Wednesday, November 04, 2015


We're all watching the Republican presidential race and having a lovely chuckle at the apparent crack-up of the party, but, downballot, the party is doing just fine:
Republican Matt Bevin easily won Kentucky’s governorship on Tuesday as the GOP made major inroads in a state that had stubbornly resisted the party at the state level even as it voted reliably Republican in federal contests in recent years.

Bevin, a self-funding investment manager, rode a late surge of outside support from national Republicans to defeat Democrat Jack Conway, 53 percent to 44 percent, according to The Associated Press....

Polls prior to the vote showed a close race, with most surveys giving Conway, the state's sitting attorney general, a slight advantage.
Yup, this wasn't supposed to be a 9-point blowout for the Republicans:

But that happened last year as well, in a lot of races -- polls showed that Republicans were going to have a pretty good midterm cycle, but failed to predict the GOP blowout.

So forgive me if I'm not enjoying the craziness in the Republican presidential race as much as some of you are. Forgive me if I don't agree that what's going on in that race is going to lead to the party's demise. Forgive me if I'd like the polls to look a lot better than this:
[Hillary] Clinton is ahead of Republican Donald Trump by eight points among registered voters, 50 percent to 42 percent.

She leads former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by four points, 47 percent to 43 percent.

And Clinton holds a three-point advantage over Sen. Marco Rubio, 47 percent to 44 percent, though that's well within the poll's margin of error of plus-minus 3.4 percentage points.

But against Ben Carson, who is now leading the GOP horserace in the NBC/WSJ poll, Clinton finds herself in a tied contest, 47 percent to 47 percent.
Well, a Clinton-Carson tie in this poll is better than the result in the Quinnipiac poll released today, which has Carson beating Clinton by 10 (and Rubio, the guy most Serious Political Observers now think will win the nomination, beating Clinton by 5).

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot -- Democrats have a demographic lock on the Electoral College. (You mean based on the near-inevitability of Democratic presidential wins in states that have recently elected Republican governors and legislators? Wisconsin? Michigan? Ohio?) A completely different electorate will turn out in 2016, and it will be multi-ethnic and urban. (You mean like in Houston, which elected a lesbian mayor in 2009 and returned her to office in 2013, but last night rejected the anti-discrimination ordinance she championed, by a margin of more than 20 points?)

Well, okay, maybe Rubio would give Clinton a run for her money -- but can he even win the nomination in the year of Carson and Trump? And am I seriously arguing that Trump or, God help us, Ben Carson could actually win a general election?

Well, Iowa, a state that's reliably voted Democratic in presidential elections, last year gave the Senate seat of retiring liberal Democrat Tom Harkin to paranoid political neophyte Joni Ernst, about whom Charlie Pierce wrote:
She supported a Personhood Amendment. She has called for the impeachment of the president and the nullification of federal laws, putting herself on the wrong side of political issues for over 150 years. She is a lifelong Truther regarding our old pal, Agenda 21, the secret UN plan to steal all our golfs. She shouldn't be allowed into the United States Senate on a tour, let alone as one of its 100 members.
And Kentucky's new governor-elect?
Matt Bevin, a Republican political novice, wealthy Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite, was elected Kentucky’s next governor on Tuesday and swept fellow Republicans into statewide office with him.

... Mr. Bevin, 48, shocked people in his own party, who believed that the climate in Kentucky was ripe for a Republican but feared that Mr. Bevin, a charismatic conservative with a go-it-alone style, was too far out of the mainstream and too inexperienced to win.
It may not matter how crazy the GOP candidate is -- Republicans are fired up in every election, desperate to nullify the Obama era, while it's difficult to inspire Democrats to vote. Why do we automatically assume that Democrats will suddenly be hungry for a win next year?

The right stirs up rage every day, in election season and out, so by Election Day there's a long list of grievances motivating Republican voters in every election. In Kentucky this year it may have been Kim Davis; in Houston, it was the specter of men in women's bathrooms. Next year, it'll be something else.

Are we sure something's going to motivate Democrats to vote next year -- even against Carson? Are we sure the polls won't be significantly underestimating Republicans' strength -- again?


AllieG said...

Steve, Kentucky polls underestimated McConnell's vote last year, too. Conway never polled above 45 percent, which is what he got. Quinnipiac has been showing dramatically worse results for Clinton in both primary and general election matchups since the spring than any other poll. They could be right, but they do stand alone.
Carson polls strongest against Clinton because he is the least known, and therefore has the fewest enemies, of any candidate.'
All the political science says it'll be a close election. If the country elects Rubio, well, so be it. My personal opinion is whichever party holds the White House will wind up dominating down ticket, as it'll get blamed for all discontents.

mlbxxxxxx said...

Dem weakness in an off-year election is, unfortunately, not a unusual phenomenon. Nor is Dem strength in a presidential election. Clinton can lose the election, no doubt, but the demographics will be with us and historical turnout patterns will be with us, too. Not so much in an off-year election.

IMO, the Democratic Party needs to do nothing so much as address their weakness in off-year and non-presidential elections. It is why we have such divided and ineffective gov't. But I don't think the results of the election yesterday have much to tell us about the one next November. Nor do head-to-head polls of Clinton and prospective (and unlikely) GOP nominees taken more than a year before the election.

Greg Hao said...

Matt Yglesias wrote about this exact issue a few days ago at vox. This really is a concern and not enough democrats are paying attention as you rightly point out.

And even IF the dems have a lock on the electoral college, as Obama has demonstrated, you still can't govern.

Yastreblyansky said...

Zandar, whose coverage of this is heartbreaking, notes that turnout in the Kentucky race was TWENTY-SEVEN PERCENT. (Similar turnout didn't stop a Democrat from getting elected governor in 2011, because in addition to favoring Republicans, low turnout favors randomness; but the lesson in the importance of GOTV still holds.)

Unknown said...

Jeesusaurus on an ark: 27 freaking %.

If anyone claims there's a Kentucky Dem GOTV org, I'll want to see 3 pieces of ID & a notarized affidavit under penalty of perjury. I've been musing on vote count fraud, but fck that: 27%.

Don't get worked up about Vitter maybe losing in La. At turn-out numbers this low, red, purple, even blue state Dems could be better off sinking everything in Powerball tickets.

Professor Chaos said...

And don't forget, when a Republicans control the governors office and legislature of these states, they control the voting machines and set the rules for voting.

Luigi said...

The truth is... it's no fun electing a Democratic President when almost all of my state-wide elected seats are held by Republicans. My state of Ohio seems to have a Dem party that cannot find, nurture and grow candidates. It's more like every person for themselves.

D. Hussein said...

I don't know if it's a matter of underestimating their strength as much as underestimating their ability to steal elections by any means necessary.

Unknown said...

The Houston vote can't be explained away as bigotry. The fact is that most parents fear "guys'" getting access to their daughters in lockers and bathrooms just by claiming a potentially whimsical preference.

Regular GeoX said...

[Citation Needed.] That seems like an insane thing to fear.