In no particular order, here are some thoughts 12 hours after the first polls started closing:
1. Harry Reid is a HUGE loser. He and his party paid dearly for failing to do what every Senate Majority Leader before him did: Protect the dignity of the Senate.
It used to be said that the Senate contained 99 members who looked in the mirror every morning and saw the next president looking back at him, and 1 member who didn’t want to be president because, as the Senate Majority Leader, he already thought that he was more powerful. Let’s be blunt: Harry Reid spent the last six years being President Obama’s water boy.
Popular House bills died in the Senate because the White House told Harry Reid to not let them get to the President’s desk. Harry Reid rammed unpopular bills (Obamacare) through without any Republican input, because the President refused to negotiate. When the President couldn’t get his controversial nominees through confirmation, Harry Reid scrapped the filibuster (which I bet the Senate Minority Leader now wishes was a power he still had). Harry Reid never gave Senate Dems the power to distance themselves from the President on bills like Keystone Pipeline approval or approval of popular amendments to Obamacare because the White House said no. Instead, Obama flagrantly usurped Congress’ Constitutional legislative authority via executive orders, and Harry Reid let him get away with it. Harry Reid was not the Senate Majority Leader; he was the Senate Liaison Officer to the White House. He protected the President’s ego instead of the dignity of the Senate and his own Senate majority. For being a eunuch, Harry Reid deserves the axe.
2. Harry Reid will not be the Senate Minority Leader. For one thing, see point #1 above. For another, he is a Democratic Senator from a purplish state. After yesterday there are a lot fewer of those than there were before. ”Moderate” Dems took a beating last night. That means that the remaining Democrats will be both fewer and bluer on average than they were before. Prediction: Chuck Schumer will be the Senate Minority Leader. Say what you want about him, I don’t think that anyone doubts that if confronted with a situation that threatens Chuck Schumer, that Schumer will tell Obama to twist himself into an anatomically impossible sexual position. If Nevada had a Democratic governor, Harry Reid would likely resign within the month. Even with Republican Brian Sandoval appointing a successor, Reid still might resign just to spite the President and his colleagues. But he has only himself to blame.
3. Democrats have a serious problem with the kind of industrial union and rural white voters they once had in their camp. I looked in great detail at Kentucky before the race and during the release of the results. Compared with 2010, Mitch McConnell did slightly worse than did Rand Paul in Jefferson County (Louisville), in Fayette County (Lexington), and in the three ring Cincinnati suburban counties (Boone, Campbell, and Kenton). Looking at just those three areas which contain the states largest urban black population, its student population, and its middle and upper middle class populations, the results looked exactly like the polls indicated: a McConnell win of about eight points, and a GOP performance that would fall short of 2010 levels. Instead, Mitch McConnell won by double the expected amount. And exactly as I predicted, Kentucky would tell us all that we need to know about how the rest of the night was going to unfold.
We’ll need to look at more exit polls and additional states to have a better idea, but here’s what I think happened. The Democratic message is an exclusionary one: It says to America that if you’re not black, a single female, or a government worker, you’re part of the American problem. I think that when the analysis is done we’ll learn that the overt appeals to racism turned off more white voters than it brought blacks to the polls. And if this is true, it’s good news. That’s because it might finally be the beginning of the end of the cynical Democrat-driven racial division in this country. That said, I fully expect Democrats to try it one more time in 2016. For one thing, I don’t see the President changing (see below), and for another, they really don’t have anything else to fall back on. (For example: not the “war on women”.)
You’ll hear Democrats justify last night’s abysmal loss by saying that it was typical of a mid-term result. But what they might not realize is that with absolutely no upside left in the black vote, it only takes a little bit of a change in a white electorate seven times as large to completely overwhelm a black electoral advantage. In other words, from a strictly numerical perspective, the party that has a problem with 12% of the electorate has a much smaller problem than does the party that is falling behind with 70% of the electorate.
4. Democrats also have a serious problem with other minorities. They won Asians by only one point. Four years before, Democrats took the Asian vote 58-40. They also lost support among “other”. In 2010, Democrats took that electorate 53-44. Yesterday the margin was down to 50-46. Asians and “other” are a each only 2% of the vote, but the 5-point and 18-point slippage among Dems with those groups, is not insignificant.
Message to Democrats: Just as it should be obvious to you by now that not all women think and vote alike, not all minorities think and vote alike either. Duh.
But here’s where the exit polls disagree with each other. The white percentage of the electorate this year was 2% smaller and virtually unchanged in its outcome (60-37 in 2010 and 60-38 in 2014). This should have translated to a smaller GOP lead. The black percentage of the electorate also was virtually unchanged (89-9 in 2010 and 89-10 in 2014) and the black electorate climbed to 12% versus 11% in 2010. Dems also gained with Latinos, going from 60-38 to 63-35, while the Latino portion of the electorate stayed stable at 8%.
