Category Archives: U.S.A.

USA 2012: Florida primaries 2012

Ten days after South Carolina, the race for the Republican nomination in the United States moved on to Florida on January 31. Florida is the biggest state to vote thus far. In terms of delegates, Florida held 5o delegates – it lost half of its delegates after the RNC penalized it for moving its primary forward. All delegates were allocated by winner-take-all, whereby the primary winner won all delegates.

Newt Gingrich came out of South Carolina with a decisive victory over Mitt Romney, severely halting Romney’s post-NH momentum and putting into renewed doubt his ability to win the nomination. South Carolina’s GOP primary electorate had been fairly representative of the GOP electorate in the rest of the conservative religious South, a region where Romney, whose conservative credentials are always placed in doubt, is the weakest. Romney could afford to live with a defeat in South Carolina, but understood that the Florida primary would be crucial for him. Florida is a Southern state in terms of geography, but in terms of culture, demographics and economy it is far more northern.

Gingrich came out of his South Carolina landslide with a major bump in polls in Florida, catapulting him into the lead. But his momentum proved to be short lived after Gingrich performed poorly in the first debate on January 23 and failed to perform any better in the debate on January 26. On the 23rd, Romney took back the advantage in Florida and his lead grew into the double digits following the final debates. Romney performed far better in the debates in Florida than he had in South Carolina, but Romney’s ability to turn the race around in Florida also lies on other factors. One of Romney’s major edge over all other candidates is his impressive warchest, and he used that warchest extensively in Florida to come out with hard-hitting attack ads on Gingrich, which severely hurt Gingrich’s campaign. Romney’s strategy was not to convince voters to vote for him but rather to convince voters that Gingrich is such an horrible person that Romney was by the default the most palatable option, and also the most electable option (which is still true). Gingrich also had a few missteps of his own, the most important of which was his declaration that he’d built a lunar colony if elected, a comment aimed at Florida’s Space Coast but which ended up being received as populistic pork-barreling and opportunism to win votes. Rommey’s strategy ended up being successful as Gingrich’s favourability numbers collapsed.

Florida was really a two-person contest. Ron Paul never put any effort into Florida, because it was WTA state where he had no chance at gaining anything tangible (delegates) unless he won the state. Paul is more interested in the February caucus state, where he is naturally stronger and where he has been placing lots of resources. Rick Santorum originally placed some effort into Florida and his strong debate performance on January 26 helped his numbers a but, but he quickly decided that it would be a better idea to campaign in Nevada ahead of caucuses in that western state on February 4. Santorum’s campaign was halted when his 3-year old daughter Bella, who has Edwards Syndrome, was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia.

Results and Conclusions

Mitt Romney 46.42%
Newt Gingrich 31.93%
Rick Santorum 13.34%
Ron Paul 7.01%
Others 1.3%

Mitt Romney won a decisive landslide victory in Florida. In doing so, he has put his campaign back on track after the accident in South Carolina and once again solidifies his claim to being the presumptive nominee. Indeed, with all his money and organization as well as his main opponent’s serial weaknesses, it is hard to see Romney failing to win the nomination at this point. Florida’s 50 WTA delegates places Romney far ahead of his rivals in the race for delegates, but even if Romney won all delegates still up for grabs, he would only reach the nomination (50%+1 of delegates) in April. The slightly slower primary calendar in 2012 compared to 2008 makes a longer nomination race more likely, even though Romney should still be able to pull out the nomination in the end.

Romney’s defeat in South Carolina was, from a certain angle, not too unsurprising. South Carolina was demographically unfavourable to him as it contained rather few of the voters with which Romney dominates and a lot of the voters who are the coolest towards Romney. Romney’s core base is basically more-or-less moderate affluent, older Republicans living in wealthy suburbs or similar places. South Carolina is a poor state which has few affluent suburbs with moderate Republicans who like Mitt. In contrast, Florida’s Republican base – especially in southern Florida – is generally old, affluent and more naturally inclined to support moderate-establishment Republicans like Romney. Romney has always done well with older voters (as well as the wealthiest voters), and Florida has a lot of old voters: those 65 and up made up 36% of the Florida electorate – the oldest electorate of any of the four states which have voted.

Romney also has another sizable advantage in his fight with Newt Gingrich. The February contests are generally said to be favourable to Romney and Gingrich is facing a tough race in almost all of them. If Romney can sweep February, which is not unlikely, he would place Gingrich in a situation similar to that of Hillary Clinton after February 2008, where she had lost many small caucus states and the Potomac Primaries to Barack Obama. A lot of these are caucus states (NV, ME, CO and MN) where Romney had performed very well in 2008, but that was because the conservative alternative to McCain and caucus electorates are well known to be very conservative compared to primary electorates. Romney doesn’t have the conservative caucus boost any longer, a boost which Ron Paul may have this year. Late February primaries in Arizona and Michigan should both favour Romney. Gingrich will be trying to remain viable until March, when a lot of Southern states favourable to him vote.

Ron Paul will try to mark February with a few victories of his own, perhaps in Maine, Colorado or Minnesota. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, will put some resources in the caucus states (Colorado, Nevada in particular) while also hoping to score a symbolic win in Missouri’s non-binding ‘beauty pageant’ primary where Gingrich is not on the ballot.

The next contest is on February 4 in Nevada, the first state west of the Mississippi to vote. Nevada had been very favourable to Romney in 2008, giving him 51% against Paul’s 13.7%. Romney had two advantages in Nevada in 2008, one of which he still has. Firstly, about a quarter of the GOP caucus-goers in Nevada are likely to be Mormons and Romney had won 95% of their votes in Nevada in 2008. Romney obviously still has this sizable advantage, which gives him an absolute floor of 25% or so. The second advantage he had in 2008 was that he was the non-Southern conservative alternative to McCain, and Nevada’s 2008 GOP electorate was the second most conservative electorate behind Iowa – 75% were conservatives. Romney won 56% of their votes in 2008, but only 37% of the votes from those who were moderates (beating McCain, who placed third in the caucuses, by 10 points). Romney has lost this conservative edge which is important in caucuses, becoming something of the 2012 John McCain. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are better positioned to appeal to Nevada’s conservatives. Polls have been sparse and unreliable in Nevada, but Romney does not have the huge lead he had in 2008.

Exit Poll Data

As always, exit polls provide us with interesting conclusions about the candidate’s distribution of support. There was a pretty interesting gender gap: men backed Romney by only 5 points over Gingrich but women backed Romney by a full 23 points. In terms of age groups, Florida’s electorate was quite old: 18-29s made up only 6% of the electorate and even that Paul-friendly group backed Romney, although only with 41% against 25% for Paul. The older you are, the more likely you were to back Romney: he peaked at 51% support (vs. 34% for Newt) among those over 65. Remember that those 65+ voters made up 36% of the electorate.

69% of voters identified as conservative, against 31% who said they were moderates or liberals. In 2008, Romney had won conservatives with 37% against 29% for McCain – he even took 44% with those 2008 voters who were very conservative. This year, Romney won conservatives but only by 4 points over Gingrich, who won those who were ‘very conservative’ by 9. Moderates or liberals gave Romney a 39-point gap over Gingrich. 40% of voters were evangelical or born-again Christian, and they voted for Gingrich with 38% against 36% for Romney. In 2008, that same crowd had split 30% for McCain and 29% apiece for Huckabee and Romney.

Again, there was a perfect correlation between high income and high Romney support. While Romney won all income levels, he won only 42% with those earning less than $30k. In contrast, he won 61% with those earning over $200k, building a 37-point gap over Gingrich with that wealthiest 9% of the electorate.

Romney dominated the field with those voters who thought the economy was most important (52-30 over Gingrich) and also won those who felt the deficit was the biggest issue (41-34 over Gingrich). Gingrich won the 7% who felt abortion was the most important issue, taking 43% against 28% for Santorum. Romney gained back the edge over Gingrich in terms of electability, still the most important quality for GOP voters. He won 58% support among the 45% who cite a candidate’s electability in November as their top concern. In contrast, only 11% of those who felt that being a true conservative was the top quality backed Romney.

Debates and ads played a key role in Romney’s victory. As in South Carolina, debates were important for 69% of voters, but Romney won those voters with 42% against 34% for Gingrich. Campaign ads were important for 41% of voters and a factor in the vote of 71% of voters, and Romney clearly reaped the fruits of his attack ads. He won 59% of those who said the ads were important in their vote, against a mere 25% for Gingrich. Gingrich’s favourability numbers also show the results of Romney’s scorched earth strategy: a full 40% of voters had an unfavourable view of Gingrich, compared to just 20% of voters who had an unfavourable view of Romney. Another 42% said they would not be satisfied if Gingrich won the nomination, against only 31% who feel the same about Romney winning the nomination.

Geographical Analysis

Results of the FL primary (source: uselectionatlas)

There was a very apparent geographic divide in the map of the Florida primary. This geographic divide basically reflects the nature of the state. Florida, although geographically southern, is not a Southern state in the cultural sense of that capitalized term. In fact, only northern Florida is Southern while southern Florida is far more northern. The Florida Panhandle, which borders Alabama and Georgia, is geographically closest to the Deep South and shares similar economic, racial, cultural and religious traits. It is the most culturally Southern region, characterized by an old black minority in old plantation counties, racialized voting patterns, stronger religious faith and a long history of being a Dixiecrat stronghold – registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans by a significant margin in a number of white conservative counties in the Panhandle. The Panhandle, in short, is the only region of Florida which resembles the Deep South and the patterns we found last week in South Carolina.

Newt Gingrich clearly dominated in North Florida and the Panhandle. He lost only Leon County, home to Tallahassee, Florida’s liberal state capital and its affluent suburb; Bay County, dominated by the ‘redneck riviera’ resort city of Panama City and Okaloosa County, which besides the resort town of Fort Walton Beach includes a large military base. Romney also did well in Escambia County, which includes the big military and resort town of Pensacola. In the heart of the Panhandle, including those counties which basically form a circle around Tallahassee, Gingrich blew Romney out of the water. This rural conservative region, with no countervailing military or tourist influence, is also where Rick Santorum did well, winning over 20% of the vote. Unfortunately for Newt, Republican registration remains so low in those counties that rarely is the number of votes cast in those places over 1000 votes. Only 172 votes, for example, were cast in Liberty County which favoured Gingrich over Romney by a 43-25 margin. Gingrich also did surprisingly well in Alachua County, which despite including the liberal college town of Gainesville seems to have a fairly right-wing GOP base.

Newt Gingrich won all but two of the counties where a plurality of census respondents in 2000 claimed “American” ancestry, which is a good indicator of Southern culture as opposed to ancestries such as “German” or “English” which are reflective of northern or western whites. In South Carolina, all counties where “American” had been the largest ancestry voted for Gingrich. If this pattern continues, Gingrich is in strong position to to win the Deep South states and a good part of the Outer South states.

Despite outspending Gingrich 5-1 and hitting the air with series of attack ads, Romney’s money was unable to win him a breakthrough in culturally Southern Florida. The results in the Panhandle shows that Romney has a very real ‘Southern problem’ which could pose a threat to him in March, when states like Alabama and Georgia will vote. Romney actually lost ground compared to 2008 in nine counties, all in North Florida, including Duval (Jacksonville) and Bay (Panama City). Six counties which went for Romney in 2008 went for Gingrich, all those counties being basically in the greater Jacksonville metro. Jacksonville, with a black inner city and affluent white suburbs, is more reflective of Southern suburbia – heavily white and conservative in contrast to liberal black inner-city areas – than it is of moderate suburbia where Romney has done well so far. This should send a little chill to Romney, given that he had been able to win a lot of these conservative Southern suburbs around Atlanta and Nashville in 2008.

However, once we get south of culturally Southern Florida, we enter strong Romney territory, where Romney both performed strongest and where he picked up the most support vis-a-vis 2008. You can basically cut the state into two parts on the basis of this primary, with the Panhandle and North Florida backing Gingrich, while the bulk of Florida lying south of a line going from Jacksonville to Citrus County voting for Romney with minor exceptions. Romney won the conservative military-industrial complex region of the Space Coast (Brevard County), the retirement communities of the Nature Coast, Tampa-St. Pete’s affluent suburbs, the wealthy retirement communities of the Gulf Coast (Naples, Sarasota, Ft. Myers), the growing regions along the I-4 corridor (Lakeland, Orlando etc). Some of these areas, like the conservative affluent retirees (a lot of them from the Midwest) along the Gulf Coast, were natural ground for Romney. But other areas, like the I-4 corridor communities, would have been must-win areas for Gingrich if he was to have won. These middle-class white suburban areas are likely where voters were most receptive to Romney’s attack ads on Gingrich and who were more naturally inclined to support the electable option over the ideological purity option.

Gingrich won five counties in rural inland southern Florida, five counties which are pretty much the last remnants of traditional Southern culture in southern Florida. These counties, which have sizable black and Mexican populations, are still quite dependent on agriculture (hence why there are so many Mexicans) when the rest of the region is dependent on services, the military, tourism or white-collar industries. There is still a rural Southern conservatism to these counties, explaining why Gingrich won these counties.

Romney did very well in southeastern Florida, where Republicans tend to be old, moderate and affluent. He won over 50% in Indian River, Martin and Palm Beach Counties. His best result in Florida came from Miami-Dade, with 61% of the vote. The bulk of the GOP electorate in Miami is Cuban, and while the Cuban community is right-wing on the Cuban issue, it is more moderate on immigration and social issues. Romney had the backing of the Cuban GOP machine, led by Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, and the Cuban community has tended to support fairly moderate establishment candidates: it backed McCain very heavily in 2008, and Romney had done very poorly with Cubans in 2008. Santorum and Paul also won their worst results in Miami-Dade.

The race gets more unpredictable as it enters the notoriously hard to poll caucus states. Romney remains the favourite for the nomination, but that doesn’t mean that the fun is over.

USA 2012: South Carolina 2012

The race for the Republican nomination for this year’s American presidential election continued on January 21 with the “first in the South” primary in South Carolina. This is the third contest following the Iowa caucuses on January 3 and the NH primary on January 10. Rick Santorum ended up being certified as the winner in Iowa by a mere 34 votes after originally trailing Romney by 8 votes on election night. Mitt Romney won New Hampshire by a decisive margin, taking 39.3% of the vote in his ‘firewall’ state.

Rick Santorum’s delayed victory in Iowa (on January 19) did not generate much buzz so long after the actual caucus, so the record going into South Carolina was 2 wins and no loses for Romney. For Mitt Romney, South Carolina was a crucial state, almost a must-win for him. If he could score a knock-out blow in a conservative Southern state, it would if not speed up Romney’s potential nomination but could seal the deal for him. On top of that, South Carolina has picked the eventual Republican nominee in all contests since 1980, meaning that it is much more decisive than Iowa or New Hampshire who have tended to either choose insurgent/rebel candidates or just picked the “wrong guy”. In 2000, Governor Bush’s decisive win over John McCain pretty much ended the race for McCain while in 2008, John McCain’s victory over Southern evangelical Mike Huckabee did not end the race but it did give McCain major momentum going into Florida and Super Tuesday. Romney understood this, as did his three remaining rivals: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Gingrich emerged as Romney’s main rival.

