2010 Politicos of the Year

So, everyone else does lists at the end of the year. Why shouldn’t we? Here following, my picks for the 2010 Politicos of the year (in reverse chronological order).  

10. Suzana Martinez – NM-Gov

Martinez was a unknown district attorney when she took on Lt. Governor Dina Denish in a state that had not only overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008 but elected an all Democratic slate to Congress. She succesfully tied Denish into scandal-ridden outgoing governor Bill Richardson and won. The fact she did so in such a Democratic state makes her acheivement marginally more impressive than the Republicans other woman-minority governor-elect, Nikki Haley.

9. Lisa Murkowski – AK-SEN

Ran won of the worst primary campaigns in history, followed by the first successful write in campaign in 50 years. The kudos she deserves for the later far outweigh the mocking she deserves for the former.

8. Jerry Brown – CA-Gov

The former and future governor of California survived the most expensive attack campaign in American history. Almost without breaking a sweat.

7. Kamala Harris – CA-AG

A rising star, and the first woman to win this traditionally conservative law and order position. It’s no accident she’s being compared to Obama.

6. Rick Snyder – MI-Gov

“One tough nerd” managed to beat out three better known candidates in the Republican primary and crush his Democratic opponent in a state that gave Obama a landside win. Good luck with governing it.

5. Rick Scott – FL-Gov

Just as Time Magazine once picked the Ayatollah Khoemeni as “Man of the Year” we have to put Scott up there as a politician of the year. He beat out Florida’s AG for the nomination, and went on to defeat the much respected CFO of the state, despite being acclaimed as the “Madoff of Medicare,” among other titles.

4. Pete Sessions – R-Texas

It’s hard to single out one candidate in the Republican sweep of the House races this year, although some (Bob Dold? Chip Cravaack? Bill Flores) stand out. So, I’m putting Pete Sessions as a placeholder for everyone, because despite criticism about the NRCC’s tepid fundraising he managed to do better than either the RGA or the NRSC, partially through being very agressive about targeting races. Of course, we’ll see how he does in 2012, when the landscape may not be as promising.

3. Marco Rubio – FL-SEN

Almost everyone (except Kos) was declaring Rubio dead in the water when Charlie Crist released his first fundraising totals after announcing for Senate in 2009. Now, it’s Charlie Crist who is dead in the water, and Marco Rubio who is the potential Republican presidential candidate.

2. Harry Reid – NV-SEN

Here’s how much respect I have for Harry Reid as a politician: I think he would have beaten any of his opponents for Senate in 2010. He’s that good – his commercials were some of the best of the cycle.

1. Scott Brown – MA-SEN

It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the year, it was assumed Martha Coakley, as Steve Singiser put it, “is likely to be the first woman elected to that chamber from the State of Massachusetts.” Even after all that’s happened since Brown’s victory, it’s hard to come up with a more shocking political result in a long time (the only one I can come up with is Harris Wofford’s win over Richard Thornburgh way back in 1991). What’s more, at this writing, Brown seems to be holding on to his popularity. Because Brown became the early face of the Republican wave that would sweep most strongly in the House elections, but also in the Senate, Governor and all the way down to the state legislatures, I think he should be 2010’s Politico of the Year.


1. Christine O’Donnell

Oh I hope she goes to jail. I really do. Even then, she probably won’t shut up. But I do have to say: thank you Erik Erickson and all the Tea Party organizations who gave us Dems a freebie in Delaware this year.

2. Joe Miller

Would have probably one a place as one of the best had he maintained his momentum after the primary. Instead, he lost to a write-in. Ultamite choke.

Del Ali

The head of polling organization Research 2000 is not a politician, but he was involved enough in politics that he makes my worst list for this year. Hope Kos wins his lawsuit.

Alan Grayson

Republicans should send a big thanks to Grayson for taking so much cash from well meaning progressives to fund an 18 point loss – one of the worst of any incumbent this cycle.

Blanche Lincoln, Paul Hodes (tie)

I guess you can give Lincoln credit for beating Bill Halter in the primary, but considering she was chairman of a major committee (Agriculture) in the Senate, shouldn’t she have been able to keep this race closer than a 22 point spread? As for Hodes, remember back in 2008 when Kos told us Hodes would finish off Judd Gregg (or whoever took Gregg’s place) in 2010? Yeah, well Hodes lost by almost 24 points. That was worse than Lee Fisher, or almost anyone else in a supposedly competitive race.  

2010 – NOT the year of the woman

So the starting point for this diary was another diary, which I can’t seem to find, but which I remember from the heady days of early 2009, when Dems seemed poised to pull a 1934 (at least in the Senate) and gain seats for the third cycle in a row. This diarist made the point that with such candidates as Katherine Sebelius in Kansas, Janet Napolitano in Arizona, Robin Carnahan in Missouri, Jennifer Brunner in Ohio and Christy Vilsack in Iowa, 2010 was poised to be a true year of the woman in politics, and particularly Democratic woman.

