The belated midterm post

Well, instead of writing (and cutting and pasting), I’ve been reading, reading, reading today (plus a long chicken-pox-induced nap).  Anyway, I’m not sure I’ve properly distilled what to make of everything yet, but I will copy and paste a bunch of stuff that I found particularly worthwhile.

1) Really liked the NYT Editorial:

Republicans would like the country to believe that they took control of the Senate on Tuesday by advocating a strong, appealing agenda of job creation, tax reform and spending cuts. But, in reality, they did nothing of the sort.

Even the voters who supported Republican candidates would have a hard time explaining what their choices are going to do. That’s because virtually every Republican candidate campaigned on only one thing: what they called the failure of President Obama. In speech after speech, ad after ad, they relentlessly linked their Democratic opponent to the president and vowed that they would put an end to everything they say the public hates about his administration..

Campaigning on pure negativity isn’t surprising for a party that has governed that way since Mr. Obama was first sworn in. By creating an environment where every initiative is opposed and nothing gets done, Republicans helped engineer the president’s image as weak and ineffectual. Mitch McConnell, who will be the Senate’s new majority leader, vowed in 2009 to create “an inventory of losses” to damage Mr. Obama for precisely the results achieved on Tuesday.

2) Along these lines, Chait:

So what happens now? In the short term, nothing. The newly minted Republican leaders are mouthing the requisite platitudes about cooperation. But Mitch McConnell did not become the majority leader by cooperating. His single strategic insight is that voters do not blame Congress for gridlock, they blame the president, and therefore reward the opposition. Eternally optimistic seekers of bipartisanship have clung to the hope that owning all of Congress, not merely half, will force Republicans to “show they can govern.” This hopeful bit of conventional wisdom rests on the premise that voters are even aware that the GOP is the party controlling Congress. In fact, only about 40 percent of the public even knows which party controls which chamber of Congress, which makes the notion that the Republicans would face a backlash for a lack of success fantastical.

McConnell’s next play is perfectly clear. His interest lies in creating two more years of ugliness and gridlock. He does not want spectacular, high-profile failures that command public attention — no shutdowns, no impeachment. Instead, he wants tedious, enervating stalemate. McConnell needs to drain away any possibility of hope and excitement from government, so that the disengaged Democratic voters remain disengaged in 2016.

3) Tomasky with some very good insight:

I’m not going where you (especially if you’re conservative) suspect I’m going with this—the standard liberal moan that working-class white people are voting against their interests. That’s something Democrats have to get out of their heads and stop saying. People don’t vote against their interests. They vote for their interests as they see them. And right now, working-class and blue-collar whites think the Democratic Party is just implacably against them.

Of course I don’t think it’s true that the Democratic Party is implacably against them. I think they just think the Democratic Party is implacably against them, [emphasis mine] and part of the reason—not the whole reason, but part of the reason—they think the Democratic Party is implacably against them is that Democratic candidates in red states have no idea how to tell them they’re on their side.

I don’t know how much of this is about Democratic candidates in red states, but the part in bold is absolutely true and absolutely what Democrats have to figure out how to change this dynamic.

And here’s some related Tomasky from last week.  Not quite as sure this is right, but it is a good and very interesting argument:

The GOP has absolutely nothing of substance to say to the American people, on any topic. The Republicans’ great triumph of this election season is their gains among women, which have happened because (mirabile dictu!) they’ve managed to make it through the campaign (so far) without any of their candidates asserting that rape is the will of God. All these extremists who may be about to win Senate seats are winning them basically by saying opponent, opponent, opponent, Obama, Obama, Obama.

And the Democrats can’t beat these guys?…

But the underlying reason is this: The Democrats don’t have the right words for attacking the Republicans’ core essence and putting Republican candidates on the defensive. When Republicans attack Democrats, the attacks quite often go right to the heart of Democratic essence, and philosophy. “My opponent is a big-government, big-spending, high-taxing” etc. That gets it all in there in a few short words. Every Republican says it, and the fact is that it’s typically at least sort of true, because Democrats do believe in government and spending and taxes…

So what they have to do instead is find a way to talk about this policy bankruptcy and duplicity of the GOP that I describe above, the party’s essential anti-idea-ness, because it’s through that bankruptcy and duplicity that the Republican Party manages to conceal from voters its actual agenda, which is to slash regulations and taxes and let energy companies and megabanks and multinational corporations do whatever it is they wish to do. Most Americans may be for limited government and lower taxes, but they sure aren’t for that.

In my experience, Democrats seem kind of afraid to do this.

