Columns / Discourse / November 6, 2014

Election Analysis

Senate bleeds blue seats

Election night can only be described as a nightmare for liberals concerned with the representative direction the country is moving in. The Democrats were unable to defend a single U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday and things could still be getting worse.

While it appears that Virginia Senator Mark Warner (D) will keep his seat once election officials declare the votes final and Senator Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana will be going into a December runoff election with the momentum of a slight victory, the Dems stand to lose yet another incumbent in the Alaska Senatorial Election. Officials have gone through all of Wednesday without declaring a winner, but Republican challenger Dan Sullivan seems to have a large enough lead to add to the GOP’s winnings.

To those religiously following Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight political blog, Tuesday’s results should not be too much of a shock. The scales had been tipping in the Republicans’ favor for weeks leading up to the election and, just like in 2012, they weren’t lying. It is almost peculiar how sure everyone seemed to be during the summer campaigning that the Democrats would walk away only slightly hurt in the Senate. I attended a conference featuring a prominent pollster from each party in mid-August in which both men agreed that the Democrats had Colorado in the bag barring any major slip-up from Senator Mark Udall (D), but more on that race later.

The Republicans hit senate races especially hard this year, employing a near uniform message for voters in states with Democratic incumbents: You do not want another Obama in your Senate. No doubt aided by the vast amounts of money flowing through conservative think-tanks and Super PACs, ads were run this election cycle ad nauseum pointing out voting records that aligned with Obama or his healthcare policy. Voters were spoon-fed the idea that a vote for a Democrat meant a vote for all of the bad things that have happened under Obama and they ate it up.

Moreover, this “liberal aversion” was able to bleed over into many other races at the ballot box. The end result is a Republican Senate paired with an even more republican House. This will no doubt make political life nearly unbearable for Obama who will have to endure his last two years in office with a legislature determined to block his agenda and dismantle his liberal accomplishments. To make matters worse, Obama won’t be receiving any help at the state level from the new batch of governors. Midterm elections almost always go against the party of the presiding president, but a loss of this magnitude will no doubt send the Dems into panic mode for 2016.

Shock and disbelief in Springfield

While I did expect the governors races to fall more or less in line with the national votes, there was an unexpected ousting that happened right here in Illinois.

Despite Governor Pat Quinn (D) and his team refusing to admit defeat late into Wednesday night, Illinois has elected its first Republican to the governorship since 1998. Bruce Rauner, who led a predominantly anti-union campaign, was able to pull away with the votes despite the massive and traditionally very liberal Cook County turning out against him at a rate of nearly two to one. Rauner’s victory probably had something to do with the fact that he carried every other county in Illinois.

Apart from Sen. Durban’s (D) reelection, it would appear to some that Chicago is no longer enough to keep the state blue. In some ways, it seems fitting that the Dems pay for Blagojevich’s disastrous time in office, but I can’t help but feel for Quinn. Afterall, Quinn was hit with crisis after crisis during his time in office and has handled them all with notable poise.

I personally believe that this gubernatorial race mostly came down to the corruption allegations against Quinn’s administration late this year. Quinn ran on the position that he was an upright and worthy governor for Illinois. Unfortunately, when the governor’s team is under investigation for corruption and the courts actually have something to talk about, the public is unlikely to favor Quinn’s own words.

Even without the scandal falling so close to election day, Quinn still would have faced heavy opposition in his bid for reelection. While he was the only incumbent Democrat to lose his seat (assuming there isn’t a 50 vote swing in Vermont’s tabulation), governors in other traditionally liberal states faced much closer elections than anyone predicted in 2013. Both  Colorado and Connecticut governors saw their victories come within question. This can most likely be attributed to excitement the Republican Party generated by having a shot at the senate.

It is unfortunate that liberal turnout is so low during midterm elections, but both sides knew this would be the case going into the election. The Republicans were simply better at maintaining election hype for their voting block than the Democrats were at convincing their block to save the liberal seats. While this turnout didn’t do too much for the overall outcomes of the gubernatorial races, Quinn’s loss and a sweaty evening for the rest of the Democratic incumbents are signs that Republican outreach was on point this year.

The long and short of it all

I believe this election has demonstrated that people are fed up with the American political system. As much as the anti-Obama advertising and voter mobilization efforts of the Republicans ensured the employment of the majority of their candidates, they couldn’t have done it without a deep-seated anger aimed at a congress that has done next to nothing in the last two years. Obama and the Democrats were left to shoulder this blame because they were the ones in charge.

It’s hard to say what effect this election will have in 2016, but I personally believe it will actually turn out alright for the Democrats. Ben Casselman, the chief economics writer at FiveThirtyEight, summed up the peculiar nature of Tuesday’s election results perfectly, “So voters want a higher minimum wage, legal pot, abortion access and GOP representation. Ok then.” Despite many ballot measures going in a traditionally liberal direction the country voted red. The perfect example of this contrast occurred in my home state of Colorado. A personhood amendment being rejected by nearly 65 percent of voters, my state still chose to elect the decidedly conservative Cory Gardner to Senate. The kicker is that Gardner is still a sponsor of a federal personhood amendment from earlier this cycle as the representative of Yuma, Colo.

The Republicans were lucky in this election in that they were able to run solely on not being Obama. But with no democratic majority to fight with in the Senate, America will soon be forced to confront the troubling social policies of many of their elected officials. To my conservative friends: Celebrate like I did in 2012, you’ve waited long enough.



Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

Tags:  Ben Casselman bruce rauner Cory Gardner democrats Election 2014 FiveThirtyEight Gov. Pat Quinn Governor house of representatives Mark Udall midterms Nate Silver republicans senate

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