Yeah, well, that didn’t happen.

So how’d women do in 2010. Well, Democratic women did terribly in general, but for women overall, there was the (kinda) good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s review.  

The (kinda) good – the Governors

The Governors races were a mixed bag for women, which qualifies as good. The three losses were all due to retirements (Jodi Rell, Jennifer Granholm and Linda Lingle) and were balanced by three wins – Mary Fallin in Oklahoma, Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Nikki Haley in South Carolina. The later two are women of color, and regardless of your view of politics it’s kind of cool to see a woman of Indian descent governing the state where the civil war started. Of course, all these were Republicans. There were some big losses for women as well, notably Meg Whitman in California, Karen Handel in Georgia and (from my perspective, the most heartbreaking), Alex Sink in Florida. Still, women held their own, and given there wasn’t a huge amount of potential for women beyond the California, Georgia and Florida’s races, I’m going to label the governor’s results good.

The Bad – the Senate

Women held their own in the Senate – there will still be 17 Senators in the next session of Congress, with Kelly Ayotte replacing Blanche Lincoln. But given the potential: Robin Carnahan in Missouri, Elaine Marshall in North Carolina, Jennifer Brunner in Ohio, Roxanne Conlin in Iowa, Sharon Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Jane Norton in Colorado as well as earlier in the cycle, Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, not to mention the candidates who didn’t run, holding their own was certainly not a good result. Women can take comfort from some of major retentions: Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, Kirsten Gillibrand and probably the biggest win other than Ayotte, Lisa Murkowski (possibly the most gratifying win considering what a major ass**** Joe Miller turned out to be). But overall, the results were bad, considering the optimism that people had two years ago for this cycle.

The Ugly – The House

Here’s all you need to know: according to the Center for American Women in Politics, the number of women in the House will drop for the first time since 1979. That’s right: while nine Republican women won (and no incumbent Republican women lost House races), 10 Democratic women lost. The number of women in the House goes from 73 to 72. In addition to that, Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranking woman in the U.S. government, will lose her position come January.


So, yeech, right? Beyond the ugly numbers, there were a couple of interesting victories. Vicky Hartzler took out the reigning chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, scoring one of the bigger upsets of the cycle (and I’m a progressive, but does anyone think this would have gotten more publicity if the parties were reversed?). Jaime Herrera was the first Republican woman of Latino heritage elected outside of Florida. Renee Ellmers took out a seven term Dem Rep in North Carolina. And Colleen Hanabusa not only became the only Democratice women to oust a Republican incumbent, but made Hawaii the first state with more than one seat to have an all woman House delegation.

But still, yeech.

The future – 2012

For the governors races in 2012, things don’t look great. Bev Purdue in North Carolina is one of the more unpopular incumbents, and Christine Gregorie is in a little better shape but has not announced whether she will run for a third term in Washington.

The good news about the Senate is that only two female incumbents, Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Kay Bailey Hutchinson in Texas look to be in any sort of trouble, and the latter will likely retire. Feel free to speculate who might be some potential female challengers for the Senate.

We can only hope the House elections go better in 2012. Certainly quality candidates like Ann Kuster in New Hampshire are likely to run again and hopefully win. It feels like it can’t get worse than this year.  

What to watch for from now until Labor Day

These are the dog days of summer as far as politics go, when the polls are many but the insight they offer is fleeting, because it’s too damn early to know anything, and when campaigns are coming up with their grand strategies that will unleash victory once people start paying attention, which right now, they mostly aren’t.

Nonetheless, I thought it might be instructive to chronicle what I think political junkies should be paying attention to right now, seperating the wheat from the chaff. This is my opinion and by no means comprehensive, so give your own thoughts on this as well.

Right now, the year is battling between 1994 (an all out disaster for the governing Democratic party) and 1982 (where the losses were small and manageable for the ruling Republicans). I don’t see much of a sign it’s going to be 2002 (where the dominant Republicans actually picked up seats), but who knows. Anything can happen in the next three months.

So here’s what I’m paying attention to:

Unemployment: Not the weekly unemployment numbers, which can fluctuate, but the monthly unemployment reports. We have two of these coming out before Labor Day, and while both are important the September 3rd one will set the narrative for the remainder of the fall. I think we will see some growth in jobs and a either a small fall or rise in the unemployment rate, which will not be good news for the Dems, but not the worst news either. If job creation goes negative for either month, however, or their is a more than 3 percent rise in unemployment, it’s very bad news for the Dems. Conversely, a big rise in job creation or drop in unemployment could mitigate some losses for Dems in November. Keep in mind that while unemployment didn’t seem to matter in 1982 or 1994 in predicting election results, there are reasons to expect it might play a more outsize role in the coming election (in 1982, Reagan had began to tame inflation, which made people feel better about the rise in unemployment, and 1994 was more about Clinton’s failed health care plan, his stance on gun control and perceived mistakes then the economy).  

