GOP Wave Misses California Again

California GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kaskari

California GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kaskari

If one state has withstood the national GOP environment for the last two midterms it is California.  Consider Republicans gained Congressional seats in WA State and CO in 2010, nearly won the Governorship in Oregon (split the legislature) and retook strong GOP seats in AZ and ID.  They cruised to gubernatorial victories in NM and NV.  Yet, in California, the GOP did not win a single race against an incumbent Democrat at any level.

Admittedly, this cycle there was little low hanging fruit for the GOP to win in the West.  Arguably, the GOP lost two winnable races in Arizona but might win AZ-2 after a state mandated recount.  There really were no competitive Congressional races in OR, WA State and New Mexico.  The GOP did win a surprising victory in a Democratic leaning Congressional district in Nevada though and the ultimate prize was winning Colorado’s marquee Senate race.

Easily, the GOP’s best success came at the legislative level.  Beyond holding all their Governorships the party took control of the WA State Senate, the Nevada House and Senate, Colorado Senate, New Mexico House and tightened its hold in the Arizona legislature.  Unfortunately, this success was not replicated in California.

In 2010 California featured competitive Senatorial and Gubernatorial races.  This drove turnout in down ballot races and yet the GOP did not capture any additional seats.  This is partly due to the 2001 redistricting plan that was created as a deal to protect incumbents.  In 2012, after redistricting, the GOP lost three seats and was reduced to a 15 member Congressional delegation (out of 55).  Worse, Democrats established a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers and thus could easily pass budgets without GOP support.

It is important to keep in mind what has happened since 2012.  In 2013, the GOP won the contested San Diego mayoral race after the Democratic mayor stepped down in disgrace.  At least three Democratic state senators were indicted or accused of corruption.  Earlier this year, the Democratic legislature saw their new push for Affirmative Action squashed because of Democratic Asian American and GOP opposition.

Despite this, the strong Democratic orientation of the state has remained.  The GOP came into the cycle with moderate ambitions for rebuilding the party in the state.  They targeted CA-7, a district based in the Sacramento suburbs and CA-52, a GOP leaning district in midterms based around San Diego.  The state party simply sought to become relevant in the legislature again and deny Democrats their 2/3rds majority in the legislature.

As of this writing it looks likely the GOP will, yet again, come up short on gaining a single Congressional district in the state.  The GOP lost the CA-52 race when their candidate, Carl Demaio, imploded and CA-7 has swung the Democrats way thanks to late and absentee ballots coming in from metro Sacramento.  The party was competitive in some surprising races, notably CA-16 and majority-minority Hispanic CA-31.  However, CA-31 was a seat the GOP won in a fluke in 2012 so the party likely will come out of this election at an even more severe disadvantage in the Congressional Delegation.

Nobody expected the party’s gubernatorial nominee, Neel Kashkari, to win against Brown.  Indeed, he won a dismal 40% of the vote in the state, no better than Meg Whitman’s showing in 2010.  In fact, not a single GOP candidate for statewide office won.

The GOP’s success story is its success at the legislative level.  At the start of the cycle the GOP was outnumbered in the state senate 27/12 and 54/25 in the house.  After the election the GOP had won two new senate seats and three new house seats making them a relevant minority again (hold at least 1/3rd of both chambers legislative seats).  This means they will at least have say in the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

Admittedly, this is not much to build on but the party did show it is willing to moderate by running a gay candidate for Congress and a American-Indian candidate for Governor.  Even in loss the party might find success in the future.

Still, the GOP wave that struck the country this November and in 2010 missed California.  Democrats have not had the same struggles as they have strengthen their hold on the state’s Congressional delegation and kept Republicans out of any statewide office in the age of Obama.

Addendum 1: Both CA-7 and CA-16 were called for Democrats late last night when absentee and provisional ballots gave them insurmountable leads.  Yet again, the GOP failed to make any traction in the state’s Congressional delegation and actually lost a seat, CA-31.

Addendum 2: With the final results in, CA’s Congressional delegation now represents 38 of the House Democratic Caucus’s 188 seats.  Combine this with WA State and OR and the number shoots up to 47.  The rest of the Democratic Caucus comes from the Northeast and a few majority-minority and blue collar Midwest and Southern districts.  Considering the GOP strength comes from the South it only heightens the likelihood the two Caucus’s will find any common ground on important issues.

Where Republicans Blew it in 2014

Carl DeMaio lost one of the GOP's best pick-up opportunities this cycle.

Carl DeMaio lost one of the GOP’s best pick-up opportunities this cycle.

Democrats  are understandably depressed over a week out from election day.  But they do have some reason to cheer.  The GOP blew several winnable races and in the case of Congressmen Lee Terry (NB) and Steve Southerland (FL) lost two solidly Republican Congressional Districts.  Below is a list of five winnable races the GOP blew in order from most likely to least likely to win according to political analysts and the parties. A few notable races have yet to be called including AZ-2.

CA-52:  If one seat was to flip in CA the GOP felt this district based around San Diego fit the bill perfectly.  Congressman Scott Peters was a freshman and the GOP recruited an openly gay and socially moderate candidate, Carl Demaio, to run.  Demaio ran hard on fiscal conservatism and the polls were all over  the map.  Republican affiliated groups spent big to unseat Peters even as the Congressman was endorsed by the Chamber.  The gamechanger came when Demaio was accused by a former staffer of sexual harrassement.  DeMaio seemed to dodge the accusations but two days before the election another staffer alleged the same.  DeMaio won voters who made up their minds early but he lost late deciding absentee voters and election day voters which sealed his fate.

