Original thoughts re: election 2010

Anyone have any after the election? My main issue is the “half a glass” phenomenon which has been cropping up. The Tea Party pushed the maximal candidates in Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware, which likely lost the Republicans those states. But without the Tea Party enthusiasm it is less likely that the Republicans would have made it over the edge in Illinois and Pennsylvania. On the other hand, some pundits are claiming that Pennsylvania was close in part because of spillover from Delaware, where O’Donnell’s campaign was making the nuttiness of some Tea Partiers more salient and dragging down Pat Toomey’s name brand. Wheels within wheels.

Too busy to look at the exit polls, but I’m always fascinated by differences in support to the two parties as a function of class by region.

For what it’s worth, I’m skeptical that there’s going to be that much change in domestic policy in the next two years. And I’m still skeptical that even if Republicans win back the Presidency and Senate in 2012 they’ll be able to rollback the Democratic achievements of 2008-2010. Sometimes it isn’t quantity, but quality. Grover Cleveland served twice as many years as James K. Polk, but the latter has had a lasting impact on the American republic, above and beyond many two term presidents.

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39 Responses to Original thoughts re: election 2010

  1. Susan says:

    This may not quite fit with the “half a glass” theme, but I’ve been wondering, since last night, just how much of a fluke Scott Brown’s ascension to the Senate was, and what was behind it, given that Massachusetts’s congressional delegation otherwise remains entirely entirely Democrat. Sean Bielat probably couldn’t have won against Frank, but Perry, who was running in a Republican-leaning district, got clobbered by Keating. Deval Patrick was re-elected (with the help of Tim Cahill) and Martha Coakley blew away her Republican opponent by something like 65-35. (The final tally might have been a bit tighter.)

    I’ve concluded, tentatively, that Massachusetts, for all its much-vaunted liberalism, just doesn’t want to put women in high office. Not as governors and senators, anyway. Kerry Healey lost to Deval Patrick. Shannon O’Brien lost to Mitt Romney. Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown. Party affiliation doesn’t seem to matter.

    If anyone else can think of a better reason why Scott Brown was elected last January, I’d like to hear. Because there certainly was no attempt to “refudiate” the Democrats last night. Not in the Bay State.

  2. Stephen says:


    It’s an interesting theory, but I think there is a much simpler one:

    1. Scott Brown was a really good candidate
    2. The Democratic machine was caught napping.

    Neither of these conditions applied this year.

  3. TangoMan says:

    The influence in Delaware was probably a wash. In the CNN exit poll they asked the voters what their response would have been if Castle had run against Coons. A good number of respondents said that they wouldn’t have voted in the election. Only around 50% or so of those who voted for O’Donnell would have voted for Castle. So, the voting pool would likely have been smaller unless there was a sizable contingent of Castle voters who sat out this election because neither Coons or O’Donnell impressed them. Castle would have drawn some of the Coons votes, but not enough to overcome the loss of O’Donnell votes. The big unknown was the size of the voters who didn’t show up who favored Castle.

  4. Susan says:

    Stephen: True, but Shannon Patricia Elizabeth O’Brien had the Democratic machine solidly behind her when she ran against the Mormon carpetbagger, and Romney still won by five points.

    As for Delaware: It’s a very blue state, and O’Donnell was far too easy to caricature as a twit.

  5. David Hume says:

    the common explanation i have heard for the dearth of female elected officials in the northeast vs. other regions, especially the far west, is that institutional political parties have a lot more heft in these regions. and institutional political parties tend to be dominated by male professional politicos. in contrast in the west traditionally the parties haven’t been as determinative, so women can rise more easily since they don’t have to go through male-dominated institutions. this filtering process may have habituated some to voting for males, i don’t know. interestingly though NH and ME are both now all female senatorial delegations, 3 out of 4 republican.

