Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election 2010: The Bloodbath That Never Happened

In recent weeks, the media have described today's election as a certain bloodbath for the Democratic Party. The results, however, look much more measured. As of 12:48am on the East Coast, it appears that the GOP will regain control of the House, but Democrats will maintain control -- although to a lesser degree -- of the Senate.

Several recent elections have brought about similar shifts in congressional power. In 1994, both the Senate and the House went to the GOP, along with many state governorships. In 2006, both chambers shifted to the Democrats. So, 2010 is actually a little better for the Democrats than recent election results.

Furthermore, historical data indicate that the president's party has performed poorly in midterm elections during most of modern US history. Also, considering the wretched state of the economy, the Democrats could have easily suffered from a complete loss of power in Congress. This, outcome, however, did not occur.

Needless to say, Democrats lost some tough races. Senator Russ Feingold -- probably the last remaining progressive in the Senate -- lost in Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak lost to Pat Toomey by a very narrow margin. Also, in Florida, Charlie Crist lost the Senate race to Marco Rubio. Even though Crist led the three-candidate race immediately after he abandoned the Republican Party, Kendrick Meek (a Democrat) managed to pull enough liberal votes away from Crist, which threw the election to Rubio.

In Nevada, however, Harry Reid has defeated Sharron Angle. Angle, who is probably best known for her comical efforts to escape the media, ran as an anti-government, anti-social security, anti-Department of Education, Tea Party candidate. Surprisingly, despite her obviously limited intellect, she kept the race tight until the very end. Reid, however, is very unpopular among voters. Nevertheless, he has won close elections in the past, and he benefits from labor union support, which gives him a massive "get out the vote" machine. Apparently, the machine worked -- despite massive voter discontent.

The media will probably craft an electoral narrative designed to create drama and to draw traffic to their web pages. Ultimately, however, the election tallies (as exit polls indicate) likely result from one simple factor: voters' feelings of vulnerability about the economy. This same vulnerability caused them to abandon Republicans, elect President Obama and expand Democratic control of Congress in 2008.

In 2008, I warned exuberant Democrats that the election results did not mean that the American electorate had become wildly liberal. Similarly, the results of today's election do not indicate that the country is wildly conservative. Instead, partisans have voted for their parties' candidates, while moderates and independents voted against many Democrats because they are afraid of the economy. If the economy picks up by 2012, the election should provide for some very interesting and close races.

I will try to add more analysis later today -- time permitting.


Matt P. said...

I am speechless. You are amazingly wrong. Even Sabato the guy you threw in my face about no evidence of incumbents being in trouble claims this is a huge GOP night. It is the most House seats they have won since WWII and perhaps before that. They have tripled the avg house gain and doubled the senate gain. Then there are the Governors. Obama couldn't even hold his own senate seat.

Is your wingwoman Elizabeth gonna show face and lecture me on how respected Alan Greyson is and how he could never lose? You have no shame. Pathetic.

I do agree that this is no guarantee of GOP dominance moving forward in the next election.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Matt: for someone who is speechless, you said a lot. I did not say this wasn't a "huge" night for the GOP. Instead, I said it was not a bloodbath. I also said that given the poor performance of the president's party in midterm elections (see the link) and the state of the economy, things could have been a lot worse.

Anonymous said...

Matt, long time no hear! I'm flattered you remember me. And even more so that you'd consider me Darren's "wingwoman" -- woo hoo!

BTW, Alan Grayson is still respected, though obviously not popular these days. One person who is popular in Florida, however, is its new governor, Rick Scott, a felon who perpetrated the largest (until last month) Medicare fraud in the American history.

Congratulations on a fine choice, showing, no doubt, that common sense so promoted by the GOP. After all, no one is better to take care of Florida's governance than a seasoned criminal and financial fraudster.

On a more somber note, Darren, if the economy perks up by 2012, who do you think will try to take credit for it?

