Thursday, January 3, 2013
Looking at Statewide Elections in 2012: Why the GOP lost close races
by Clifford F. Thies Following up on yesterday's analysis of the Presidential election, we will today look at the "top of the ticket" statewide elections of 2012. As is well known, the Republicans suffered a net loss of two Senate seats, going from 47 to 45 in that chamber, and picked up one Governorship (North Carolina). But, there's more to the story. In the Senate, Republicans lost two Senate races (Indiana and Montana) due to Libertarian vote-siphoning. Ditto the Governorship of Montana. As readers of this blog know, we recognized the vulnerability of Republican Senate candidates in certain Red States, and called for a one-day Red State swing by Paul Ryan covering Indiana, Montana and North Dakota. The idea was to have a joint appearance with the Republican Senate candidates in these states and remind voters that a President Romney would need support in the Senate to pass his agenda. This would have helped in terms of reducing ticket-splitting and GOTV. Given the razor thin margins in these states, such a Red State swing could have resulted in us finishing with a net pick-up of one seat in the Senate, and a very different narrative about the meaning of the election. Losses in the Senate races in California and New York were huge, as was expected. But, so were losses in the Senate races in Hawaii and Minnesota, thought at various times to be competitive. Hawaii, it should now be clear, is a single-party state, so that only under very unusual circumstances could we expect anything good to come out of there. As for Minnesota, eight years of Tom Pawlenty didn't leave anything of a lasting impression, and to think some people thought of him as a possible Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate. Among the purple states of the country, Minnesota tilts rather strongly Democratic. But, unlike Hawaii, we think this state is salvageable. On the other hand, the loss in the Senate race in Ohio was surprisingly close given how the Presidential race turned out, especially considering the vote-siphoning effect of the Constitutionalist-oriented independent candidate in that state. John Kasich has done a good job in keeping this state competitive in the Presidential election and Republican in terms of the Congressional delegation and the state legislature. And, we came closest, by far, in this state to up-ending an incumbent Democratic Senator. One final statewide race deserves comment: West Virginia. Somebody, I don't even know the guy's name, came within 5 points of knocking off the incumbent Democratic Governor of this state. Look for this state to accelerate its transition from a Red State in Presidential contests only, to a rock-ribbed Red State.