Obama’s approval rating: Obama is right now about where Clinton was at this time in 1994 and Reagan in 1982 (Reagan actually may have been slightly less popular). Clinton dropped further, of course, and the result was a disaster for Democrats. Conversely, Reagan also dropped throughout 1982, and the results were not a catastrophe for the Republicans. What was the difference? I think it was this: while Reagan was not popular in 1982, he was not as polarizing as Clinton was in 1994 (remember this was after the gays in the military mess, the haircut on Air Force One, the consistent advocacy of gun control and other culture war situations). In other words, where Democrats did not successfully make the election about Reagan in 1982, Republicans made it about Clinton in 1994 (just as Dems made it about Bush in 2006 and 2008). So, it’s not just Obama’s approval rating, but the intensity of opposition to him. Right now, it’s pretty intense, but with most of the big ticket items (HCR, the financial bill) out of the way, there is reason to hope it may drop down to Reagan 1982 levels. That could be a big factor.

Money, money, money Right now, we know the Dems will have a financial advantage headed into fall, but how much is the question. Pay attention to a couple of things: 1). What’s happening with the RNC, which could determine how far behind the Republicans will be this year 2). Whether Karl Rove’s new group or any of the other shadowy advocacy organizations will make a difference in the Republican’s cash deficit and 3). Any snippet of information you can get on some of the Republican candidates who were outraised by the their Democratic counterparts (like the ones in Pennsylvania), that indicate they might be catching up.

Races to watch

While we’re going to see lots of polls about the close Senate and Governor races (and even some House races), many of those polls aren’t going to break either way until the fall. Here are the races I’m watching the closest this summer:

Marshall vs. Burr Marshall just came out with an internal poll indicated she was two points ahead. Great, but here’s the thing: she needs some independent proof of this. The DSCC and DNC are not far enough ahead of their Republican counterparts they are going to be able to do for her what they did for Kay Hagen against Dole two years ago. She’s going to need some evidence she can actually win this thing, because she doesn’t have enough money right now to beat Burr without an influx of funds. This summer will tell all.

Vitter vs. Melancon Given it looks like Vitter will likely survive his primary, see Marshall above. Melancon needs more than an internal poll to show he can win this thing against Vitter. He won’t be as financially disadvantaged as Marshall, but Louisiana is not a Democrat-friendly state right now, and if by Labor Day Melancon is still down by seven points or more, prepare to write him off. (even five might be too much)

Grassley vs. Conlin This one isn’t really on anyones radar, but it could show whether the national mood is anti-Republican or anti-incumbent. Grassley is running a lackadasical campaign, and Conlin is a great fundraiser. But if Grassley is up by double digits as of Labor Day, it’s probably over.

I think these three races will be indicative of where were heading. If by the time Labor Day rolls around, we are writing all of them off, it’s not going to be a good year for the Dems. If even one of them is competitive, it may be better than anyone expects.

Things not to pay attention to

The stock market, the weekly first-time unemployment numbers (unless they drop below 400,000), or housing starts. All of these fluctuate way too much to have much impact on the way the election will go

Party preference numbers People pay too much attention to these. Not only do they bounce all around (this week see Gallup vs. Quinnipiac vs CNN) but it’s still too early for them to tell us anything about how the races will shape up in the fall. The national mood now won’t neccesarily be the national mood three months from now (when the party preference numbers WILL matter)

Commntators either on Red State or to Steve Singiser on Kos (not Singiser himself, who’s great) The former are constantly predicing 90 seat House gains and 11 seat Senate gains for the Republicans, the latter seem to think Dems will be at 64 or 65 seats because they will win all of the toss ups in the fall, and even some seats that are currently leaning Republican. For relief, go to Nate Silver and 538.com. He’s not always right, but he’s always realistic (and when he has that occasional slip-up, like with his commentary on WV-Senate, he corrects it pretty quickly).  


A Look at the Post-Mortems

Overall, last night was a great night, in spite of a few blemishes. So far my predictions in the presidential and governor races are pretty close to the actual results, my Senate predictions may be depending on how the recount in Minnesota and the Georgia runoff go, and it looks like my House predictions may have been a tad optimistic. Once the dust completely settles, I will have a more detailed analysis of my predictions vs. the actual results. For the time being, enjoy my state-by-state analysis of the 2008 election below the flip.

