Thursday, November 6, 2014

Election Day Analysis: 2014

It's the day after the day after the election, so most of those late-decided races appear to be more or less settled down. As I do every election (or every election that matters), I like to kind of take a look and see what lessons it teaches us.

Of course, there's not much to say because the main lessons are:

1. Everything went pretty much as expected.

There were no major surprises, here. It's the sixth year of a Presidential administration, and historically that means a bumper crop of new candidates of the opposing party. It almost doesn't mean anything anymore--regardless of how the President is doing, there's enough party fatigue in the electorate that it's expected. So when estimates were that the GOP was going to take the Senate and gain a dozen seats or so in the House, there wasn't much shock, hand-wringing, or surprise from either side. Sure, Democrats probably would have wished they would have won a few seats, but they really couldn't expect too much.

2. There were a few bright spots for the Democrats. But not many.

The main one is the victory of Tom Wolf over Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania--a high-profile, electorally-rich state. It also bucked history because a governor has never lost re-election in PA. As in, never, since the state was founded a few centuries ago. Other highlights are the New Hampshire race (Shaheen held her seat, which was slightly vulnerable) and some of the state initiatives.

3. The Republicans didn't do as bad as I expected in the governorships.

When I looked over the polling previous to the election, my guess was that the GOP would lose control of around five governorships.  Even though historically the off-party does well, the governorships often act as a safety valve for the other party--more localized issues can often dominate. Since these are state-based, and not federal, they're not quite as prone to national waves. In addition, this year would have been rough--governors elected in 2010 had to deal with some pretty horrifying budgets and decisions, and they would be paying the price. However, seemingly struggling governors seemed to do perfectly fine; specifically, Scott in Florida, Walker in Wisconsin, and Snyder in Michigan--all of whom seemed very vulnerable (Walker has a recall vote against him at one point!) all won by fairly comfortable margins. But more importantly are the governors who broke into New England states--the GOP won in deep blue states like Maryland Illinois, and Massachusetts

4. Things are regressing back to their standard Red/Blue dichotomy. 

In 2008, a lot of normally Red states elected Blue senators; likewise, in 2010 a lot of Blue states elected Red senators. (See my next point.) The pickups the Republicans had this year included Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Arkansas. All of these are solid Republican states. More tellingly, the swing states of Colorado and Iowa elected Republicans. New Hampshire, also considered a swing state, re-elected their Democratic senator--but then her opponent was Scott Brown, former senator from another state, so that may have more to do with that than the Republican Party. (The race was very, very close and a home-town candidate may have won it. Maybe.) Oddly, the governorships bucked this: some Republicans won in some very Blue states (see previous point).

5. The Republicans Senators are going to have a tough time in 2016.

This calls back to point #1: a Republican loss is expected next cycle and the numbers are against them. Unlike this year, where Senators who were elected with the wave that brought Obama in with them, the 2016 class is from 2010--when Republicans gained tons of seats. This, of course, means that the GOP is defending the most seats, and they're going to be a lot of seats that are tough to defend. Republicans will have to defend the normally Blue states of Pennsylvania and Illinois, as well as the swingier states of Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Arizona. The Democrats only really have to defend Nevada and Colorado. That's a lot of swing states, so control of the Senate will (most likely) heavily depend on how the Presidential race goes.

6. The Presidential race for 2016 started yesterday.

Already, I'm seeing ads for campaigns. Sure, they are those stupid click-bait ads, but still. I know it bores and annoys people, but I love it. I will most likely spend a day later this month going over likely and interesting candidates; right now, I'll just say that I suspect the Democrats will pick a standard-bearer (read: Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden) while the Republicans will pick a newcomer. And who knows? I'm officially old enough to run, myself.

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