Post Election Analysis: What are people saying?

 Republicans were disappointed that they lost all their congressional challenges, and all their races for statewide constitutional offices. Democrats are savoring a “clean sweep” in Massachusetts in the middle of a devastating collapse at the national level.

There are many good post election analysis articles out on the web worth looking at. I don’t have every good article out there – but I’ve got examples of all the major themes going around and who is pushing them.

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Democratic Spin: “Republican Failure”

The Boston Globe says Democratic success was due largely to a well organized “get out the vote” effort, principally engineered in Massachusetts’ urban centers and manned by union volunteers:

“Of all the things that went right for Patrick Tuesday, one big one was Menino’s legendary machine. By the end of the day, more Bostonians had voted than in 2006, supplying Patrick with vital support in the state’s most important Democratic stronghold. Help from labor unions, particularly the Service Employees International Union and the building trades, provided critical muscle on the ground. Neighborhood organizers with decades of political experience lent their expertise and personal networks.”

But Menino’s operation did not make the difference alone. A new generation of political activists worked side-by-side with Menino volunteers, particularly in heavily minority neighborhoods, using everything from text messages to fliers on windshields to lengthy discussions to get out the vote.

Shortly after Bill Keating’s victory over Jeff Perry, retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt commented that the Democratic sweep was the “end of the Scott Brown Effect”. This theme has been picked up in analysis in a bunch of places. Here is a typical example in the Patriot Ledger:

“Democrats quickly labeled their win in the 10th Congressional District a return to Massachusetts’ blue-state roots and a repudiation of the anti-Washington wave that U.S. Sen. Scott Brown rode to victory less than a year ago.

What you see here today is an end of the so-called Scott Brown effect,” retiring U.S. Rep. William Delahunt said before Democrat William Keating’s victory speech Tuesday night.

“It was an oft-repeated phrase as Democrats delighted in Keating’s win over Republican state Rep. Jeffrey Perry of Sandwich.”

There is now talk that Scott Brown is more vulnerable. The argument goes that Brown has voted too moderately to satisfy “Tea Party conservatives”, and that his support of the entire slate of Massachusetts Republican candidates may have turned left-leaning independents against him. Political strategists who thought Brown might have signaled a turning to the right, among the Massachusetts electorate, are now considering that Scott Brown may have been “a fluke”.  The Globe has an article today typical of the kind:

“Ten months after Scott Brown’s surprise victory in a Senate special election, the lackluster showing of Republicans across the state Tuesday is raising Democrats’ hopes of defeating Brown in two years.”

There is speculation on who would do that: Boston Mayor Tom Menino ( because of his GOTV chops), Newton Mayor Setti Warren, and of course Mike Capuano and Alan Khazei.

I don’t doubt some will try. But I doubt Brown is really that vulnerable. All polls show that Scott Brown is still, by far, the most popular politician in Massachusetts. Besides he has $6.7 million in campaign cash – a lot more than he had when he won the seat.

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Republican Spin: “We made good progress”

Scott Brown’s victory has been a mixed blessing for the Massachusetts GOP. It got their base excited. It helped them recruit good candidates. But it also gave them a case of “magical thinking.” Instead of fielding strong candidates for state legislature – an unrealistic number of candidates ran for congress. Many districts saw 4 or more Republicans in the primary. Many of these were the types of candidates who could have done well running for State Rep, or State Senator. Instead they were wasted fighting each other in Republican primaries.

Even though they didn’t win any of the races at the top of the ballot, the GOP put more pressure on the Democratic party than they have in many decades. All 5 major constitutional offices had viable challengers, and 8 of 10 congressional races were contested and even though Republicans didn’t win any – 5 races came within uncomfortably narrow margins in a state where Democrats are used to running for Congress uncontested.

And there was a silver lining: the MassGOP picked up 17 seats in the House – more than doubling their representation in the Legislature. Not enough to make much of a practical difference in how our Legislature runs – but a major step toward changing the Democrats’ long time legislative monopoly.