AZ-1: Anne Kirkpatrick came to Congress in 2008, lost in 2010, and beat a weak GOP nominee for the redistricted, Republican leaning seat in 2012.  She never really faced stiff competition from a weak GOP field and her general election challenger, Andy Tobin, never had enough money to threaten her.  Her primary worry was that outside money would ensure her defeat and mobilize GOP turnout.  Still, on paper this is a district the GOP should have won in an anti-Democratic election.  Instead, the party will be targeting it for a third cycle in a row in 2016.

MN-8: This cycle is Democratic in Presidential years but is swingy in midterms.  The GOP captured the seat in 2010 only to lose it in 2012.  The GOP was believed to have the edge in the district due to Congressman Rick Nolan’s weak campaign and the strength of the GOP’s nominee, Stewart Mills.  But the DCCC spent heavily to aid Nolan and define Mills.  Mills never countered effectively and by the time election day approached he was defined as an out of touch, rich businessman.  Still, Nolan only won by 2% (and under 50%).

Michigan Senate: At the start of the cycle Republicans were optimistic they could play in Michigan.  After-all, despite the state’s electoral history, their nominee, Teri Lynn Land, was breaking fundraising numbers and leading in the polls.  But starting early last year her campaign started to make unforced gaffes and so did she.  Her fundraising started to dry up and outside groups shifted money elsewhere.  Her opponent, Gary Peters, did not make such errors and notably campaigned in blue-collar, conservative Northwest Michigan for votes.  While the race was always a tall order  the GOP ncould have arguably made a play for the seat with the right candidate.

Oregon Senate/New Hampshire Senate: Republicans were incredibly optimistic about Oregon after pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby jumped into the race.  A social moderate, her main focus was on Obamacare and tying freshman Jeff Merkley to it.  Sadly, her campaign never caught fire after the primary.  Accused of violating a restraining order, plagiarism and violating codes of conduct she eventually lost by over 18%.  The New Hampshire Senate race was one the GOP did not see as competitive until late in the cycle.  Though Brown never led in the polls he did succeed in nationalizing the race.  His ultimate downfall is that he never truly succeeded in winning rural blue-collar voters and running up his margins in the GOP leaning suburbs of Southeast New Hampshire.

Other races could have made this list.  The Minnesota Senate race, the Connecticut Governor’s race and a few house races were all on the GOP’s radar but they fell short in each.  One particularly painful loss for the GOP was the Colorado Governorship, even as they gained control of the state senate and knocked off US Senator Mark Udall.


Mary Landrieu Is Done

Likely Senator elect Bill Cassidy.

Likely Senator elect Bill Cassidy.

Southern Democrats have long survived due to local roots, a conservative streak and a family connection to the state stretching back at least a generation.  Mary Landrieu checks off all these boxes (or at least she did).  She has local roots to the state’s remaining Democratic establishment, a conservative voting streak (tempered since 2008) and her father, Moon Landrieu, was a white, two-term mayor of New Orleans.  Her brother, Mitch Landrieu, is carrying on the family torch as the current mayor of New Orleans.

Like other Southern Democrats, Landrieu’s brand has been irreparably damaged under the Obama administration.  Her votes in support of the Stimulus and Obamacare stand as tributes to her belief in support for party over state interests.  These votes largely explain why fellow Southern red state Senators Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor lost their bids for reelection in November.

Technically, Landrieu did not lose in November.  She won a plurality of the three-way vote.  Louisiana uses a jungle primary runoff system where all candidates run on the same ballot (regardless of party) and if no single candidate hits 50% the top two vote getters compete again on the first Tuesday in December.  This is where Landrieu finds herself.  Despite winning 42% in the jungle primary her opponents, Congressman Bill Cassidy and Rob Manness combined to get 57% of the overall vote.  Landrieu faces Cassidy in the run-off, a solid candidate who has done little to impassion liberals to fight to save Landrieu.

There are a number of reasons why Landrieu finds her bid for reelection bordering on the impossible.  Below are four reasons that particularly stand out.

1. 18%: This is the share of the white vote Landrieu received in November.  She overwhelmingly carried black voters, about a third of the electorate.  But she cannot afford to lose the other two third’s of the electorate 82%-18%.  In 2008 she won 33% of whites who compromised 65% of the electorate and blacks 96%-2% when they made up 31% of the electorate.  In November, blacks made up 30% of the electorate but whites still a strong 64%.  Landrieu desperately needs to up her standing with whites, winning close to 30% and get the electorate to be 30% black.  But both are questionable.  Whites have largely turned away from the party and blacks tend not to turn out in midterms.

2. Geography: Landrieu’s political problem is also geographical.  Historically, Landrieu has won traditionally majority-white conservative Democratic counties.  This historical performance actually matches up pretty closely with the way the Senate map shaped up after the three-way race.  But take Maness out of the equation and Landrieu wins only a narrow strip of majority black counties bordering Mississippi and Orleans Parish.  The margins by which she loses the Parrishes surrounding Orleans eliminate any advantage she gets and her loss margins in the rural areas of the state account for her weak showing of 42% on Nov. 4th.

3. Landrieu Name: Before the Age of Obama the Landrieu name was dominant in Louisiana.  But since Obama the name has become synonymous with the National Democratic Party and the liberal agenda. Landrieu’s politically independent reputation is all but gone and many conservative groups see her defeat as yet another repudiation of the Obama agenda.  Ironically, Landrieu is politically independent enough from the national Democratic brand that liberal outside groups have vowed not to spend to help her in December.

