It was another bad night for the administration. Despite their claim that this is no anti-incumbent year, it is an anti-incumbent year. And that means for Republicans as well as Democrats. The RCP had a real-time election night blog, which is interesting if you are interested in how it appeared as the votes rolled in.
The night can be seen three ways it seems to me:
- The Democrats made a kind of come-back
- The Republicans demonstrated they are on a roll and have the momentum
- Neither of these are true because all politics is local and the primary elections cannot be nationalized
- The primary represents again an anti-incumbent mood in the country.
All of these may be true in some fashion. Let us count the major races from that night:
- Arlen Specter gets tossed by a Democrat challenger, Joe Sestak–Toomey by the way wins in an 80% walk.
- Rand Paul, a Republican in name, but really a libertarian, upsets the establishment party man, and Republican.
- In Arkansas, the Democrat held off a Republican challenger, but forced a run off
- In Pa’s 12th (a race replacing the deceased John Murtha), a Democrat, Mark Critz, won a head-to-head with a Republican, Tim Burns.
James Taranto at the WSJ wrote late Wednesday afternoon that it could be seen both ways–the Dems had gains, but so did Republicans. There’s enough good news to go around. He also raises the issue we are becoming a more divided country.
The fact is for the Democrats, it was not a real bad night, but it was a bad night–they lost more than they gained, and there is more omnious weather on their horizon than on the Reps side. Still, it may be too difficult to tell if a trend exists and if there is a Republican trend how it will last to November. One thing to note in PA’s 12th to temper the Democrat gains is that, just like WV’s 1st, the Democrat ran as a Reagan Democrat. This is not good news to the Democrat base. However, it does give the Democrats a way to win in November–they have to run as center-right to win. They cannot run as a big government spending, crony capitalism (I read this as old Republican, big business), candidate.
The WSJ and Jay Cost disagree with me. The WSJ:
What happened? One obvious lesson is that Democrats aren’t about to go down without a fight. Mr. Critz was able to use his ties to Murtha to rally his union base and prevail in a low-turnout election. Republicans who were counting on their voters to be more enthusiastic should be concerned that too many stayed home when it counted. Democrats have been reading for months that their majority is in peril, and Tuesday’s results showed that they know how to motivate and get out their vote.
Republicans also got outsmarted on message. The GOP’s made-in-Washington strategy was to “nationalize” the race by stressing Mr. Critz’s Beltway ties and linking him to the Obama agenda on health care, cap and trade, and runaway spending. One problem: Mr. Critz said he was against all of that stuff too. The national Republicans ran TV ads playing up Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Obama, neither of whom were on the ballot.
The editorial also comes close to calling for the ouster of Michael Steele, the RNC chair. I think it is only a matter of time before Steele is sent packing.
Jay Cost has a sober view of the loss in the 12th:
Still, Republicans should be disappointed. I wrote recently that Republicans need to do well in Appalachian and Ohio River Valley districts to win in November. To do that, they must rebrand local Democrats as members of the Obama-Pelosi version of the Democratic Party. They didn’t do a very good job of executing this strategy in PA-12, and they need to learn from their mistakes as they go on to compete in districts whose macro features are more favorable to them.
None of this bodes well for Republicans if Cost is correct. Oliverio has to be seen as having the edge over the McKinley. Republicans will likely fall short of a takeover of Congress.