The race was bloody and a real roller-coaster. Gingrich’s original line of attack against Romney was Romney’s role in Bain Capital, but that attack pretty much backfired on Gingrich. As late as Monday-Tuesday, Romney had started pulling away from Gingrich and it seemed as if he would win the state pretty easily. But Romney did very poorly in a debate on Monday January 16 and stumbled further in a heated debate on January 19. In the final debate, Romney’s campaign was dealt a serious blow as he equivocated over his tax records (which he has not yet released, unlike Gingrich). When asked by CNN’s John King in the debate if Romney would follow in his father’s footsteps and release his tax records, Romney answered with a funny yet pretty strategically horrible “maybe”.

Gingrich could have been hurt with his conservative base by an ABC news interview with his second wife who claimed that he had asked her for an “open marriage” and that topic became the first subject of discussion in the CNN debate on January 19. But Gingrich, knowing the Republican electorate’s natural propensity to view the media as liberal and constantly seeking to destroy Republicans, gave a skillfully crafted answer which conveyed the feelings of many Republicans towards the media, calling the story ridiculous and disgusting. It generated a surge of sympathy of sorts for Gingrich, perceived by the Republican electorate as the victim of the liberal media.

Two candidates dropped out of the race between NH and SC. Jon Huntsman withdrew and endorsed Romney, realizing that after 17% in NH he had nowhere to go, especially not in a conservative state like South Carolina. Rick Perry, the biggest flop of this campaign, dropped out and endorsed Gingrich, realizing that his ‘last stand’ in SC was quite futile and that he no longer had a place in the campaign. Perry, a Southern evangelical, endorsing Gingrich (despite the “open marriage” moral issue) gave Gingrich a small momentum boost. On January 18, the race turned around as a whole string of polls showing Gingrich ahead came out. The January 19 debate only sped up Gingrich’s train.

Results and Conclusions

Newt Gingrich 40.41%
Mitt Romney 27.84%
Rick Santorum 16.98%
Ron Paul 12.99%
Herman Cain 1.05%
Rick Perry 0.41%
Others 0.31%

Results of the SC primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Newt Gingrich scored a landslide victory in South Carolina. After Iowa and New Hampshire, we had all presumed that Romney was becoming quite unstoppable and that he would be the likely nominee. However, Gingrich blowing Romney out of the water in Romney throws the race wide open. Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina is a mix of a number of things: late momentum for him following the ‘media attacks’ and Perry’s endorsement, negative coverage of Romney’s campaign following the tax records flop, his conservative stand in a conservative state against a moderate and a “Southern advantage” for Gingrich which should not be forgotten.

South Carolina is a conservative state and Evangelicals are a major voting bloc in the GOP primaries, but unlike, say, Alabama, it isn’t quite unwinnable for non-Southern or more moderate candidates. It backed John McCain over Mike Huckabee, despite McCain’s less-than-perfect conservative credentials and Huckabee’s standing as the sole Southern evangelical candidate in the race. Which is to say that despite Romney’s 15% in SC in 2008, Romney could have won South Carolina. Especially after his early momentum, Romney at one point looked unstoppable. But what seems to have happened is that Romney turned into the ‘Flavour of the Month’ like Bachmann, Perry, Cain and Gingrich before him. He experienced a brief surge, all to have it crumble as he faced intensive media scrutiny and became the top target of attacks from the not-Romneys. The tax records flop did hurt him a lot, but Republicans now seem uncomfortable a bit with Romney in part because of his conservative credentials but also his standing as a very wealthy venture capitalist. There is also the matter that Romney comes out as fake and plastic under scrutiny, answering questions like a robot.

Romney was blown out of the water in South Carolina. The next contest, which is equally as decisive, will be Florida on January 31. In 2008, McCain had defeated Romney 36-31 in Florida. Unlike South Carolina, Florida isn’t “heartland Dixie” outside the Panhandle, which means that Gingrich’s southern conservative advantage is less important. At the same time, at the height of his surge in late November-early December, Gingrich polled up to 47% in Florida, which means that he definitely has a shot at winning. In the last polls, Romney had a double-digit lead in Florida, but SC will give Gingrich momentum going into Florida meaning that at this point it probably starts out as a tossup. What seems increasingly important are the debates (January 23 and 26). In SC, they derailed Romney’s momentum and exit polls showed that for 65% of voters, debates were important and for 88% of voters, debates were a factor in their vote. Romney has not performed very well in debates, and in South Carolina he performed about as well as Rick Perry. If he can turn that around in Florida, he stands a chance, but if Gingrich can continue his destruction of Romney in Florida’s debates then it will be hard for Romney to fight back.

Following Florida, the next contests are a string of caucuses in Nevada (Feb 4), Colorado, Minnesota (Feb 7) and Maine (Feb 11) plus a beauty pageant primary in Missouri on February 7 where no delegates are distributed and Gingrich isn’t on the ballot there. Besides Missouri, Romney had won all those contests in 2008, a year in which Romney’s strength was caucuses. Caucuses tend to skew heavily conservative (Nevada had the second most conservative GOP electorate in 2008, behind Iowa), and Romney had an edge in 2008 as the ‘conservative’ candidate against Romney but in 2012 it is doubtful that Romney will have a similar advantage. Ron Paul can be expected to perform very strongly in all those caucus states, and it is not impossible that he runs away with one or two of those states. If Gingrich can hold on throughout this tougher spell, March will be a largely “Southern” month in which Gingrich should do well. But Gingrich needs to avoid becoming a second Mike Huckabee, an overrated sectional candidate. He has shown that in SC, but he must show it in Florida.

Rick Santorum won third place with 17%, which is impressive considering that Santorum had no organization in SC and still has little money to compete, but it seems as if South Carolina has halted what was left of Santorum’s post-Iowa momentum. He can still perform well, but it is doubtful he can win any other upcoming contests. He lacks the organization and money which he had in Iowa but which he doesn’t really have elsewhere. He has signaled that he remains in the race, claiming that it’s a dead heat after the 1-1-1 tie in state wins, but really if Santorum’s point is to win (unlike Ron Paul, who has money and a solid base and can just pile up delegates in case of a brokered convention), then he has little chance to do so. Rick Santorum is a strong candidate for South Carolina (despite being a Pennsylvania Catholic) and his social conservative record is the cleanest of all candidates, but it seems as if his main weakness is that he’s not a Southerner. In Iowa, he had very much under-performed Huckabee in those southern Iowa counties which are the most culturally Southern: those counties have preferred Southerners like John Edwards (in 2004 and 2008 Democratic caucuses) and Rick Perry this year.

For Ron Paul, 13% in South Carolina is a very good showing. South Carolina, like the bulk of the Confederacy, is not fertile ground for Ron Paul whose traditional base is dependent on a big presence of college kids or libertarian/moderate Republicans in places like Montana. Dixie has none of those, and Paul had won only 3.6% in SC in 2008. This shows that he has developed a much wider appeal to conservative Republicans or Republicans worried a lot about the deficit. Paul seems to be skipping Iowa, but as mentioned above, the caucus states in February should be favourable to Paul who has a motivated base and an increasingly conservative electorate. Paul probably won’t drop out until the convention, given that he has nothing to lose by staying in and nothing to gain from getting out. In fact, if the convention is a brokered convention (it probably won’t be), he could have a key role at the negotiating table if he piles up many delegates.

Herman Cain, everybody’s favourite candidate, did so “well” despite dropping out because he allowed his ballot slot to be used by comedian Stephen Colbert for purposes of Colbert’s attempt to throw himself into these primaries. Colbert and Cain held a large rally together in South Carolina, but it was mostly filled with liberals and out-of-state college kids.

Exit Poll Data

The exit polls provide interesting data to reflect on. Gingrich won all age groups save for the 18-29 cohort which went for Paul, and performed strongest with the older voters (65+, he took 47% of their vote) as did Romney (36%). For Romney, income remains one of the best predictors – save for a weird 29% showing for Romney with the poorest voters (under $30k), the wealthier you are the more likely you are to back Romney: he won the highest earners ($200k+) with 47% against 32% for Gingrich.

Republicans were 71% of the electorate, and they backed Gingrich 45-28 over Romney, but independents (25%) also supported him, though by a narrower 31-25-23 margin over Romney and Paul. Predictably, voters were quite conservative: 68% were conservatives (-1 from 2008) and 32% were moderates or liberals. Romney won moderates with 34% against 31% for Gingrich, while conservatives backed him 45-24 over Mitt. With those 36% who were very conservative, Gingrich won 48%. Evangelical Christians were 65% of the electorate, and those voters gave Gingrich 44% against 22% for Romney and 21% for Santorum.

The economy was the most important issue for 63% of voters, and Gingrich won those voters with 40% against 32% for Romney. Paul performed best (19%) with those 22% who cited the budget deficit as the most important issue, but Gingrich clearly dominated those voters with 45% against 23% for Romney. Predictably, Santorum rocked the field (51%) for those 8% who thought abortion was the most important issue. In what I think should ring alarm bells for Romney, he was clearly beaten by Gingrich (51-37) among those voters – 45% of the electorate – who see a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama as the most important quality. Romney’s ability to defeat Obama had been one of his biggest advantages thus far, so if he starts losing that kind of voter, it should ring alarm bells for Mitt.

On a final note, for those 65% who felt that debates were important in their vote, Gingrich was the preferred candidate with 50% against 23% for Romney. Romney, however, easily won those who felt debates were not important and won that small minority who said the debates were not even a factor in their vote by a big margin. Clearly, the debates are the main culprit in derailing Romney’s momentum.

Geographical Analysis

Politically, South Carolina is divided in three main regions: Upstate (Piedmont/Greater Appalachians), the Midlands (including the PeeDee) and the Low Country (Coastal Plains and Coastal Region). The Upstate, centered around the Evangelical epicentres of Greenville-Spartanburg (Bob Jones University is in Greenville) is a poor, deeply religious, largely white and historically textile-driven region. It has always tended to resist the power of the downstate plantations and Charleston elite, and has a very religious populist-conservative side to it. In 2008, it backed Mike Huckabee, whose strength also extended into the PeeDee region which, to a lesser extent, is also very religious and historically driven by the textile industry. Populist, conservative or evangelical candidates all play very well in this region, but they are not must-wins for winners as McCain showed.

Races are decided in the more populated Midlands and Low Country, which include the state capital and college town of Columbia, the economic centre of Charleston, the wealthy resort of Hilton Head and the tourist-retiree destination of Myrtle Beach. Historically, these regions in the Southern Black Belt were at the core of South Carolina’s plantation economy (and they retain a large black population) and exerted much of the political power. They are rather conservative (though the cities are more moderate), but more or less conservative establishment candidates usually tend to do best in the Black Belt counties while Columbia, Charleston and Hilton Head usually back moderates. At any rate, races are decided in these two regions. McCain’s victory was won there in 2008, while in 2000 Bush was able to defeat McCain by winning Upstate religious conservatives and the Midlands’ establishment conservatives (McCain won, basically, the four purely coastal counties).

Romney performed best in the Low Country, but his problem was that he ended up having limited demographic appeal. He could have won the establishment conservatives, and if he had done so he could have done without the religious conservatives of the Upstate where he was never competitive to begin with. However, Gingrich ended up having wider demographic appeal and built a Bush-like coalition of Upstate and Midlands conservatives while remaining very competitive even with the most moderate conservatives of the Low Country.

The map is pretty brutal to Romney. He won only Charleston, Richland and Beaufort Counties. Charleston and Columbia (Richland County) are the two largest cities in the state and Republicans there are largely affluent, white and more moderate. Beaufort County is Hilton Head, a very affluent resort community which is natural Romney territory. It was where he had done best in 2008, and where he did best this year with 43% of the vote. Romney was also a bit more competitive in Columbia’s suburbs, including affluent but more conservative Lexington County, and coastal Georgetown County which is affluent and old.

Gingrich won the rest of the state, by varying margins. He really did best in the Black Belt and the PeeDee (but ‘turnout’ is, of course, very low in the Black Belt), and won the Upstate. Interestingly, however, he actually did better in the Midlands/PeeDee than Upstate. This is largely because Rick Santorum’s more populist campaign (he has shown himself surprisingly ‘left-wing’ on economic issues compared to the rest of the field) resonated best with poorer populist whites. Santorum won 24% in York County, which is half Charlotte suburbia and half poorer textile country, and also won 23% in Lancaster County, 21.4% in Cherokee County and 20.7% in Spartanburg County. Ron Paul also performed best Upstate, peaking at 22% in Abbeville County, which seems fairly unremarkable besides being John C. Calhoun’s birthplace. He also did well in Greenville-Spartanburg, the rural Upstate and Pickens County (an Upstate county including the college town of Clemson). ‘Fake’ Herman Cain, predictably, did best in Columbia and Charleston (2.3%).

What should worry Romney going into Florida is his showing in Horry County (Myrtle Beach). McCain had won Horry County in 2000 and Romney had done fairly well there in 2008, so it was important for Romney to do well there. The kind of older, transplanted white retiree demographic which we find around Myrtle Beach is similar to the ones we find in parts of Florida, especially on the Gulf coast of the state (Cape Coral etc). Gingrich won Horry with 45.7% against 30% for Romney – predictably Santorum and Paul didn’t play well there. That Romney won’t do well in the Florida Panhandle is already well known, but if he wants to win Florida (he does), then he does need to perform better with the older age groups. He has a base there already, but in SC it was not large enough.

A lot of us (those who like primaries because they make for fun maps) had concluded not so long ago that the contest was over and that Romney would score a 45-50 state sweep. Less than a week later, the race is back to stage one and remains wide open. Romney’s nomination is no longer a quasi-certainty and the race is unlikely to end in Florida. It has been a crazy contest, and hopefully it remains just as crazy and fascinating!

USA 2012: Iowa and New Hampshire 2012

Happy New Year 2012 to all of this blog’s loyal readers. All the best in a year hopefully as rich as 2011 with fascinating elections.

The main election of 2012 – the American presidential contest – officially kicked off on January 3 with the Iowa caucuses and the first in the nation primary on January 10 in New Hampshire. Incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama faces no serious opposition in the Democratic primaries as an incumbent, meaning that the main contest is the one for the Republican presidential nomination. With unemployment still high, the American economy weak, the country’s debt a huge issue, a double-dip recession still a distinct possibility and popular anger over taxes and “ObamaCare” still lingering in some milieus; Obama is definitely not unbeatable and enters the 2012 contest as an incumbent hampered by the baggage of governing the world’s superpower in such hard times. Even if he wins reelection in November, it will likely be without the fanfare and enthusiasm (‘Obama-mania’) which accompanied his nomination and election in 2008.

Around the Western world, it seems as opposition parties – even those facing unpopular governments – are either terrible in their own right or are totally unable to provoke real enthusiasm around them in the wider electorate. The Republicans, after winning back the House in the 2010 mid-terms, are in such a position. They are hardly popular and their leaders are hardly inspiring to most voters. The GOP House’s leadership attitude of confrontation with the White House and the deadlock such attitude entails has not won them increased popular support. If Republicans can find comfort in Obama’s anemic approval numbers, they certainly cannot find further comfort in Congress’ terrible approval ratings which in part reflect the activities of the GOP House.

