in the blue areas. Frankly, you can’t say that’s a totally unpredictable outcome with motivated Democratic base and a Republican candidate who has been credibly accused of preying on teenager girls.

8:46 PM: We only have a tiny number of votes reported so far. But even these allow us to compare results in a few places to historical baselines. And they seem encouraging for Doug Jones. I would say that based on these very limited results there are enough good indications to make a Jones’ win plausible. Not saying probable necessarily. But we are not seeing the kind of totals that tell you, “Okay, he’s just not going to be able to do this.”

8:49 PM: It looks like this could be a long night.

8:55 PM: Latest numbers are a bit friendlier to Moore. But still extremely close. Anything could happen, etc.

8:59 PM: One major takeaway so far – and we still have less than 10% of the vote in – is that there aren’t a ton of write-ins, at least not relative to an extremely Republican state in which by many customary standards the GOP nominee would be an unacceptable alternative.

9:03 PM: A standard pattern we’re now seeing play out: earlier reporting is from white rural counties. The more Democratic and African-American cities come in later. But they’re now starting to come in a bit more.

9:05 PM: Takeaway from the early returns is that they’ve swung back and forth. But ‘swung’ only in the sense of indications of an extremely close race which have swung from a sliver of an advantage for one candidate to the other. I have basically no idea what’s going to happen.

So here we are. Only a trickle of results in so far. But we’ve seen enough early data to sense we’ve at least got a genuine race on our hands. TPM’s Cam Joseph is in Montgomery. The TPM team is at its workstations. I’m actually on a train. But as long as this train wifi holds out we’re doing this thing.

8:37 PM: So a few things I’m watching. The New York Times has a little widget that updates its predictions as data comes in. I watch it pretty closely. Right now it’s pointing to a minuscule Jones advantage. I also have a twitter list of people who are serious election night data/number crunchers. Certainly others who aren’t on my list. But these are all people I trust to help me understand the rush of numbers. Here’s the link.

8:40 PM: Only thing I think I’m comfortable saying so far is that Jones is making a very strong run in the state for a Democrat. Of course, the bar is low and the Republican is so bad Republicans considering trying to call off the election only few weeks ago. Still, this is a very, very Republican state.

Tellingly, it’s in a statement to Mike Allen at Axios. Trump’s television lawyer, Jay Sekulow, says the Trump team now demands a new Special Counsel to investigate the Mueller probe and the DOJ for anti-Trump bias. This is a parallel path to the attacks on the press. What is true for Trump characterologically is true of his movement ideologically: accept no independent centers of power.

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Back on Friday, CNN’s Manu Raju made a major error in a report on emails tied to Wikileaks and Donald Trump Jr. As we discussed Friday afternoon, the nature of the error turned on the date of the email in question – September 4th versus September 14th. CNN had multiple sources read or describe the email to its reporter. But later in the afternoon, The Washington Post obtained the actual email, which was clearly dated the 14th. As noted, the difference was much more than the date. CNN corrected the story and had some pretty significant egg on its face.

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The most illuminating poll discussion I’ve seen about Alabama is a SurveyMonkey report showing that small differences in how they weighted their sample and modeled the electorate generated outcomes ranging from an 8 point win for Jones to a 9 point win for Moore. This is more the norm than you might imagine once you look under the hood of a lot of polling. But this is magnified greatly for this race because of several very hard to predict factors.

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