Alabama – Everything here panned out according to my predictions, including the surprise Democratic upset in the 2nd district that I changed to a Dem win at the last minute.

Alaska – Seems like the polls in the Senate and House races underestimated the Palin effect on the convicted Stevens and the embattled Young. My opinion of Alaska has officially gone down. It’s a beautiful state, but they elect horrible politicians!

Arizona – Everything here panned out according to my predictions, including the presidency, though I had a slight hope of an Obama upset in the wake of recent polls showing only a few points between Obama and McCain, and in AZ-03, which I believe was McCain’s House seat in the 80s.

Arkansas – I am disappointed, though not very surprised, in the presidential results here, having McCain up by only high single digits in the final prediction when he ended up taking the state in a 20-point blowout. Arkansas, like most of the Upper South, is PUMA land. Though the state and the area are trending away from us, don’t be surprised to see Hillary win here if she runs again.

California – My home state was a VERY mixed bag last night. I will give a fuller analysis of the results later on, when the few million uncounted ballots are in, since a few Assembly races and a ballot measure are still undecided. The good news first, is that Obama won in a huge landslide by about as much as I predicted, though my gut feeling was that Obama’s numbers would be closer to Kerry’s, being the first Democrat (and second overall) winning over 60% of the vote since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. We also had some wins in the ballot measures, passing 1A (High-Speed Rail w00t!) and 2 (more humane farm animal confinement), and beating back the odious 4 (Parental Notification III). Now for the bad news: disappointing results in the House races (though McNerney won, McClintock may become the new Congressman in CA-04), state legislature (a razor-thin battle in SD-19 and being ahead in only 3 of the 7 competitive Assembly races, one of the ones we’re behind in being a Dem-held seat), and especially on Proposition 8, which outlaws same-sex marriage.

Colorado – We had yet another great year here, finally knocking off culture warrior Marilyn Musgrave, taking the open Senate seat, and Obama winning! How many people were predicting Colorado to be this blue just six years ago? Not many, and those that did would probably have been laughed out of the room. Major kudos to Dean for choosing Denver for the convention!

Connecticut – Another great state for Dems, with Obama winning by more than 20 points, and finally completing the task of shutting out Republicans in every single House seat in New England with Chris Shays outta there!

Delaware – Just a few years ago, Delaware was seen as a possible Republican pick-off with Rudy and in the open governor’s race with a tepidly popular incumbent Democrat. Now, with the Biden effect and Markell’s huge landslide (ensuring that a Democrat will succeed Biden in the Senate), it is hard to believe that was the case. Taking the state House of Representatives was the feather in the hat.

District of Columbia – Though the result was beyond predictable, I was still amazed that Obama managed over 90% here.

Florida – I nearly passed out when Obama was declared the winner here. This is the first time in recent history that the polls were actually on par with the results. I was less surprised with the House results, however. Keller and Feeney went down as predicted, as did Tim Mahoney (and good riddance! An unusual time when I want to see a Democrat out of Congress), while the Cuban incumbents prevailed.

Georgia – Not long ago, I was expecting Georgia to only get redder across the board. Surprisingly, the vote went to McCain by only a few points, as well as the odious Chambliss in the Senate race (with a runoff possible if no one gets 50%). The two Democratic Congressmen, Marshall and Barrow, who were expected to be in serious trouble prevailed by much wider margins than even I expected. I guess for them 2010 (and then redistricting in 2012 if they survive then) will be the real test.

Hawaii – I was expecting the Islands of Aloha to be Obama’s widest margin, though I was still surprised at the 45% margin obliteration Obama handed McCain here.

Idaho – McCain won by a wide margin as expected, but his coattails could not save the repugnant Bill Sali, who was picked off by Walter Minnick in ID-01, who will be the first Democratic congressman from Idaho since 1992.

Illinois – The Land of Lincoln went to Obama by a huge margin as expected, though his coattails were not long enough to drag Dan Seals in IL-10 across the finish line. Halvorson and Foster did win in their districts, though. Now the next step is who Governor Blagojevich appoints to Obama’s Senate seat.

Indiana – Perhaps the biggest upset of all is Obama’s win in this state that has been strongly Republican since the party’s founding, only going Democratic in huge Democratic landslides. Downballot, however, everything else played out according to expectations, except for the “bloody 9th”, in which Baron Hill surprisingly smashed Mike Sodrel in their fourth consecutive matchup.

Iowa – Once one of the swingiest of swing states, going narrowly for Gore and then narrowly for Bush, Obama won this corn-heavy state very handily. Tom Harkin also scored his first ever landslide, while Latham won by a wider margin than expected.

Kansas – We still have a lot of work to do here, though Obama did close the gap considerably, as Nancy Boyda in KS-02 fell to moderate Republican State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins, the survivor of a bloody primary with ex-Representative Jim Ryun, who was much more conservative.