In other words, the exit polls actually indicate a slight Democratic improvement over the 2010 result. This is consistent with what happened in the key counties I analyzed in Kentucky. And it is consistent with pre-election polls. But is not consistent with the actual result.
Theory: Pollsters don’t weight for urbanicity, and as a result, completely missed the disdain that rural Americans have for the Democratic Party. A county by county look at the results might bear this out. Either that, or the exit polls were completely wrong. (These are not necessarily mutually exclusive results.)
5. Don’t fuck with football. Ed Gillespie ran one spot during MNF the night before election day. It belittled Harry Reid for diminishing the Senate by taking up a bill to force the NFL to change the name of the Redskins. Red or Blue, everybody in the Washington area unites about the Redskins. The two biggest earth-shattering results last night occurred in the Virginia Senate race where nobody had Ed Gillespie within 9 points of Mark Warner, and in the Maryland Governor race where no public poll released in 2014 had the Republican candidate in the lead. Maryland and Virginia is Redskin fan base.
But let’s take this beyond football. This ad and the controversy around it was emblematic of the Democrat’s problems. Americans want their leaders to be serious and to offer serious solutions about serious problems. Re-naming a football team is not serious. Voters in those two areas rebuked Democrats for their frivolity. Oh, and don’t fuck with football.
6. The donkey in the room. (Actually the saying is about an elephant, but you know what I mean.) The donkey in the room is Barack Obama. The American people have judged him to be a failure. He is now the lamest of lame ducks. Before the 2006 midterms, President Bush went into his final two years with 55 seats in the Senate and 232 in the House. After the the opposing party holding 51 senate seats and 233 seats. Barack Obama watched the opposition party gain even greater control than happened eight years before. Republicans will likely control 54 senate seats and about 248 House seats.
More succinctly: Barack Obama took a bigger beating in 2014 than George W. Bush did in 2006.
After the defeat he took in 2010, Barack Obama didn’t change course as Bill Clinton had done when the electorate pronounced a midterm decision about him. Barack Obama has yet to show humility or responsibility about anything. Perhaps this time will be different. But probably not.
Now might be a good time for Democrats to re-look Dan McLaughlin’s primer for what to expect in 2016 that so many of them scoffed at before. His look at history said that the party with the presidency for two elections, will see a drop-off in support the third time around. Let me add to the foreboding news for Democrats: After taking sharp losses in the sixth year election, the President’s party usually loses even more two years later.
In the sixth year of the Bush administration, the President’s party lost 30 seats in the House. The following election, they lost another 21 seats and the Presidency
In the sixth year of Nixon’s administration (yes, technically Ford was president), Republicans lost 48 seats. Two years later they lost another seat and the presidency.
In 1966 LBJ’s party lost 47 seats. Two years later they lost five more and the Presidency.
We have to go back to 1958 to see a counter-example. Ike’s party lost 48 seats in the House in his second midterm, but managed to win back 22 of them in 1960. But he still lost the presidency.
The recent historical record suggests that as bad as things are for Democrats today, they are likely to be even worse after the election two years hence.
And that brings us back to Obama. He is an anchor on the Democratic Party. The damning evidence for this comes not from the Senate, where Democrats lost only red and purple states. Nor does it come from the House, where with a few exceptions the same thing occurred. No, it comes from the gubernatorial races where Republicans held purple seats in the face of overwhelming media opposition (Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and picked up cobalt blue state seats in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts. There is no rational way to shrug off this result other than to say that Barack Obama was a weight on the entire Democratic Party.
And here’s what should alarm Democrats up for election in two Novembers. President Obama has been intimating to his supporters that he’s going to take all kinds of executive actions when he has more “flexibility” after this election. If those unspecified actions were popular with the American public, don’t you think he would have taken them before the election? If we are to take him at his word, the President’s apparent intent is take his favorability down even further. Here are some Democrats who might be particularly alarmed by this prospect: Colorado’s Michael Bennet, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, Washington’s Patty Murray, and whomever is going to be the Democratic nominee to try and succeed the retiring Harry Reid. All of them will have to face voters in 24 months, and the lesson of last night is to not face those voters with an overwhelmingly unpopular incumbent from the same party sitting in the White House.
7. One final winner this night is Sean Trende who replaces Nate Silver as this election’s geek par excellence. As early as January, Trende nailed this election. His hypothesis was that Presidential popularity and the partisan tilt of a state would play an enormous role in the closing days of the race. Ten months ago, he predicted nine seats using this methodology and it looks like this is exactly where it is going to end up.