4. Seniority: Only one Republican has gotten reelected in the last six years campaigning on bringing home the bacon (Thad Cochran).  No Democrat has been able to succeed at it this cycle.  But Landrieu has tried.  In the run-up to November she campaigned hard on her seniority and warned the state would lose out if she was unseated. She promised to protect the state’s natural gas and oil industry as epitomized by Keystone.  But with Republicans guaranteed to take the Senate regardless of the December results her claim is meaningless.  Now she is on the attack, unlikely to change the general direction of the race.

At last count conservative outside groups and Republican affiliated PAC’s have vowed to spend over $7 million on the race.  Democrats and their outside groups a meager $500,000.  This 13-1 spending disparity is partly explaining why some report that for every ad Landrieu has run, 96 counter ads hit the airwaves.  Republicans plan to invest almost $2 million beyond ads in direct mail and voter mobilization to make sure Maness voters do not stay home.

Perhaps the only thing Cassidy’s camp has to worry about is overconfidence.  His campaign has him polling at about 57% and Landrieu barely above 40%.  But those polls are also capturing Maness voters coming home and voting for Cassidy.  Not all will. Cassidy has not been content to run out the clock.  His campaign has hit hard the idea of unity.  Cassidy has campaigned with Maness and held a unity rally with his former primary opponent.  National figures from various wings of the party have come to the state to campaign for Cassidy.  All the pieces for a Cassidy victory seem to be in place.

Perhaps the final nail in Landrieu’s coffin is one many thought was Cassidy’s greatest weakness-his no-nonsense policy wonkishness.  In a state that has numerous colorful figures, past and present, including disgraced former Democratic Governor Duke Edwards who is running to reclaim his old House seat, the just defeated kissing Congressman and Senator David Vitter, Cassidy stands out for his lack of a distinguishing trait.

Landrieu has had the benefit of running against past opponents that have hurt themselves by saying inappropriate things.  The closest Cassidy has come to this is saying Harry Reid ran the Senate like a “plantation.”  He quickly apologized.  Other than this Cassidy has given the media and the Landreiu campaign ammo to throw at him.

Landrieu’s last gasp efforts have probably already come and gone.  Days before the November election she said she is in electoral trouble because it is tough to be a “woman” in the South.  Nevermind she has been elected three times (her run-off opponent in 2002 was a woman).  Worse, and far more damaging politically, she attacked Cassidy for not being around in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Cassidy responded via tweet he was setting up an emergency center to treat the storm’s victims.

A recent survey from Magellan adds insult to injury for Landrieu.  The poll finds Cassidy ahead 57%-41%, Obama’s approval at 32% and despite Democrats representing 51% of the electorate 62% think the GOP better represents their views.  As the survey says this is because many white Democrats have turned to the GOP to represent their social and economic interests.  Landrieu has a dismal 58% unfavorable rating.

Stick a fork in it.  This race is over.  Mary Landrieu has been a political survivor before.  But not this time.  Landrieu is done!



Republicans Began to Fix Their Electability Problem in 2014

According to exit polls the GOP won the highest percentage of the Asian vote since 1988.

According to exit polls the GOP won the highest percentage of the Asian vote since 1988.

The reasons offered for Democratic losses last week are numerous; low turnout, voter stupidity, economic concerns, the improved GOP ground game, the list goes on.  But one facet that I have only seen touched on by a few analysts is the most straightforward.  The GOP did better with the groups it neede too. Particularly women and minorities.

Most Democrats have settled on the rather simplistic and partisan answer that low turnout fueled by voter ID laws resulted in low turnout.  Now, while it is true national turnout was lower than any election since 1942, turnout in crucial Senate and Governor’s races exceeded 2010. Democrats didn’t exactly present new ideas either.

Let’s look at one example, the Colorado Senate race.  The state has tabulated almost 2.1 million votes so far, over 300,000 more votes than 2010 and approaching the 2.57 million votes cast in 2012.  Want another example?  Take the Maryland Governor’s race.  Democratic Lt. Governor Anthony Brown lost to Republican Larry Hogan by over 5%, or slightly less than 77,000 votes.  According to the Washington Post, “In Maryland, Brown simply got beaten. This wasn’t turnout; we don’t need any complex divinations to determine what happened. Maryland voters preferred Republican Larry Hogan, and voted him into office….If you increased turnout three percent only in counties that Brown won, he’d still lose by almost 67,000 votes. If you increased turnout by three percent only for Brown in counties that he won, he loses by almost 62,000 votes. If you increase turnout by three percent only for Brown and in every county … he still loses by over 52,000 votes.”

Exit polls and county level voting data also point to GOP success.  In Georgia’s Governor race, Nathan Deal received 47% of the Hispanic vote.  In Texas, Abbott received 44%.  Nationally, the congressional exit poll says the GOP came within a point of winning the Asian vote.  Still, there are dissenters on the validity of the exit polls in terms of how the polling is conducted among Hispanics and Asians (predominately language and geographic bias).

This is where county level data comes in.  In Texas, Greg Abbott ran stronger in the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande valley than Rick Perry did in 2010.  He did not win any new counties but his vote totals were better.  Likewise, Abbott won Harris and Bexar counties while Perry lost both.  Colorado’s Senate results are also instructive.  Republican Corey Gardner ran stronger than Mitt Romney and 2010 Senate nominee Ken Buck in traditionally heavy Hispanic counties.

The GOP did not just improve its performance among minorities however.  It did much better among younger voters.  The national exit poll shows only a minor difference in the voting habits of the young from 2010 to 2014.  However, Democrats did not get near the 60% vote among 18-29 year olds they received in 2012.

In key races, the GOP performed strongly among the young.  In Colorado, no exit polls are available for 18-29 year old voters but among 30-44 year olds he won 52%-42%.  In Iowa, Joni Ernst only lost the youngest voting cohort 51%-44% and crushed Braley among all other age groups.