Yeah, exactly.

Matt P. said...

Hello lovely Elizabeth. How could I forget someone as obtuse as you. Impossible! Let's see what has happened since you tapped out these delicious sentences: "You're also right that Palin will continue her crash* course of faux-populism and political infamy, but Grayson isn't going anywhere. In fact, he is the most popular politician on the left and one that continues to garner support from all over the nation without being propped by fake grassroots organizations and such (unlike Palin)."

George Will names him America's worst politician in Newsweek and calls him on his sad advertising.

And then, how could you forget, he gets destroyed yesterday. 18 point loss...nice work.

Now I understand that you likely have no love of George Will but he is not Rush L. or Hannity or Maddow or Olbermann. He is like David Broder. A more relaxed partisan.

Good to see you have doubled-down and are clinging to a defense of the meaningless word "respected." Shows your level of partisan delusion. "Respected" politicians don't lose by 18 points even in a wave election.

And I could care less about Rick Scott. That wasn't our discussion was it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Matt, for refreshing my memory. I am genuinely flattered that you remember my words -- never thought they were that important. Frankly, I forgot what our exchanges were about -- seems like eons ago, during the time in my life when such discussions mattered much more than they do now.

You're right. Grayson sucks, Republicans are awesome, or certainly preferred to nincompoopy Dems, and let's all look forward now to the new era of predictable gridlock. Long live the US, why not.

But if you can stand one more idea from somebody as obtuse as moi, I have a piece of lovely reading for you (and not only) on the perverse nature of the American political process and its consequences. While we keep arguing about largely inconsequential matters, the rug is being pulled from under our feet. Kinda scary, especially since it's true.

I'm gonna leave you now to start my Chinese lessons. Ta-ta! Talk sooner, I hope.

FLRN said...

Darren - Elizabeth-Matt - Just to chime in from sunny Florida and comment on changes in our local political play ground. Such as the New multi-millionaire ethic less Rick Scott, a charming fella who invested 72 million of his own money in his bid to hold the highest office in the state. Can anyone say "Columbia?"
Elizabeth you are spot on that he is the whole reason every hospital administrator in the county has to have annual training for compliance and Medicare fraud. I guess a 6.2 billion dollar settlement for the biggest Medicare healthcare billing fraud case in our nation's history was simply not enough to sway Floridians away from the most controversial gubernatorial candidate in the state's history. We are sheepeople. What the heck has happened to principals?
I guess with all our sunshine people may have just been too blinded and decided to embrace the shade! Even as a diehard Republican I could not in blind allegiance fill in the oval - or punch the Chad by his name. Unfortunate Alex Sink has been hung up by a pregnant Chad....Speaking of counts and recounts WPB still doesn't seem to have found the panacea for their election woes.

Matt P. said...

FLRN I am a Chicagoan. You guys are rookies down there. :-)

Hippi Chicki Niki said...


I think of you every time I am somewhere with A/C!


@FLRN & Elizabeth

I think your point on Rick Scott is a brilliant one. As that election result, the one in the Ohio gubernatorial race (mad about the economy? Elect the guy from the Wall Street firm that started the entire meltdown) and the uproar about health care reform all show, smooth operators with lots of money, misinformation and good PR can just about always get people riled up in complete opposition to their own best interests.

Unfortunately we are sheepspeople when we decide to learn what others tell us to believe as truth instead of looking into things for ourselves. :-( What was that poll result? Approximately 45% of Americans think TARP was signed into law by President Obama? It just goes to show that when misinformation is repeated often enough we believe it. It is one of the unfortunate effects of our human tendency towards source monitoring errors.

Also that point about popularity not being evidence of something being better or correct is another brilliant one about which many of us need to frequently be reminded.


I also thought the "Elizabeth is Darren's wingwoman" statement quite a compliment. Go 'head with your bad self Ms. Elizabeth!


