Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Real Winners and Losers of the Midterm

The 2014 midterms brought with it hundreds of literal winners and losers.  However, in the broader picture, here are our big three winners and losers of the night:
GOP Governors
Republicans had a much better than expected night Tuesday.  We had projected them to lose three seats, with many of them falling within one or two points of one another.  Instead, the GOP swept nearly every competitive Governor race, and some that we didn’t even see as competitive. 
What this means is that the GOP now control of the Governor’s mansions since 2000.  The pickups include wins in Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois.  Arkansas was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but Maryland and Illinois, especially, shocked most political observers.
Many of the other winners were incumbents running for re-election in purple and even blue states.  These Republicans not only will have more influence in their state’s voting, but they also will have a bigger role in the 2016 Presidential race.  For some, that includes running for President, while for others it means more political sway with potential endorsements.  The Governor who looks best coming out of Tuesday is Scott Walker, who has now won three statewide elections in the past four years in liberal-leaning Wisconsin. 
John Kasich
One other Governor who came out of the midterms looking strong is Ohio Governor John Kasich.  Kasich has taken credit for a much improved Ohio economy since he took office, and he won re-election Tuesday night by a whopping 31 points.  True, he had a challenger who was embroiled in scandal and who turned out to be a very poor candidate.  But the scale of his victory is still massive, especially in a state that is one of the most important to Presidential candidates.
Though he would likely have a tough time as an establishment Republican in a potentially crowded Presidential field, Kasich has certainly established himself as a top-tier contender for the Republican Vice Presidential nomination.  Republicans have never won the White House without also winning Ohio, and the temptation to nominate the state’s extremely popular Governor may just win out over choosing for other reasons, such as courting a specific demographic.
Kentucky Democrats
Despite a sea of Democrats losing their seats Tuesday night, those in the Democratic-controlled state house of Kentucky surprisingly kept their majority.  Why is this important?  One reason: Rand Paul.
Paul is widely assumed to end up running for President in 2016, but under rules for Kentucky elections, no candidate can appear twice on any one ballot.  This means Paul cannot run for both his current Senate seat as well as for President at the same time; he would have to choose. 
If Republicans had gained control of the state-house, it is possible they could have signed legislation overturning this election law.  However, with a Democratic-controlled state house and Governor, there is no way it will happen.
If Paul chooses to run for President, it will leave an open seat in the Bluegrass State.  This could provide an opportunity for a strong Kentucky Democrat to run for Senate and have a good chance of winning, especially if Hillary Clinton is at the top of the Ticket.  She is still relatively well liked in the state and would likely want to make a play for winning Kentucky herself.

We’ll have a more in-depth article specifically covering this issue, but in short, the polls were wrong.  Our projections are mainly based on polling averages and they have only about a 10% room for adjustment, which we, for the most part, tilted to the Republican candidate. 
On average, it seems as though pollsters had about a four to five point Democratic bias. Many of them are claiming that the race broke in just the final few days of the campaign towards the Republicans, and that many of their polls were not conducted in that time.  But for a race that was remarkably stable for months, that seems like a thin argument. 
Hillary Clinton
Let’s not kid ourselves; Hillary Rodham Clinton is almost certainly going to run for President.  Considering that, the midterms were not a great omen for her chances.  It’s certainly easy to read too much into this, but of all the states in which she campaigned for the Democratic candidate, the only state in which she seemed to have a positive effect was New Hampshire.  The Democratic Governor there, Maggie Hassan, ended up winning by about six points, beating the spread between the state’s Senate race. 
In contrast, the Clintons put much political capital into helping the Democratic candidates in Florida, Arkansas, and Kentucky, among others.  All of those candidates lost by a much larger margin than many were predicting (again, mostly due to polling error).  Still, it seems as though Clinton’s clout is much diminished from where it was even a year ago and certainly lower than in 2008. 
All this likely won’t deter her from running.  Turnout was terrible in 2014, especially among groups who typically support Democratic candidates, such as Hispanics, youth, and single women.  A run by Clinton will no doubt increase turnout among these three groups.
Martin O’Malley
Unlike Clinton, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will likely be deterred from running for President after Tuesday’s results.  Maryland’s electorate overwhelmingly voted for the Republican candidate to replace O’Malley over O’Malley’s Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown. 
Brown was largely considered a proxy for a third O’Malley term.  With Democrats not being able to hold on to this deep-blue state, it is unlikely the current Governor will have enough clout within the party to challenge Clinton, much less win a Democratic primary.

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