I sure was pessimistic last week, wasn’t I? After predicting a 49-49 tie in the Senate and losing two of the four key incumbent governors, imagine my surprise when Republicans swept the four gubernatorial elections (while picking up big surprise wins in Illinois and Maryland and a lesser surprise in Massachusetts) and blew well past 51 Senators. In almost all races, Republican candidates outperformed their public poll numbers, which points to really well-run, tactically superior campaigns. That’s one half of what your need to win.
The second half is messaging, and the fact that my third prediction – that minimum wage increases would pass in red states – was right on the money. Sen. Mark Udall’s “War on Women” messaging might not have worked, but you can bet the Democrats’ class of 2016 won’t fumble the issue so poorly as he did, and might find more receptive ears among the younger, single women who come to the ballot box in two years. Throw in climate change, immigration, and taxing the rich, and suddenly Democrats have a suite of winning issues on which to build their next majority.
That’s why the 2016 campaign has to start immediately – and it has to be about issues before it becomes about candidates.
Before the polls close and the sun goes down on another Election Day, some predictions:
The Senate: Control of the U.S. Senate is what everyone’s talking about this year, even if it’s not the most significant slate of races. Republicans will pick up seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, and West Virginia. With a loss in Kansas, Republicans will control 49 seats at the end of the night, with Georgia and Louisiana heading to a runoff. Close losses in several states (especially New Hampshire and North Carolina) will result in a round of “What went wrong for the GOP?” stories tomorrow morning. Georgia’s runoff will be more competitive than most pundits currently expect.
The Big Four Governors: Democrats and Republicans will split the top four gubernatorial re-election contests, with Scott Walker and Rick Snyder holding on in Wisconsin and Michigan, respectively, and Rick Scott and Sam Brownback losing in Florida and Kansas. It will be a bad night for Kansas Republicans.
The Aftermath. Minimum wage referenda – which have slipped under the radar – will be successful in several Republican states. On the back of this, Democrats will push for similar measures in expected 2016 swing states to help Democrat turnout.
Rasmussen tells us three out of five voters believe there will be a GOP Senate, and belief in inevitability can be powerful. So how do we judge how well the parties actually do? Thankfully, sports gambling concepts can help. Isn’t it great that two of America’s finest traditions, illegal gambling and politics, go so well together?
The actual spread: 5 1/2 seats. Because Republicans have been so bad at tamping down expectations, the basic spread for the Senate will be 5 1/2. If the Republican gains are higher than that (six seats or more) it means Senate control; any fewer means the story on Wednesday morning is that the Republicans are limping out of the midterms once again foiled by a changing demographic.
What the spread ought to be: 8 1/2 seats. Better messaging and more advanced voter identification, starting in 2013, would have created a foundation for the party to take much better advantage of the wave of unrest the electorate has. An unending series of scandals and screw-ups from the White House gave the GOP and the broader conservative movement the platform they needed to articulate a better vision for a smaller, more competent government.
And make no mistake: The lower spread is more an indictment of a broader conservative movement content with winning ankle-hurdle victories in red states and not nearly aggressive enough in expanding the base of people receptive to such messages. It’s tough for Republicans to win the battle of the ballot box in places where no one is fighting the battle of ideas.
Politico pointed out that Republicans lead Democrats in viral videos this election cycle:
By generating hundreds of thousands of clicks, the Republicans’ digital success represents a remarkable tech turnaround compared with 2012, when President Barack Obama’s campaign easily outpaced Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP field in the production of the most popular Web content.
That’s right and wrong at the same time, which is really tough to do.
A higher click total is not a sign of better use of technology, but a sign of better use of message. The article goes on to talk about why the Republican message has been so video-friendly, which underscores the point.
The technology to make an online video is pretty simple, any yahoo with a Mac can make something that looks pretty decent. Clicks come from content – what the video says is more important than Politico lets on.
If you want to know why Republicans have closed in on the Democrats’ tech advantage, look at the actual technology and how it’s being used. For example, i360, a data firm that caters to conservative movement organizations, and DataTrust, the data wing of the GOP, are sharing their voter data. If one of those companies found out that you’re an independent and the other one knows you’re left handed, campaigns would have access to both tags and could use both to shape how they talk to you. That’s a legit tech upgrade over the sloppy, fractured Republican data infrastructure of the past.