I am a Chicagoan and I'm a bit ashamed that someone from my hometown does not disagree with respect. It is okay to debate issues and to disagree; but, please act like you have some home training and behave in the way I suspect your mother taught you to behave. Just because you do not hold the same political views or because you are arguing in a relatively anonymous medium does not mean that it is okay to be a jerk.

I suspect you think that your tone is a sort of clever sarcasm. It really isn't. It's just nasty and venomous. Plus, when you put that type of venom into your argument, it will always make other people give your argument less credence. It has the opposite effect of your goal to persuade people to see your point-of-view. I've seen you argue in a more respectful way other places. I much preferred reading those arguments.


@Prof. H.

I liked your analysis and apparently so did Pam M. because I got to this post because she linked to it on facebook.

I do think it was more than Kendrick Meek's 3-way race effect that vaulted Rubio to the win. In addition to Meek's effect is the fact that Rubio is a charismatic guy. He is one of those people, like the President, where the more people hear him speak, the more they like him. The complete illogic of his fiscal policy was lost on most voters. Plus, he has some unbelievably adorable sons!!! That's not a reason that he won, just a random fact.

Matt P. said...

Darling Niki 9prince reference intended),

Thank you for your thoughtful and oh so ironic criticism. Please understand that my "venom" was exactly because my disagreement was about Alan Grayson and his bullying. If the above is how you feel about my style, on a blog no less, what say you of the "esteemed" Florida Congressman. Please read the original argument and get back to me. If Elizabeth can defend and pour compliments on him than surely she can handle my venom with little issue. I suspect that is the case in fact.

Having said that, there is no argument between me and Darren and Elizabeth anymore. There are only facts. And those facts side with me in a way rarely seen in our electoral history. This isn't a point of view it is a fact. Incumbents don't lose by 18 points absent scandal. Opposing parties rarely pick up the amount of seats and governorships and state legislatures that the GOP did. Little known politicians like Rubio don't lap the field very often. He matched the total of the Dem candidate and the once popular Governor combined. This is rare Darling Niki. What you call Darren's "analysis" is anything but. Did he expect there not to be a Democratic nominee?

Darren and Elizabeth can spin this however they like but they are dealing in point of views...not me. Saying something wasn't a "bloodbath" isn't analysis because there is no commonly accepted definition of that in the political realm. Obama says it was a shellacking. The numbers say it was fairly historic and quite rare. Darren is spinning.

Having said all of that. I am actually quite charming. Ok, that is a point of view I suppose. I would be happy to buy you a cocktail or a coffee whenever you are free. I live near Wrigley. So whatever your pleasure!

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

As much as I enjoy Prince, I am a married woman and definitely don't appreciate the allusion to the woman in the song from anyone but my husband. I do, however, appreciate the tone of your last comment. Though I am a native Chicagoan, I live quite far from Wrigley Field. Actually, I live much closer to the Rockies than to the Cubs or to my beloved White Sox.

As for it not being a bloodbath, sir, I am sorry to say that the facts and historical patterns do not support your argument. There are a few factors that are extremely important in predicting the results this year and in comparing them to previous midterms. The biggest and most important is the almost-depression that no other President faced since Roosevelt. Presidents Obama and Roosevelt lost a comparable amount of seats. The second factor to consider is the hugely polarizing partisan fights over health care and wall street reform. Clinton had a similar fight over health care reform and had similar losses in 1994 even though the economy in 1994 was much, much, much better. Finally, his job approval ratings are relevant. Considering those job approval ratings, in the midst of an economy so bad The Great Depression is the only precedent, after a huge polarizing fight, in the midst of two unpopular wars (which cost President Bush Jr. a bunch of seats), everyone was predicting, quite logically, much higher losses.