In the runup to 2012, Republicans have had a hard time finding themselves a credible champion to rally around and who is legitimately capable of defeating Obama in November. The Tea Party movement’s heyday has petered out somewhat and the movement has never been a cohesive force and it lacks a single leader. The one person who could have rallied parts of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, did not run.

The one stable contender throughout the pre-primary season has been Mitt Romney, the Mormon businessman, former Governor of liberal Massachusetts (2003-2007) and unsuccessful 2008 presidential contender against John McCain. Romney is probably the one candidate who is the best positioned to win in 2012, but he carries along a lot of baggage. In a Republican primary where conservative values and ideological purity are increasingly important, Romney’s more moderate record as governor of Massachusetts and his liberal Republican image he had built himself in his unsuccessful 1994 run for Senate against liberal icon Ted Kennedy has created much unease about him and his conservative credentials (especially on issues such as abortion, where he was pro-choice in 1994 but is now pro-life) are often placed into serious doubt by the GOP’s right. Romney’s campaign has basically been that of a moderate Republican focused on the economy and flaunting his “businessman credentials” than on fighting the culture war. He has been the only candidate whose support has neither collapsed nor surged since he entered the race. But until recently, Romney had a glass ceiling of 25% in otherwise useless national primary polling. He has the support of GOP moderates and a good part of the more moderate establishment, and also has tons of money, but conservatives have traditionally loathed Romney.

While the moderates have their basically uncontested champion in Romney, the conservatives and the religious conservatives in the GOP have struggled to find their champion. The result has been the rapid emergence, surge and collapse of several non-Romney contenders in short succession. These ‘flavours of the month’ have all been unable – thus far – to become long-term rivals to Romney. In June and July, the first flavour was Michele Bachmann, the very conservative congresswoman from Minnesota originally hailed by some as the equivalent of Sarah Palin. Her surge was concentrated in Iowa but she never led Romney nationally.

Besides her being something of a gadfly with a penchant for inane statements, her collapse was prompted by the candidacy of  Texas Governor (since 2000) Rick Perry, who announced in early August. Perry could very well have been the conservative answer to Romney: strong conservative record, Southerner, governor of a large state, running on a record of rapid job-growth in his state and with deep appeal to the religious right and family values crowd. He also had, unlike Bachmann, high-profile backers with some very deep pockets. His support surged in September, running away with a huge lead in Iowa and nationally by mid/late September. But by early October, his support in Iowa and nationally collapsed almost overnight. It was caused in part by his poor debate performances and his support for his state’s policy of allowing in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants which alienated his right-wing backers. Perry was unable to resuscitate his campaign with a flat tax proposal or a later much-parodied ad aimed at appealing to Christian evangelical voters. His campaign turned into a worldwide joke during a debate on November 9 when Perry was unable to remember the name of the third agency of government he vowed to eliminate.

As Perry’s campaign stumbled and collapsed, he was replaced a ‘flavour of the month’ by Herman Cain, a black businessman who has never held elected office. Cain surged into the lead in Iowa by mid-October and he quickly took a narrow lead nationally over Romney as well. As an “outsider” businessman with an appealing, catchy (and controversial) tax plan – the 999 plan – he appealed to conservatives and the Tea Party movement. Cain collapsed under the weight of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Unlike Bachmann and Perry who did not drop out after their collapse, largely in quixotic hope of a win or strong performance in Iowa, Cain suspended his campaign on December 3.

Cain’s polling numbers had begun declining in mid-November. On the heels of Cain’s collapse, Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House and conservative hero of the Republican Revolution of 1994, surged into frontrunner status after having been at the helm of a struggling campaign for months. Gingrich surged into the lead nationally and in Iowa in mid-November and peaked roughly in early December (after Cain’s withdrawal), but his support in Iowa would evaporate very quickly (mid-December) as his legendary martial infidelity made headlines and under the weight of attacks from Romney and Ron Paul. His lead in national polling, a lagging indicator, only disappeared after Iowa (more or less).

In Iowa, Gingrich’s collapse helped Mitt Romney, who gained some additional support, but more especially Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Ron Paul, who had run for the presidency in 2008 as well, is the icon and hero of libertarians. His somewhat out-there positions on some issues (according to his critics), his long-standing isolationist foreign policy (anti-Iraq War and so forth) and perhaps his 1988 presidential run as the Libertarian candidate have never made him a favourite of the GOP establishment, but his isolationist foreign policy mixed in with a strong record as a “budget hawk” and more traditionally conservative positions on moral/social questions have allowed him to build a bigger base in the 2012 race than in the 2008 race, in which Republicans are more isolationist than in 2008 and far more concerned about the debt and deficit than in 2008. Paul had won a strong 9.96% in Iowa in 2008, and it has always been a state where he found a more or less favourable crowd. Iowa Republicans are very conservative, but they have something of an independent or isolationist streak. Paul appealed to the Tea Party movement, especially the traditional ideological core of the movement which was at its root libertarian and anti-tax, not a wide portmanteau term for the whole right of the GOP staffed by less libertarian and more opportunistic Sarah Palin types.

Rick Santorum, a Senator from Pennsylvania first elected in 1994 but defeated in a landslide by Bob Casey Jr. in 2006, formally entered the contest back in June and had long been a potential contender. Santorum is well known for his social conservative positions most notably his vocal opposition to gay marriage. His name is well-known, especially in liberal circles, in part because Dan Savage turned his last name into a sexual neologism which would make people throw up. But he was little known outside those circles, and despite basically living in Iowa since Day 1, had a hard time making any headway until very late in the race. His strategy paid off late, as he surged in Iowa first outside the 3-5% range (around Christmas) and then into double digits in the final days of 2011. Appealing to the same type of socially conservative, often evangelical Christian, voter who had won Iowa for Mike Huckabee in 2008, he became Iowa’s top “anti-Romney” conservative contender and picked up votes from Gingrich, Bachmann and perhaps even Ron Paul. His emergence stopped Rick Perry’s mid/late December “mini-surge” in Iowa, which had seen Perry inch back up to 12% to the point where some had considered that his candidacy might re-appear on the forefront of the scene.

The final main contender in the race is Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah (2005-2009) and Obama’s ambassador to China (2009-2011). Huntsman is the most ‘liberal’ candidate in the race, noted for his far more liberal positions than the rest on social or environmental questions. He has a strong record as governor of Utah, and has strong moderate credentials which might appeal to the small minority of liberal Republicans who might find Romney too conservative or more likely too ideologically opportunistic for their tastes. Unsurprisingly, Huntsman totally ignored Iowa and has instead focused his campaign entirely around New Hampshire, whose open primary and more moderate electorate in general favours Huntsman. While potentially a strong candidate against Obama, Huntsman is too liberal for the current GOP electorate to go anywhere outside of New England.

Iowa

Iowa turned out to be very closely fought contest. Paul and Romney fought for the lead in the last stretch, as Gingrich collapsed and Santorum surged into high double-digits at the very last moment. Unfortunately, I missed the excitement of Iowa on January 3. Here is a late summary of what happened. Around 122 thousand Republicans showed up to caucus in Iowa, up a bit from the 119k of 2008.

Edited final results; January 19
Rick Santorum 24.56%
Mitt Romney 24.53%
Ron Paul 21.43%
Newt Gingrich 13.30%
Rick Perry 10.33%
Michele Bachmann 4.98%
Jon Huntsman 0.61%
Others 0.26%

Romney originally defeated Santorum by only 8 votes in the entire state, making these caucuses the closest in Iowa’s history. After a long-winded recount, the Iowa GOP finally certified Santorum as the winner by 34 votes. Measured against RCP’s final average, Paul performed smack where RCP’s average pegged him and Romney did about 1.5% better than predicted (Perry did about 1% worse, Gingrich did marginally less well than predicted). However, Santorum beat the average by about 8% and even beat his best polls (18%) by a full 6%. His surge most certainly came from fledgling Gingrich, Perry and especially Bachmann supporters – Bachmann was pegged at 6.8% by RCP, she won only 5%. For some reason, Huntsman had polled 2-4% in the last polls in Iowa despite ignoring the state by not even campaigning there. Reality hit and he won just 0.6%, and the bulk of the fake 2-4% Huntsman support likely explains Romney’s slight over-performance compared to RCP’s expectations.

Results of the Iowa caucuses (source: uselectionatlas)

Romney’s original win was a boost for his campaign and he certainly is the one candidate most likely to win the nomination. Romney has finally broken through his glass ceiling of 25% and has been able to gather more and more support from conservatives who have come around to seeing Romney as the pragmatic option of the candidate most able to defeat Obama, whom they certainly hate more than any of the GOP candidates when push comes to shove. However, Romney’s performance in Iowa is not particularly great: only a handful more votes than in 2008, and less percentage-wise than in 2008 (it is true, with a much narrower and stabilized field). Romney’s win in Iowa likely gave him a small momentum boost, but his entrance into likely-nominee territory was probably not caused directly by his victory in Iowa.

The main winner in Iowa was definitely Santorum, who as we saw defied all expectations and pulled out a delayed win. If Gingrich’s support erodes further, it is likely that conservatives interested more into an ideologically pure candidate rather than a candidate able to win in November will turn to Santorum as their final hope to block Romney. However, it is unlikely that Santorum will be ultimately able to do this, as he has little money and basically no organization outside Iowa. While Iowa gave Santorum a huge surge in national polls and in crucial conservative battlegrounds such as South Carolina (where he previously had minimal support), Santorum’s campaign was just too heavily focused on Iowa and basically absent outside of Iowa to be able to truly turn Iowa’s near-win into major momentum. Furthermore, Gingrich still has a surprisingly resilient core which is surprisingly hard to swing (seemingly) at this point. However, a moment will soon come – likely after South Carolina – where only one of Gingrich or Santorum will be in a position to fight. But it might be too late to fight at that point.

Michele Bachmann dropped out after her terrible showing, and her remaining support will probably flow to Santorum. Perry put up a face-saving performance in Iowa, but it was nowhere near the second or strong third he would have needed to save his trainwreck campaign and put him back into contention. He has not dropped out and seems to be banking it all on South Carolina (where he polls 5%), but Perry simply has no base in the contest and will be pushed out sooner or later, and his conservative support should flow to Santorum/Gingrich, assuming of course that Romney hasn’t simply run away with the nomination by that point.

The entrance polls provide an interesting base for analysis of the results in Iowa. Young voters from 17 to 29 heavily backed Paul (48%), who has a rock-solid cohort of young libertarian/online libertarian support. College graduates also backed Paul (25%) in large numbers. Paul and Romney’s support show an interesting trend related to income: the lower your income, the more likely you were to back Paul while the higher your income, the more likely you were to back Romney. Santorum’s support was highest (29%) with those earning $50-100k. The more interesting data is in terms of partisanship and ideology. Independents, 23% of the caucus electorate, gave Paul 43% and Romney 19% – while Santorum got only 13%. Republicans backed Santorum by a 2% margin (29-27) over Romney. In 2008, Iowa’s caucus electorate had been the most conservative in the country: eight in ten voters were conservatives. This year, 83% were conservative and only 17% were moderates or liberals. Conservatives backed Santorum 28-22 over Romney, with Paul pulling 18%. Those who described themselves as “very conservative” (47%) gave Santorum 35%. Those who were somewhat conservative backed Romney with 32%. The moderates gave Paul 40% and Romney 35%, but only 8% to Santorum.

64% of voters had a positive opinion of the Tea Party, and they backed Santorum with 29% against 19% apiece for Paul and Romney. Evangelical Christians, 57% of the electorate, heavily backed Santorum: 32% against 18% for Paul and 14% for Romney (tied with Gingrich and Perry). In terms of issues, the 13% who felt abortion was the most important issue supported Santorum, predictably, with 58%. The 34% who felt the deficit was the top issue backed Paul 28-21 over Romney. The 42% who said the ‘economy’ as a whole was the top issue backed Romney 33-20 over Paul.

31% of Iowan GOP voters felt that a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama was the most important quality. A sign of Romney’s support being in good part previously uneasy conservatives who pragmatically back him as the most electable option, those voters backed Romney with 48%. However, only 1% of the 25% who said being a ‘true conservative’ was the top quality and 11% of the 24% who said ‘strong moral character’ was the top quality backed Romney. Paul, interestingly, won 37% of those who said being a ‘true conservative’ was the top quality.

Rick Santorum’s typical voter seems to be middle-aged, middle-class but politically very conservative, Republican and a Tea Party supporter, as well as likely an Evangelical or born-again Christian. Santorum’s voter, it goes without saying, decided very late and voted for Santorum not because they feel he is the best candidate to beat Obama but because of his strong conservative and moral credentials.

Mitt Romney’s victory was propelled in large part by his support in urban Iowa: Romney won 29% in Polk County (Des Moines), 28.8% in Linn (Cedar Rapids), 34.1% in Johnson (Iowa City) and 33.5% in Scott (Davenport). He also won 33% in high-growth suburban Dallas County, which includes the bulk of Des Moines’ affluent high-growth Republican suburbs. Romney won 27.8% in Woodbury County (Sioux Falls), but Santorum won 33% there. Paul did well in Johnson County (30.7%) and won Black Hawk County (23.9%), two counties which include college towns (Iowa City and Cedar Falls). His best result, however, was in Jefferson County – which he had won in 2008 – and in which he took 48.6% this year. Jefferson County’s claim to fame, and in large part the base for Paul’s strong support, is being the home of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation movement, which has attracted many followers of the movement to the county. It has been a stronghold of the Natural Law Party: John Hagelin won 14.7% of the vote in Jefferson County in 2000.

Overall, Romney and Paul’s support was generally concentrated in eastern and central Iowa, which are the most urbanized regions of Iowa and often the most Democratic-leaning ones as well (it also has a larger number of Catholics, often Irish or German, and liberal Lutheran Scandinavians). However, Santorum won the bulk of western rural Iowa, often the most Protestant and conservative areas of the state. Besides Howard County (which Huckabee won in 2008), there seems to have been no decisive Catholic boost for Santorum in Catholic-majority counties, most of them located in eastern Iowa. Instead, Rick Santorum’s best performances – by far – came in the northwestern corner of Iowa (Lyon, Sioux, O’Brien Counties), which is Dutch Calvinist (Reformed Church, generally ultra-conservative) country and is Iowa’s most socially conservative (and Republican) part. Santorum took 61% in Lyon County, he broke 45% in Sioux and O’Brien Counties. Those had been the only three counties won by the social conservative standard-bearer Gary Bauer in the 2000. Rick Perry won two random rural conservative counties, one of which at least (Taylor) has a sizable Baptist population.

Compared to 2008, Romney seems to have shed support in the areas where he had done best in 2008 – while gaining or shedding slightly less votes in the areas (largely the ‘inland’ areas of rural Iowa) where he had not done as well in 2008.