Perhaps the least noted GOP struggle with voters has been the income divide.  Democrats continuously carry low-income voters (predominately minorities and the young) while losing the middle class and the wealthy.  Barack Obama crushed Romney among those making less than $50,000 in 2012.  But this cycle the tables turned.  Ernst only lost by 12% among those making less than $30,000 and she won all other income groups.  Udall crushed Gardner among the less than $30,000 crowd but lost by a stunning 9% those in between $30,000 and $50,000 as well as all other income groups.  In other states this dynamic was also apparent.

None of this is to say the GOP has fixed its issues with low-income and minority voters.  Further, some polls showed a more conservative, younger electorate was likely to show up at the polls perhaps tainting the result.  Regardless, the GOP has more to crow about from this election based on demographics than they did in 2010.  More importantly, it gives the GOP an idea how to appeal to a younger and more diverse electorate heading into what is sure to be a barn burning 2016 Presidential election.

Oh. And I almost forgot. Working class voters nationwide really, really didn’t like Democrats.


Ada County Results Should Worry Idaho Republicans

Boise-Real-EstateTuesday was a pretty good night for the Idaho GOP.  They lost a swing seat in Northern Idaho but won every statewide office (with underwhelming candidates).  Several endangered Republican legislators in red and purple territory narrowly won.  But dig through the numbers and the Idaho GOP has reason to be concerned, especially as it pertains to Ada County.  Democrats might be sulking after Tuesday night but they can take hope for the future from Ada County.

Depending on the statewide race chosen, Democrats netted about 65,000 votes or so out of Ada County.  The Republican netted about 55,000 votes.  In the case of the Superintendent race the 22,000+ difference almost sunk Ybarra.  If not for her strength in rural areas Jones would possibly be confronting a hostile legislature.  If one looks at a map of the breakdown of Ada County votes it becomes clear that the power off the North End in deciding who wins Ada County has grown significantly.  This trend has only increased as liberal voters have moved into the formerly swing district 18.  As it stands, West Boise is the last GOP legislative redoubt in the city.

Ada County voting for statewide Democrats is not a new phenomenon.  In 2002, the county swung against then Governor Dirk Kempthorne.  But even as it was doing so the GOP maintained a decent contingent of legislators in the city.  That switched in 2006 when several legislators were thrown out even as then Congressman Otter narrowly carried the County in his first bid for Governor.  In 2010, Otter easily carried the county amid a GOP wave nationwide but the party was largely locked out of legislative races (winning 2 of 12 Democratic seats).

Redistricting and shifting political trends have not been kind to the party since then.  In 2012, Democrats reclaimed the legislative seats they lost in the county.  Further worrying for the GOP the fact that LD’s 16, 17, 18, and 19 were the only four districts in the entire state to vote for Obama (in other words, Boise).

The legislative results out of Ada for the party this year are depressing to say the least.  The party had to fight to hold its seats in 15 and not a single GOP challenger won more than 42% of the vote in 16, 18 or 19 (no GOP candidates even stepped up for district 17 races).

From the last two elections results Boise has  from purple to full blown blue.  It has also significantly shifted the preferences of Ada County as a whole.  This shift gives Democrats a strong base in the state but limits their ability to appeal to the conservative rural/suburbs of Canyon County.  Honestly, if nominating a candidate for Governor who voted for Romney in 12 wouldn’t do it what will?  Heck, more than a third of Balukoff’s statewide  vote total came from Ada County and he won 51.2% of the county’s vote.  But when you get to Canyon county he dropped to a meager 30.5%.  He also struggled in Kootenai up North.

So Republicans are locked out of power in Boise’s legislative seats while Democrats cannot win statewide.  Republicans obviously have the better of this situation but it is unfortunate.  First-off, it has made legislators in the conservative suburbs and rural areas of the state hostile to the interests of urban Democrats and the needs of the state’s largest metropolitan area.  Second, common sense areas of agreement become viewed through the prism of partisanship and ideology instead of pragmatism.  Third, and to put it bluntly, the interests of the city of Boise lose.  Consider higher education.  More funds go to UofI and Idaho State University per student than BSU.  You can look at this through multiple prisms but one of the most obvious is that legislators view the interests of Boise, tied to BSU, as less important than that of rural and suburban areas that need trade schools like CWI more.

Returning to the electoral implications of recent votes, Idaho could have a mini urban vs. suburban/rural voting voting pattern forming.  This polarization has resulted in the heavily Republican voting patterns of suburb/rural areas in Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin while major urban centers go Democratic in a big way.

I could of course be wrong.  After-all, Ada County is still fairly moderate, everything considered.  Going D in 2002 and 2014 while red in 2006 and 2010 suggests the county is not fully controlled by the whims of urban Boise voters.  Education was a major issue and it is clear that Balukoff and his ilk campaigned heavily on it.  It probably appealed heavily to young and educated families in the county.

In  the end Ada County is simply not blue or populous enough yet to swing statewide races.  If it becomes so and the state GOP loses the support of enough rural and suburban voters it could be enough to see Idaho Democrats elected elected to a statewide office.  Just don’t count on it to happen soon.




Democrats Have Suffered Historical Losses Under Obama

StateSenateControl-GIF.0.0It is hard not to underscore the scope of Democratic losses under Obama.  These losses have not just occurred in Congress but at the state level.  Consider that in 2009 when Democrats were in their zenith they held 60 Senate seats and 258 House seats.  At the state level the party controlled 28 Governorships and further had complete control of state government in 17 states (Governor and both legislative chambers).  Republicans held a mere 22 Governorships and only had state control in nine states.  Democrats have only gone downhill since.

