Four Pinocchios for Cory Booker

I didn’t happen to catch the last pair of Democratic debates because I was on vacation and there was a rerun of Battlebots on or something. But if I had bothered to tune in, it seems I would have caught a bit of a whopper from New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Or was it? The claim in dispute had to do yet again with the 2016 elections. As I’m sure you all recall, Donald Trump managed to pull off what most considered a rather shocking win by carrying the state of Michigan by roughly ten thousand votes.

Booker had an explanation for that. It was the Republicans suppressing voter turnout and the Russians doing whatever the Russians supposedly do to help Donald Trump. Generally, when a Democrat tosses out something dodgy, most of the media fact-checkers tend to give them a pass because they’re too busy vetting the President’s Twitter feed. But this time the WaPo actually stepped up to the plate and put that claim to the test. It didn’t go well for Booker. (The Hill)

The Washington Post gave Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) four “Pinocchios” after he said during this week’s Democratic debate that President Trump won Michigan in 2016 because black voters in the state were suppressed by “everybody from Republicans to Russians.”

“We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters,” Booker said on Wednesday night during the second of two Democratic debates in Detroit.

Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes over 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. It marked the first time a Republican had captured the state since 1988.

On the one hand, the WaPo fact-checker makes a valid point as they go through their full analysis. If Booker wants to claim that those specific factors are what cost Clinton Michigan, it’s up to him to provide supporting evidence. He failed to do that so they dinged him on it.

But figuring out why any particularly close race went the way it did, in the end, is also pretty much an impossibility. If five thousand fewer Trump voters had shown up and five thousand more Clinton voters turned out, it would have gone the other way. In a state where more than 4.5 million people turned out to vote, you’d have to be a mind reader to divine the answer.

Was it because Hillary never bothered to show up and campaign in the state? Was it Trump’s rallies and promises on economic factors that impacted Michigan voters in a very direct fashion? Hell, it could have been the weather. Or, as the WaPo analysis points out, it might just have been the fact that black voter turnout went back down to 2004 levels instead of the inflated numbers who showed up for Barack Obama, while white turnout was slightly higher.

But the fact remains that you can’t even pin down the fact-checker’s explanation and say that’s the definitive reason. The one thing we can say for sure, however, is that the Democrats got caught with their pants down in Michigan in 2016 and they’re not going to be so casual about it next year. If Donald Trump wants to pull that miracle off twice he’s definitely going to have to work for it.

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