New Hampshire

John McCain’s victory in New Hampshire in 2008 did not wrap up the nomination for him, but it gave him a huge momentum boost which was certainly indispensable in presenting him as the electable frontrunner and allowing him to rake in important victories in South Carolina and Florida later in the month. In that primary, McCain had defeated Mitt Romney, and while Romney’s defeat had not been a mortal blow it certainly did not help his campaign which had started focusing heavily on New Hampshire at Iowa’s expense following Huckabee’s surge. Since his 2008 defeat, Mitt Romney has basically made New Hampshire his de-facto home state and has been able to turn New Hampshire into a safe firewall for him which, no matter what happened, would give him a big win and a big momentum booster. Even during the FOTM surges of Bachmann, Perry, Cain and Gingrich, Romney’s big lead in the state was never put into jeopardy.

Similar to McCain in 2000 and 2008, Romney (in his 2012 incarnation) has a natural appeal to the state. New Hampshire’s primary is open, and moderate and liberal independents proved crucial to McCain’s victory in 2000 and 2008. And New Hampshire’s registered Republicans are otherwise some of the most moderate in the nation – in 2008, if I recall, New Hampshire’s primary electorate was the most moderate (nearly half were moderates or liberals). While Romney in his 2008 incarnation was a standard-fare non-evangelical conservative with appeal concentrated mostly to wealthy suburbanites, in his 2012 incarnation he takes up the 2008 McCain spot: an electable moderate. The 2012 Romney is thus pretty perfect for New Hampshire’s electorate. Its Republicans are largely native libertarians or older and newer Boston suburbanites who are both concerned far more about low taxes than about gays marrying or abortions. The economy is the main issue for them, and that is something on which Romney is generally strongest. Two other candidates also have a natural base in New Hampshire. Ron Paul, who won about 7% in the state in 2008, has a natural appeal to one of the most libertarian states in the country – the ‘Live Free or Die’ crowd, following the state’s motto. Jon Huntsman has basically been living in the state since he kicked off his campaign, and New Hampshire’s moderate electorate provides him with his strongest base.

As per the NYT, results with 100% reporting:

Mitt Romney 39.3%
Ron Paul 22.9%
Jon Huntsman 16.9%
Rick Santorum 9.4%
Newt Gingrich 9.4%
Rick Perry 0.7%
Others 1.5%

Unsurprisingly and with little suspense – if any – Romney won by a large margin (perhaps not a ‘landslide’) in his firewall state. His victory is historic in that it is rare for a GOP primary candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, but given how certain his victory had been it is not quite a spectacular victory and it is unlikely to give him a huge momentum booster. In an ironic way, his uninspiring victory in Iowa was a bigger triumph than his big win in New Hampshire as Iowa was never the safe state that New Hampshire was. However, with two wins and no loses, Romney is still the big favourite to win the GOP nomination.

Results of the NH primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Ron Paul placed a very strong second, a great showing for him. New Hampshire is fertile ground for Paul, and he managed to exploit that to its fullest extent. However, Ron Paul simply cannot win the nomination: he is too despised by the establishment, be it pro-Romney or not. He also has a harder time than Santorum or Gingrich in being the final conservative alternative, as Paul has basically no appeal to the South (states like South Carolina, for example) which is likely where the last-ditch efforts of the GOP’s right will need to be concentrated in full strength if they are to stand a chance at stealing the nomination away from Romney who is beginning to run away with it.

Jon Huntsman won 17%, which is a good result for him and probably the best result he could realistically expect in these circumstances. It comes from months of being on the ground in the state and tailoring his message to the state, but in this regards it could also be considered as pretty underwhelming: basically living in the state for months to get 17%? Reminds me of Rudy Giuliani in Florida back in 2008. Huntsman is an electable general election candidate, but he is a totally unelectable GOP primary candidate. His showing in NH, certainly not bad, strikes me as something of a ‘woohoo!… but what now?’ type of thing. Huntsman has basically nowhere to go outside NH and New England. He is seemingly determined to keep fighting, atleast until SC, but he is deluding himself if he thinks he can go anywhere there. He might win 4% and be a nuisance to Romney, but there is simply no fertile ground for Huntsman to emerge as a strong primary candidate somehow.

Gingrich and Santorum, the remaining top conservative candidates, ended up all tied up with Santorum finally edging out Gingrich by 130 votes. Considering how Santorum had focused all his campaign on Iowa up until the caucuses there, it is a good result for him in New Hampshire and shows the effects of his post-Iowa bump – similar again to Huckabee’s post-Iowa bump which won him 11% in New Hampshire despite having been virtually absent from the state in the pre-primary season. But Santorum (and Gingrich for that matter) failed to score the knock-out blow to the other which could have sped up that candidate’s withdrawal and the chance for the unification of the conservative movement behind one candidate. Rick Perry, who ignored the state entirely – especially after the Iowan cold shower – won 0.7%  but did beat former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer (0.4%) who had focused a lot of his small campaign’s efforts on NH.

Exit polls again provide us with interesting bases for analysis. Unsurprisingly, Ron Paul rumped the ground with the 18-29 crowd (46%) but more interestingly did better with those with lower education than those with higher education, as well as low-income voters – the lowest income earners (under $30k) were the only category to back Paul over Romney, whose support once again increased as voter income increased – peaking at 52% with those earning $200k or more.

Independents were 47% of the electorate, and they split pretty evenly: 31% for Paul, 30% for Romney and 22% for Huntsman (Huntsman also won 41% with the 4% of Democratic voters who voted in the GOP primary). Romney dominated with Republicans, 49% against 15% for Paul. Conservatives made up only 53% of the primary electorate: overall they backed Romney with 42% against 19% for Paul, 15% for Santorum and 14% for Gingrich. Moderates, 47% of voters, gave Romney 38% against 26% for Paul and 24% for Huntsman. Romney even won the very conservative crowd (24%) with 29% against 25% for Santorum, and won 41% from those who support the Tea Party (51% of voters). The economy was the top issue for a full 61% of voters, and Romney owned the field there with 46% support against 20% for Paul. Among the 24% who felt the deficit was the top issue, Romney edged up Paul by 2 points. As in Iowa, finally, most of Romney’s support came from voters who judged candidates first on their ability to beat Obama, not conservative principles (35% of the electorate). Romney’s traditional voter seems to be wealthy, more optimistic about their personal economic situation, cares more about the economy than the deficit in general, is a somewhat generic centre-right Republican and supports Romney more because of his personal qualities and his ability to beat Obama than because of anything else.

Looking at a geographic analysis, complemented by the NYT’s interactive map of results by town, Romney’s base forms a very cohesive and homogeneous bloc concentrated along the coast and the state line with Massachusetts (Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties). These counties, which concentrate the bulk of NH’s Republicans and contribute to its purple state status (out of whack with solidly blue Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine) are basically affluent conservative exurbs of Boston whose residents are either old or new Boston commuters who live in New Hampshire for reasons often related to tax rate differences between the two states. Needless to say, affluent conservative exurbanites who care a lot about taxes (and not much about gays or abortions) are core Romney voters, both in 2008 and 2012. Romney actually improved the most vis-a-vis 2008 in these areas, but on a pure geographic basis he also somewhat extended his support into more rural, sometimes less conservative parts of New Hampshire. But it was Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman who found the most support in more liberal parts of western New Hampshire, closer to Vermont in terms of politics. Besides leaning Democratic in general elections, they also have lots of independents and a fair number of New England college towns. Huntsman won Hanover, a major college town and won 23% in Kenne. However, it is somewhat surprising that Paul did not perform better in Kenne and Hanover. His support was heavy in liberal Grafton and Cheshire Counties, but heaviest in the North Country (Coos County), which is more conservative (though leans Democratic, because of its French-Catholic population and working-class traditions) and whose GOP primary electorate seems more conservative (Huckabee did best there, and Gingrich and Santorum both won double-digits) than the rest of the state but also has a strong libertarian lean attributed to its geographic isolation in the White Mountains. Paul actually won Coos County with some 30% of the vote against 28% for Romney.

Looking Ahead

The next primary contest will be on January 21 in South Carolina. South Carolina will likely be the decisive battleground, and once again it is likely that it could make or brake the nominee. In 2000, McCain’s defeat in the bloody contest at the hands of Governor Bush had sealed his fate. In 2008, McCain’s narrow victory over Mike Huckabee had not sealed the deal just then but it certainly put McCain on a winning spree which would result in his eventual nomination. In Republican contests, South Carolina appears to be a much better determinant of the winner than either Iowa or New Hampshire.

South Carolina is a Southern conservative state with a large part of the electorate (60% in 2008) being Evangelical or born-again Christians, meaning that the primary electorate is predictably rather conservative (69% in 2008). This year’s contest might be different in the presence of an Evangelical Southerner, but in the lack thereof it is far more open. South Carolina is a test of any Republican candidate’s ability to appeal to the party’s increasingly powerful and important Southern religious base.

Romney is making minor inroads with conservatives because of his ability to win in November, but his performance in Iowa – especially with the conservatives in the caucus attenders there – was not particularly strong and there remains a lot of unease among conservatives about Romney. Romney will be looking for the knockout punch in South Carolina. If he wins such a conservative state, it will likely come close to sealing the deal and render the final efforts of the anti-Romneys futile. He would then win Florida in a landslide and pretty much end the race right then and there. At the same time, the conservative anti-Romneys (Gingrich, Santorum, Perry; Paul is in a different category and can be expected to fight even if Romney has the nomination) all know that South Carolina is their last chance to derail the Romney train. Which entails a bloody contest. Gingrich will need to win South Carolina to remain in the race. If he wins South Carolina, he likely knocks out Santorum (and Perry) and stands a slightly better chance at beating Romney in a contest which would probably become a two-man race between him and Romney with Paul probably sidelined. However, Santorum would probably be the strongest candidate in such a two-man matchup against Romney. Santorum also needs to win or at least place something like an extremely close second behind Romney to stand any chance in future contests. Chances are Perry will drop out after getting creamed.

The current RCP average in SC gives Romney a 9.3% lead over Gingrich (29.3% vs. 20%, Santorum at 19%). But a recent poll by Insider Advantage had the gap between the two down to only 2 points in Romney’s favour with Santorum at 14% and Perry (5%) trailing Huntsman (7%) and Paul (13%). Gingrich, despite his paltry showings in the first two races, seems to have a Southern advantage in the state (and an organizational/financial one as well) which has helped him stay strong and weather the seemingly short-lived Santorum surge. It seems as if the contest will come down to Gingrich vs. Romney, with Gingrich ready to inject large amounts of cash into a bloody fight with Romney. The favoured line of attack against Romney by Gingrich and others (Perry especially) seems to be a populist one: attacking Romney on his business past and shady investments at Bain Capital. Given the state and the nature of this year’s GOP electorate, this could prove to be a very fertile ground to attack Romney on.

US 2011: Quick Overview

State elections for gubernatorial, legislative, down-ballot and mayoral offices were held in various states in the United States on November 8, 2011. The main elections were gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi, major state initiatives on the ballots in Ohio and Mississippi and state legislative elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Kentucky, Mississippi and I believe runoffs in Louisiana. I won’t cover all races, but here’s a synopsis of the races I found interesting.

Gubernatorial elections were a snooze. Governor Bobby Jindal (R) had already won a landslide reelection in Louisiana’s jungle primary in October, taking nearly 66% of the vote against some 18% for Tara Hollis, a teacher which was the best Democrats could settle on to oppose a very popular governor in a very conservative state where the Democratic Party is a dying breed as the last specimens of conservative Dixiecrats who are still Democrats join the Republicans. Only West Virginia’s special election on October 4 was remotely interesting, with incumbent Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D), a conservative Democrat, winning a surprisingly close race 50-47 against Republican businessman Bill Maloney. Tomblin, a favourite of the WVDP establishment and of businesses, had succeeded Joe Manchin when Manchin won the Senate contest in 2010.

In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear (D) had defeated corruption scared Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) in 2007 by a big landslide (59-41). A conservative Democrat, he fits his state well and has remained popular. The Republican candidate, David Williams was definitely underwhelming and didn’t stand a chance. Gatewood Galbraith, a civil liberties activist and cannabis-legalization supporter, ran as an independent and surprisingly picked up the endorsement of the powerful UMW.

In Mississippi, high-profile Governor Haley Barbour (R) was term-limited. His successor was Lt. Governor Phil Bryant. Democrats picked Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree (an African-American) in a divided primary to be their sacrificial lamb. Here’s a roundup of the gubernatorial results:

State Rep % Dem % Ind %
KY 35.29% 55.72% 8.99%
MS 61.07% 38.93%

Dave’s Election Atlas has the map up for Kentucky and Mississippi should be coming up soon. I won’t comment much on the Kentucky map, as it is the usual pattern for a Democratic landslide in the state, but the surprising aspect to me was Beshear’s pretty underwhelming performance in the Democratic bastions of the coal country where he had performed very strongly (60-70%) in 2007 but did pretty poorly this year. Galbraith, being endorsed by the UMW and being from the broader region (though not directly coal country) is part of it, but in places such as Floyd or Pike, Williams did quite a bit better than Fletcher had done in 2007 despite doing some 5% worse than Fletcher state-wide. I wonder if Obama has a particularly rancid effect on those kind of ancestrally Democratic conservative areas which pulls down even a fairly non-controversial conservative like Beshear. In Mississippi, I was a bit surprised by Bryant’s big win, given that even Barbour hadn’t done that well in 2007, though granted maybe Barbour’s opponent being a white good ol’ boy played a role in retrospect.

Democrats won all downballot offices in Kentucky except GOP-held AgCommish, where the wonderfully name Bob Farmer (D) did very badly. Besides that, only the Treasurer contest was narrow. In Mississippi, Democrats held their AG office but lost all others handily to Republicans.

State legislative elections took place in Mississippi, Virginia and New Jersey. In Mississippi, it appears as if Republicans have narrowly gained control of the House with 62 against 60 Democrats, making Arkansas’ State House the last remaining Democratic-controlled lower house in the Confederacy. The MS GOP also held their narrow hold on the Senate. In New Jersey, Democrats held their 24-16 Senate majority and gained a seat from the Republicans (effect of redistricting) in the General Assembly. This is a bit of a blow for Governor Chris Christie (R) who had campaigned for some GOP candidates. In Virginia, the GOP held the House but it seems as if the Democratic-controlled Senate will be going to a 20-20 tie broken by a GOP Lt. Governor but with committees split equally. In Iowa, Democrats easily held SD-18 in a special election which maintains their narrow 26-24 edge in the chamber. In Arizona and Michigan, two incumbent GOP legislators were yanked out of office by recalls.

Initiatives were the interesting things this year.

In Ohio, the big thing was Issue 2 which was about a Republican bill which limited collective bargaining for public employees. The issue, opposed by various unions, went down big. 61.3% voted no, repealing the bill. It is a particularly bad defeat for Ohio Governor John Kasich (R), and judging from the map a lot of Republicans in rural old working-class areas in the Ohio Valley voted with Democrats against Issue 2.