Less than a year after Obama took office the GOP took control of the Governorships in blue New Jersey (Chris Christie) and Virginia (Bob McDonnell).  Merely two months later Democrats lost a Senate seat in deep blue Massachusetts and with it their 60 seat filibuster-proof majority.

In the midterms of 2010 the GOP racked up six Senate seats and 63 new House seats.  Not only were Democrats devastated federally but once the dust had settled they controlled a mere 20 Governorships.  They only had complete control in 11 states compared to the GOP’s 18 and the number of legislative chambers they controlled shrunk to 38 (including ties) while the GOP controlled 60 (including ties).

Democrats did gain 8 House seats back in 2012 and picked up two Senate seats but the results of the 2014 elections show just how hard Democrats were hammered.  As of today the GOP gained 12 new House seats and at least 7 Senate seats (with the likelihood to gain more).  To put it bluntly, when Obama entered office the party controlled 60 Senate seats and 258 House seats.  When he leaves office the party will likely hold less than 185 House seats and a mere 46 Senate seats.

The devastated Democratic landscape looks even bleaker at the state level.  The party will hold a mere 18 Governorships while the GOP holds 31 (or 32 depending on Alaska) The GOP will control 68-69 legislatures (out of 98) and have complete control in 23 states.  Democrats will have complete control in a mere 7 states (NE and Pacific Coast).

But these numbers cannot do justice to just how bad these losses have been.  The entire South has basically turned GOP.  Consider some swing state delegations.  Republicans now control 5 of the 6 members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation compared to two of seven in 2009 (lost a seat in reapportionment).  In Ohio the party represents 13 of the state’s 18 member delegation compared to 8-18 in 09 (lost two seats in census).  In Pennsylvania, the GOP represents 13 of the state’s 21 member delegation.  This contrasts with a mere 8 out of 21 in the 2009 delegation.

The reasons for Democrats losses under Obama are myriad.  Pursual of unpopular policies, ignoring a bad economy, etc.  But it also represents the modern shift Democrats have made from courting conservative whites to focusing on establishing a majority-minority coalition.  This is why so many states dominated by blue-collar whites in the Midwest (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan) and South have turned away from the party and why white men went 64%-33% for the GOP.

I’ll leave you with some final numbers below comparing and contrasting 2009 totals to likely post 2014 numbers.  These numbers are inexact with the Alaska and Louisiana Senate races yet to be called, multiple Congressional races remaining in the balance and some legislative house races in CO remaining in doubt but you get the picture.

Democrat pre Nov. 2009:

Governors: 28

States legislatures: 60

State Control: 17

House Members: 258

US Senators: 60

GOP pre Nov. 2009:

Governors: 22

State legislatures: 38

House Members: 177

US Senators: 40

Democrats post Nov. 2014:

Governors: 18

State legislatures: 29 (1 tied).

House members: 179

State Control 17

US Senators: 45

GOP post Nov. 2014:

Governors: 31

Control 67 state legislatures (1 tied).

State Control 23

House members 243:

US Senators: 52


For further fun I include the list of legislative chambers that swung Republican this cycle and the total partisan number of legislators by affiliation in each chamber.  Democrats did not swing a single chamber though they held the Iowa Senate and Kentucky House (only Southern chamber now controlled by Democrats).

Swing D-R: 10

Colorado Senate

Nevada House

Nevada Senate

West Virginia House

West Virginia Senate

Washington Senate

New Mexico House

Minnesota House

Maine Senate

New Hampshire House


Total Numbers:

Democratic Lower chamber legislators: 2,339 (43.58%)

Democratic Upper chamber legislators: 824 (43.2%)

Total Legislators: 3,163 (43.47%)

Republican lower chamber legislators: 3,028 (56.42%)

Republican upper chamber legislators: 1,085 (56.8%)

Total legislators: 4, 113 (56.53%)




Is the Democratic Brand Just too Toxic to Win in Idaho?

OtterI’ll start this post off with some good news for Democrats.  You did well in Ada County.  AJ Balukoff, Holli Woodings and Jana Jones all won the county.  The party held every one of their legislative seats.  Richard Stallings actually won the portion of the 2nd CD that is in Ada County.  But now comes the bad news.  It did not matter.  No Democrat won statewide or federal office in Idaho.

It should not have been this way for the party. Despite lacking a deep bench the party found Balukoff, a self-made businessman and education guru. Jana Jones looked like an intellectual next to Ybarra and Woodings was the perfect contrast to a good ole’ boy conservative.  But, as liberals have said on my social media trying to explain away the election, “Idaho voters are so stupid. I mean, c’mon, Sherri Ybarra? Butch Otter again?  All these people do is vote for anybody with an R next to their name.”  I am paraphrasing. They might have a point.  But they refuse to acknowledge a deeper point let alone ask  the most important question, “why is our brand so toxic in Idaho?”

Look at Otter and Ybarra.  Both ran less than impressive campaigns.  Ybarra fibbed about her job achievements and martial status.  Otter was accused of multiple scandals and did not have a cohesive defense of his record.  Yet, short of five counties (Ada, Latah, Blaine Bannock and Teton), both romped to victory.  The biggest surprise might be Ybarra’s win.  Tied to Luna at the hip and despite the facts she supported Tiered Licensure and the Luna Laws she still won by over 5,000 votes.

In the short-term Democrats will probably blame Jones debate skills or the lack of a ground game for Balukoff.  They will probably write off Woodings loss as the result of the state’s stereotype of North Enders.  But long-term if Democrats cling to these ideas they will never achieve much of anything in the state.  Just look at some of the mistakes Democrats made that raised worries for voters.

