Why mainstream pundits are worthless

Screenshot from tonight’s Post:

Seriously??!  Hello, it’s the economy, stupid!.  Do these people seriously believe that if preemployment was 6% that Democrats would’ve still lost the House because voters don’t like health care reform or Obama?  Get real.   And if they think it’s Obama’s fault that the economy isn’t doing better, what exactly should he have done– more tax cuts?

This is also a good time to mention that I didn’t watch a minute of TV commentary about the election last night.  These days all the smart commentary is on-line.  A lot of those guys (i.e., the ones I link to all the time) actually get Political Science and are much the smarter for it.  Political Science as a discipline has its strengths and weaknesses, but we damn sure have Congressional elections pretty well figured out.

The Worst News for Democrats

I think the worst news for Democrats is the incredibly bad timing of being on the washed out side of a wave election in a Census year.  There’s really nothing to suggest the Democrats should be able to take back the House any time soon (there’s a lot of seats that are now R, and as long as Democrats have some control, the Republicans cannot get the blame that D’s got this time around).  The worst of it is, though, that Republicans flipped a bunch of state legislatures which will now draw up district lines that favor Republicans for the next 10 years (due to the compactness of many Democratic constituencies in urban areas, the Republicans already have a bit of an unfair advantage here).   I was thinking this afternoon that for NC Democrats Health Shuler and Mike McIntyre in R+7/8 districts, surviving this election means they are probably pretty good for a while.  Then I realized that was based on the (erroneous) assumption that their districts would not change.  In NC, the governor cannot veto a redistricting plan.  I’ve got a pretty good feeling that by taking the NC legislature, things are going to get a good bit tougher for at least several of the Democratic members of Congress from NC.  And Democrats in a bunch of other states that now have unified Republican control.



The Tea Party Impact

So, one of the obvious questions about this election is: “just what was the impact of the Tea Party.”  After thinking about this for weeks now and talking things over with my friend, political scientist extraordinaire Kyle Saunders, we both agreed on the conclusion that the Tea Party may have been good for the Republicans taking an extra 15-20 House seats than the otherwise would have (Kyle says 25), but that it directly cost them the Senate.

The Senate part is easy.  Without the Tea Party, R’s nominate winning candidates in Delaware, Colorado, and Nevada and take the Senate majority.  The House is, obviously, more complicated.  As noted, a lot of economic models predicted the Dems losing 45 seats or so based on strictly structural factors (seats held and the state of the economy).  So, how do you get from 45-65?  I think you’ve got to credit the Tea Party enthusiasm for at least a good chunk of this.  Whereas nutty candidates like Sharron Angle and Ken Buck fall under the scrutiny of a Senate race, a more local-variety nut like NC-2’s Renee Ellmers gets less than a 10th the scrutiny.  The Tea Party helped to generate a lot of genuine grass roots enthusiasm (an a media narrative to boot) that surely helped contribute to the oft-mentioned enthusiasm gap.

I also think you have to look at the huge flood of corporate money unleashed thanks to Citizens United.  Finally, Chait (in a terrific post you should click on and read in its entirety) also makes the excellent point that the Democratic coalition as of 2008 become disproportionately dependent upon young people (who historically especially suck at voting in midterms).

A tale of two electorates

This chart from Yglesias sums up things pretty damn well:

Young voters still went heavily Dem (though, not as heavily as in 2008) and old voters stayed pretty R, but their proportions of the electorate shifted dramatically.  Again, this election is much more a story of who voted versus who didn’t, than people changing their minds on the parties since 2008.

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