In Mississippi, I was particularly interested by Initiative 26, which would have defined the term ‘person’ as including “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof”, or in other words a measure which would render abortion illegal given that the USSC in Roe vs. Wade had ruled against Wade because they found that Wade’s definition of a fetus as a person lacked the constitutional and judicial precedent, failing to establish that personhood applied to the unborn. What Mississippi’s law would have done is unclear, as state law cannot overrule federal law. Civil liberty groups such as the ACLU had already prepared to take the matter to court. I expected the issue to carry the day pretty easily: this is Mississippi, a conservative and religious state, not Vermont or Oregon. Apparently, the No on 26 campaign was far more successful than expected and the implications of a yes vote on 26 cooled some voters away from supporting the bill. The issue was rejected 58-42, a margin far bigger than expected even in the last days (a PPP poll gave it as yes +1 in the final days). Apparently, the No on 26 benefited from some much heavier than expected black opposition to the issue – the No vote was by far highest in black counties but carried the day in more racially mixed central Mississippi and only passed in northeastern Mississippi (Appalachian Foothills), a more heavily white and Evangelical area. If such an issue can’t pass in Mississippi, where can it pass?

In Maine, something restoring same-day voter registration also passed.

Overall, stability prevailed and voters played it very moderate and cautious. Too radical measures like Issue 2 or Initiative 26 were rejected. Popular incumbents were returned, regardless of partisan affiliation. Democrats might have pulled out the strongest of the night, with only VA-Sen as a major black eye but a string of victories in KY-Gov, OH-Issue 2, NJ-Leg and IA-SD18. That being said, Republicans could claim victory as well with their victories in Virginia. Once again, who won depends on who you ask.

NY-26 special election 2011

NY-26 (source: Wikipedia)

A special election was held in New York’s 26th congressional district on May 24, 2011. Representative Chris Lee (R-NY) resigned his seat on February 9, 2011 because he couldn’t keep his shirt on. Really, Lee was forced out when he had posted a shirtless picture of him on Craigslist. For some reason, he was dumb enough to use his real name.

Covering western New York, NY-26 includes all of Genesee, Livingston and Wyoming Counties and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara, and Orleans Counties. NY-26 is more or less tailor-made to elect a Republican, including some very conservative rural counties in western NY in addition to more marginal but still overall Republican-leaning suburban areas in Erie, Monroe and Niagara counties. The more Democratic leaning parts of Erie (Buffalo) and Monroe (Rochester) are included in the gerrymandered 28th district, tailor-made to elect Democrat Louise Slaughter Western New York has long been a Republican bastion for over a hundred years, with strong Republican support dating back to the era where the counties of the region were known as the “burned-over district”, a region known for its evangelical religious fervour during the Second Great Awakening in the 1820s. Today, western New York outside the core cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls remains one of the state’s most conservative areas.

Most of NY-26’s population lives in suburban Niagara and Erie counties. The district’s portion of Erie County includes part of Amherst and the north campus of the state university in Buffalo. NY-26 also includes Lockport, North Tonawanda, Batavia, Brockport, Greece and the college town of Geneseo. Democrats are strong in Geneseo, Brockport and parts of Erie and Niagara counties but Republicans dominate the rural counties and other suburban areas. This was one of New York’s only four (out of 29) CDs to vote for John McCain in 2008, giving him 52.1% of the vote against 46.4% for Barack Obama. Wyoming County, which gave 62% to McCain, is one of the most Republican counties in New York.

The seat had been held by Lee since 2008. Lee, a conservative Republican, won by 14.5% over his little-known Democratic opponent Alice Kryzan in 2008 and increased his majority to 47% against a token Democratic opponent last year. Prior to Lee, the seat had been held by Republican Thomas M. Reynolds, a conservative Republican. Scandal-tarred Reynolds had been a Democratic target in 2006, but he won by 4%. Prior to that, the region has elected Republicans to Congress since the 1960s at least.

Republicans nominated Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (142nd district), while Democrats nominated Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul. There was a third-party figure in the contest, the crazy old man Jack Davis who got enough signatures to run on his own “Tea Party” line. Davis has run for the Democrats three times, and lost to Reynolds by 4% in 2006. Davis’ signature issue is protectionism, but seems more or less conservative on other issues though he isn’t your traditional Tea Party figure for that matter. Overall, he seems to be a crazy old man albeit one with stashes of money. The Green Party, which won automatic ballot access in 2008, nominated Ian Murphy, who had pranked called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) pretending to be David Koch.

This wasn’t a seat which should have been close but Jack Davis’ entrance into the contest did make it close but Jane Corwin seriously hurt herself by tying herself to the Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget, that controversial Medicare-slashing budget. Hochul lashed onto it and made Medicare a top issue, and Corwin did herself no favours by tying herself to Ryan as other Republicans such as Scott Brown (R-MA) distanced themselves from it. Davis polled strongly until last week, taking up 23-26% of the vote in polls while Corwin sled behind Hochul beginning in early May. Davis’ support slid into the 12-13% in the final week, which may or may not be the effect of a viral video showing him hitting some Corwin staffer (whose melodramatic “I’m having a seizure!”-type response was more hilarious than Davis being insane). But the last PPP poll had Hochul up 42-36 on Corwin with Davis polling 13%.

Kathy Hochul (D/WF) 47.12%
Jane Corwin (R/C/I) 42.56%
Jack Davis (Tea Party) 9.22%
Ian Murphy (Green) 1.1%

Hochul’s win is a major Democratic victory and a major Republican defeat which could further the divisions over the Ryan budget. Hochul was supposed to win because Jack Davis would take a significant share of the vote, and Davis polling under 10% (as he did) was supposed to be the kiss of death for Hochul. But it wasn’t. Hochul won strong enough support on her own, outperforming Obama’s 2008 result. Republicans can play the Nader-spoiler game, but Davis’ support would have had to split very, very heavily in Corwin’s favour – something like 80 to 20 – in order for her to win. Which isn’t an entirely realistic thing to expect, especially given the rumours that Davis drew significant Democratic support.

Democrats say that Medicare was the main reason for their significant win last night, a reasonable proposition. Paul Ryan’s Medicare-slashing budget is pretty unpopular and focusing on Medicare might be a winning strategy for Democrats in the 2012 elections – where they need to overturn a 48-seat GOP majority to regain the House.

On a final note, Hochul’s win opens up interesting possibilities for redistricting in which New York will lose two seats. New York’s legislature will likely go for an incumbent-protection map given that Democrats lack full control of the process with the State Senate in GOP hands. It seems as if legislators will strengthen Hochul by drawing her district to include Democratic Buffalo and Niagara Falls while perhaps shifting Slaughter’s district to Rochester. Tom Reed, the NY-29 Republican, might be given a district which combines his old district with the solidly Republican parts of NY-26.

A geographical history of George Wallace

George Wallace, who served seventeen years as Governor of Alabama, is known to the world for a variety of things but most notably as the icon of racist resistance to Civil Rights in the 1960s. However, popular views of Wallace are characterized by broad stereotypes and symbols which ignore many interesting aspects of his career and of Alabama politics in general. This post aims not to ‘revise’ popular judgement on Wallace, but rather to offer an analysis of his career and of Alabama state politics between the 50s and 80s through use of one of my favourite mediums, maps.

The map below shows the results of all Alabama elections, including (obviously) primaries in which Wallace (or his surrogate wife Lurleen) was involved in between 1958 and 1982. Results are obtained from OurCampaigns.org, which despite being a headache to navigate offers an unexploited wealth of information about American politics. Its sections on Alabama are particularly top-notch.

Similar to all other Confederate states, Alabama was dominated by the Democratic Party between the end of Reconstruction in 1876 and, at the presidential level, 1964. At the state level, however, Democrats held the governor’s mansion between 1874 and 1987 and the state legislature only fell to the Republicans in 2010. Fairly obviously, the Democratic dominance of the state worked alongside disenfranchisement of blacks and poor whites through poll taxes, literacy tests and documents such as the 1901 Alabama Constitution. A copy of a voter registration form in Alabama is here, and a copy of a sample civic literacy test is here. Both are fascinating documents, and even those with good knowledge of American constitutional law and politics will find some parts of the literacy test hard. Section 182 of the Alabama Constitution, which has not been repealed, provides a good example of legal disenfranchisement of a whole slew of people, notably those who are “idiots” and those convicted of “crimes against nature” (homosexuality), “miscegenation” or “moral turpitude”.

However, unlike Mississippi and South Carolina during the era of the Solid South, Alabama was not entirely a one-party authoritarian state. Those who could vote could do so rather freely, which explains why Democrats never reached the peaks achieved by Democrats in Mississippi and South Carolina where the vote was rigged to result in elections giving over 95% to Democrats. Yet, turnout in Alabama was, like in the rest of the Solid South, ridiculously low.

Prior to the rise of George Wallace, the Alabama Democratic Party lacked a dominant faction or figure similar to Georgia’s Eugene Talmadge, Memphis’ E.H. Crump’s machine or Virginia’s Byrd Organization. There were even some remarkably progressive moderates within the party, most notably Big Jim Folsom, who served as governor between 1947 and 1951 and again between 1955 and 1959 (governors could not succeed themselves until 1968). Folsom, a populist who achieved some social measures, was also a moderate on the race issue, trying to build a coalition of blacks and poor whites to break the dominance of the Democratic Party’s elite leadership. He was also, however, very corrupt.

The 1958 Democratic primary included a whole barrage of candidates, the most notable of which were Attorney General John Patterson and Barbour County circuit judge George C. Wallace. Patterson was a hardcore segregationist and received the endorsement of the KKK. On the other hand, Wallace, who had been a rather liberal judge, ran as a racial moderate and even received the endorsement of the NAACP. Patterson received 31.8% in the first round and Wallace got 26.3%. The map reflects a very friends-and-neighbors type of primary, which is commonplace in a lot of primaries then and now. In the runoff, Patterson handily defeated the moderate Wallace with 55.7% against 44.3% for Wallace. Wallace’s strength was confined to his native southeastern Alabama, notably taking 91.5% in Barbour County.

A bitter ambitious Wallace commented that evening that he had been “outniggered” by John Patterson and vowed to never be “outniggered” again. Most former racists who seek forgiveness years later often claim that they were not racists by conviction, but rather race-baiters by necessity. Patterson, who is still alive and voted for Obama in 2008, commented that you had no chance at winning if you weren’t a race-baiter. Wallace realized that in 1958 and by the 1962 Democratic gubernatorial primary, he was the traditional radical segregationist candidate. Beyond the racial rhetoric, however, Wallace was more of a ‘populist’ than a ‘conservative’ or ‘reactionary’. As a state legislators, he had decried the “Big Mules” – bankers, railroad owners and cotton mill owners. As governor, he had a populist economic policy which included rural development and free textbooks for schoolchildren. When he ran for President, he campaigned as the Southern populist against the wealthy classes and supported a generous welfare state – for those who ‘deserved it’. Yet, economic populism never took the forefront in Wallace’s early campaigns. As he noted, white voters were ambivalent when he talked to them about roads and such stuff, but they “stomped the floor” when he talked about “the niggers”.

Wallace was opposed in 1962 by his former mentor, former Governor Jim Folsom, who was disappointed that Wallace had abandoned his moderate integrationist ideals. Folsom was one of the rare few Southern politicians who remained true to his beliefs, and who despite being a crook, merits some recognition as an early racial moderate. Folsom, although he was from Wallace’s region of southeastern Alabama, built up his electoral base in northern Alabama. Northern Alabama was outside King Cotton’s great empire in 1860, and as such has always had a smaller black population (which led to less racial tensions) and had, after the New Deal, a working-class tradition fueled by the load of TVA dams in the region around Huntsville. Northern Alabama was also slightly less Democratic than the Black Belt, because poorer white farmers and workers felt little attachment to the slave-owning plantocracy of the Black Belt. ‘Less Democratic’ means that Democrats won 65-75% instead of 75-95% of the vote, with the notable exception of Winston County, a hardcore Unionist enclave dating back to 1860 (as such, it was the Republican Party’s only base in the state until the growth of suburbia).

The other main candidate was Tuscaloosa attorney Ryan de Graffenried, who was also a racial moderate. Folsom’s chances were hurt both by the fact that his corruption hurt him with the middle-class voters and because he had already taken to the bottle by 1962 and appeared visibly drunk in a television appearance. Graffenried, strong in urban areas such as Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, beat out Folsom for second taking 25.2% against 25.05% for Folsom. Wallace took 32.49%. Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor, the man who later sent the dogs after black protesters in Birmingham, took 3.6% and ended up in fifth.

Wallace easily beat the moderate Graffenried in the runoff, taking 55.9% against 44.1% for Graffenried who carried Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and parts of Folsom’s primary base in northern Alabama. He also won heavily black Macon County with 60.3%, which means that blacks had gained the right to vote there prior to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Wallace, however, easily trounced him with over 70% of the vote in the rest of the Black Belt and southeastern Alabama. Wallace won the general election, and upon his inauguration in January 1963 pronounced the words for which he will stick to him: segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

Deeply ambitious and with eyes on the Presidency, Wallace did not like term limits much when his term came to a close in 1966. He attempted to change the constitution, but when that failed, he got his wife Lurleen (who already had cancer) to run as his surrogate. Lurleen Wallace won the primary by the first round, taking 54% against 19.4% for Alabama’s liberal Attorney General Richmond Flowers. John Patterson won a pitiful 3.5% and Folsom won 2.7%. By 1966, blacks had started to be registered en masse following the VRA, and they largely voted for the liberal Flowers over the Wallaces. Wallace won with only 63.4% in the general election, with conservative Republican representative (elected in the 1964 Goldwater landslide of the South) James D. Martin winning 31%.

Lurleen Wallace died of cancer on July 5, 1968; while her husband was running for President for the American Independent Party. Discussion of Wallace’s presidential campaigns would require a whole new post, so this will focus only on the results of the 1968 election in Alabama. Needless to say, Alabama was Wallace’s best state with 65.9% of the vote against 18.7% for Humphrey and 14% for Nixon. Blacks had started to be registered by 1968, but they hadn’t started voting en masse. As such, Wallace won most of the Black Belt, albeit by narrow margins while Humphrey won only three heavily black counties such as Macon. Wallace had tremendous appeal throughout Alabama, even in the least Dixiecratic area of northern Alabama (he even won Unionist Winston County).

As much as Wallace had fought tooth-and-nail against desegregation in 1963, by 1968 he had slightly modified his rhetoric to fit the day. Instead of going with outright racism and direct abuse on African-Americans, he preferred to talk in terms of ‘states’ rights’, ‘law and order’ , ‘welfare cheats’ and an African-American ‘bloc vote’. As such, Wallace’s 1968 campaign was different from the one-issue ephemeral Dixiecrat campaigns such as Strom Thurmond’s 1948 campaign. He had a broader message, and appealed to a much wider electorate than the traditional racist Dixiecrats of the Deep South.

Lurleen’s Lieutenant Governor, Albert Brewer, succeeded her in office in 1968. Originally a Wallace conservative, Brewer completely overhauled his rhetoric and became a moderate, perhaps because that would be the only way for him to stay in power in his own right. To stay in power, Brewer was the first governor to directly appeal to black voters in an attempt to build himself a liberal coalition of blacks, working-class poor whites and urban intellectuals. Wallace, who lived for electoral campaigns, was eying a comeback in 1970 which would consolidate his local power ahead of another run for President in 1972, this time as a Democrat.