  6. Susan says:

    Razib, that’s probably true of the northeast in general. But one factor that’s dominant in Massachusetts Democratic politics that’s NOT present in either New Hampshire and Maine is a certain kind of blue-collar Irish/Italian Catholic ethos, which isn’t exactly feminist-minded. Maine and New Hampshire Democrats have, and had, a more Yankee Protestant ethos, like their Republican counterparts.

  7. cynthia curran says:

    Wisconian and the mid-western states, Republicans doing good outside of the Southern base. Washington State becoming more purple. And Obama is going to have problems because he lost the states he won 2008 like NC, Fl, Oh, In and might lost WI. Granted, Catholic factor will might whites more Democcratic but there are exceptionw, whites in CA and OR have a more protestant background but are low church attenders.

  8. John says:

    One thing we are seeing is that as blacks and hispanics continue to vote mostly Democrat, and in larger numbers, whites are voting Republican in greater percentages. Therefore, a lot of the midwestern states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri) that were blue or purple are turning red. By contrast, states with increasing hispanic populations (Colorado, New Mexico, California) are getting bluer. I fear in another generation or two we will get to the point where if you tell me the percentage of whites in a state, I’ll be able to tell you who carried the state for President.

  9. David Hume says:

    One thing we are seeing is that as blacks and hispanics continue to vote mostly Democrat, and in larger numbers, whites are voting Republican in greater percentages.

    john, justify that assertion which exit polls. it’s doable, and i’d do it, but i didn’t make the assertion. what you say sounds plausible to me, but the social science prior to that election seemed to indicate that latinos just tracked non-hispanic whites, but more democratic, with blacks being invariant (90-95% dem) cycle to cycle.

  10. Polichinello says:


    At first blush, I have to agree with Hume. I grew up in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley with Solomon Ortiz as a fixture, and the first count shows him losing. It’s a small margin and the dead may yet appear to push him over the edge, but even so, that result is just unbelievable for a district that includes Brownsville and Corpus Christi. I don’t think even Bush won those areas in 2004, and he was popular with Tejanos. Ortiz wasn’t quite a John Dingell, but still, it’s like…wow…just…wow.

    Canseco beat Rodriguez in the Big Bend area. In Arizona, McClung gave Grijalva a serious run for his money, too. I don’t see how that could happen without serious Hispanic (particularly Mexican) support. Did Brewer suffer any Hispanic loss, too? She seemed to cruise through.

  11. Polichinello says:

    My main issue is the “half a glass” phenomenon which has been cropping up. The Tea Party pushed the maximal candidates in Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware, which likely lost the Republicans those states.

    Without Tea Party enthusiasm, the establishment candidates wouldn’t have even been on the map. Remember, the Tea Party isn’t just about 2010. It started in ’09 and was actively involved in opposing most of Obama’s domestic agenda. It built the foundation that this whole superstructure of a surge was built. Yes, there were some bad candidates, but that’s an inherent risk when you have a populist movement. You can’t vet everyone, sometimes you have to go with what’s in place, and, often, they make easy fodder for a hostile press.

    The GOP lost some blue races, but this isn’t as bad as it’s being portrayed. Had this been a neutral year (Dems and Repubs being equally liked or disliked), the Democratic party had a strong senatorial advantage. The GOP had more seats to defend, yet they still picked up six seats. 2012 will see the more Democratic class of 2006 seats up for grabs. This will force the Democrats to take responsibility for the next two years, which will set them up for taking the Senate in 2012.

    Meanwhile, all of Rahm Emmanuel’s work over the past decade has been erased. 19 state legislatures have gone to the GOP with a number of governorships. This means the GOP can structure future House elections to strongly favor them. Plus they now have a crop of future politicians to work with and promote to higher office. This includes several women, blacks, and Hispanics, which will somewhat defang the “old, white guy” image of the GOP.

  12. David Hume says:

    john might be right for this cycle. see image 9


    that being said, they’re national aggregates. bet calif hispanics are diff from texas hispanics.

