As you no doubt know, the Democrats got their clocks cleaned last night in two House seat runoff elections and one Senate one. The question is, could they have done better? – Actually, no, the question is, could they have done much better? …And the answer may indeed be ‘yes’ in both cases. Please note: a lot of this is going to be a discussion on how much or how little the rubble might have bounced, so keep that in mind.
Let’s start with the Senate race. All numbers here from AOSHQDD: they’re not the certified results, but they’re going to be fine for this analysis.
The total drop-off for that election was 91% for the Democrats, 88% for the GOP, and 89% overall. In other words: the Democrats managed to retain more of their Election Day voters than the Republicans did. Mary Landrieu still got destroyed in the general because the people who voted for Rob Maness clearly decided to show up for Bill Cassidy, too. This was not particularly contested by Sen. Landrieu, probably because she had limited resources and clearly decided that she needed to boost her own side’s turnout more than she needed to depress her opponent’s turnout. Considering that Sen. Landrieu’s base was mostly African-American – a demographic that’s hard to get to turn out, historically – she didn’t actually do a bad job.
Now, figuring out how this stacks up historically is problematical: Senate races in Louisiana for the last couple of decades have largely avoided runoffs. However, we have two House races from this year to consider. LA-05 and LA-06: both were safe seats for the GOP, both were won in blowouts last night, and (not coincidentally) neither was the subject of Democratic funding, either. So how did those turn out? (Election night results from Wikipedia, Runoff from AOSHQDD)
Dem turnout improved to 111%. Republican drop-off was to 80%. Total drop-off was 89%.
Democratic drop-off was 94%, Republican drop-off was 84%, and total drop-off was 87%.
Obviously, the first thing that leaps out at you is that Democratic turnout was noticeably better in those two races, while Republican turnout was significantly worse. Monroe mayor Jamie Mayo, in fact, improved on his Election Day turnout in the run-off: it didn’t matter, because the GOP margin in LA-05 was simply too large, but it still happened. The should-be-disgraced-but-it’s-Louisiana-so-no former governor Edwin Edwards didn’t do as well, but he still did a good deal better at retaining Election Day turnout than the Republicans did. Or, for that matter, than did Mary Landrieu.
Conclusions? As is customary in these sorts of discussions, there are three:
- National Democrats confused ‘dire’ with ‘hopeless,’ thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let us have no illusions: the Democrats were almost certainly going to lose all three of those races anyway. The House races had margins of over 50K votes; the Senate margin was over 150K. But maybe – maybe – those margins were due to one side throwing in the towel early and going away. Perhaps that’s nonsense. But perhaps it’s not. No way of knowing now though, huh?
- This is why the national committees matter. Imagine, for a moment, that the DSCC had decided to actually support Landrieu in the runoff, or the DCCC had bothered to even formally notice that there were elections in Louisian this year. Could the national parties have targeted Bill Cassidy, Ralph Abraham (LA-05), or Garret Graves (LA-06)? Yes, easily. Would that have given those Democrats running against those candidates some extra maneuvering room? Certainly. Would the Democrats have lost, anyway? Yup, probably! …But with tighter margins. Which leads to point 3…
- The Democratic party doesn’t give a flying leap about winning in Louisiana. The single most infuriated Democrat in Louisiana right now should not be Mary Landrieu; it should be Jamie Mayo. That’s because Mayor Mayo did his job. He ran in a district where the last two Republican incumbents both suddenly resigned under circumstances that could have been usefully exploited by the Democratic party. Mayo got himself a spot on the runoff, and then he turned around and actually got more votes in that runoff than he did in the general election. That’s what he was presumably recruited to do, and he did it. But the Democratic party didn’t lift a finger to help Jamie Mayo. They did their absolute best to pretend he didn’t exist, in fact.
Gee. I wonder why that could possibly be their reason for that.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: The purpose of a political party is not to validate races that are already won. The purpose of a political party, on the organizational level, is to increase the number of races that can be won. Sometimes that means building infrastructure for future wins.