The 1970 primary was Wallace’s toughest and his local and national political career hinged on its outcome. Nixon, carefully calculating that a Wallace defeat would likely weaken Wallace’s chances in 1972, endorsed Brewer. Wallace retorted with one of Alabama’s nastiest campaigns, calling Brewer a sissy. Brewer made much of Wallace’s ambitions, notably by hammering that he’d be a “full-time governor”, while Wallace campaigned on more national issues such as busing. In the May 5 primary, Brewer edged out Wallace with 42% against 40.8%. Businessman Charles Woods took 14.7%, with arch-racist KKK leader Asa Carter taking 1.5% and Folsom taking 0.4%. Wallace lost the Black Belt and the urban centres of Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa while performing poorly in northern Alabama.

In the June 2 runoff, Wallace saved his political career, edging out Brewer with 51.56% against 48.44% for the sitting Governor. Brewer trounced him in the Black Belt, Birmingham and the Huntsville area, but Wallace prevailed almost everywhere else. Wallace won 74.5% of the vote in the general election, with his closest contender being black activist John Cashin of the pro-civil rights Alabama National Democratic Party. Cashin won four majority black counties.

An assassination attempt on May 15, 1972 left Wallace paralyzed and aborted his successful presidential campaign, but Wallace ran for reelection in 1974. It was his easiest primary ever, trouncing Gene McLain 64.8% to 30%. Folsom took 3%. McLain did well in the Black Belt but only won Macon County. Wallace served as governor until 1978, at which point the Democrats nominated former Republican Fob James, a conservative, who was not connected to any old faction and won the primaries. Fob James was a poor governor, though he returned to power in 1994, this time as a Republican.

By this time, Wallace had converted to George Wallace version 4.0. He had become a born-again Christian and apologized to the black community for his past wrongs. A shadow of his past self, Wallace sought a final term in 1982. He faced Lt. Governor George McMillan and Speaker Joe McCorquodale in the primary. Wallace dominated the first round, taking 42.5% against 29.6% for McMillan and 25.1% for McCorquodale. For the first time in his career, Wallace won a substantial amount of black votes, enough black votes to save him in the runoff. Wallace defeated McMillan 51.2% to 48.8%. Unlike Brewer in 1970, McMillan didn’t trounce Wallace in the Black Belt (though he probably narrowly won it). For the first time since 1966, the Republican candidate, Montgomery mayor Emory M. Folmar, was not a sacrificial lamb and stood a decent chance.  Wallace won 57.6% of the vote against 39.1% for Folmar. Folmar won the urban areas of Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville. However, Wallace won the Black Belt for the first time in the last election of his career.

George Wallace was perhaps not the arch-racist he was made out to be. Arguably, he was never a hardcore fanatic racist. Instead, he was an opportunistic race-baiter who used race to get elected, as Patterson admitted. When Wallace lost in 1958, perhaps running as his true populist self, he jumped on the race-baiting discriminatory rhetoric which Patterson had won on and went on to win on it in his own right in 1962. However, when the days of segregation were past, Wallace adapted his views. While he hadn’t done a full 180 by 1968 and 1970, he had moderated the race-baiting and turned it into a mix of traditional Dixie populism and right-wing law n’ order rhetoric. The question is whether Wallace and others’ opportunistic race-baiting is better or worse than the ideological fanatical racism.

His 1968 campaign for President laid the groundwork for the Southern Strategy which Nixon won on in 1972 and, arguably, previewed the gradual evolution of working-class white voters, dismayed by the violence of 1968 and the liberal society of the national Democrats, away from the New Deal Democrats towards the Republicans. This shift perhaps culminated in 2008, when Obama did almost historically poorly for a Democrat with certain old white working-class voters. In this, Wallace’s campaign was significant in that it previewed the future Republican rhetoric which has moved away from old ‘intellectual’ conservatism towards the ‘populist’ conservatism of people such as Sarah Palin. As such, maybe it isn’t shocking that George Wallace’s politically unfortunate son is a Tea Partier.

US 2010: A first look

As most of the world knows, the United States held key midterm elections on Tuesday, November 2. The entire House of Representatives, 37% of the Senate, most Governors and state legislatures were up, in addition to a bunch of local races and referendums of various types all across the nation. This is, of course, the first major test for the Democrats since Barack Obama’s 2008 win. I’ll save you the usual blabber about the significance of this and how it came to be, and go straight to what happened and why it happened.

Right now, most votes are counted. However, results in some races are uncertain and a few remain too close to call. There’ll be a few recounts. In addition, at the moment I’m writing this, a number of states (especially Washington, which is entirely mail-in voting) have not counted all votes. Thankfully, people who are good at math have extrapolated the likely final results by looking at which areas are yet to come in.

On a final note, because I’m a contrarian and because of a site I go to, I use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans. Unlike almost every other media source, although the red=D and blue=R makes more sense in a global context and can be more easily understood by most foreigners, where blue is conservatism and red is some sort of centre-left.

We begin with the Senate, where the Democrats (allied with 2 Independents) held 59 seats against 41 for the Republicans. The Republicans needed a gain of 10 seats to gain control (a 50-50 tie would be broken by the Vice President, Joe Biden). As of now, it seems like in the end the Democrats will have 53 seats against 47 for the Republicans (including Lisa Murkowski). Even if Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) were to switch sides to support the Republicans, the Democrats would still hold a 51-49 edge.

Senate

Alabama (R hold): No surprise in Alabama with a landslide reelection for incumbent Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who’s been around since 1987 (he became a Republican in 1994 following the midterms that year). He took 65.3% of the vote to 34.7% for attorney William Barnes, the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb.

Alaska (Ind R hold): The senate contest in Alaska this year turned out to be more interesting than anyone had ever predicted. First, most believed incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski, in office since her father appointed her in 2002, would cruise to win both the primaries against Joe Miller, her Palin-backed Tea Party opponent. She didn’t – he won the primary with 50.9% against 49.1% for her. Second, most people then assumed that she would bow out and Miller would win over the Democrats’ Scott McAdams, the amiable but inexperienced Sitka mayor. She didn’t allow that to happen, instead opting to run for reelection as a write-in candidate, where voters who wished to vote for her would need to write her name in on the ballot. Given that her name isn’t very easy to spell when you don’t know her well, the Secretary of State allowed some leeway and allowed various forms of her name as acceptable. Still, write-ins haven’t won since Strom Thurmond won in SC back in 1954. Miller was originally favoured, but stumbled after a series of missteps on the campaign trail (notably an altercation with journalists) and reports that he had received various forms of government largesse. Perhaps his general arrogance, including a Twitter post noting that he was buying the drapes for his Senate office in DC, didn’t help. This was all surprising after a very well orchestrated primary campaign. On results so far, write-ins have 41% of the vote against 34.3% for Joe Miller and 23.6% for Scott McAdams. It remains to be seen how many of the 81,876 write-in votes were cast for Murkowski and how many will be valid, but with such a lead, it seems that Murkowski has won reelection as a write-in candidate. There will still be a lot of issues of various types, a possible recount in court and shenanigans that could take up to a month. If she wins, she will caucus with the Republicans, given that she did not change her party registration at any point.

Arizona (R hold): After surviving a primary challenge to his right by moving to the right, John McCain has won a predictably easy reelection over Democratic opponent Rodney Glassman, who was still McCain’s first half-serious opponent in a long time. McCain was held under 60% for the first time since 1992. He still took 59.2% against 34.7% for Glassman. Libertarian candidate David Nolan took 4.7%, possibly a lot coming from the few Republicans who still find McCain too liberal, despite his recent overhaul and shift to the right.

Arkansas (R gain from D): Senator Blanche Lincoln, a moderate Democrat in office since 1998, went down badly, taking one of the lowest percentage of the vote for an incumbent running for reelection. Unlike her colleague and fellow moderate Democrat Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln has put herself way too much in the spotlight and has, in the process, earned the ire of both the right and left. Her reluctant backing of ‘Obamacare’ and her conservative position on unions and climate change won her a tough primary challenge by union-backed LG Bill Hatler, whom she surprisingly and narrowly defeated. Her late backing of ‘Obamacare’ after making herself one of the key votes in the Senate won her the opposition of most conservatives. She had little chance against Rep. John Boozman, an amiable typical small-town southerner, who ran a low-key and rather moderate campaign. Boozman took 58% against Lincoln’s 36.9%. She managed to do worse than Obama had done in the state in 2008. As we’ll see later, this election was bad for typically dominant Arkansas Democrats.

California (D hold): Barbara Boxer, one of the Senate’s liberal icons, was facing a close race against former HP executive Carly Fiorina, who dumped a lot of her money into the race. Fiorina ran to the right, perhaps too much to the right for California, by taking a conservative pro-life and pro-oil drilling line in this race. She won by a little less than 10 points, taking 51.9% against 42.6% for Fiorina.

Colorado (D hold): In this traditionally ‘purple’ swing state, Democrats were facing big odds to win in Colorado. Firstly, their incumbent, Michael Bennet was appointed to this seat last year when the incumbent, Ken Salazar, joined cabinet. He had never run for office before, and only narrowly won a tough primary late this summer. He was, however, helped by the Republicans nominating Ken Buck, a district attorney and Tea Party-backed candidate with a penchant for controversial, though not insane (unlike other Tea Partiers) statements. Buck had a narrow lead in most polls, and most thought he’d win despite Bennet’s (somewhat unusual for a swing state) tough attacks on him for his conservative positions on abortion, gay rights and a small scandal where Buck didn’t prosecute a rape case. Surprisingly, it seems to have worked, since right now – with 98% reporting – he has 47.7% to Buck’s 46.8%. With the remaining votes coming from Boulder – a liberal stronghold, and Arapahoe – a Denver suburban county which is getting ‘bluer’, Bennet is projected to win this, and most networks should call it soon. There was a big gender gap here, with women backing Bennet 55-39, but men giving him only 43% to Buck’s 53%. Republicans have often use social wedge issues as a tool to maximize conservative base turnout (notably in 2004), but Democrats have shied away from it in the past. Could this mean that the usage of social issues as wedge issues is not reserved to Republicans?

Connecticut (D hold): Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has won the country’s most expensive and one of the most vitriolic races with 55.1% against 43.3% for former WWE executive Linda McMahon. McMahon had dumped tons of her own money into this race, but faced obstacles. Blumenthal, first thought to be unbeatable when he first jumped in following Sen. Chris Dodd’s retirement, also faced obstacles. Most notably, a scandal about remarks he made insinuating his service in Vietnam, when in fact he didn’t serve in Vietnam.

Delaware – Special (D hold): The special election for VP Joe Biden’s old seat was thought to be in the bag for Republicans – and their presumptive nominee Mike Castle, the state’s long time moderate Republican representative. That was until world-famous Tea Party rival Christine O’Donnell upset him in one of this season’s best primaries and practically handed the race to Democrat Chris Coons, originally the sacrificial lamb against Castle. O’Donnell, who was going to lose anyway to Coons due to her extreme positions in this blue state, further destroyed herself when hilarious reports of her “dabbling with witchcraft” in her young adulthood came out or when she explained that she would never lie about anything, including to Hitler about hiding Jews in her house during the Holocaust. She did, however, come up with one of the best all-time political ads:

She lost, taking 40% against 56.6% for Chris Coons, the “bearded Marxist”. She did, however, win two counties this time, so she won’t need to lie about that in her next inevitable run for office or her inevitable new show on talk radio or FOX News.

Florida (R hold): In the end, it wasn’t remotely close. In this once-hot race, the Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio, a young, charismatic and motivating candidate, won easily. He took 48.9% with nearly all votes counted, far ahead of Gov. Charlie Christ, the former moderate Republican who ran as an Independent after polls showed that he was on track to lose the GOP primary in a landslide to Rubio. He took only 29.7% of the vote. Democrat Kendrick Meek, a retiring representative, took third with 20.1%. Thus, even if Meek had dropped out in Crist’s favour like Crist lobbied him to do, Rubio would still have won although perhaps by a narrower margin. Crist won in four counties: Leon (Tallahassee), Pinellas (St. Petersburg), Broward and Palm Beach. A Cuban-American, Rubio won the Latino vote with around 55% of the vote, and won in Miami-Dade County. Meek won only one county, the black-majority northern Gadsen County.

Georgia (R hold): Senator Johnny Isakson cruised to a landslide reelection win, taking 58.1% of the vote against Michael Thurmond, the state labor commissioner, who took 39.2%. A Libertarian took 2.7% of the vote.

Hawaii (D hold): In office since 1963, the Senate’s longest-serving member, Daniel Inouye cruised to a massive win over his Republican opponent, Cam Cavasso. He took 74.8% of the vote against 21.6% for Cavasso. It seems as if Rasmussen’s shock poll giving Inouye a 13-point edge turned out to be one of the worst polls in American history.

Idaho (R hold): In 2004, Mike Crapo’s only opponent(s) were write-ins. This year, the Democrats found someone named Tom Sullivan to run against him. Crapo won 71.1% of the vote against 25% for Sullivan. In the process, he even took Blaine County, the ski-resort Democratic stronghold.

Illinois – Special (R gain from D): In this special election to President Obama’s seat, the Republican Mark Kirk, a moderate GOP representative, took the seat in a close race against Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer who is also a former banker (something which isn’t popular) and was involved in some shady business. Kirk was lucky that Illinois holds its primaries very early, because he could have been teabagged. He also faced issues of his own: he too made comments about his alleged service in Vietnam which turned out to be false. Kirk won 48.2% against 46.3% for Giannoulias. Green candidate LeAlan M. Jones won 3.2%, not nearly as well as some expected. Giannoulias led for most of the night, but late counting in Chicago suburbs won the night for Kirk. Giannoulias won only three counties – one of which, Cook, is by far the most populous county in the state and the Democrats’ traditional base. He took 64% there, but lost badly in the suburbs and downstate.

Indiana (R gain from D): This seat was held by retiring Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, whose surprise retirement won him the hatred of many liberal Democrats. Leaving the party to find a candidate to replace him, Bayh also took a lot of money with him in preparation for a likely 2012 gubernatorial run. It might not make much sense in a year like this, but Republican nominee and former Senator (and eternal lobbyist and ‘DC insider’) Dan Coats faced no trouble. He won 56.4% of the vote against 38.1% for Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who managed to get the NRA’s endorsement. Rebecca Sink-Burris, a Libertarian, took a strong 5.4%, reflecting some isolated conservative resentment of lobbyist and DC insider Dan Coats, who nonetheless had Tea Party backing. Ellsworth performed well in his southwestern Indiana district, but did poorly in the northeastern and north-central parts of the state which had been crucial in Obama’s narrow win in this ‘red state’.

Iowa (R hold): In office since 1981, Chuck Grassley, everybody’s favourite Twitter user, won a landslide reelection. He took 64.5% against 33.2% for Roxanne Conlin, the Democrat. She managed to eek out one county, which is unusual for Grassley’s Democratic opponents. She won Johnson County, which includes the University of Iowa.