Jones spoke glowingly of the IEA.  She also supported Common Core and only gave a passing reference to ideas like giving local districts flexibility.  Jones had the experience but when she spoke of the IEA so positively it raised worries among voters about how much she would advocate for kids as opposed to teacher interests.  Woodings made her campaign a referendum on the GOP’s closed primary.  Is it a wonder she didn’t win?  You can’t win an election when you start off by alienating half the state’s electorate.  Balukoff championed reform on education which I suspect many voters liked. But he also supported hiking the minimum wage (big government tell you what to do) and was vague on how to fund his K-12 initiatives.

Democrats will probably eke out a victory in one or two legislative races in Nez Perce and Latah counties but they will do so amid a pol.  The party failed to take down a GOP legislator who urinated in public and another who stopped campaigning midway through the general before changing his mind.  Indeed, Otter probably dragged down the GOP ticket in Ada Canyon.  Didn’t matter.  The Democrats inability to connect to voters outside Ada and Blaine counties ensured statewide GOP victories.

If Democrats were honest with themselves they would probably ask what they need to do to rehabilitate their image.  Maybe they need to turn rightward and appear like the center-right party, not the far-right party.  Perhaps they should drop their emphasis on the minimum wage and instead pivot to the idea of economic empowerment.  Their best bet is probably to stop denigrating the very people they need support from.  But they won’t.  At the end of the day Idaho Democrats are in the position they are in because for the last 20 years they have refused to accept that Idaho is not merely a deeply conservative state, but a deeply Republican state!



Six Takeaways From Tuesday Night

628x471While the dust settles from the 2014 shellacking Democrats received several things stand out.  Some of them are surprising, others not so much.  This is by far not an exhaustive list, but to me it signifies the six most interesting things to have come out of this election cycle.

1. The polls were biased towards Democrats: Coming into election night Democrats had a solid lead in Virginia and a small lead in North Carolina.  Greg Orman led in Kansas and numerous gubernatorial polls showed Dems ahead in blue states and GOP Governors in swing states trailing.  Last night those polls were proven to be badly off.  It is hard to count the number of races where the polls were off.  In Arkansas, the RCP average of polls had Cotton up 7%, he won by 17%.  In IA, Ernst led by 2.3% and she won by an astounding 8.5%.  In CO, Gardner led by 2.5% and he won by 4.2%.  The list goes on further.  In KS, Roberts trailed Orman by .8% and he won by 10.7%.  In Georgia, Perdue led by 3% in the polls and he won by 7% and avoided a runoff with 53%.  The polls were off by at least 3% in North Carolina and though polling was sparse in Virginia, Ed Gillespie only trails Mark Warner by .6% compared to Warner leading double digits in the polls.  In Governors races in Wisconsin, Maine, Florida and Michigan the polls were off by 2-5%.  In blue states in Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts the GOP ran ahead of polling margins.  All this begs the question why the polls were off?

Democrats in the run-up to the election claimed the polls were biased against them.  But this time the polls badly underestimated GOP strength.  Perhaps pollsters should wonder after three consecutive elections if they need to wholesale re-examine their profession.

2. The vaunted Democratic ground game failed: Consider some numbers for me.  Obama won IA in 2012 by 6%.  He won CO by 5%.  He carried Virginia by 4%.  Yet, in these purple states the GOP candidate won by 8.5% (IA), 4.2% (CO), and the GOP candidate trails by .6% in Virginia.  In red states that featured competitive Senate races Democrats touted their ground game, arguing it would give Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor, Michelle Nunn and Mary Landrieu a huge advantage.  Instead, Pryor lost by over 15%, Landrieu barely garnered 42% (run-off on Dec. 6th), Nunn notched only 44% and Hagan could not get above 47.2%.  The ground game the Democrats had boasted so much about in 2008, in CO and NV Senate races in 10, the Presidential race in 012, failed miserably.  Which for 2016 begs the question, did the GOP catch up or was the toxic environment simply to much for national Democrats?

3. How the GOP Did with Minorities: Taking a gander at the exit polls it is not surprising to see the GOP did well with men, struggled with women and dominated among Independents.  It is surprising to see the GOP make dramatic improvements with all minorities who promise to control future elections.  Republicans dramatically improved their 2012 showing among Hispanics (35%), blacks (10%) and perhaps most importantly, Asians (49%).  The exit polls even show they won American Indians (52%).  N0w, one can argue these minorities were more conservative than those that showed in 2012.  Perhaps so.  But the GOP’s improvement among these groups is a significant win for the party heading into 2016.  I will not focus on specific state exit polls but I will give shout outs to Nathan Deal in Georgia who won 47% of the Hispanic vote, Greg Abbott in Texas who won 44% of the Hispanic vote and John Kasich in Ohio who won 22% of the black vote.

4. How the Governorships Swung: The sheer number of Governorships the GOP is set to assume in 2015 is no less than amazing.  Heading into the night many analysts expected the GOP to lose 1-3 seats and some crucial 2016 states.  But, with many of the races called the party held virtually every big state and picked up some blue states to boot.  In Wisconsin, Scott Walker trounced Mary Burke.  In Michigan, Rick Snyder cruised to reelection.  In Florida and Maine, both races many analysts expected the GOP to lose, Rick Scott and Paul LePage won.  Sam Brownback, an endangered incumbent in Kansas that was widely expected to lose, won with over 50% of the vote.  Then we get to races the GOP won.  In Maryland, Larry Hogan pulled off a surprising victory.  Charlie Baker in Massachusetts gave Marth Coakley her second major defeat in less than four years.  Even in deep blue Illinois, Bruce Rauner proved a winner over Pat Quinn.  The GOP also easily held open seats in Nebraska and Arizona. Connecticut and Alaska are still outstanding.