Emotions and instinct to argue with people we are told are on the "other side" notwithstanding, The losses should have been much worse, especially in the Senate. In order to predict better in the future and understand the alleged "will of the people" and understand what this means for governing between now and 2012, we should look at why people voted the way they did and why the predictions were wrong. Unlike the spin doctors are saying, an overwhelming majority of people said they voted over their dissatisfaction about the economy. This cuts both ways. Who they tool their dissatisfaction out on is probably dependent on what they believe about who is responsible. While some may blame Dems because they were the majority, some may know enough about the filibuster and how horrible it was abused to block unemployment benefits, extending the tax cuts or the middle class and other economic and jobs policies that they may have voted against the Repubs because of the economy.

Another factor is the serious problem that pollsters seem to have in accurately polling Latinos. In the states where the polls were off (here in Co, NV, CA, down in FL) there is a large Latino population and the polls were off in sampling that population.

As for whatever has you so riled up about Grayson, it is silly to reargue about some argument from another post eight months ago and I am not going to waste my time trying to research and rehash it. This post is about the size of the turnover which was lower than expected and looking at why that happened. Without knowing one thing about the former conversation, I will say that I love Grayson's ethics but I'm not fond of his tone. Did it stand out in an environment where other lawmakers (Gohmert, FoxX, etc.) were making hyperbolic and irresponsible claims that a provision in the health care law that said that insurance companies must pay for living will convos with your doctor meant that seniors were going to die? Only in that everyone else making statements about lawmakers trying to get through policies that meant that people were going to die was not a Democrat. Does this make those statements right? No. But it does make a lot of the people howling about Grayson's comments hypocrites.

Matt P. said...

Well I will be in Aspen in April most likely and the offer still stands. Bring the hubby.

As to you substantive comments let me copy the meat and suggest what I believe to be factually correct. First let me say that like your after-the-fact criticism of me on the Grayson discussion, you miss all the context of why I have such a “victory lap” tone on this blog. With regard to the general election it is because Darren spent the early part of the year repeatedly arguing with me over there being no evidence that this year would be any different regarding incumbent turnover. I took the opposite side. If he wrote something similar to what you just wrote back a few months ago there would be not much of an argument. He didn’t. He was hoping/spinning not analyzing IMHO. Prescient posts like “More on the Anti-Incumbent MYTH” and others. My response in this post is really what turned out to be true. I mean how many GOP incumbents lost in the general election. 3? “Very Little Evidence of Voter Anger Towards Incumbents” That title is like comedy now. Like something from the Onion. It’s like saying in Mid-July “Very little evidence of the seasons changing.” I wrote: “…I think incumbents in trouble is way too broad and political cover for Democrats. I think it goes Rep New Blood/Outsider > Rep. Incumbent > Dem New Blood Outsider > Dem Incumbent.” This, in fact turned out to be the case.

Now, on to the present day truth of what you have written. First, I am only addressing the results of this election. Not why they happened. Why they happened is not the argument and not the ongoing argument I had with Darren. Likewise, I will not address your filibuster stuff. Not what we are discussing and not what you chimed in on. I note you have backed up none of your statements regarding the results. Why is that Nikki? Let’s see.

Matt P. said...

You wrote: “As for it not being a bloodbath, sir, I am sorry to say that the facts and historical patterns do not support your argument. There are a few factors that are extremely important in predicting the results this year and in comparing them to previous midterms. The biggest and most important is the almost-depression that no other President faced since Roosevelt. Presidents Obama and Roosevelt lost a comparable amount of seats. The second factor to consider is the hugely polarizing partisan fights over health care and wall street reform. Clinton had a similar fight over health care reform and had similar losses in 1994 even though the economy in 1994 was much, much, much better. Finally, his job approval ratings are relevant. Considering those job approval ratings, in the midst of an economy so bad The Great Depression is the only precedent, after a huge polarizing fight, in the midst of two unpopular wars (which cost President Bush Jr. a bunch of seats), everyone was predicting, quite logically, much higher losses.”

