The post-mortem has begun on the 2014 elections. The following were taken from Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, Ezra Klein at the New York Times and James Hohmann of Politico. First, Cook’s observations:
1. Tip O’Neill was wrong- all politics is national: This is not true in all elections, but it was true in this case. Clearly, people spoke even if it was not the entire electorate as Obama intimated in his post-election news conference. But he, like others, knows that voter turnout drops in midterm elections and he would have likely been singing another tune had Democrats not had their asses handed to them, thus…
2. Elections are always a referendum on the President: This is conventional wisdom, but does not always explain why a popular president’s party loses seats in midterms as a general rule. However, in this case it was true, but using the word “always” is not absolutely correct. This year, look at where Obama campaigned and his success rate. He failed to get Coakley elected Governor in Massachusetts or Brown in Maryland. His appearances in North Carolina and Colorado possibly cost Udall and Hagan their Senate seats. And in Colorado, Hicklenhooper hung on by the skin of his teeth.
3. The Obama coalition does not hold at the congressional level. Part of this attributable to the intelligence of voters and part attributable to wearing out well-worn Democratic themes. Over the ensuing months, I am sure there will be further analysis of what group voted for who and why, but when close to 50% say their vote will be a reflection of their view on Obama, then #2 above makes more sense.
4. It’s the Economy, Stupid. This election was dominated by economic/fiscal themes and issues, particularly job creation. Try as they might to drag the social issues into the debate, Republicans largely ignored or thwarted those efforts. Unlike the recent past, no Republican shot themselves in the feet. Instead, it was Democrats holding that honor this year. And regardless of statistics being trotted out to show improvements in the economy, they mean little to hard working Americans finding their paychecks stretched to the limits, or trapped in low-paying jobs. The Democrats have obliterated the traditional American dream and replaced it with a socialist version where the government is your new mother.
5. You can’t win on turnout if you don’t have a message. Actually, the Democrats did have a message and it was rejected. Obama himself framed that message when he said his policies were on the ballot. Realizing that message and outlook was being rejected, Democrats resorted to things like the “war on women” and race baiting at times- both tactics equally rejected by voters.
6. The war on women fell flat. (Cross reference with Klein and Hohmann) This is one of the biggest take aways from this year’s election. Defining a “woman” by her stance on abortion or contraception- especially when that is the only trick up your sleeve- is demeaning to all women and they voted accordingly. The campaign of Corey Gardner should be used as a template for the GOP going forward.
7. Midterms rarely have predictive value for the next presidential election. This much is true, but it would certainly enhance GOP chances in 2016 if a Republican Congress can actually pass substantive legislation with minimal political rancor.
From Ezra Klein:
1. Democrats lost Senate seats in Colorado and Iowa and Governor offices in blue states. This was not attributable to the map. Indeed! Disciplined messaging from strong candidates in Colorado and Iowa secured Republican victories. The “map” had Hagan winning and Perdue headed to a runoff in Georgia. As Klein intimates, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina (and possibly Alaska) should have been Democratic holds.
2. Democrats had a couple of wins on the minimum wage, gun checks and pot. Winning on the minimum wage is easy. As a conservative Republican, I have no problem raising the minimum wage within reason on a state-by-state basis. I even believe the national rate should be raised to $8.25. Why? Because it affects very few workers (most make above minimum wage) and it shuts up the Left for about three years. Gun checks won in liberal Washington and legalized pot won in liberal Oregon. Hey- Colorado needs some competition. And I doubt we will see a drop in gun-related crime in Washington.
3. The Republicans won tough gubernatorial races which helps RGA Chairman Chris Christie. Possibly true, but whether his campaigning had anything to do with Republican candidates is up in the air. He did manage to raise a lot of money for candidates and his distribution of those funds was strategic. However, whether this enhances his presidential aspirations, if any, is doubtful.
4. No Democratic star emerged to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016. The Democratic presidential bench is lonely with only Clinton sitting on it. [mc_name name=’Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000817′ ] failed to deliver on Coakley in Massachusetts. Martin O’Malley’s hand-picked successor and the Obama-backed choice in Maryland lost. Even the untouchable [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000805′ ] in Virginia suffered a near political death experience.
5. Republicans got a boost as many Governors and Senators will still be there in 2016. True enough. Of course, everyone is talking about Scott Walker, but John Kasich is another name in the mix. Overlooked is the Lt. Governor’s race in Nevada won by the Republican candidate. If I were [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ], I would be very worried right now. Had Lucy Flores won that race, Governor Brian Sandoval would have had second thoughts about a Senatorial run in 2016 and if anyone can take down Reid it is Sandoval.
From Hohmann at Politico:
1. The Republican take over of the South is now complete with Arkansas. This much is true although I would add a large swath of the Midwest is now under GOP control also. This is not just a regional thing. Look at any map now and there sure is a lot of red.
2. The Democrats failed at distancing themselves from Obama. Obama’s record in support of candidates, or at least for those not embarrassed to stand on the same stage with him, was dismal. Nowhere was this more true than with Alison Lundergan Grimes and her silly response as to whether she voted for Obama in 2012.
3. Voters crave authenticity, not phonies (like Scott Brown): I would not characterize Brown as a phony but more as a political opportunist. But residency rules are dictated by states and he took advantage and made a good race of it.
4. Republican Governors thrived in blue states. By this, he refers to the victories in Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland and the very close race in Connecticut. Overlooked is the amazing comeback by Sam Brownback in Kansas where he was left for dead and the mainstream media was portraying that as a repudiation of his tax cutting policies. Here is an inconvenient fact for those pundits who claim voters have a backlash against tax cutting politicians- ten states either rejected tax increases of some kind or placed restrictions on future tax increases and policies. Even very blue Massachusetts rejected a gasoline tax increase. Only Illinois approved allowing the legislature to pass a “millionaire’s tax,” but whether that will happen remains to be seen.
5. [mc_name name=’Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’L000550′ ]’s chances have increased in Louisiana now that outside groups will spend less. As I have shown in the past, the candidate that receives the most help from outside groups is not a guaranteed winner. And apparently Hohmann came to this conclusion before it was revealed Democrats were scaling back funding in this race. With control of the Senate no longer in doubt, they are leaving Landrieu to her own devices to twist in the wind. Cassidy will win this runoff.
6. North Carolina is more reddish purple than bluish purple. I have said this since 2008. Obama’s very close victory in North Carolina in 2008 gave the Democrats a false sense of hope here. In 2012, he lost the state. And Republicans picked up a seat in the House and a Senate seat out of North Carolina this year. Throw in a Republican Governor and state legislature and the Democrats look like boobs.
7. Virginia is a purple state, not a blue state and Ed Gillespie could be the next Governor. I believe Gilespie has ruled that out for now, but it is three years away and a lot could change. I put Virginia in the same category as North Carolina- more reddish than bluish. Get away from the DC suburbs, the redder it gets.
8. The Bannock Street project fell flat. This was a $60 million effort by the Democratic Party to increase party turnout and save their Senate majority. It involved over 4,000 paid staffers nationwide. If the Democrats want to spend $60 million on a losing cause, let them. The bottom line: when you have a worn out message with a bad messenger at the top that your candidates are running from, increased turnout is not going to help. If it made the Democrats $60 million poorer to learn that you cannot transform a midterm election into a presidential election as far as turnout is concerned, then let them although I venture there will be some unemployed political “experts” in the coming days.