Kentucky – After Obama had secured the nomination, I initially expected Kentucky, like most other PUMA-heavy states, to be among his worst. However, Louisville probably helped him stay at Kerry-esque levels. The other competitive races went according to prediction, with Republican Senator Mitch McConnell holding on by single digits, Brett Guthrie holding the open KY-02, and Democrat John Yarmuth in KY-03 brushing off a rematch with the Republican he unseated, Anne Northup.

Louisiana – With many Democratic voters displaced by Hurricane Katrina, McCain improved upon Bush by a few points. Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu won her third term by a close margin, like her other two elections, though this time she will not go into a runoff. Corrupt Congressman Bill Jefferson is headed for another term in LA-02, which is based in New Orleans; the winner in the open LA-04 will be determined after a December runoff. Another major disappointment happened in LA-06, with black independent candidate Michael Jackson playing the role of spoiler and causing Democrat Don Cazayoux’s loss to Bill Cassidy.

Maine – Nothing special. Exactly as my formulas predicted, Obama and Republican Senator Susan Collins won in landslides.

Maryland – Probably the state that best fits Obama, he won by a very comfortable 20%+ margin on par with California’s as expected. The 1st congressional district on the Eastern Shore, open because the incumbent moderate Republican Wayne Gilchrest was beaten in the primary, was up in the air for a few days after the election, was finally won by the Democrat, Frank Kratovil, who got Gilchrest’s endorsement.

Massachusetts – Uneventful. Landslides for Obama and all 10 representatives. Surprisingly, no Republican stepped up to challenge Niki Tsongas, who barely won a special election just a year ago.

Michigan – Once considered a possible Democratic loss, Michigan came out for Obama and Democrats big-time, with Obama and Senator Carl Levin winning in landslides, and Democrats knocking off two Republican congressmen, one of which beat a moderate Republican in the primary last time.

Minnesota – Like 2004 and 2006, this too was expected to be a great year for Democrats in Minnesota, but the results fell short of expectations. Obama improved upon Kerry, though not by much in the outstate areas. The Senate race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken was expected to be the closest Senate race in the country, and still is as the result still has yet to be called and is going into a recount. On the House front, Democrats came disappointingly short in winning the Republican-held open seat in a moderate suburban Minneapolis district, and in unseating nutball Michele Bachmann in her not-as-conservative district.

Mississippi – Obama improved upon Kerry, but not by much, and the special Senate election ended up falling into Republican quasi-incumbent Roger Wicker’s hands despite a stronger-than-usual challenge from former governor Ronnie Musgrove, who’s campaign collapsed at the last minute. Good news, though, Democrat Travis Childers won reelection to a full House term.

Missouri – Once again, Missouri was a battleground state as everyone expected. If you are wondering which state in the US gave major victories to both parties, look no further than Missouri. Of the candidates this year, Obama was the worst Dem, though Missouri usually goes Democratic in bad economic times, while McCain was the best Repub and was expected to win until he chose Palin, so it is no surprise that polls towards the end were tied. McCain ended up winning by an extremely slim margin, making this presidential election the first since 1956 that Missouri did not vote for the winner. The two House districts that were expected to be close, the 6th and 9th, ended up staying in GOP hands, though the latter was closer than expected. In the statewide races, Democrats won them all except for the Lieutenant Governor, where moderate Republican Peter Kinder held on in another close race. Democrat Jay Nixon crushed Congressman Kenny Hulshof in the open governor’s race, overperforming traditional Democratic numbers in the heavily Republican southwestern corner of the state in the Ozark Mountains while underperforming in the north of the state due to Hulshof having represented part of that area in Congress. Democrats also took the open Treasurer and Attorney General offices, while Democrat Robin Carnahan won reelection as Secretary of State in a landslide.

Montana – Having gone Republican by over 20 points in the last two elections, Montana was one of the last states to call its presidential results, which stayed with McCain, but only by 3%. As expected, Democrats Brian Schweitzer and Max Baucus won reelection to the Governorship and Senate respectively in landslides.

Nebraska – For the first time ever, a state that splits its electoral votes did so, with Obama taking the 2nd congressional district, based in Omaha! Unfortunately, the House race did not follow a similar path. Though the margin presidentially was less than 2004, McCain still won comfortably, as did Republican Mike Johanns in the open Senate seat.

Nevada – What was once a strongly red state not that long ago, and is a neighbor to McCain’s own home state to boot, has gone for Obama by double-digits and turned away Republican Congressman John Porter for Democrat Dina Titus in a suburban Vegas House district.