  13. BOB says:

    It occurred to me yesterday that Scott Brown won because he is the Designated Republican. Citizens of Massachusetts, being generous and openminded, have traditionally given one major elected position to the Republicans. For years that was the governorship, with Bill, Mitt et al. But now Deval’s got that. So we made Scotty the Designated Republican. Good for him!

  14. Polichinello says:

    Looking at the district arrows in image 1, Hispanic areas of CA and AZ almost all shift red.

    Of course, there will certainly be some significant differences between CA and TX Hispanic profiles.

    It occurred to me yesterday that Scott Brown won because he is the Designated Republican.</i.

    Well, that, BOB, and the fact that Democrats ran a perfectly awful candidate against him. It's pretty hard to run a worse campaign than Coakeley did. Even O'Donnell wasn't that bad.

  15. Polichinello says:

    Sorry about screwing up the tag.

  16. Don says:

    James K. Polk is a President whom conservatives should spend more time studying. He represented the south, reduced tariffs, and fought a war. The south, low taxes and tariffs, and war is where are future lies.

  17. Don says:

    “our” rather than “are.” Moving too fast in these heady times of our grand victory.

  18. Polichinello says:

    Coulter’s column made two good points this morning:

    1. O’Donnell and Angle’s campaign helped other Republicans by drawing hostile media scrutiny away from them.

    2. Moderate Republicans made a real boner in CT by picking McMahon over Simmons.

    Also, note that nearly unlimited funds do not elections buy. McMahon, Fiorina and Whitman literally spent tens of millions and still lost. A good candidate trumps a rich candidate.

  19. BOB says:

    The “Designated Republican” post was tongue-in-cheek. Although sometimes I wonder if it does not, subconsciously, work that way.

    And yes, Coakley’s campaign provided a wide window into the mindset of the MA Democratic party. She thought she’d won when she won the primary. She thought *that* was the campaign and the actual campaign would be a victory lap. So she settled down and enjoyed the holidays. People noticed, and didn’t like the entitled attitude. By the time she realized she was in trouble, it was too late.

  20. Susan says:

    Of course Coakley was a terrible candidate. But that doesn’t seem to matter for Dems in Mass. Barney Frank is an epic churl.

  21. Mike H says:

    I think California is really interesting in this election because it’s not so much a case of “bucking” the trend, it’s that California is one of the most liberal states in the country. In spite of a trend towards Republican candidates compared to the Obama landslide, Democrats actually gained offices in CA and there’s at best two GOP House pickups, both still hanging in the balance.

    It’s a very powerful symbol really of how cultural issues and demographic changes have turned this state from one that didn’t vote for a Democratic presidential candidate for over 20 years between the LBJ landslide and Clinton’s victory to one that the GOP can’t even sniff in a mid-term landslide. Steve Cooley lost his home patch in L.A. by a big margin to a very liberal Democrat from San Francisco for no particular reason, he after all was elected in L.A. to be district attorney and was re-elected twice.

    History has seen this before of course, re-alignment made the Dixiecrat South a Republican stronghold, demographic change turned Massachusetts from a stronghold of Yankee Republicans into a Democratic bastion. It’s still fascinating to see it happen as it happens and highlighted so dramatically.

  22. John says:

    I did find some data:


    In the close election of 1968, Nixon got only 2% more of the white vote than Humphrey, and Nixon won.

    In 1992, George HW Bush beat Clinton by 2% of the white vote, but lost to Clinton.

    In 2004, George W Bush beat Kerry with a whopping 17% points.

    Obama won the election despite getting only 43% of the white vote.

    From 1968 to 2008, the percentage of registered voters who are white went from over 90% to 74%.

    The trendline seem clear. Whites are making up a shrinking part of the population, but a more Republican part. At this rate, in another generation or so, whites will make up only about 60% of the electorate, but vote Republican almost 2:1.

    I’ll say for the record that I don’t welcome this development. I think the country would be better off if ethnic groups were similar in voting patterns. But that’s not what I see on the horizon.

