Sometimes the elections held the year before a Presidential election year can discern certain trends. If so, then there are a few take-aways from the elections this past Tuesday. Instead of doing a state-by-state analysis, it is best to look at the elections generally and see if they tell us anything about possibilities in 2016.
1. Democrats performed really poorly and below expectations. Coming into Tuesday, the Democratic Party was very high on their chances at the state legislative levels in New Jersey and Virginia. They also had high hopes for some statewide offices in Kentucky and Mississippi. When the highlight of their night was the Indianapolis Mayoral race, you know things went south for them. After some initial reports came in from the New Jersey Assembly races, the liberals blogs were predicting a 6 seat pick up in a chamber they already held. When all was finished, the Democrats managed only a 3-seat pick up, well below initial expectations.
Even in Virginia where they thought their chances were even better, they failed to take a single seat in the state House or Senate leaving the GOP in control of both houses. The night was so bad that they could not even unseat the mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire. And when you are finding solace in Pennsylvania supreme court seats and a mayor’s race in Indianapolis, you know you had a bad night.
2. Some liberal policy positions were roundly defeated. The so-called HERO initiative in Houston which was designed to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community went down to defeat. An educational funding constitutional amendment that would have given broad power to the state judiciary was also defeated.
But probably the biggest defeat was legalized recreational marijuana in Ohio. In fact, the vote was not even close with the initiative being defeated 64% to 36%. Of course, Leftist cities like Seattle and San Francisco passed liberal initiatives, but that is about as surprising as a Democrat winning the mayor’s race in Philadelphia. Oh wait! That also happened.
3. The only poll that counts are the votes of voters. Probably the most stinging defeat for Democrats was the loss of the Kentucky Governor’s race. Add another Governor’s office to the GOP column. Coming into the race, Republican Matt Bevin was, by many accounts in the liberal press, a dead man walking. Poll after poll consistently had him losing to Democrat Jack Conway. In the end, it was not even a close race with Bevin taking 53% of the vote to Conway’s 44%.
This should give [mc_name name=’Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’V000127′ ] some solace in Louisiana where he faces a similar scenario in his runoff against Democrat John Bel Edwards later this month. In Louisiana, most polls show Edwards up on Vitter with some seriously out of whack with what may the reality. [I will have a later article on this race]
While Vitter can gain some solace from the disparity between the polls and actual votes, certain unnamed presidential candidates crisscrossing the talk show circuit and the country touting their yuuuuuge lead in the polls, they might be well-advised to take heed of the disparity between what people tell pollsters on the phone and which lever they pull in the voting booth. At this stage, poll results are great fodder for the political pundit class, but they mean very little in the practical sense.
4. The anti-incumbent craze may not be a craze after all. Consider these facts: In the Mississippi state house and senate seats, in contested races, only one incumbent was defeated. In Virginia, 122 incumbents ran for reelection and all 122 incumbents won their races. In the New Jersey assembly races, only 4 of 73 incumbents running for reelection were defeated. Collectively between the New Jersey, Mississippi and Virginia state legislative races, 222 of 228 incumbents running for reelection won their races. In other words, despite the alleged anti-incumbent craze and disgust with “politics-as-usual,” voters returned those “as usual” incumbents to office at a rate of 97.4%. It should also be noted that in these contested incumbent races, not many of them were even close.
One incumbent who did survive a close call was Kentucky secretary of state Allison Lundergan-Grimes who ran against McConnell in 2014 and lost. She won reelection to her state post by a surprisingly close 22,000 votes, or 51 to 49%. Had she lost, it could have been a nail in her political coffin for a person the Democratic Party is/was high on at one time.
5. It is hard for the Democrats to find a silver lining, but that won’t stop them from trying. For example, no sooner were the Pennsylvania supreme cout results in that Democrats were shouting victory. The reason? They may be involved in redistricting after the 2020 census. This belies the Leftist belief that they lose elections only because of GOP gerrymandering. If only the legislative maps were drawn differently, they would have greater political clout at the state level in their minds.
The three seat GOP loss in the New Jersey general assembly is also now being considered a “stunning rebuke” to Governor Chris Christie. In fact, Christie has largely been absent not only from these elections, but from the state because of his presidential campaign. Secondly, the GOP gained seats in the 2013 general assembly races largely riding into power on the coat tails of Christie’s large victory in the gubernatorial race. If anything, the 2015 results were a readjustment back to the status quo of a large Democratic majority in that legislative house.
What does all this mean for 2016? Likely, very little. But if it means anything, it is that polls mean very little and the Democrats have some work cut out for them in 2016. If 2015 is any indication, they may have a tougher time than many think.