New Hampshire – Nope, the Democratic tsunami from 2006 was not a fluke. Obama won by double digits, Governor John Lynch crushed another Republican, former Governor Jeanne Shaheen knocked off incumbent Republican Senator John Sununu, and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter rode the wave in with Obama, Lynch, and Shaheen.

New Jersey – Obama and Senator Frank Lautenberg won comfortably as expected, as did John Adler in the Democratic-leaning 3rd congressional district. Linda Stender fell further short in the marginal open 7th district than she did in 2006.

New Mexico – Another great state for Democrats, with them taking the state’s electoral votes, the open Senate seat, and both open Republican-held districts (including the conservative southern New Mexico district) by landslide margins. Thank you so much, Governor Richardson. THANK YOU!!! ¡Muchas, muchas, MUCHAS gracias, Señor Richardson!

New York – Everything played out here according to predictions, with Obama winning in a landslide and Democrats taking the 13th, 25th, and 29th districts while holding the 20th. The 26th was disappointing (but not surprising after the crazy primary), as was the 24th, where freshman Democrat Mike Arcuri won by a surprisingly small margin after winning by a wider margin just two years ago.

North Carolina – What an amazing turnaround for Democrats in this Upper South state that seemed to be slipping further out of our grasp! Obama was finally declared the winner Friday, Beverly Perdue held off a strong challenge from moderate Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory to hold the open governorship and become the first female governor in the state, and in a dramatic upset, Kay Hagan defeated Elizabeth Dole! Democratic success in the Tar Heel State did not stop here, though. The 8th congressional district, out in NASCAR country, turned away controversial incumbent Robin Hayes for populist Democrat Larry Kissell. Welcome to the Democratic Party, NASCAR Dads!

North Dakota – Though polls showed Obama within range here in this sugar/ethanol-heavy state, McCain ended up pulling off a win here. Also, according to predictions, Republican Governor John Hoeven won in a huge landslide.

Ohio – I was thrilled when the networks called Obama the winner here. No Republican has won the presidency without carrying Ohio. The margin did become uncomfortably small as the night wore on, but Obama held on in the end. On the House front, Democrats picked off Republican seats in OH-01 (Cincinnati) and OH-16 (next to the Cleveland area). Mean Jean Schmidt held on in the suburban Cincy-based 2nd district, and the Columbus-based 15th is still too close to call, though Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy is slightly behind.

Oklahoma – No surprises. McCain won big. Inhofe won big.

Oregon – After being a cliffhanger in the last two elections, Obama won big here, and his coattails probably helped Democrat Jeff Merkley edge out moderate Republican Senator Gordon Smith. Democrats also comfortably held the open 5th House district.

Pennsylvania – Once thought to be McCain’s best shot at picking off a Kerry state, Pennsylvania ended up giving the Democrats another great year. Obama won in a landslide, we picked off the 3rd district while giving Jason Altmire in the 4th, Paul Kanjorski in the 11th, and John Murtha in the 12th another term. We left Bob Roggio in the 6th for dead against incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach, and Gerlach only won with 52%. Seems our best chance to take out Gerlach will at the soonest be 2012, if we can redistrict him into more Democratic turf.

Rhode Island – Landslides for Democrats all across the board.

South Carolina – Turnout among blacks improved here, cutting McCain’s margin to half of Bush’s, but it wasn’t enough to drag Democratic candidates in the Senate race or the 1st or 2nd districts across the finish line.

South Dakota – Though McCain won the state, Obama improved Democratic numbers in the east of the state. Tim Johnson also won his first easy reelection to the Senate, and a less draconian abortion ban also went down.

Tennessee – Probably the heart of PUMA-land. Though Obama won strongly in Memphis and Nashville, which saved him from doing worse than Kerry, he got clobbered everywhere else in the state. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander also won in a huge landslide.

Texas – Without a native son on the ballot, Texas has shown its true numbers this year, with McCain and Cornyn both winning by margins in the lower teens. In the House races, the 22nd was a disappointing, but not surprising, defeat for Nick Lampson. We never expected Lampson to hold this seat long-term, and the true justice from the DeLay-mander overturn was in the 23rd, where Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, who was also a victim (though in the primary) won in a surprise upset in 2006 and held on this year. There was buzz on the 7th and 10th districts being competitive, but they ended up staying Republican in the end. A point of concern is the 17th district, where incumbent Democrat Chet Edwards held on by just 7 points, much less than expected and much less than his 2006 margin.

Utah – As expected, McCain won big here, though Obama picked up a couple of counties, a feat neither Gore nor Kerry were able to accomplish.

Vermont – Obama’s second-best state.

Virginia – Another state that was unfriendly Democratic turf just a little while ago, gave Democrats wins all across the board, handing Obama its electoral votes, handing ultra-popular former governor Mark Warner a landslide victory in the open Senate race, and handing two House seats, Virginia Beach-based VA-02 and NOVA-based VA-11, to the Democrats. A third House seat has the potential to flip as well, with VA-05 not yet called.

