A quick guide to the smartest midterm election analysis

November 5, 2014

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addresses supporters with his wife Elaine Chao at his midterm election night rally in Louisville

Early Election Night, there was a lot of parsing of the term “wave election.” It sure quacks like one. The Washington Post had no trouble declaring a GOP wave well before midnight Tuesday. (The piece posted at 11:33 p.m., but pulls together too many stats to have been written on the spot.)

Matt Yglesias at Vox argues conclusively why the outcome of the 2014 midterms is a wave election. It is not just because the Democratic Party faced a bad electoral map, with so many Democratic senators representing red states.  He makes the crucial point that the country is unhappy with the president and his party. The vote was anti-establishment, and since Democrats hold the White House and the U.S. Senate they are the establishment.

Yglesias’s last graph put it best:

There’s no need to over-interpret the election. If there’s anything we’ve learned watching the see-saw of 2008 followed by 2010 followed by 2012, it’s that the American electorate has no problem turning on a dime. But let’s not under-interpret it, either. Democrats were dealt a bad hand this year, but they lost even worse than that. You can tell a complicated story about why, but the fact that [President Barack] Obama’s approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s summarize it pretty well. Right now, the country isn’t happy with the Democratic Party or its leader. And on Election Day, Democrats paid the price.

Wednesday on Morning Joe, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol suggested why so many polls predicted tight races when Republican wins were often substantial. In a wave election, Kristol said, it can begin breaking the weekend before the vote. So polls even from the week before can be off. This was true for Republican senatorial candidate Tom Cotton in Arkansas, a friend of Kristol, who began to see a shift in his internal polling last weekend.

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Republican funders Charles and David Koch were also big winners. In 2012, Karl Rove’s big bet on GOP candidates was a big failure. But the Koch-funded PAC Americans for Prosperity did more that give money — it replicated the 2012 Obama campaign’s successful ground game in states like Florida.

Now that Republicans control the Senate, we need to take stock of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who looks like the next Senate majority leader. His campaign was the first race called by virtually every news organization, right as the polls closed in Kentucky. He then gave a pitch-perfect victory speech, gracefully praising Alison Lundergan Grimes, his Democratic opponent in their ferocious election battle.

The most important signal: McConnell spoke about working with Democrats to get things done for the nation. That is a 180-degree turn from the baron of the Senate who said his one ambition was to make Obama a one-term president. (Hint: He didn’t succeed.)

Since McConnell is a masterful politician and Senate tactician, his talk of cooperation sounds promising. Remember it was McConnell who stepped in to close key deals with the Democrats when House Speaker John Boehner lost control of his caucus.

So first read this smart piece about McConnell by the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza:

Why Mitch McConnell Always Wins

And after that taste, settle in with Molly Ball’s insightful pre-election analysis in The Atlantic.

Then re-read this wide-ranging — and terrific — New York Times profile by Jonathan Martin.

Meanwhile, Evan Osnos at the New Yorker says this is “The Dawn of the Age of McConnell” — and foresees a dark scenario:

In so many ways, McConnell is the leader that this U.S. Senate deserves. He is a pure political being: he entered politics as a center-leaning, pro-environment, pro-choice Republican in a Democratic state; year by year, he has marched to the right in step with his Party, cycling through positions on collective bargaining and minimum wage. 

Either way, McConnell still needs to watch out for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Tea Party activist who has said he won’t support McConnell for majority leaders. He repeated it again on CNN Tuesday night. He seems primed to be McConnell’s Newt Gingrich.

Can President Barack Obama work with this Republican Congress, with its strong majorities in both chambers? (The GOP’s majority in the House of Representatives is the party’s biggest since 1928.) We are already seeing stories about Obama’s need to keep his presidency relevant. (The standard comment after a midterm drubbing. President Bill Clinton stopped this talk cold with his stunning speech after the Oklahoma City bombing.)

Obama may have gotten another shellacking when the GOP took the Senate, but he showed he was still in the game when he called to congratulate Senator-elect Tom Cotton – the extremely new, and extremely conservative, senator from Arkansas.

And be sure to read this fab Ron Brownstein piece in National Journal, “The Tectonic Plates of 2014.”  He lays out essential facts. Like this one:

The modern Democratic coalition is a boom-and-bust coalition that depends heavily on minorities and young people who turn out much less regularly in midterm than presidential elections. Older voters, who are trending steadily toward the GOP, vote much more reliably. Beyond any short-term factors, this is creating a structural disadvantage for Democrats in off-year elections.

But it was voter anger, beyond the structural issues, that launched this Republican wave.

 

PHOTO (TOP): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addresses supporters while accompanied by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, at his midterm election night victory rally in Louisville, Kentucky, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

PHOTO (INSERT): David Koch and his brother, Charles Koch. REUTERS/Courtesy of Koch Industries.

2 comments

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LoL…”the country is unhappy with the president and his party.” Wait until the Republicans get cranked up…bye,bye United States of America…Hello United States of Koch!

Posted by simbolistic | Report as abusive

As opposed to say, George Soros, or Michael Bloomberg? Two names from a VERY long list.
And you find this to be “LoL?”
Typical liberal double-standard.

Posted by operaghost | Report as abusive