In our previous installment, we had noted that in California, a special election was held that seemed to reaffirm our belief in the “Obama plunge” (i.e., the drop-off in Democrats’ fortunes relative to the 2008 Presidential election) that has continued to show up in most elections since the fall of 2009.
Recently, Wisconsin held its recall elections for six Republican Senators (the two Democratic state senators recalled will face the voters next Tuesday), and the results showed Democratic gains, but not of the magnitude (i.e., overturning the GOP’s former 19-14 lead in the Senate) to suggest that Wisconsin is about to return to its Democratic performance of 2008. In fact, special circumstances contributed to the defeat of those two Republican Senators, which we will discuss shortly.
According to this analysis at Realclearpolitics, one of the defeated incumbents, Dan Kapanke, received 45% of the vote in a district that gave John McCain 38% of its votes. While this 7 point “Obama plunge” didn’t enable Kapanke to win, it’s worth noting that a similar drop of 7% in Obama’s performance in the 2012 elections would cost him the state – no Republican has carried the state in a Presidential election since the 1984 Reagan landslide. The other Republican “defeat” was in a 47% McCain district, where the GOP incumbent received 49% of the vote. What happened? During the campaign, it was revealed that the incumbent actually lived outside of the district with his mistress. So given that unfavorable publicity (as well as the fact that his estranged wife, and the maid, signed the recall petition), it’s surprising that he ran as strongly as he did.
Really, about the only takeaway there is to the recall elections was that Democrats closed ranks in a staunchly Democratic district. If you look at the bigger picture, Democrats still are not in power in either house of the state legislature in this swing state. And given the results (earlier this year, the Republican Chief Justice was re-elected after the union led protests that rocked the state capitol), a state that gave President Obama a 56-42% victory in 2008 is very much in play, as will be most of the rest of the industrial Midwest.
This is also election year in Kentucky and Mississippi. In Mississippi, primaries were held last week, and the Republicans, as expected, nominated Phil Bryant for Governor, while the Democratic nominee won’t be known until the August 23 runoff. At this point, Bryant is the heavy favorite; the question is whether the Republicans can take control of the House for the first time since Reconstruction while maintaining their control of the Senate. Curiously, the legislative elections held this year will be conducted under the old lines, as neither house (the House is controlled by Democrats, while the Senate is Republican controlled) could produce a plan acceptable to the other legislative body.
In Kentucky, Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear has managed not to get associated with the (in Kentucky, anyway) unpopularity of the Obama administration: he leads the Republican nominee, Senate President David Williams, 52-28% in a recent poll (an Independent candidate is pulling 9%). It certainly doesn’t hurt that Republicans have mixed emotions about Williams – he only gets the support of 56% of Republicans, and his statewide favorability ratings are 21-36% favorable/unfavorable.
Election season really starts to pick up after the Democratic recall elections in Wisconsin next Tuesday (which offer Republicans a chance to regain the two seats they lost), as elections/events in September promise to be exciting for those who follow politics.
From September 6-8, Louisiana candidates have a chance to qualify for elections for statewide office, all 144 legislative seats, the state education board (also known as BESE), and a myriad of local/parish wide elections. The GOP holds 22 out of 39 Senate seats, and a 55-46 lead in the House (there are also four Independents), and they are aggressively working on adding to their narrow majorities.
(For historical reference, in the 2007 legislative elections, Republicans contested 23 out of 39 Senate seats, and 67 of 105 House seats. They won 50 House seats and 16 Senate seats, which equates to a success ratio of 75% in the House and 70% in the Senate. You also had 8 Senate races (5 Democrats and 3 Republicans) where the candidate ran unopposed, while in the House, 25 (14 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and an Independent) ran unopposed)
On September 13, New York and Nevada are holding special elections that give either party a chance at bragging rights. In New York, in a heavily Jewish Democratic seat that once elected Chuck Schumer, the Democratic nominee is struggling to catch on (he leads 48-42%). The fact that this election is even competitive could be a good “Exhibit A” of the sagging fortunes of the Obama administration with one of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies – Jewish voters. As well as the fact that former Democratic mayor Ed Koch has endorsed the Republican. In fact, the last time Jewish voters deserted the Democratic nominee en masse was in 1980, and this exodus arguably cost President Carter the electoral votes of New York and Massachusetts. Could something similar be in the works for President Obama?
In Nevada, the Republicans are defending an open seat in a more Republican area. While the Republican candidate is favored, Nevada was one state that lurched towards the Democrats in 2008, and in 2010, the Republican tide was not as pronounced here as it was elsewhere. So this will be a good test case of whether Democrats have maintained the gains they made in the West in recent elections.