Elections

Exit Polls and the Extrapolation Mistake

Not looking too busy. (Flickr/Stephen Velasco)
Talking about turnout in the 2014 election can look an awful lot like making excuses for the Democrats' loss, which I wouldn't want to do. Democrats don't need to feel better about what happened last Tuesday. They ought to feel bad, not just over how their party performed but about the very real consequences to people's lives that might occur as a result. But now that the data are coming in, we're seeing just how it was Republicans won. It wasn't because they did such a terrific job of persuading people to support their dynamic agenda for change, it was because their voters came to the polls and the Democrats' voters didn't. That was made possible by the fact that turnout overall was so abysmal. According to the United States Election Project, turnout this year was 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population, the lowest of any election since 1942. Among those who did vote, exit polls showed that Republicans outnumbered Democrats 36 to 35 percent, with the rest calling themselves...

Can Democrats Get to a True Blue Majority?

These two are totally not speaking to each other. (Flickr/Beverley Goodwin)
Everyone knew that the 2014 Senate election was going to be a tough one for Democrats, in large part because they were defending more seats than Republicans, and many of those seats were in red states. And of course, Democrats lost all the close races, with the exception of the one in New Hampshire. This is going to have an effect on the Democratic caucus in the Senate that we haven't really been talking about since last Tuesday: it's going to make it more liberal. In fact, the red state Democratic senator is a nearly extinct species. Look at the incumbents who lost: Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Udall in Colorado, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and possibly Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, who is headed for a run-off. That's three red-state senators, and two from swing states. Democrats also lost vacated seats in Iowa (swing), Montana (basically red), South Dakota (red), and West Virginia (red). If Landrieu loses, there will be no more Southern Democratic senators...

In Blue State Turned Red, Former Candidate Says Low Turnout Reflects Dems' Failures

The fundamental lesson for Maryland Democrats is that a candidate must stand for something, and that something better be what the citizens of the state want. 

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Larry Hogan, left, governor-elect of Maryland, is shown a campaign rally at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore on Sunday, November 2, 2014. He is accompanied by New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association. An earlier version of this essay appeared at The Huffington Post . T he national political red tide swept up the Chesapeake Bay, over the jetties of Spa Creek and up Annapolis's Main Street to the statehouse this week. After eight years of the Democratic administration of Governor Martin O'Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown—characterized by substantial progress on social issues—the Lieutenant Governor Hex landed squarely on Brown. A lieutenant governor has never succeeded his governor here; this year was no different. In a day when fatigue with and anger at the Obama administration was evident across the country, one of the biggest surprises was here in Maryland. In a state where registered Democrats...

One Reason the Democrats Lost So Big in Midterms: Exceptionally Low Voter Turnout

Not since 1942 has turnout been so low.

(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) A voter leaves the Bells Elementary School polling place for Colleton County, Tuesday, November 4, 2014, in Ruffin, South Carolina. W hen turnout falls, Democrats perform worse in elections. That general pattern is well known. In making their forecasts, pollsters try to estimate what that turnout will be on the basis of previous elections. This year, pre-election opinion polls were off by the largest amount seen in over 20 years. Could this massive underperformance by Democrats have been connected to a wrong guess about turnout? Here is a graph of turnout over the history of the United States. The data come from the Vital Statistics of American Politics and were plotted by Michael McDonald . As the graph shows, fewer people vote in midterm elections than in presidential elections—about 30 percent fewer, in the post-Watergate era. Data from Vital Statistics of American Politics , plotted by Michael McDonald. I have added to this graph an arrowhead...

Is It Time to Be Afraid of Scott Walker?

Flickr/Gateway Technical College
One of the silver linings Democrats were looking for on Tuesday was the possibility that some particularly nasty Republican governors might be shown the door. The most repellent had to be Maine's thuggish Paul LePage, who due in large part to an independent candidacy will enjoy four more years to embarrass and immiserate the people of that fine state. Far more consequential, however, was Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Having survived a close shave, Walker can now board a train of destiny leaving Madison and heading all of 300 miles southwest to Des Moines. Of all the potential GOP 2016 candidates, Walker may be the most terrifying. Yes, it would be a calamity of apocalyptic proportions if Ted Cruz were to become president, but we all know that's never going to happen. Walker, however, is a much more credible candidate. Ed Kilgore has some insightful thoughts : But it's hard to think of any of the domestic government priorities of today’s conservative movement—from election suppression to...

Progressive Midterm Victories You Didn't Hear About -- And Some That Could Still Happen

Across the nation, voters passed measures against fracking and abortion restrictions, and for the minimum wage, paid sick leave, public safety and gun reform. 