  23. Polichinello says:

    Given the way our health insurance premiums are about to be jacked up by Obamacare, I’d expect the GOP proportion of the white vote to grow in a non-linear fashion, as algore might say.

  24. Scott the mediocre says:

    Mike H. –

    Yeah, I was also surprised by Cooley’s loss, as were a lot of other people (after he claimed victory, no less 🙂 ). It certainly reads like a straightforward rejection of the Reps by the CA voters.

    Maybe effectively negative coattails from the Gov and Sen races? I don’t know

    I’m not sure the migration of Massachusetts top the blue column is as much a result of demographic change as such (e.g. changing employment base) as it is reaction to the increasing southern alignment of the GOP’s “brand” (e.g., more overt religiousity and strident nationalism). After all, Vermont hasn’t changed demographically at all to speak of and in most ways it’s become bluer than Mass, this after being one of the last holdouts against FDR and not going blue in a presidential race until 1992 (other than 64 of course).

  25. RandyB says:

    The “Half a Glass” phenomenon is help me to focus my opinions about big government.

    Since elections usually only present two realistic options, you can’t express your opinion on 10 disparate issues simultaneously.

    So if you want to vote for lower taxes and against universal health insurance, a war on science and abortion restrictions come along for the ride. (Individual readers may have their own versions of this statement.)

    If you want a big government, be prepared not to like many things it does.

  26. David Hume says:

    randyb, that had nothing to do with my “half a glass” comment. did you read what i wrote? if u did and understood what i was saying your prose is really confusing.

  27. RandyB says:

    DH, the general thrust of your article appears to me to be that every politician stands for a mix of positions with which a voter agrees and others with which a voter disagrees. A voter usually has to accept some of the latter for the sake of electability. As a relatively rare orientation, secular rightism has to do more such compromising than most voters.

    My point is that the bigger government gets, the more aspects of our lives get infused with politics. And hence the more positions we don’t like that we end up voting for in a race with only two choices.

  28. Mike H says:

    Scott – I think the Southern/Mountain West cultural alignment of the GOP has certainly reinforced the phenomenon in MA and turned it from a state the GOP can win in really good years to one it can’t sniff. The transformation though began much sooner and I think it can be clearly traced to the increasing dominance of Catholic Democrats, mostly Irish but also Italian and others. I will not talk about the 68/72 elections because re-alignment was already felt then but unlike most New England states it went for FDR every time and Alfred Smith in 1928 which is rather remarkable considering that it only had voted for three Democrats before then in its entire existence, Wilson in 1912 (mind you Wilson won with 35% of the vote as Taft and Roosevelt split the GOP vote), Monroe and Jefferson each in their re-election landslides. Not coincidentally, the last GOP mayor of Boston was voted out in 1930.

    With regards to Vermont, I do think there was demographic change. Vermont saw a massive influx of people from the 60s through the 90s, quite a few of them liberals from MA and NY. I think the re-alignment would have shifted them anyway but I think without the influx its voting habits would be a bit more comparable to its neighbors in NH rather than being the People’s Republic of Vermont.

  29. Susan says:

    I have to concur with Mike H. about Vermont. Forty years ago, it was mostly Yankee dairy farmers. Then it became THE destination for hippies and lifestyle refugees from New York and New Jersey, who brought their politics with them.

    The Democratic party in Massachusetts is a weird amalgam of academics, blue collar white ethnics, a small contingent of rebellious bluebloods with names like Winthrop Winslow Saltonstall Cabot Lodge Farmington Adams XVII, and, more recently, high-tech people (Route 128 north and west of Boston used to be called Silicon Valley East).

  30. cynthia curran says:

    Well, I grew up in Orange County which still isn’t that liberal but a lot less conservative since hispanics are about 34 percent now and asians might almost be 17 percent with the US Census. However, the fastest growing counties in the State until the housing bubble were more Republican or Purple areas like Bakersfield and Riverside. LA County causes it to be Democratic since its 1o million In fact the whole Bay area has less people than Orange, San Diego and Riverside when they are combine. Reagan legalized about 1.5 million hispanics and G H Bush lay off thousands of aerospace workers in the state by cutting back on defense, causing the state from moving from Purple to Blue. Purple because a lot of Dems one office from the Eisenhower to George H Bush period where the state voted Republcian.

