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.
|| Total GOP
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. Continue reading Why the Democrats stupidly wrote off Louisiana too quickly.
Let us assume – well, actually, I’m not assuming this; I’m expecting it – that a Republican wins the Presidential election in 2016. Also assume (I am not quite expecting this) that the Senate stays Republican in the process. Real quick: who is going to be the Democratic nominee in 2020?
This is not actually a facetious question. The top two contenders for the Democratic nomination (Clinton and Biden) will simply be too old to run in 2020 (they’re also too old in 2016, but never mind that right now). The next obvious step is to look to the governors… but right now there isn’t a viable Democratic candidate in the bunch. The RGA had a good year, and the DGA a bad one: which becomes relevant because the Presidential crop in 2020 will be heavily dependent on which Democratic candidates won this year. It takes time to build an executive record in state government; so even if the Democrats have a good year in 2018 it won’t benefit them until 2024. Continue reading Amusing thought about how 2014 hurt 2020 for the Democrats.
It’s a tough list to beat:
- Bruce Braley (Iowa Senate)
- Anthony Brown (Maryland governor)
- Martha Coakley (Massachusetts governor)
- Wendy Davis (Texas governor)
- Sean Eldridge (New York House)
- Ed FitzGerald (Ohio governor)
- Chris McDaniel (Mississippi Senate)
- Pat Roberts (Kansas Senate)
- Mark Udall (Colorado Senate)
- Monica Wehby (Oregon Senate)
Continue reading The *worst* candidate of 2014? …I’m going to go with Anthony Brown.
Oh, trust me, there are more. But these are the ones that most immediately come to mind. Also note that I’m not going to saturate this with links; this is an almost-casual observation/recap, not a would-be public policy paper.
- The polling. This has been commented on, over and over and over again: and I’m only adding it because otherwise somebody will say But, Moe: what about the polling? – But, yeah, the polling was all over the map, with the exception of some of the local pollsters.
- Primary results are not diagnostic. You know why I didn’t sweat WI-GOV? Because Scott Walker did almost as well in the 2014 primary as he did in the 2012 recall primary. FL-GOV? Because Rick Scott did well there, too. Those surprisingly strong for Republican California results? All hinted at in the primaries.
- The Democrats had a plan. I don’t know about the rest of the VRWC, but whenever I saw a mock-worthy Democratic fundraising email I always had the thought What if this is part of a clever strategy that we’re not seeing? in the back of my mind, …Turns out that it wasn’t, unless of course “Get your heads handed to you in 2014” is part of an even longer game.
- The Democrats had learned from their victory. This is kind of related to #3, but the difference here is that you can still win without a plan, if you have an organization. The Democrats thought that they had one, but what was on the box was not the same as what was actually in the box.
- The electorate is in an anti-incumbent mood. The electorate almost never is, honestly. It just changes its mind on a regular (but not quite predictable) basis about which party it hates more, and spanks that party accordingly. This year it was the Democrats’ turn in the barrel.
- The Republicans had not learned anything from their defeat. Every article made about improved Republican turnout and voter outreach programs assumed that the GOP would need to catch up with the Democrats. And that may, in fact, still be true… in the sense that the GOP in 2014 may still not be up to the standards of the Democrats in 2012. However, it’s fairly clear that they were certainly past the standards of the Democrats of 2014.
- Buying airtime at the end of the election cycle is not cost-effective. Well, it’s certainly not cost-effective if you lose. But if you’re in a tighter race than people think because of #1 and #4, and you’re willing to pay out extra… yeah, it can have its points.
- [Insert favorite superstition here]. There were a bunch of these. “Democrats always win incumbent Senate races.” “Turnout will save us.” “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is negotiable.” “There are blue states and red states, and never the twain shall meet.” To paraphrase Bob Heinlein: if you can’t express it with an equation, it’s not a fact. It’s an opinion. We had a lot of opinions this cycle.
- Long-term demographic trends have any meaning whatsoever right now. This was mostly seen with the perennial Hispanic voter debate. It will be relevant in 2024 or 2034 whether or not the currently extrapolated trends on population makeup and partisan makeup are accurate. But for right now they’re not – and the Democrats couldn’t draw on presumed future support, either*.
- Dice have a memory. This applies to both sides, including the Republicans: because let me tell you something. A day will come when the incumbent President’s party will clean up in the sixth-year midterm election, whether or not the President is popular. Or that incumbent Senators will be able to distance themselves from an disliked President. Or any of the other rules of thumb that haven’t been tossed in the wastepaper basket yet. And I absolutely assure you that the GOP winning big this year does not give them some sort of mystical protection from future failures. Especially if the Republicans try to rest on their laurels: complacency kills electoral careers faster than almost anything else I can think of**.