Kansas (R hold): Rep. Jerry Moran took retiring Sen. Sam Brownback’s seat in a landslide, winning 70.3% of the vote against 26.2% for Lisa Johnston, the Democrat. He took nearly 90% of the vote in his old district, the big first (which covers most of western Kansas), but lost in two counties: Wyandotte (Kansas City) and Douglas (Lawrence, a college town).

Kentucky (R hold): Tea Party hero and ophthalmologist Rand Paul easily won retiring Sen. Jim Bunning’s seat, with 55.8% of the vote against 44.2% for AG Jack Conway, his Democratic opponent. Democrats had thought Conway, who closed the gaps in the final weeks, could eek out a win, but Conway’s Aqua Buddha ad, attacking Paul’s college religious views, backfired badly.

Conway only narrowly won in Lexington (Fayette County) and didn’t do spectacularly well in the Democratic mine-field counties of eastern Kentucky, where he had done very badly in the primary against his Blue Dog opponent, Dan Mongiardo.

Louisiana (R hold): Despite a prostitution scandal, Republican incumbent David Vitter’s seat was never in jeopardy. He won 56.6% of the vote against 37.7% for Rep. Charlie Melançon, whose very conservative campaign didn’t work out too well. He ended up doing worse than Obama had done here in 2008, underperforming especially badly in black counties though doing slightly better in the old Cajun counties in the south, parts of which are in his old district.

Maryland (D hold): In office since 1987, Sen. Barbara Mikulski was easily reelected with 61.8% against 36.3% for her Republican opponent, Eric Wargotz.

Missouri (R hold): Rep. Roy Blunt easily won this contest to replace retiring Sen. Kit Bond, a race which some Democrats hoped would be competitive thanks to their strong candidate in Sec. of State Robin Carnahan, given that the Carnahan name is popular in the state. She couldn’t stop the wave, and took only 40.6% against 54.3% for Blunt. She won only three counties, one which contains St. Louis, another which contains its inner suburbs and the other which contains Kansas City. Blunt did very well in his old district, in the Ozarks.

Nevada (D hold): Senate majority leader Harry Reid, in office since 1987, was extremely vulnerable in this cycle. His close association with Obama and the unpopular Congress made him unpopular. He was helped when Republicans nominated Sharron Angle, a Tea Partier with a history of controversial statements and positions, over two more moderate candidates. Angle made immigration a big issue, pressing her support of Arizona’s immigration law and making known her tough position on illegal immigration. She led in most of the final polls by a small margin, but Reid, who had lots of money and a formidable GOTV machine – especially among Latinos who didn’t like Angle’s immigration position at all – came back from the dead. He won 50.2% against 44.6% for Angle, a comfortable win. Latinos, 15% of voters, went to him 68-30 (a shift of only 2% to the GOP from 2004, when Reid had won 61-35). The state’s unique NOTA option took 2.2% and Scott Ashjian, the shady “Tea Party of Nevada” candidate took only 0.8%. Many thought Ashjian had been a Democratic plant to divide the conservative vote. Reid won not only in Clark County (Las Vegas) but also in Mineral and Washoe (Reno) counties.

New Hampshire (R hold): Former AG Kelly Ayotte won a landslide in a race to succeed retiring Sen. Judd Gregg. She even broke 60%, taking 60.2% against a mere 36.7% for growingly unpopular Rep. Paul Hodes. She won in all counties, did especially well in Boston suburbia and was the first example of the Republican wave which touched New Hampshire big on Tuesday.

New York (D hold): High-ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer won an easy reelection with 65.4% against 33% for Republican Jay Townsend. However, with Reid winning, he probably won’t get to be Senate Majority Leader just now.

New York – Special (D hold): Incumbent – appointed – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was easily reelected to Hillary Clinton’s old Senate seat. Originally thought to be a weak incumbent with little base, she became stronger and the NY GOP did what it does best in statewide races: shoot itself in the foot. Its top candidates – fmr. Gov. Pataki and fmr. NYC mayor Giuliani didn’t run. She won 62% against 35.8% for Republican opponent Joseph DioGuardi.

North Carolina (R hold): Sen. Richard Burr has been reelected to a second term, and has broken this seat’s curse – it hasn’t had a two-term member since 1967. Burr won rather easily, taking 55% against 42.9% for his Democratic opponent Elaine Marshall.

North Dakota (R gain from D): Extremely popular Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican, won a crushing landslide in a race to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Byron Dorgan, who retired after nearly 20 years in office. Hoeven, a moderate Republican – in fact, he’s a former Democrat – is popular thanks to the state’s economic success and low unemployment (lowest in the nation, I think). In an unequal contest, he won 76.2% of the vote against 22.2% for Tracy Potter, the random person which felt like running for Senate as a Democrat. Hoeven even won the state’s Indian-majority rez counties.

Ohio (R gain): It’s hard to believe that the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. George Voinovich was once competitive. In the end, and thanks in part to a huge money advantage, former rep. and US trade representative under Bush Rob Portman easily won, with 57.3% against a paltry 39% for Democratic LG Lee Fisher. In a contest between a big free-trader like Portman, an icon of the Bush era’s economic policies; and a protectionist like Fisher, it seems as if the former prevailed over the latter. A good indicator of the national mood. Fisher got demolished in the western part of the state and did poorly in places like Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo though he did win the Youngstown era by a strong margin.

Oklahoma (R hold): Tom Coburn was reelected to a second term with a huge majority, raking up 70.5% of the vote against 26.1% for Democrat Jim Rogers. He won every county, and took over 60% in all of them.

Oregon (D hold): Democratic incumbent Ron Wyden, a popular senator and health care expert in office since 1996, was reelected in one of the Democrats’ easiest wins. He took 57.2% of the vote against 39.5% for his Republican opponent, Jim Huffman.

Pennsylvania (R gain from D): Former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey took 51% of the vote against 49% for Rep. Joe Sestak, his Democratic opponent. Joe Sestak, the former admiral and congressman since 2006, defeated floor-crossing incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter in a primary, but struggled for most of the campaign against Toomey. A good candidate, Sestak fought back and closed the gap to low single digits in the final weeks or so. Despite leading for a good part of the night thanks in part to good turnout and good numbers out of Philadelphia, in the end Toomey prevailed because Sestak performed weakly in Philly’s suburbs, where both candidates hail from. Despite losing narrowly statewide, Sestak lost in the traditionally Democratic working-class steel areas east of Pittsburgh in the Allegheny region.

South Carolina (R hold): In this hilarious contest, incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint, one of the Senate’s Tea Party icons, won reelection with 62.4% of the vote against his bizarre and insane Democratic opponent, Alvin Greene, who took 28.2%. Green candidate Tom Clements took 9.6%. Alvin Greene, a black man who inexplicably won the primary against a much better opponent (Vic Rawls), got headlines when he was charged with obscenity (showing porn to an 18-year old college student) and when he proposed to boost the economy by producing action figures of himself. Greene, who lives with his parents and is generally bizarre, did rather well, likely due to the black vote still going heavily to him. The Green candidate, who emerged as the saner liberal candidate, did well, but didn’t manage to outpoll Greene as some had predicted.

South Dakota (R hold): Incumbent Sen. John Thune, in office since his 2004 win over Tom Daschle, was reelected unopposed. He is considered a likely contender for the presidency in 2012, which explains why he amassed so much money in his uncontested race.

Utah (R hold): Mike Lee, the Tea Party-backed candidate who emerged victorious of a primary which followed a state convention in which incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett was thrown out of the race, won easily, with 61.6% in a solidly red state. Democrat Sam Granato took 32.8%, while Constitution Party candidate Scott Bradley took 5.7% out of the blue. He won all but one county, Summit, a ski-resort region east of SLC.

Vermont (D hold): In office since 1974, incumbent Sen. Pat Leahy – the only Democratic Senator from Vermont in the state’s history – won an easy reelection with 64.4% of the vote against 30.9% for Republican Len Britton. He won in all counties, including Essex, a small and traditionally more conservative county in the east of the state.

Washington (D hold): With 88% reporting, Democratic incumbent Patty Murray holds 51.6% of the vote against 48.4% for her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi. Dino Rossi, who narrowly lost the 2004 gubernatorial contest (the Republicans’ equivalent of Florida 2000) after a recount, has already conceded defeat (for a third time since 2004).

West Virginia – Special (D hold): Extremely popular Gov. Joe Manchin toyed with the law to get a special election held in the state following the recent death of the seat’s long-time holder, former PPT Sen. Robert Byrd. Most had thought Manchin, who holds 70% approvals, would win easily, but in a state where Obama is extremely unpopular and where liberal policies are unpopular, that wasn’t the case. Even though his Republican opponent, Tea Party-backed John Raese, a wealthy businessmen who has more connections with Florida than with WV, was certainly not the best opponent, Obama’s unpopularity gave Manchin a tough run. He trailed in some polls, but came back roaring with attacks on Raese’s unpopular positions (abolishing the minimum wage) and his Florida connections to take a narrow lead. Perhaps one of this season’s most well-known ads from Manchin helped him a bit:

Manchin won 53.5% of the vote against 43.4% for John Raese, a surprisingly big win. Manchin campaigned as a conservative, shooting – literally – cap-and-trade (which is unpopular in WV, which is a top coal producer) and pledging to repeal the bad parts of ‘Obamacare’. He is likely to end up being another Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat who’ll break with his party more than once every year.

Wisconsin (R gain from D): Russ Feingold, a well-known liberal Democratic Senator, was defeated by Republican businessman Ron Johnson in a heartbreak to many left-leaning Democrats. Johnson, one of Feingold’s toughest opponents in a reelection contest, won 51.9% of the vote against 47.1% for Feingold. Economic woes in the Upper Midwest contributed in large part to Feingold’s defeat.

House of Representatives

Republicans have taken the House, taking 60 seats from the Democrats thus far. They’ll certainly have 239, the Democrats will certainly have 186 seats. Here are my final projections, including 10 uncalled races, for the House:

Republicans 243 seats (+65)
Democrats 192 seats (-65)

This will make Republican minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) the new Speaker of the House, taking over from Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Boehner has been in office since 1991, and is not at all your Tea Party-style grassroots conservative activist. He’s far more on the establishment’s side, but he will have to deal with a Tea Party caucus which is at least 39 strong. He has promised not to let them down, but he will have a harder time satisfying most of their more radical demands, especially given that the Republicans will have little opportunity to pass some of their own legislation with a Senate and executive still dominated by Democrats. Furthermore, along with most establishment Republicans, Boehner is also quite experienced in the world of pork and lobbyist, something which may not play very well with the most hardcore of Tea Party folks.

According to the exit polls, it was the independents (obviously) as well as a largely white, suburban middle-class electorate which is struggling economically which gave the Republicans their major win. The suburban electorate, which had also given the Democrats their wins in 2006 and 2008, gave the GOP a 54-43 edge (in 1994, it was 57-43 for the Republicans). Rural voters also swung big to the Republicans.

Whites preferred the Republican Party 60 to 38. However, Hispanics as a whole likely swung below the national swing, giving the Democrats a 65-33 advantage, one which is much larger than the 56-44 edge they had given Democrats back in 2004 or the 61-39 advantage for Democrats back in 1994. Though there was talk of a major swing with Hispanics, it seems as if they didn’t swing as big as expected, likely the result of the Arizona immigration law and the Republicans’ move to the right on immigration.

Republicans won back a lot of suburban districts they had lost in 2006 or 2008, but the Democrats resisted in a few of these suburban districts, perhaps indicating that some suburban areas – like those in New England or Colorado – might have become more Democratic. Yet, Democrats in suburban districts such as John Hall (NY-19), Patrick Murphy (PA-8), John Adler (NJ-3), Mark Schauer (MI-7), Melissa Bean (IL-8), Harry Mitchell (AZ-5), Dina Titus (NV-3), Ron Klein (FL-22) and of course Alan Grayson (FL-8) have all lost. The latter of the list, Grayson, especially badly, probably because it really backfired to call his opponent a Taliban.

The Republicans, most notably, also cleaned up in a lot of generally white, rural Southern districts which Blue Dog Democrats held. There was a major shift in the South from Democrats to Republicans, and not only in House races. In Tennessee, Republicans gained three rural districts held by Democrats, one of which was through the crushing defeat by a full 21 points of Rep. Lincoln Davis in TN-4. In Mississippi, both Travis Childers (MS-1) and Gene Taylor (MS-4) lost. Bobby Bright, somewhat surprisingly, didn’t hold on in AL-2 against Martha Roby. Republicans also picked up two open seats in Arkansas, but didn’t unseat Mike Ross (AR-4). In Texas, Chet Edwards (TX-17) lost 62-37! In LA, MS and AL; all districts held by Democrats are black-majority. All in all, Blue Dog Democrats, especially those in the South, lost badly. The Blue Dog caucus will find itself much, much smaller come January 2011. Some of their big names outside the south, such as Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) and Walt Minnick (D-ID) lost, the latter of which was actually quite surprising.

A few Blue Dogs, some in the most conservative of places, held on. Jim Matheson (UT-2) and Dan Boren (OK-2) are notable for their survival. In North Carolina, only one Democrat (Bob Etheridge) lost and that’s largely because the map is a Democratic gerrymander.

Democrats gained three seats, none of which are surprising. In DE-AL, John Carney easily gained Mike Castle’s open seat over Republican Glen Urquhart; an O’Donnell-like candidate who thinks liberals are Nazis. In LA-2 (New Orleans), Republican Joseph Cao (who won only because the Democrat was a crook) was defeated 64.6-33.5. Finally, in HI-1, where Charles Djou won a special election this summer only because Democrats were divided, he lost 53-47 to Democrat Colleen Hanabusa.

Hit hard by unemployment and the economic crisis, the Rust Belt was ground zero of a major anti-Democrat swing. It carried Republicans into governors mansions and state legislatures, and also saw Republicans take control of a majority of House seats in PA, OH, IL, MI, IN and WI. Though helped by a map favourable to them, especially in Ohio and Illinois, Republicans threw out a lot of incumbents or took open seats. A lot of them in areas which have suffered a lot from the recession.

State-level races

Alabama (R hold): Robert Bentley, with 57.9%, will succeed term-limited Governor Bob Riley. He defeated Ag Commish Ron Sparks, who won 42.1%. While Sparks did well in a few areas outside the traditional Black Belt, it was far from enough. Most importantly, Republicans gained control of both chambers in the Alabama legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. In downballot races, Republicans swept all offices, and notably defeated incumbent Lt. Governor Jim Folsom Jr. (son of former Gov. “Big Jim” Folsom Sr.). All this is a signal of a final shift in the Deep South away from local (conservative) Democrats towards Republicans, already dominant at the presidential level for at least a decade.

Alaska (R hold): Governor Sean Parnell, who succeeded Sarah Palin in 2009, won reelection with 58.9% against 38.3% for Democrat Ethan Berkowitz. Perhaps the only surprise is that Parnell didn’t break 60%.

Arizona (R hold): Governor Jan Brewer, the former Secretary of State who became Governor when Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) joined Obama’s cabinet, won reelection with 54.9% of the vote. Originally a very weak incumbent who lacked base support after tax hikes, she became a conservative hero with her controversial immigration legislation. Democratic AG Terry Goddard trailed with 42% of the vote. In major ballot initiatives, voters approved with 55.3% an amendment which prevents ‘mandated health insurance’ (like ‘Obamacare’). Measure 203, which would legalize medical marijuana, lost narrowly, with 50.1% against.