Jennifer Nassour, Chairman of the MassGOP, laid out that case in a letter to GOP State Committee Members:

Nov. 3, 2010

Dear State Committee Members:

No one ever said the battle to elect more Republicans in Massachusetts would be easy. Yesterday proved that, but there are a few observations I wanted to share with you:

– Our party gained 17 seats in the House of Representatives for a total of 32 – more than a 100% increase. In comparison, Massachusetts Republicans gained six House seats and eight Senate seats in the 1990 election. (Please see a full list of the 2010 legislative winners below.)

– Every incumbent Republican won. Importantly, we protected those five open House seats held by departing Republicans, including the vacancy created by Richard Ross’ state Senate victory earlier this year. We ended a 20-year slide by more than doubling membership.

– The gains in the House will give us energy and local leadership we need to continue to grow our grassroots. It will build our farm team as we prepare for future races, including state Senate contests. We already added 100 new city and town committees prior to Tuesday, and we’ve laid the ground work to organize more.

– Many, many of our statewide and congressional candidates performed well and emerged from yesterday’s election as respected, viable contenders for future elections.

– Worcester County proved to be a stronghold for us. We congratulate Rep. Lew Evangelidis who won his race for Worcester County Sheriff, and Jennifer Cassie for being elected to the Governor’s Council. Republicans will represent us in eight Worcester County House Districts: 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 18th.

– While we don’t have final numbers yet, it is clear that our strong congressional challenges forced national Democrats to pour resources into Massachusetts, diverting them from races in other parts of the country. We played a role in the national wave

As a party, we have reason to be proud of the effort and the gains made on Tuesday because we will hold more seats come January, and we have stronger and broader grassroots. We provided our legislative candidates with the knowledge and tools to run great races, and they succeeded. Our work is far from complete, but we are heading in the right direction.

I would be remiss if I did not thank each and every one of our Republican candidates, from the statewide contenders all the way down the ballot. They put their lives on hold for a year or more to run for public office and everyone of them can walk away with their heads held high.

In the coming days and weeks, we will be analyzing the election results and will provide you with more information as we better understand Tuesday’s outcome and plan for future party building. I thank each of you for your continued support of both the party and our candidates.

Republican Rep. Paul Frost makes a similar case:

“21(pending on a few recounts) new GOP State Representatives were elected on November 2. Despite the other losses in the state, the GOP in the Mass House still gained significantly.  House Republican Leader Brad Jones and his leadership team and the Mass GOP House PAC deserve a lot of credit along, of course, with the hard work of our great candidates this year.  We also had all three incumbent Republican State Representatives re-elected.  Unprecedented efforts this round lead to unprecedented results since two decades ago, despite what happened elsewhere on the ballot. There was no wave ridden this time.”

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Tea Party Spin: “Republicans were not conservative enough”

There is a theme going around that Republicans tried to lean too far to the left to pick up centrist independent voters and lost the support of conservative and “family values” voters. Mass Resistance has been promoting this idea:

“In an election where Republicans were conquering the country, Massachusetts is probably the only state in America where the Republicans were completely blanked out in all statewide offices and all Congressional districts. Is that just coincidence, or were the Republicans here possibly doing something wrong?

The forced big-tent approach to morality has become the Party’s official position. The pro-gay, pro-abortion Baker/Tisei team reflected it completely. And if a Republican candidate was personally pro-life or pro-traditional marriage, the apparent strategy was either to never mention it or obfuscate when asked about it.

It didn’t work. It confused people. And it alienated a fairly significant part of the Republican Party base — the part that does a lot of the actual work. At a certain point it started to look pretty ridiculous.

As columnist Jeff Jacoby once observed (regarding Mitt Romney’s 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy), if people are given the choice of a watered-down liberal and a real liberal, they will choose the real thing every time. What he might have added is that when the Republican Party caves in to more and more liberal mush, its rank and file starts to lose their zeal and enthusiasm, and it affects campaigns.”