Washington – So far, Obama won handily, Democratic governor Christine Gregoire won a rematch against Dino Rossi, who she beat in an incredibly close nailbiter by only 133 votes and after recounts. In the 8th congressional district, Democrat Darcy Burner is ahead of Republican incumbent Dave Reichert by a tiny margin, and the outcome will likely not be decided for a while because of Washington’s vote-by-mail tradition.

West Virginia – Another PUMA state, West Virginia gave McCain a similar margin that it gave Bush in 2004, meaning the state trended dramatically Republican presidentially since the national margin shifted from a +2 Bush margin to +6 Obama margin. Some good for us, though, Democrats Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller landslid to another term in the governorship and Senate respectively. There was buzz in the 2nd House district about Democrat Anne Barth possibly taking down incumbent Republican Shelley Moore Capito, but that buzz ended up going nowhere.

Wisconsin – Hard to believe this state was the closest Democratic win just a mere four years ago. Now, the state has gone Democratic by double digits and gave incumbent Democratic congressman Steve Kagen another term.

Wyoming – This state was a minor disappointment. Wyoming was not expected to go as Republican as its neighbors Idaho and Utah, as well as Oklahoma, but results show it may be the most Republican state. The Senate races, one of which was up in a special election, went heavily Republican as expected, and Democrat Gary Trauner, who came within one point of unseating controversial Republican incumbent Congresswoman Barbara Cubin (who retired this year) fell further short against Republican former State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis.

So overall, my expectations of Democrats on the national level pretty much played out, with an occasional disappointment here and there. Back home in California, though, was mostly another story. My fuller analysis of elections there will come later on when all the votes are in.

Regional analysis

I split the country into six regions for political analysis purposes.  Three of the regions trend Democratic (Northeast, Pacific, Great Lakes) while three favor the GOP (Plains, Mountains, South).  For purposes of this discusssion, I track House seats (number D, number R, % D), Senate seats (number D, number R, % D), Governorships, and Presidential voting in 2004 as well as the number of Bush Dogs (per the list on Open Left) and the percentage of the region’s House Democrats who are Bush Dogs.

Not surprisingly, the more solidly Democratic a region is, the less likely it is to elect a Bush Dog Democrat.  Only two of the Northeast’s 68 House Democrats are Bush Dogs (2.9%) while 19 of 58 Southern Democrats are Bush Dogs (32.7%).

The Northeast is the most solidly Democratic region in the country and seems to be swinging even more blue.  The region has the most House Democrats (68), the greatest number of Democratic pickups in 2006 (12 House seats/ 11 GOP House seats lost), and every one of the 11 states plus the District of Columbia went for Kerry in 2004.  It even claims the greatest number of governorships (9) and the highest percentage of Democratic governors (81.8%).

Surprisingly, the Northeast still offers Democrats a lot of opportunities in 2008. The region ‘s 24 House Republicans continue to scatter.  Five have announced they will not run for re-election and a sixth, Wayne Gilchrest, has been defeated in a primary by a right wing Club For Growth candidate in Maryland.  

One can make a case against Vito Fossella (NY-13) who faces a voter registration deficit and has less cash than a possible general election opponent.  Scott Garrett (NJ-5) is an extremist who has been slowly sinking since first elected. Jim Gerlach not only comes from a tough district but from one of only five GOP-held districts in which George W. Bush got a lower percentage of the vote against John Kerry than against Al Gore.

Democrat Eric Massa has more money than Randy Kuhl in NY-29 and gave Kuhl a tight race as a virtual unknown in 2006.  Jim Himes has also outraised  Chris Shays who is looking at his third nail biter in a row with a lot less national bucks to go around.  Frank LoBiondo’s Jersey district (NJ-2) has a Democratic lean and several promising local candidates are available and might be enticed into the race.  Sam Bennet in PA-15 has a similarly friendly district and a relatively weak opponent.  Peter King is also defending a tough district as the last Republican from Long Island.  He, too, has no opponent as of yet but the rumors are less encouraging for local Democrats.

Add it all up, and the Republicans are looking at perhaps ten safe seats in this election in an 11 state region.  And any Democrat elected is likely to be a moderate to full out progressive.  The only two Bush Dog Democratys from the region represent rural districts tin Pennsylvania that are not culturally part of the region.

The Pacific states are almost as friendly on the Presidential level as the northeast with only Alaska’s three electoral votes going for George W. Bush.  That disguises a deep divide between the Democratic coastal regions and the Republican interiors. The region has the second highest percentage of Democratic House members (46 D, 24R, 65.7%) and the second lowest percentage of Bush Dog Democrats (2 of 46, 4.3%).