  31. cynthia curran says:

    won office

  32. cynthia curran says:

    About 1.5 million in the state of California and about 3 million nationwide.

  33. cynthia curran says:

    When Texas is about 50 percent hispanic by 2040 will Oregon be more Republican than Texas.

  34. cynthia curran says:

    Bakersfield is about 38 to 40 percent hispanic but whites tend to vote even more Republican than Orange County. Two, imperial Valley in Ca which is 80 percent hispanic voted overwhelming for the Dems. La is 48 percent today and only 28 percent in 1980.

  35. Rich Rostrom says:

    “But without the Tea Party enthusiasm it is less likely that the Republicans would have made it over the edge in Illinois and Pennsylvania.”

    In Illinois, the Tea Party may have helped in the four House pickups (particularly IL-8, if it holds up). But otherwise, not much. We didn’t get the governorship against a horribly inept and discredited Democrat. Kirk won the Senate seat, but the hard-right types were nearly all against him, to the point of urging support for the Libertarian. If Tea Partyism helped him, it was only in passing – by improving turnout in Republican areas.

    BOB: “Scott Brown won because he is the Designated Republican…”

    I’ve seen a “designated Republican” effect – though not in a form that would have benefited Brown. I live in a very Democrat/liberal area of Chicago. Many years ago as a judge of election, I noted that one Republican (Jim Edgar, then running for Secretary of State) was the only Republican to draw well in my precinct and in fact in the ward. Edgar had a reputation of being clean and competent, and I think the voters in the area wanted one Republican to vote for so they could say they were “independents”. (That effect wouldn’t apply to Brown because there was only office on the ballot.)

  36. Susan says:

    Bob was kidding about Scott Brown being the designated Republican in Mass. In all likelihood, Brown will be voted out of office in 2012, and replaced by a very liberal Democrat. If you look at the ratings of the Mass. congressional delegation from the American Conservative Union, they’re as follows:

    Olver: 2.00
    Neal: 8.19
    McGovern: 2.26
    Frank: 4.27
    Tsongas: 0.0
    Tierney: 3.33
    Markey: 3.42
    Capuano: 4.09
    Lynch: 14.27
    Delahunt: 3.87
    Kerry: 5.28

    Brown, on the other hand, rates roughly at something like 83.0.

  37. BOB says:

    “In all likelihood, Brown will be voted out of office in 2012, and replaced by a very liberal Democrat.”

    Actually, I’m not so sure about that. Kidding as I was, there *is* a lot of quiet resentment about Democratic dominance in this state. I think there are a lot of people who vote for someone who wasn’t Dem, provided they weren’t Republican (Tim Cahill was trying to take advantage of that). But I think Scotty can overcome that dislike of Republicans. Let’s face it, he’s got an *awesome* background. I can’t think of anyone the Dems have that can match him. I think he’s got a good chance.

    It was dumb of him to vote against DADT repeal. That would have really gotten him points with the GLBT community and while it wouldn’t have pleased conservatives, it’s minor enough that he wouldn’t have lost any votes over it.

  38. Susan says:

    I don’t know, Bob. I read, or heard, somewhere that Mike Capuano was secretly pleased that Coakley blew the election because it set him up to run against Brown in 2012. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it sounds plausible. And Mass. voters may resent the Democrats, but, like lemmings, they’ll go over the cliff for them.

    As a general point, I’ve been doing some mental eye-rolling at some of the pundits (no one at this site) who claim that Fiorina didn’t win in California because she wasn’t sufficiently conservative. Huh? Do they seriously think that large numbers of voters looked at Fiorina and then said to themselves, “Gee, I only agree with 95% of her positions. I think I’ll vote for Boxer.”

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