While Democrats hold the edge in both some analysis indicates the races have yet to be called because some GOP heavy precincts have not reported their ballots.  One bright spot for Democrats is they did hold the Colorado governorship.  The GOP did lose Pennsylvania (as expected) and they could very well lose Alaska.  But regardless, the GOP is alive and well at the state level.  I will have more on state legislative turnover when more numbers come out.

5. Where Have All the Conservative Democrats Gone: The GOP wave was so strong this cycle they not only won in conservative districts but also liberal ones.  But it is the conservative Democrats who lost that are notable and indicate the Democratic Caucus in the House will move inexorably to the left.  Nick Rahall, a 19 term West Virginia Congressman lost his bid for reelection.  With Capito’s victory in the Senate, Senator Joe Manchin is the lone Democrat in the state’s delegation.  In Georgia, John Barrow lost his bid for reelection.  Outside of TX and Florida in the South the Democrats do not have a single white Congressman representing a majority white district.  Democrats also saw notable moderates and liberals lose.  Democrats might take solace in the fact Gwen Graham beat Steve Southerland in the conservative FL-2 and Steve Ashford leads Lee Terry in NB-2.  Collin Peterson won reelection in a district Mitt Romney won by 10% in 2012.  But by and large the Democratic Caucus will lose more moderates and conservatives than it gained.  With several close races in CA and AZ pending, those losses could become even deeper.

6. Idaho Democrats Have Another Rough Night: Democrats are used to having rough nights.  But this time might be different.  Many Democrats felt AJ Balukoff was the guy to topple Otter.  Holli Woodings for Secretary of State and Jana Jones for Superintendent of Education were top-notch candidates.  But in the end it does not look like Democrats will hold a single statewide constitutional office for the next four years.  With all precincts reporting Otter had 54%, Denney had 56% and Ybarra had 50.7%.  Democrats still hold out hope Jones can come from behind with absentee and provisional ballots (she has yet to concede) but the odds are long.

At the legislative level Democrats are in slightly better shape.  They look likely to hold all their metro Boise seats and add a seat or two in the House with narrow wins in district 5 and 6 house races (both to close to call).  Meanwhile, Republicans have few pick-up opportunities unless remaining ballots go decisively in their favor.  One saving grace for Democrats was their margin in Ada County.  They easily held their legislative seats and Balukoff, Jones and Wooding all took Ada County.

Despite winning Ada County Democrats were trounced in the state.  Are Democrats simply to toxic to ever win in Idaho for a generation?  I am starting to suspect so.

Bias in Polls Democrats Last Hope

140715124640-online-polls-620xaThe Democratic Party of 2014 is starting to feel like the GOP of 2012.  The GOP of 2012 saw Romney leading in national polls, yet trailing in individual state races.  The party insisted Romney would win and instead he lost by 4% in the popular vote and over 100 electoral votes (332-206).  Today, the situation is reversed.  Two days from what Democrats see as a midterm shellacking they have turned to the GOP’s 2012 tactic, attacking the polls and arguing poll bias. There are two problems with this strategy.  First, there is just no evidence the polls are biased FOR Republicans or even AGAINST Democrats.  Second, even if the polls are biased it might not matter.

Let’s take these issues one at a time.  First, let’s look at the pro-GOP claim.  Nate Silver has written significantly on this topic.  In his first piece, he found their is no consistent bias in Senate polling since 1992.  From 1990-1994 the polls favored Democrats, 96-2000 they were pro GOP, 02-04 they were pro-Democratic, in 06 they overstated the GOP’s position, in 08 the Democrats and in 010 and 012 they overstated the GOP’s standing.  Democrats refuse to concede the point.  Rather, they point to Nate Cohn who has written an article on it here, and feel good articles for Democrats here and here.  The problem is that even though Cohn questions Silver’s analysis, he cannot say for certain whether the polls are biased against Democrats.  He can only say he thinks they are.

The second issue assumes there is bias in the polls towards Republicans.  If this assumption is accurate the question becomes how much bias?  The RCP average of polls show the GOP leads by 3.8% in CO, 1.8% in IA, 2.2% in GA, 2.6% in AK, 6.5% in KY, 4.6% in LA and 7.1% in AR.  So in the closest race, Democrats need to see a polling bias of at least 1% to win IA.  Next up they need 1.1% to be competitive in GA, 1.3% in AK and so on. In other words, Democrats need a polling bias of at least 1% to win any of the states they currently trail in.  The flip-side of the same coin is if their is polling bias in favor of Democrats they might lose North Carolina and New Hampshire and see smaller wins in states like Virginia, Minnesota and Oregon.

Seeing significant bias this year is of course an open question.  In Silver’s analysis, he found the GOP only had a polling bias of over 2% in their favor four times.  To hold the Senate, Democrats need at least a 2% polling error in their favor.  This would allow them to hold CO, IA, AK and take GA and stay at 50 seats (pending the outcome in LA).  But again, there simply is no way to know for sure whether the polls are off this much, let alone at all.

This has not stopped Democrats from claiming the polls are biased.  Democratic candidates and party operatives point to internal polls showing challengers and incumbents either narrowly behind or running neck and neck with their GOP counterparts.  But when campaigns have to cite internal polling numbers to raise their prospects it is bad news.  The one saving grace for Democrats might be the polls have not consistently moved against them at any one time this cycle.  Rather, the polls have slowly moved two steps away from them and one step towards them before the cycle repeats.  The latest batch of polling this Sunday showcased the trend.