The contrast between the Northeast in 2006 and the Pacific was startling.  Democrats in the region had high hopes but managed to pick up just one seat (Jerry McNerney defeated Richard Pombo).  Democrats came close but came away empty in WA-8, CA-50, and CA-4.  This cycle’s top targets include WA-8, CA-4, and AK-At Large. Two of the region’s three Republican Senators, Oregon’s Gordon Smith and Alaska’s aging and heavily investigated Ted Stevens are also being challenged this go around.

Three or four California House seats ooze corruption and should have at least the potential to be competitive but, as of this time, I am not too optimistic about seats like CA-50 (Bilbray), CA-26 (Dreier), CA-46 (Rohrabacher), CA-45 (Mary Bono Mack), or CA-49 (Issa).

The Great Lakes is the least Democratic Democratic region.  In fact, heavy gerrymanders by the GOP in Ohio and Michigan gave the GOP the slight edge in the region’s House selegations until Bill Foster’s election to Denny Hastert’s old seat in the special election.

One of the really encouraging things in this region is that a great number of GOP seats stayed on the table after 2006.  Republicans may have held on but they retired in droves leaving huge openings in Illinois and Ohio.  Hastert’s seat has already flipped and the 38-38 Democratic edge will likely expand.  Democrats have a great shot in OH-15 and certainly a good chance in OH-1, OH-2 and OH-16.  At least two GOP Michigan seats (MI-7, MI-9) are being vigorously contested this cycle and seats like IL-18, IL-11, and IL-6 are up for grabs. Jim Ramstad’s old seat in Minnesota is possible and some people seem to think that Michelle Bachman’s seat (MN-6, I think) is also in play.

Last cycle, Democrats elected three new Bush Dog members from Indiana and two from Ohio.  That gave the region’s Democrats a purplisch cast (9 of 39 Democrats are Bush Dogs,23.1%).  Most of the contested seats this time around represent more urban or at least suburban areas and the results will probably be more reliable votes as well as more Democratic members.  Nine of the region’s 12 Senators are Democrats and Minnesots Republicn Norm Coleman is facing a tough challenge this cycle.

That leaves us with the three Republican leaning regions.  Hopes are highest for the Mountains.  Last cycle Democrats picked up two seats in Arizona and one in Colorado.  This year, hopes center more on New Mexico (two seats) and Rick Renzi’s seat in Arizona.  A three seat piclup would change the delegation from 11-17 in favor of the Republicans to a flat footed tie.  Both Nevada seats and the At Large seats in Wyoming and Montana plus ID-2 have also been mentioned.

Bill Clinton carried three of these states (Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico in 1996 and five in 1992 when Ross Perot muddied up the waters (AZ, NM, NV, MT, CO).

Democrats have good chances for a Senate seat in New Mexico and one in Colorado.  That would even up the region’s Senate vote to 7-7.

The Plains is a rgion greatly helped by the oddities of US politics.  Iowa’s caucuses make the region important to a whole corps of Presidential wannabes in the US Senate.  Two Senate seats a piece certainly help the Dakotas.

With the notable exceptions of Iowa and Missouri most of the rest of the area produces either conservative Democrats or very conservative Republicans.

The South remains the Republicans key region although their electoral strength has probably peaked out.  Racially-based gerrymanders have created a series of sprawling majority minority districts that have been used to dilute Democratic strength in Congress.  No clearer example exists than the combo of VA-2 and VA-3.  Two more geographically compact districts would produce two pretty strong Democratic districts.  Instead, VA-2 skips many of the black areas in the VA. Beach-Norfolk Hampton roads area and Bobby Scott’s third district edges aroundto include most of Richmond a lot of rural areas and strategically picked, heavily Democratic areas of Hampton Roads.

Last cycle, Republicans lost two seats in Florida, one in North Carolina, one in Kentucky, and two in Texas.  Their current 82-58 edge in the South may well shrink again as Democrats guard several seats in Texas and two in Georgia but eye open seats in Louisiana and rematches in FL-13 and NC-8 as well as actual opportunities in places like Virginia and Kentucky.

Southern Democrats provide the margin that put Democrats back in the Speaker’s chair and the Senate Majority Leader role.  This remains a heavily Republican area for Presidential elections (Republicans won all 13 states for 166 electoral votes).  If Democrats can win three or four of these states they most certainly will win the Presidential election (Virginia, Florida, Arkansas, West Virginia are leading candidates) in part because any candidate who does that is likely to win Ohio as well.

As for the depressing numbers:

House (D 58,R 82, 41.4%)

Senate (D 7, R 19, 26.9%)

Governors (D 6, R 7, 46.2%)

Pr4sidential (13-0 on states, 166-0 on electoral votes)