“We took a whuppin’ last night and we understand that.” – Former Rep. Tom DeLay(R-TX) after the 2006 election.
“The people have spoken . . . the bastards.” – Former political trickster Dick Tuck(D) after being defeated in a California State Senate primary in 1966.
How will President Obama memorialize the defeat of his party in this midterm election? And will he use the election as a pivot point in his Administration and figure out a new approach to governing in a divided Washington? These are questions being asked in Washington as we analyze the results of yesterday’s election. Here are the top-line numbers:
· The GOP took control of the U.S. Senate. It appears they will have 53 seats.
· The GOP added about 20 seats to its majority in the House. This is more than its leadership said was necessary to have a true, “governing” majority.
· The GOP took a net gain of three Governorships, capturing the statehouses in the very blue states of Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.
Democrats’ first reaction to these results is to blame President Obama’s deep unpopularity and the sense that his White House is adrift. The GOP is seeing something more – they believe the narrative Democrats have been presenting about the benefits to them of the changing demographics of the country may not be quite as true as many thought.
Our analysis is that President Obama’s weakness was by far the most important factor contributing to the GOP success. However, there are signs for the future that do not necessarily have much to do with the President. Overall, the GOP took a turn towards the middle in this cycle. No major GOP candidates self-immolated by expressing their views on women’s issues ,as several did in the past two cycles, and their candidates appeared more disciplined overall. On the Democratic side, the craven appeal to women by Sen. Mark Udall appears to have backfired. The Democratic belief in the power of demography was severely tested in Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and Texas.
So if you hear Democratic pundits shrugging off this result as merely a referendum on President Obama, be skeptical. There is more to these results than that. The table is set for a very interesting 2016 cycle.
It appears the GOP is headed for a total of 53 seats in the Senate. As this is written, 52 seats are settled in their column and one, in Alaska, appears headed that way. The other two races not yet officially “called” for a candidate are Virginia, when it appears Mark Warner(D) will just barely hang on and Louisiana, where there will be a run-off on December 6.
In virtually every Senate race that was thought to be close, the GOP candidate surged to a larger-than-expected victory. Among the most notable races were:
Colorado – Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign was focused like a laser beam on women’s issues. Apparently his polling and campaign team told him that would be sufficient to put him over the top. Reporting out of Colorado indicates many women were offended by what they considered pandering and reacted badly. Udall lost to Cory Gardner by 5 points.
Kentucky – Sen. Mitch McConnell won by a surprising 16-point margin in a race everyone thought would be close. Alison Lundergran Grimes started strong as a candidate with a key quality – authenticity. She threw that away when she refused to say whether or not she voted for President Obama in 2012. Voters ran away from her once she looked like just another politician.
Virginia – Sen. Mark Warner appears to be winning by a shockingly small margin of about ½ a percentage point. No one saw this as a very close race and Warner’s campaign reflected that. Democrats have apparently become complacent about their strength in Virginia. They failed to heed the warning shot fired across their bow by voters last year when Terry McAuliffe just barely won the Governor’s race.
Georgia – Democrats thought they would show inroads in a Southern state where African American and latino populations are increasing rapidly. Michelle Nunn ended up losing to David Perdue by 8 points. Democrats have a long way to go.
The GOP is on track to gain close to 20 seats in the House. As this is written they have 13 additional seats in their column and 19 races have yet to be called for either candidate.
As usual, very few incumbents lost – only 12. But 10 of those were Democrats. The most senior Member to be defeated was Rep. Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV). Mr. Rahall is currently a top ranking member on both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Resources Committee.
As of this writing, it appears the GOP has picked up a total of three governorships. They captured currently Democratic state houses in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts and lost one of their own in Pennsylvania. Each party lost one incumbent – Pat Quinn of Illinois for the Democrats and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania for the Republicans.
The biggest shock of the night was in Maryland, where Lt. Governor Anthony Brown was defeated by Larry Hogan. Brown was the handpicked successor of outgoing Governor Martin O’Malley. He ran a lackluster campaign, but it was still not thought to be a close race.
There were a number of interesting referenda on the ballot at the state and regional level yesterday. Here are some of the results:
· Massachusetts – Voters rejected a portion of the state’s 2013 transportation bill that indexed the state gas tax to inflation. Almost 53% voted to eliminate the automatic increases. Moving forward, the legislature will have to vote for any new increase. Keeping the indexing in place had 47.1% of the vote.
· Maryland and Wisconsin – Both states considered ballot measures to ensure taxes and fees normally collected for transportation purposes cannot be diverted for other uses. The measures passed in both states, with Wisconsin passing the measure with 80% of the vote and Maryland voters also approving by a large margin (82%).
· Texas – With 80% of the vote, Texas voters approved a ballot referendum that creates a constitutional amendment to divert half the funds that come into state cash reserves into the state highway fund. The amendment means up to $1.7 billion for roads (and only roads) the first year.
· Louisiana – Louisiana voters rejected a ballot measure to authorize the creation of a state infrastructure bank.
· Alameda County, CA – Ballot Measure BB received the two-thirds approval needed to increase the sales tax by ½ cent to fund a multimodal, thirty-year program of transit improvements. Five billion of the $7.8 billion raised by the measure will go towards transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements.
· San Francisco, CA – Seventy-one percent of San Francisco voters gave approval to Proposition A, a $500 million bond measure to be used for redesigns streets, more bike and transit-only lanes, updated traffic signals, improved maintenance facilities, and new elevators and escalators at Metro stations. Proposition B was also approved with 61% and would increase the amount of funding the city provides to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency based on increases in the size of the city’s population.
· Austin, TX – Proposition 1 asked voters to authorized the city to sell $600 million in bonds to fund a 9.5-mile urban rail line running from East Riverside Drive through the city’s core to The University of Texas and ending at Austin Community College’s Highland campus. Austin voters rejected the proposal by 56%.