4) Really liked Jonathan Ladd’s take:

Just a few quick reactions to yesterdays midterm election results:

1) These results tell us essentially nothing about how the 2016 election will turn out. If any analyst tries to explain the significance of this for 2016, you can stop reading/listing right there. [emphasis mine] The president’s party almost always does poorly in the midterms in the sixth year of a presidency. The 2016 election will be determined by economic performance in 2016, how long the Democrats have held the presidency, and whether Obama gets involved in a costly overseas war. The only possible effect this could have is if newly elected Republicans in some way affect economic performance in 2016…

3) 54 Senate Republicans is a lot different than a bare majority. The Senate map was very favorable to Republicans this year, with elections disproportionately in Republican states and a number of big Democratic retirements. On the other hand, the 2016 Senate map is favorable to Democrats, with a lot of freshman senators who won in 2010 (often in blue state) facing their first reelection campaigns. As David Weigel pointed out last night, if the Republicans had won a slim 51 or 52 vote majority, there would have been a high probability of Democrats retaking the majority in two years. But they now will likely have a 54 seat majority. (That is if they win Alaska and Louisiana. If West Virginia’s Joe Manchin also switches parties, they could have 55.) As a result, it is more probable that they could hold onto their majority in 2016…

5) This will stop almost all judicial and executive branch confirmations. Executive branch appointments and federal judges must be confirmed by the Senate. We already have a good idea of how receptive GOP senators are to Obama’s nominees. Prior to the Democrats abolishing the filibuster on confirmations in Nov. 2013, Republicans used the filibuster to block confirmations at unprecedented levels. They can now continue their pre-filibuster abolition strategy of blocking confirmations to any agency they don’t like, and blocking most federal appeals court nominees.

5) Good stuff from John Judis.  Lots and lots of good demographic analysis that you should read if you enjoy that (and you know I love it), but I’ll just paste his concluding paragraph:

But in 2016 and in future midterm elections, the Democrats will still have to do better among those parts of the electorate that have flocked to the Republicans: older voters and white working-class voters. The numbers for the latter in this election were singularly dispiriting. In Florida, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist lost whites without college degrees by 32 to 61 percent; in Virginia, Senator Mark Warner’s near-death experience was due to losing these voters by 30 to 68 percent. In Colorado and Iowa, they held the key to Republican Senate victories. In 2012, the Democrats benefited by facing a Republican who reeked of money and privilege and displayed indifference toward the 47 percent. Romney lost the white working class in states like Ohio. Democrats may not have that luxury of a Mitt Romney in the next election. And in that case, they will have to do considerably better among these voters, or else 2016 could turn out to be another nightmare election for the Democrats.

6) Okay, on the polls.  Wow, were they systematically biased in a Democratic direction.  Amazingly far off in some states that led to some real surprises, e.g., the closeness of Virginia.  Nate Silver on the matter.

This evidence suggests thatpolling bias has been largely unpredictable from election to election. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the polling was biased against Democrats in 1998, 2006 and 2012. However, just as certainly, it was biased against Republicans in 1994, 2002 and now 2014. It can be dangerous to apply the “lessons” from one election cycle to the next one…

Interestingly, this year’s polls were not especially inaccurate. Between gubernatorial and Senate races, the average poll missed the final result by an average of about 5 percentage points — well in line with the recent average. The problem is that almost all of the misses were in the same direction. That reduces the benefit of aggregating or averaging different polls together. It’s crucially important for psephologists to recognize that the error in polls is often correlated. It’s correlated both within states (literally every nonpartisan poll called the Maryland governor’s race wrong, for example) and amongst them (misses often do come in the same direction in most or all close races across the country).

7) Interesting piece from Justin Wolfers suggesting we’d actually be better off asking voters who they think will win.

All told, surveys of voters’ expectations picked the Senate winner in every state except one. More impressively, they did so three weeks ago. The one miss was in North Carolina, where both the questions asking about voters’ expectations and their intentions narrowly but wrongly suggested that the Democratic incumbent, Kay Hagan, would beat the Republican challenger, Thom Tillis. (Also, neither polls of voters’ expectations nor their intentions saw any hint that the Virginia Democrat, Mark Warner, would face such a difficult fight for re-election.)

Moreover, voters’ expectations yielded fewer false signals. For instance, while pollsters analyzing voters’ intentions had suggested that both Kansasand Kentucky might yield competitive Senate races, voters were confident that the Republicans would win both races easily. And they were right.

Take-aways?  We’re still very much in a pattern oscillation as Democrats are so dependent upon the minority and youth voters who are good in presidential years, not so much in midterms.  Republicans should be worried about that in 2016.  Democrats need to be worried about how they are faring with blue-collar white voters (more on that to come).  And Republicans have really demonstrated the power of nihilistic politics when the other party holds the White House.

Sorry (midterm edition)!

I keep meaning to put together a meg post-midterm post and the rest of life keeps intervening. For now, here’s the email I just sent to my class:

Here’s just a small sampling of the better items I’ve read on the elections. Please read these (and more!) for tomorrow. If you are not interested in all the stories today, you probably should have never taken this class.

On the NC Senate campaign:

What happened with the polls?

Exit polls:

Precinct level NC results– so cool:

John Cassidy, always from the left and always smart:

I always want to know what Tom Edsall has to say:

I think this one is interesting for being so journalistic and almost entirely ignoring big picture factors, but lot’s of great detail:

From a PS perspective:

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