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Topher Jones, from left, of Denton, Texas, Edward Hartmann, of Dallas and Angie Holliday of Denton, Texas, hold a campaign sign supporting a ban outside city hall, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Denton, Texas. A North Texas city became the first in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing when voters passed a ballot measure on November 4, 2014. T uesday’s Republican wave of election victories did not reflect public opinion or the public mood. Instead it was the result of the GOP’s triumph in changing the rules of democracy to favor big business and conservative interest groups, including the triumphs of corporate money and voter suppression. But while Democrat candidates were going down to defeat, liberals and progressive won some impressive but little-publicized victories on important issues—including minimum wage hikes—especially in red and purple states, suggesting that voters are not as conservative as the pundits are pontificating. One of the most significant...

Did Candidates Make a Mistake By Distancing Themselves From President Obama?

As I've written elsewhere, the best definition of a wave election may be that whatever happened in each individual campaign no longer matters all that much, and the results are all pushed strongly in one direction by the national trend. That's never 100 percent true for any race, because there's still variation among both winners and losers, but it becomes awfully hard after an election like this to say about any one candidate, "He would have won if only he had done this." Nevertheless, it's still worth asking whether the strategy adopted by so many Democrats this year of distancing themselves from President Obama was really a good idea. That impulse was particularly strong this year because so many of the races were in the South, where Barack Obama and the Democratic party are both unpopular. Even in other places, however, candidates didn't want to have anything to do with the President. For instance, there's an article in Politico today detailing how mediocre candidates (...

Republicans Tighten Grip in Southern State Legislatures

While Senate races distracted observers, the GOP piled up wins at the state level, all but assuring the prospects for more extreme measures on abortion and voting rights.

(Image: National Conference of State Legislatures)
(Image: National Conference of State Legislatures) Republicans gained more than 60 state legislative seats in the South in the 2014 elections, strengthening their dominance in the region's state-level politics. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. W hile all eyes were on the shellacking of Democratic U.S. Senate candidates—including 10 who lost in the South — Republicans strengthened their hand in another key area on Election Day: control of state legislatures. After the 2014 elections, Democrats have the majority in just one legislative chamber across 13 Southern states — the Kentucky House of Representatives. In West Virginia, the only other remaining Democratic legislative stronghold in the South, Republicans gained 15 seats to take control of the House of Delegates, and gained seven in the state Senate to bring the West Virginia higher chamber to a 17-17 partisan tie. Altogether, Republicans gained 64...

Watch Parties: Grim Pro-Choicers, Mouthy Teenagers, Sad Tarheels, Happy Potheads, Plus Poets, Pols and Mentors

We dispatched our staff, interns and a couple of friends to watch parties for midterm election results hosted by groups across the progressive coalition. Here's what they found.

(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle)
(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle) Campaign Manager Erin Rogers, second right, and Democratic party NC Senate District 9 candidate Elizabeth Redenbaugh, right, watch election results at Ted's Fun on the River in Wilmington, N.C. on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. In the Durham Bubble, N.C. Progressives Caught Off-Guard By Hagan's Defeat Tar Heel progressives may not have loved their senator, but they worked hard to re-elect her—and thought they would. BARRY YEOMAN Just before 10 p.m. on election night, Debby Dowlin climbed onto the long wooden table at 106 Main, a cocktail bar in Durham, North Carolina. An organizer with Credo SuperPAC —which ran field operations to defeat five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate—Dowlin had been working to prevent Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker, from unseating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. “We’re really hoping to clinch that,” she told the bar’s patrons. “We may have different feelings about Kay Hagan”—whose lackluster first...

Watch Party Dispatch: High Schoolers From Across the Country Want Change Now

For one thing, they're more concerned with voting rights than the behind-the-scenes details of national politics.

Close Up Foundation
T he Hamilton Live, a Washington, D.C., nightclub, is unrecognizable on election night. One hundred twenty-two high school students from 11 states, not to mention the 30 from Mexico, fill the bottom floor of the Hamilton usually packed for late night R&B and blues. This watch party is the culmination of the second day of an election week program run by the Close Up Foundation, an organization that seeks to teach students to be engaged citizens. The atmosphere is fairly sedate for a room full of teenagers away from their parents on a school night. They don’t react to the projections coming in on the big screen in front of them. To their credit, they’re focused on speakers Matt Robbins, of the conservative organizing non-profit American Majority, and Christian Dorsey, of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, presenting a Republican and Democrat point of view, respectively. Robbins keeps asking if the students have questions about how things really run in Washington. Although...