Matt P: SO WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS THAT BECAUSE THIS ELECTION IS COMPARABLE TO THE 2 OTHER LARGEST DEMOCRATIC LOSSES IN MODERN HISTORY IT WASN’T A BLOODBATH? IS THAT SERIOUSLY YOUR POSITION? In fact is it actually greater than both. As a Chicagoan that is like saying the Bears rout of the Patriots in Superbowl XX isn’t that big a deal because they beat the Redskins worse in 1940. And the argument isn’t about the reasons. It is only about the results. Take that up with Darren because for some reason those things didn’t register with him throughout the year. This economy didn’t sneak up on anyone. No one blames Obama for it. His responses yes, but not causing it. And who predicted a much better result than what was achieved? No one serious and if it was someone serious he/she was an outlier.

Your whole argument rests on a couple senate seats that didn’t turn. The day before the election Pelosi predicted the DEMs would hold the house. Find me a GOP prediction that was that off. I dare you. Hey here is Newsweek 12 days prior to the election: “Despite doom-saying about Democrats’ chances in the midterms, the latest NEWSWEEK Poll (full results) shows that they remain in a close race with Republicans 12 days before Election Day, while the president’s approval ratings have climbed sharply. The poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared with 42 percent who lean Republican (those numbers are similar to those in the last NEWSWEEK Poll, which found Democrats favored 48 percent to 43 percent). President Obama’s approval ratings have jumped substantially, crossing the magic halfway threshold to 54 percent, up from 48 percent in late September, while the portion of respondents who disapprove of the president dropped to 40 percent, the lowest disapproval rating in a NEWSWEEK Poll since February 2010.”

Matt P. said...

A serious analysis would understand that The DEMS were lucky with regard to which senate seats were up for election this cycle. That was their best defense. All elections aren’t the same with regard to strongholds being up for election. California/NY being a perfect example. “The issue is really the translation of popular votes into Republican pickups. And here, the problem for the GOP is that, as the writer notes, the Republicans are "working in hostile territory." President Obama's median vote haul across the 50 states in 2008 was 51.15%, while his median vote in the 19 states Democrats are defending (and remember, we have to count New York twice here!) is 57.3. This suggests that, on average, the Democrats are defending D+6 states.

Put another way, the Republicans need to pick up 10 of these 19 Democratic seats for an outright majority in the upper chamber. The 10th most Republican state is Washington, which has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984. By my count, the Republican path to a Senate majority goes through at least four states the party has not won on a presidential level since the 1980s. Meanwhile, there are 19 Senate Democrats from states that George W. Bush won in 2004 that are not up for reelection this year.”

Likewise, even though the basis of your argument is misguided, let’s go to the FDR midterm. Yes the raw turnover numbers are comparable. You know what isn’t comparable? FDR had 322 DEM seats when he lost 71. The DEMS are going to lose almost that many but out of a pool of only 255. This is a huge differentiator. In 1994 they had 258 going into the election and lost 10-15 fewer.

Lastly, are you even aware of what has happened in the state legislatures? This is the biggest turn since the 20’s they are saying. Redistricting is a huge tool that will be brandished now by the GOP.

“The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that Democrats had the worst night in state legislative seats since 1928. With races outstanding in New York, Washington and Oregon, Republicans have flipped at least 14 chambers, and have unified control of 25 state legislatures. They have picked up over five hundred state legislative seats, including over 100 in New Hampshire alone.

This hurts Democrats in two ways. First, it wipes out the prospective farm team for future runs for Congress and statewide office.
But more importantly, it allows a party to control the decennial redistricting. Since 1966, all states have redistricted more-or-less together (before 1966 it was done willy-nilly; New Hampshire hadn't changed its lines since 1882).
And since that time, Democrats have controlled the process.”

Matt P. said...

Historic, Shellacking, Bloodbath...whatever. All equally appropriate. To argue otherwise, is to deny reality. Do so at your own risk.

Real Time Analytics