The above analysis assumes a consistent polling bias nationwide.  But if the polls are biased in just a few states it could also have significant impacts.  I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that GA and LA are likely to head to run-offs in December and January and Colorado is utilizing an all-mail balloting system for the first time.  Further, the fact an Independent is running in Kansas upsets the traditional paradigm between the two parties in the ruby red state.

Democrats can hope the polls are biased in a few states rather than the whole.  It might allow them to keep the Senate.  No history of this occurring exists however.  Sure, polls in individual states have been off but they have never been off enough in enough races to switch who controls the Senate (at least since 1990).

Add all these factors together and it is little surprise Democrats are arguing the polls are biased.  They desperately need them to be.  If the polls are spot on Democrats will still lose the Senate and multiple close races.  If the polls are biased towards Republicans, Democrats might still lose the Senate.  But, if the polls are biased towards Democrats it is Republicans who will benefit and sweep virtually ever close Senate race.  It may even trickle down to close House and gubernatorial races.  If so, the Democrats 2014 nightmare scenario will have come true.



Governors in Both Parties Facing Backlashes Over Policies

Governor Rick Snyder is in a competitive race for a second term in Michigan.

Governor Rick Snyder is in a competitive race for a second term in Michigan.

The gubernatorial landscape is best described as a mix bag.  While it is clear Republicans hold an edge in Senate and House races (unclear how big) nobody can say the same for many Governors races.

Today, Republicans hold 29 of 50 gubernatorial mansions.  They are moving heaven and earth to keep it that way.  But considering the breadth of competitive seats they have to defend, MI, WI, FL, ME, AK, AZ and KS of all places, this is no easy task.  Polls are neck and neck in many of these races.

But just because Democrats control a mere 21 Governor’s mansions does not mean they are in the clear.  Just as Republicans are defending reliably red states like AZ and KS, Democrats are fighting to hold a number of reliably blue states; IL, MA, MD, RI and CT top this list with Hawaii looking like more of a long-shot for the GOP.  Democrats are also struggling to hold swing CO.

Considering the national climate and mood one has to ask what is causing such a phenomenon?  The answer is as simple as it is complicated.  Voters are responding to unpopular/popular policies unique to each state and their evaluation criteria in gubernatorial races are different from federal elections.

Consider Michigan.  It is all but certain the state will send Democratic Congressman Gary Peters to the Senate but they might retain GOP Governor Rick Snyder. In other states the dynamic might reverse.  Alaska might replace Senator Begich (D) with Republican Dan Sullivan but replace Governor Parnell (R) with a Unity ticket of a Democrat and Independent (formerly a Republican).

Primarily. many of these races are competitive not solely because of their split electorate but because of the controversial policies that have been pursued by outgoing or incumbent Governors.  In WI and MI, controversial CBA reforms have made GOP Governors the target of unions.  In FL, Rick Scott’s refusal to expand Medicaid and his funding or lack there of education has made the public split on his reelection.  In ME, Governor Paul LePage’s controversial style has him statistically tied in a three-way race.  Alaska is competitive because of an ongoing National Guard scandal and Parnell’s unpopular reform of the state’s oil and gas taxes.

Then we come to Kansas.  Kansas is unique because Governor Sam Brownback implemented one of the most expansive conservative agendas in the US.  He eliminated numerous taxes, knocked out many Republican moderates in the legislature and aided in the passage of strong voter ID laws.  The result has been the Governor being in a dead heat against his Democratic opponent and if he holds on it will not be considered a ratification of his policies.  Rather, it will be because the state is so overwhelmingly Republican.

Democratic policies have led to problems for the party, albeit for different reasons.  While many GOP Governors pursued policies to cut government and save money, Democratic Governors went the opposite direction.  In the open Maryland seat, Governor Martin O’Malley’s legacy of over 40 tax increases weighs heavily on his potential Democratic successor.  In Massachusetts former Governor Deval Patrick’s tenure is not aiding Martha Coakley.  In Connecticut, Governor Malloy is struggling in a rematch against 2010 opponent Tom Foley.  Malloy has passed over $1.8 billion in tax increases since 2011.  Illinois, despite its blueness is competitive because Governor Pat Quinn hiked the state’s income taxes and now wants to make the hike permanent.  His saving grace may be Cook County’s turnout.  In the perennial swing state of CO, Governor Hickenlooper’s decision to pass restrictive gun control measures, new energy efficiency requirements and increase taxes has made his race a dogfight.

Other states such as RI, HI and AZ are marginally competitive.  However, despite the outgoing Governor’s policies lingering the incumbent parties look likely to hold each seat.

Even in my home state, Idaho, the public is unhappy with the majority party’s policies.  Governor Butch Otter has had to fend off attacks on his record of not expanding Medicaid and inadequate funding of education.  Ironically, he is being hit from the right for being to moderate in establishing a state health exchange.

The restive mood of the public in gubernatorial races reflects an overall unsettled and unhappy voting bloc.  Indeed, a new CNN poll found 7 out of 10 voters were angry and an astonishingly high number of people felt the nation was on the wrong track.  It is not a stretch to say these feelings are bleeding into statewide constitutional elections.

So when the dust settles after November 4th individuals should not be surprised to see Republicans having dominated Senate and House races in states Romney won.  But, individuals should also not be surprised to see both Republicans and Democrats occupying Governor’s mansions in typically red and blue states.

The lesson such an occurrence teaches is clear.  Partisan polarization at the federal level is clear and undiminished.  But, at the state level, policies and their impacts can have surprising consequences.

Addendum: I exclude Arkansas and Pennsylvania from this list because Pennsylvania is gone for the GOP and Arkansas is likely Republican for partisan reasons not necessarily related to state policies.  As for New Hampshire, only a single New England poll has shown the race competitive.