Watch Party Dispatch: At Howard University, Mentors Challenge Young Activists' Ideas of Victory

For the African-American community, given all the obstacles, an uptick in turnout can be a victory in and of itself.

(Ayanna Alexander)
Ayanna Alexander Signs decorate the Howard University meeting room where the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable gathered students for a midterm election results watch party on November 4, 2014 A s the midterm results rolled in, what was projected by the oddsmakers came to pass. Some mixed emotions, but mostly utter disappointment over the GOP takeover, filled all of my social media feeds. I took my solace in the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Unity Election Night and its "What Say You" political conversation on the campus of Howard University, the historically black institution where I attend college. Attendees ranged in age from 18 to 50-something, and each person in the room seemed determined to stay positive in her comments, despite any qualms about what the new political landscape could mean for America, and especially for the lives of African Americans. At the beginning of the evening, most of those gathered...

Here's a Chart Showing That Last Night Produced Just About What We Should Have Expected

There's no way for liberals to sugarcoat this election, but as I've been looking over the results, it strikes me that with a few important exceptions, it's only shocking because of what we've been expecting in the last weeks and months, not because of what we should have expected all along. In other words, the polls, reading as they did and not only the eternally fickle electorate but probably lots of people who never managed to cast a ballot, gave us a false sense of how things might go. Let me give you a couple of examples to show what I mean. Few people thought that Mark Pryor in Arkansas was going to win, but they didn't think he was going to lose by 17 points. The same is true of Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky—she was a long shot, but I thought she'd lose by 5 points or so; in the end she lost by 16. Yet if you knew nothing about the particular candidates or particular races, you'd say that of course Democrats in Arkansas and Kentucky were going to lose big. Those are...

Watch Party Dispatch: Marijuana Legalization Activists Celebrate in D.C.

For many, this is the first midterm election they’ve voted in. And Initiative 71, which went on to pass with nearly 70 percent of the vote, is the reason.

(Amanda Teuscher)
(Amanda Teuscher) Reggae musician Mateo Monk performs his song “Blessed Ganja Herb,” at an election-results watch party in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2014. District voters passed Initiative 71, which legalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The party has just started, but the bar is already packed. “Sixty-one percent!” yells the DJ between songs, to a loud eruption of cheers and applause. Not all DJs will interrupt a party to update everyone on precinct returns. But then, this is Washington, D.C., where post-Election night hangovers are as infamous as New Year’s. And this is the watch party/victory celebration of Initiative 71—the ballot measure that would legalize marijuana possession in the District—and supporters are ready to party. Polls in the days leading up to the election showed the initiative passing by a two-to-one margin, so for those gathering in the vast lower-level bar of Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights, there is little reason to worry...

Watch Party Dispatch: Poets and Pols Gather For Some Pointed Words

In which Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton mingles with constituents and the verse is a bit searing.

Busboys & Poets
Busboys & Poets Flickr A poetry open mic at Busboys & Poets, 14th & V Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C. R estaurateur Andy Shallal, an Iraqi-American in his 50s, has built a successful set of Busboys & Poets locations known for a diverse crowd, a high-energy vibe, and plenty of poetry and progressive politics. Shallal, who made his own foray into electoral politics this year with an unsuccessful run for the mayor’s office, advertised election-watching opportunities in all the Busboys & Poets sites in Washington, D.C., and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs just outside the city. At the original B&P at 14 th and V Streets, NW—in the historically black U Street neighborhood—the performance room was reserved for an open mic night for area poets, so election watchers gathered around television sets in the bar area. As the returns began rolling in, so did a steady stream of people sporting “I voted” stickers. Most of those I talked to were not feeling optimistic...

Watch Party Dispatch: In the Durham Bubble, N.C. Progressives Caught Off-Guard By Hagan's Defeat

Tar Heel progressives may not have loved their senator, but they worked hard to re-elect her—and thought they would.

(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle)
(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle) Campaign Manager Erin Rogers, second right, and Democratic party NC Senate District 9 candidate Elizabeth Redenbaugh, right, watch election results at Ted's Fun on the River in Wilmington, N.C. on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. J ust before 10 p.m. on election night, Debby Dowlin climbed onto the long wooden table at 106 Main, a cocktail bar in Durham, North Carolina. An organizer with Credo SuperPAC —which ran field operations to defeat five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate—Dowlin had been working to prevent Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker, from unseating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. “We’re really hoping to clinch that,” she told the bar’s patrons. “We may have different feelings about Kay Hagan”—whose lackluster first Senate term and middle-of-the-road campaign failed to electrify voters. “But it’s good to know we all have a person we absolutely agree cannot be in the Senate. We cannot let the extreme right take over...

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