I think that covers it, for right now.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*The so-called ‘woman gap’ is a slightly different situation, because (in my personal opinion) it is noticeably more accurate in Presidential years than it is for midterms. This cycle it didn’t really have that much of an impact.
**Almost. Taking pictures of your genitals and showing them to people on the Internet is actually hubris, which is even worse than complacency.
Put another way: “Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your safety belts and put your tray tables back up into the full, upright position. We are beginning our final approach: our estimated touch-down time will be 72 hours.”
Seriously, folks: this is the home stretch for the elections. The polls are highly unlikely to be anything except chaotic noise at this point; the fundamentals of the various races have been locked in*; and it’s going to take the equivalent of getting caught with a dead girl/boy** at this point to REALLY move the needle for any one candidate. None of this means that you should just look at the RCP averages at this moment in time and say That’s Tuesday’s total***; just that there’s a limit to what people can do, and we’re reaching it. Continue reading Three days to go until the elections. The die is cast. So CALM DOWN.
Sean Trende wrote a very useful post on the polls today that the Democrats will utterly refuse to heed:
The bottom line is that we have neither the data nor well-tested theories to explain what sort of skew we should expect this cycle. For my money, there are two races where I really take charges of poll skew seriously: Alaska, where seven of the last seven races have understated Republican strength (by seven points on average), and Colorado, where the introduction of mail voting probably does make the electorate difficult to model. Beyond that, I would not be surprised if there was a Republican skew, but I likewise would not be surprised if there was a Democratic skew. The possibilities basically cancel out, and I’m left with the simple poll averages as the best guidance for this election.
…because, of course, the simple poll averages are currently spelling out D-O-O-M for Democrats. And, given that we have only two weeks left before the elections, if the Democrats admit that now then – well, then they have nothing left, do they? Except whatever’s on TV, I guess.
Some interesting articles out there on Obama, and his influence on various demographics.
Like, say, women:
Female voters powered President Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney in 2012, as Democrats leaned heavily on social issues to rally single women and suburban moms to the polls.
But with two weeks until Election Day, the president’s diminished standing with women is quickly becoming one of the biggest liabilities facing Democrats as they struggle to hang onto the Senate majority.
Continue reading Two weeks in, and things are not going according to the Democrats’ plan.
Frank J is in rare form here:
…back in 2008, Barack Obama was elected president with a Democrat-controlled House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Many of us correctly knew this was like having a toddler armed with power tools. Others, though, didn’t see the danger and cooed, “Oh, look at that little guy. He’s so industrious! He’s going to get a lot done,” while the rest of us were freaking out, worried about him getting near anything valuable. And before we could yell, “No, little Barry, no!” he went right after health care with his drill, and it’s basically all ruined now.
So in 2010 we voted to take away his power tools by turning the House over to the Republicans. Obama was still a destructive little tyke who just refused to listen, but at least now it was a bit harder for him to burn the whole house down or something. In 2012, we — well, I don’t know how to stretch the analogy — had the option to exchange little Barry at the kid-trade-in emporium and get a better kid who might not be as dumb and destructive. I guess we had grown fond of the little dummy, though, and thought maybe he was finally learning. We were just being sentimental, of course. We really should have done the smart thing and sold the kid to gypsies.
Continue reading Quote of the Day, ‘Election 2014: Suck It Up And Walk It Off’ edition.
‘Too late’ being defined in terms of what I would find amusing or seemly, of course. And the reason for this is simple: the Democratic party’s propagandists – both official and unofficial – are no longer dedicated to winning the 2014 election cycle. What they’re dedicated to right now is the task of keeping their base from panicking.
I could have sworn that I made this analysis before, but I can’t find it, so I guess that I’ll just have to repeat the thought from memory: the 2009 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia demonstrate why panic is bad for a political party. In Virginia: the, well, hapless candidate (Creigh Deeds) was widely considered to be DOOMed a month before the election. And the Democrats abandoned him in a panic… and in the process also abandoned all the other candidates, which is one reason why in 2009 state Democrats got decimated in the General Assembly* and lost all three statewide positions. Contrariwise, New Jersey Democrats refused to panic, and they ended up with a situation where Chris Christie won election handily, yet failed to supply coat-tails for pretty much anybody else. Continue reading Do not expect the Democrats to panic until it is too late.
This call is justified, I think. The New York Times:
Just five weeks before Election Day, Ohio Democrats have descended into recriminations…
Yeah, there’s no need to write anything further. What a pity there’s no Senate races in Ohio this year, huh?