This kind of “moderate” thinking also led to other sources of Republican Party failure:

“The Party avoided running against Barack Obama and his policies. After all, in a “big tent” you don’t want to alienate Obama supporters. But back in January, Scott Brown won his US Senate seat running primarily as the 41st vote against Barack Obama’s agenda. The “new” Republican Party hardly mentioned Obama at all. Did you see any anti-Obama ads — reminding voters how the incumbents force-fed us Obamacare, cap and trade, takeover of the economy? Neither did we. And when Congressional candidate Bill Hudak bashed Obama, he was thrown under the bus by the Republican bigwigs. However, around the country that was the main reason for booting incumbents.

Party leaders adopted other traditionally liberal issues. For example, early on Charlie Baker announced his support for the Quinn Bill. The Quinn Bill is a program where state money pays for permanent police salary increases if they take some college courses. It was originally a gift to the policeman’s union, has become very expensive, and is widely considered a boondoggle — so much so that Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick cut much of it from the budget. So Baker was in the interesting position of being more fiscally liberal then his Democrat opponent. Not exactly a Tea Party approach to government.”

All this should send a message to someone. But we’re not holding our breath for this bunch to “get it” anytime soon.

They have a point. Bill Hudak, derided by many as “too conservative” and a “birther”, and who got very little support from Republicans nationally and barely any from the MassGOP did way better than anyone expected. Most Republican candidates – like Baker – did their best to distance themselves from Hudak.

The House seats picked up in Worcester county were to a large extent “pro-family” Republicans.

Mike Rosettie on RedMassGroup makes the case that the leaders of the Massachusetts Republican party have been drawn from a relatively small number of more “liberal” north eastern Massachusetts Districts, and that it is time for the leaders to be drawn from the more conservative Republican base, Worcester county:

“State House News has reported that both Bruce Tarr and Bob Hedlund are interested in leading the MassGOP Senate Caucus.

I say Hedlund.

We need a change in our Republican leadership.  Our Republican leadership has been concentrated among a few liberal North Shore Republicans.  Meanwhile, most Republicans exists in central Mass, the South Shore and Cape Code.  This is true for both our elected officials and the rank and file.  Bruce Tarr and Brad Jones even have overlapping districts.  This does not represent the party in either geography nor ideology.”

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Juicy Insights from David Bernstein

David Bernstein has two really interesting blog posts after the election. The first is that the Massachusetts House is now only barely pro-choice:

“The Massachusetts House of Representatives came within a hair’s-breadth of losing its pro-choice majority as a result of Tuesday’s elections, but will squeak through with a bare edge of 81 of 160 members.

Take these numbers with grain of salt. This is NARAL’s accounting of who is “pro-choice”. For them legislators only count as “pro-choice” if they hew to a fanatical opposition to any regulation of abortion.

Long term, abortion rights is a losing issue. The country is slowly turning against it as 3D ultrasound imaging gives families a clearer picture of what the unborn look like. I’m sure that it is surprising for many that in Massachusetts our State House is now almost evenly divided.

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The other insight is that of the Democratic legislators who lost, the majority were not DeLeo allies:

“In fact, here’s something that losers Rogers, Callahan, Patrick, D’Amico, Fagan, Falzone, and Kujawski have in common: their names were not on the infamous list of 91 DeLeo supporters released during that January 2009 succession battle. Same goes for a number of Democratic reps who chose not to run for re-election (some seeking other office), including Driscoll, Flynn, Greene, Harkins, Nyman, Quinn, Rodrigues, Rush, St. Fleur, Tobin, and Wallace.

In fact, of the top 20 on my list earlier this year of Democrats “voting off” under DeLeo — ie, voting against leadership on roll calls — half will be gone when the new session begins in January.

New Democrats, aided by DeLeo’s House Democrats Committee, won 18 of the 22 open Democratic seats, if I’ve tallied correctly. And nearly all of DeLeo’s incument supporters won re-election — in other words, Democrats won house elections almost everywhere their leadership wanted to win. Seems to me the result is that DeLeo will now have more control where it counts, which is within the Democratic caucus.”

One comment

  • November 5, 2010 - 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Pioneer Institute’s Steve Poftak offers some useful insight in comparing the Brown/Coakley and Baker/Patrick results here: http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/blog/news/patrick-baker-compared-to-brown-coakley/

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