I don’t have a lot of time to write something long and insightful, but here are some random thoughts —
First, I got a kick out of this headline at Real Clear Politics yesterday — “2010: Anti-Incumbent, Anti-Liberal, or Anti-Democrat?” Biased, much? Yesterday, this guy was predicting a 50-seat loss in the House for Dems in November. He hasn’t yet commented today.
I didn’t watch much of the television coverage, but when I did flip to MSNBC I saw that even as results were coming in Howard Fineman was still expecting the Dems to be flattened by a Republican tsunami in November. Fineman is something of a weather vane of the conventional wisdom of Beltway Insiders, so it’ll be fun to see if he changes his position in the next few days.
As usual, the most informative analysis comes from Nate Silver, who discusses why most of the conventional wisdom about yesterday’s results are off-base. In short, much of the national significance many are trying to see in the results is an illusion, a parallax effect, if you will. Most of the winners ran localized races and appealed to their voters for many local reasons.
In some ways, the biggest loser yesterday may have been Tim Burns, the Republican who lost to Mark Critz in the special election for the Pennsylvania 12sth district House seat. Polling numbers had made it a close race, and there were all kinds of indicators that the district was ready to vote for a Republican. The voters there are culturally conservative and voted for McCain in 2008. The NRCC dumped a bunch of money into the election, thinking they could pick off a Dem seat. Yet the Dem won by almost 10 points. The NRCC is perplexed.
“If you can’t win a seat that is trending Republican in a year like this, then where is the wave?” asked Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, who said Republicans will need to examine what went wrong.
I believe the lesson here, if the GOP can accept it, is that even conservative voters (with the exception of the teabaggers) are getting tired of the Republican Clown Show. I’ve read that Burns’s campaign was highly nationalized and featured many silly cartoons of Nancy Pelosi. Joan Walsh notes that it made Burns look as if he had mommy issues. It’s also about the fifth time that the GOP has run against Nancy Pelosi and lost.
I postulate that if Burns had presented himself as a serious grown-up and addressed genuine local issues, the election would at least have been closer. And I propose that most voters, people who are not that into politics, don’t give a hoo-haw one way or another about Nancy Pelosi.
For those keeping score, there have been seven special elections for U.S. House seats since the president’s inauguration 16 months ago: NY20, IL5, CA32, CA10, NY23, FL19, and PA12. Democrats have won all seven.
Right now, I’d say the safest bet is that Republicans will pick up some seats in the House and Senate in November, but not enough to gain majorities. But a lot depends on whether the GOP learns some lessons and changes campaign strategies for November.