Arkansas (D hold): Arkansas may be shifting towards the GOP, but Democratic Governor Mike Beebe won a landslide reelection and in the process won all counties and won the best result for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the country. He won 64.5% against 33.6% for Republican Jim Keet. However, downballot, Republicans won all three statewide positions they contested and apparently swept the seats they contested in the legislature. Yet, the AR GOP’s traditional incompetence and inability to find candidates (the Green Party is often better than that than the AR GOP) have allowed Democrats to hold the legislature and three statewide positions which were contested only by the Greens. Yet, with the House at D 55-45 for Democrats (down from D 72–28) and the Senate at D 22-13 (down from D 27-8); the Democratic control of Arkansas’ legislature is definitely endangered.

California (D gain from R): In a big win for Democrats, former Governor and incumbent AG Jerry Brown picked up California, with 53.5% of the vote. Massive spending, at almost $45 per vote, by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman didn’t win her much aside from 41.3%. These results reaffirm California’s status as a safe ‘blue’ state. Democrats, seemingly, with the AG race in doubt, have also swept downballot statewide race. Notably, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ousted incumbent (appointed) LG Abel Maldonado 50-39. In much-watched ballot measures, voters rejected Prop 19, which would legalize marijuana, with 53.8% against. Prop 23, which would suspend air pollution laws until unemployment drops was rejected with 61.1% against. Prop 20’s approval also ensures that California redistricting will be n0n-partisan. To make solving the state’s budget woes easier, the approval by 54.7% of voters of Prop 25 will make a simple majority, and not a two-thirds majority, required to pass the budget.

Colorado (D hold): In a much-watched gubernatorial contest, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper held on to retiring Gov. Bill Ritter’s seat, taking 50.7% of the vote and winning easily over former Rep. Tom Tancredo, known for his controversial far-right views on immigration. Tancredo was the Constitution Party candidate, and became the de-facto Republican as the actual Republican, Dan Maes, collapsed into irrelevance thanks to his general insanity and scandals. Tancredo won 36.8% of the vote, while Maes took 11.1%. That will still ensure that Republicans retain major party status in the state, because falling under 10% would mean they’d have become a minor party for the books. Republicans, however, took out the Democratic incumbent officeholders for SoS and Treasurer. Republicans also won control of the Colorado House. In ballot measures, one which would have defined a “person” as “beginning at conception” was soundly rejected, with 70.5% against. One measure which would have prevented mandated health insurance was defeated 53-47.

Connecticut (D gain from R): Florida 2000 all over again? So far, Democrat Dan Malloy holds an alleged lead over Republican Tom Foley, with 564,885 votes to the former (source: New York Times) and 557,123 votes to the latter. This count seems to include a weird situation in Bridgeport (a Democratic stronghold) where they ran out of ballots and extended voting, and where they’re still counting votes. The incompetence of the Secretary of State means this race is still lingering, but it seems increasingly likely that Malloy has picked up Republican Gov. Jodi Rell’s seat.

Florida (R gain from I): The gubernatorial contest was a close one, but in the end it was Republican Rick Scott, who, with 48.9% of the vote, won out. Despite his low favourable numbers, and despite the fact that a lot of his voters voted for him with reservations, he defeated former state CFO Alex Sink who won 47.7%. However, Republicans won’t get to gerrymander the congressional districts because a ballot measure to set “standards for Congressional redistricting” was approved with 62.9% of the vote.

Georgia (R hold): Former Rep. Nathan Deal, the surprise victor of the Republican primary over a Palin-backed Tea Party candidate, was easily elected Governor with 52.9% against 43.1% for former Gov. Roy Barnes, defeated in 2002 and seeking a political comeback this year. Some thought Barnes could get it, especially over a slightly corrupt person such as Deal, but the wave carried him through. Republicans also swept all downballot statewide offices.

Hawaii (D gain from R): Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie was easily elected Governor of Obama’s birth state with 58.2%, succeeding term-limited Republican Governor Linda Lingle. Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona took 41.1% of the vote. His easy win in the end, despite pollsters showing it surprisingly close, proves that Hawaii is a hard state to poll.

Idaho (R hold): The Governor with the best name in the country, Butch Otter, was reelected with 59.1% of the vote against 32.9% for Democrat Keith Allred. Former Republican state legislator Jana Kemp, running as an Independent, won 5.9%. Otter has always seemed to be underperform, for Idaho Republican standards, likely tied to the fact that he got in hot water for raising taxes once. Allred still managed to win three counties: Blaine, Teton (resorts) and Latah (Moscow, a college town).

Illinois (D hold): Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is the real comeback kid. Given for dead after a tough primary and lingering discontent with Illinois Democrats following the Blagojevich scandal; he’s come back for an unforeseen win over Republican Bill Brady. Quinn won 46.6% against 46.1% for Brady, while disgraced former Democratic LG candidate Scott Lee Cohen took 3.6% and Green Rich Whitney (misspelled as ‘Rich Whitey’ on some ballots – guess he didn’t do well in Chicago’s South Side) took only 2.7%. Quinn might have been helped by the fact that the more people learned about Brady, the less they liked him. It is understandable: Brady is a creationist (and ‘dog-murderer’) who fits in better in, say, Alabama than Illinois. Like Giannoulias in the Senate race, Quinn won only three counties – including Cook – but still won. What seems to have hurt Brady vis-a-vis Kirk is an underperformance in Chicago’s suburbs, because Brady did as well or slightly better than Kirk downstate. With Democratic control at the executive and legislative level, this gives Democrats the right to gerrymander the new congressional districts to their liking.

Iowa (R gain from D): Democratic Gov. Chet Culver was easily defeated by former four-term Republican Gov. Terry Branstad (1983-1999), who was seeking a fifth term. Branstad took 53% against 43.3% for Culver, who has suffered from the economic recession and was no match about Branstad, who reminded voters of the good times they had with him in the 80s and 90s. In the House, Republicans took control with 60 seats against 40 Democrats, overturning a 56-44 Democratic majority. It also came close to taking the Senate, and defeated the incumbent Sec. of State.

Kansas (R gain from D): Sen. Sam Brownback was easily elected Governor with 63.4% against 32.1% for Democrat Tom Holland. Democrats had won this seat back in 2002 with Kathleen Sebelius, who is now the HHS secretary. She was replaced by Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, who did not run for reelection. Republicans also took out appointed Democratic statewide officeholders and obviously held their huge legislative majorities.

Maine (R gain from D): Republicans with Tea Party-backed candidate Paul LePage took this seat, held by term-limited Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. LePage, who seems to be an erratic and borderline crazy man, and despite his negative favourability numbers, won a plurality with only 38.3% of the vote. The late surger of the campaign, independent Eliot Cutler (who worked with the Carter administration) won 36.5% and nearly took out LePage, and would likely have won if the campaign had lasted another week. Democrats made a terrible pick with Libby Mitchell, the epitome of a boring old career politician, who took 19.1%. LePage, who is a French-American (giving him an edge with this traditionally Democratic electorate), did well in the upstate region of the state including Democratic French-American places like Aroostook County. However, Cutler won the more liberal counties on the coast. In addition, Republicans gained control of both houses of the legislature, currently controlled by Democrats.

Maryland (D hold): Elected in 2006 by defeating Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley won a rematch with Ehrlich easily, with 55.8% against 42.3% for Ehrlich. Seemingly, the Republican wave barely touched Maryland, maybe because the state has a large number of government workers, who, Republicans might say, like big government.

Massachusetts (D hold): Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick was narrowly reelected over his liberal Republican opponent Charlie Baker. Patrick, whose bad approval rating have improved somewhat, won 48.4% against 42.1% for Baker. Treasurer Tim Cahill, a former Democrat running to the right of both major candidates and drawing support from Blue Dog Democrats, won 8%. Surprisingly, while his support collapsed from 30% to 8% during the campaign, his support didn’t fall from the last polls to the voting booth. That might have hurt Baker. What also Baker, vis-a-vis Scott Brown in January, is that while he also performed strongly in Boston’s outer suburbs, he didn’t do as well as Brown did in small post-industrial towns such as Lowell. Democrats, despite Republicans actually finding candidates, held all statewide positions. Notably, AG Martha Coakley was reelected easily with 62.8%.

Michigan (R gain from D): In a state which has suffered a lot from the recession, Republicans have picked up this seat held by unpopular term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The Republicans, who picked their best candidate in Rick Snyder, a moderate businessman type, won with 58.1% against a paltry 39.9% for Democrat Virg Bernero, who only won five counties. Republicans also picked up the Michigan House, where they now hold 63 seats to Democrats’ 47 (it was D 67-43 before).

Minnesota (D gain from R): In a very narrow race, it seems as if former Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton won by a hair, with 43.7% against 43.2% for Republican state legislator Tom Emmer. In a race where the two major candidates are unappealing partisans, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner won 11.9% of the vote. That, and narrowly holding all other three statewide offices, was one of the DFL’s only bright spots given that Republicans shockingly seized control of both houses. In the House, they hold a 72-62 majority (it was D 87-47 before) and a 37-30 Senate majority (it was D 46-21 before).

Nebraska (R hold): Very popular Republican incumbent Gov. Dave Heineman was reelected with 74.3% against 25.7% for Democrat Mike Meister. Heineman won over 60% of the vote in all counties.

Nevada (R hold): After defeating embattled incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons in the GOP primary, Brian Sandoval – a Latino – will become governor. Sandoval, a rather moderate candidate, took 53.4% of the vote against 41.6% for Harry Reid’s son, Rory Reid. NOTA won 1.7%. Downballot, however, Democrats defended all their incumbents and also narrowly kept their majorities in both houses of the legislature.

New Hampshire (D hold): Popular centrist Democratic Gov. John Lynch won a narrow reelection, especially when compared to his landslides in 2006 and 2008, with 52.6% against 45.1% for little-known Republican opponent John Stephen. That was really the only bright spot for Democrats, given that a Republican wave swept the state. In the excessively huge House, Republicans now hold a huge 298-102 veto-proof majority (it was D 225-175 before) and also took the Senate, 19-5 (it was D 14-10 before). New Hampshire has a small government libertarian feel (live free or die, after all, is the motto on the license plates); which might explain its tendency to have big swings against incumbent parties (Republicans in 2006-2008, Democrats in 2010).

New Mexico (R gain from D): New Mexico will have its first female Latina governor, Susana Martinez in January. She won 53.6% against 46.4% for Democratic LG Diane Denish in a race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who has become unpopular with the campaign financing scandal which also killed his chances to join cabinet back in 2009. It may be surprising, but Martinez did well with Latinos overall (though probably narrowly lost them). That is largely because New Mexico’s Latino population, the biggest as a % share in the country, is largely of old Spanish stock rather than recent Mexican stock. The Spanish folks have been around for ages, and probably care much less about stuff such as illegal immigration. Seemingly, Navajo turnout was also dirt-poor (which isn’t surprising).

New York (D hold): AG Andrew Cuomo, son of fmr. Gov. Mario Cuomo, won easily over his insane Tea Party GOP opponent Carl Paladino, who is also the perfect stereotype of a shady Italian mafioso. Cuomo won 61.4% against 34.1% for Paladino, who will go back to his “construction business” soon enough. World-famous Rent is too damn high Party candidate Jimmy McMillan won only 1% of the vote. Paladino, however, managed to do insanely well in western upstate NY, where he’s from and won a landslide in his home county of Erie (a traditionally Democratic place, which includes Buffalo). Downballot, Democrat Eric Schneiderman easily held Cuomo’s old job but Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was only narrowly reelected, probably because he isn’t squeaky clean himself on the financial front of things. The status of New York’s (Republican gerrymandered) Senate, the most dysfunctional legislature in the country, is still undecided, with Republicans at 30 against 29 for Democrats will 3 seats undecided. On the redistricting front, if Republicans get the Senate, a bi-partisan incumbent protection map will likely win out.

Ohio (R gain from D): Ohio has suffered a lot from the economic crisis, and it made its incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland pay the price. Despite a strong GOTV machine, Strickland, with 46.7%, has narrowly lost to Republican John Kasich who won 49.4%. The Republican wave also extended downballot, with Republicans taking control the House easily and seemingly sweeping all statewide positions. Notably, populist Democratic AG Richard Cordray narrowly lost to Mike DeWine (who had gotten a trouncing in the 2006 Senate race in Ohio). Control of all these positions give Republicans control over the redistricting process, a big advantage for them.

Oklahoma (R gain from D): Former Rep. Mary Fallin, a Republican, easily defeated Lt. Gov. Jari Askins with 60.1% against 39.9% for Askins. This seat was held by term-limited Democratic Gov. Brad Henry. Republicans also swept away all statewide offices, a number of which were still held by Democrats. In the state’s two most interesting ballot measures, one that would prohibit mandated health care passed with 64.7% in favour while another which would forbid use of international law or sharia law in state courts passed with 70% in favour.

Oregon (D hold): In Oregon, former Governor John Kitzhaber narrowly got another nonconsecutive term, winning 49.2% against 48.1% for Republican Chris Dudley, a former pro basketball player. Legislative control remains undecided, with the House tied at 30 apiece and the Senate at 15-13 for Dems with 2 undecided.

Pennsylvania (R gain from D): Republican AG Tom Corbett easily won the contest to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in a state which has suffered a lot from the economic crisis. Corbett won 54.5% against 45.5% for Democrat Dan Onorato, who ran a pretty bad campaign. Republicans also took control of the House easily, giving them full control in the legislature and thus free hands on the redistricting process.

Rhode Island (I gain from R): Former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, a liberal Republican who became an Independent and backed Obama in 2008, was elected governor just 4 years after losing his Senate seat. Chafee, the most left-wing candidate in the race, took 36.1% against 33.6% for Republican John Robitaille, who did surprisingly well. Democrat Frank Caprio, who ran to Chafee’s right, seems to have suffered a lot from the comment he made in response to Obama’s decision not to endorse him: “he can take his endorsement and shove it”. He won a paltry third with 23%, while Moderate Party candidate Ken Block won a surprisingly good 6.5%. Democrats easily held statewide offices and the legislature. A ballot measure to remove “and Providence Plantations” from official state name failed badly, with 77.9% against.

South Carolina (R hold): Nikki Haley, an Indian-American woman, will succeed Mark Sanford after winning a surprisingly close race with 51.4% against 47.1% for Democrat Vincent Sheheen. The race ended up being surprisingly close, given that most thought Haley would glide to victory. Nobody seems to have come up with a good suggestion as to why it got close, but the common wisdom seems to be a mix between a good Democratic candidate and perhaps lingering racism from some voters (just as Bobby Jindal suffered from the same thing in Louisiana in 2003).

South Dakota (R hold): Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, won 61.5% against 38.5% for Democrat Scott Heidepriem.

Tennessee (R gain from D): Republican Bill Haslam won a landslide in a seat left open by term-limited Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. He won 65% against his little-known and equally conservative Democratic opponent Mike McWherter who managed to get only 33.1%. Republicans also turned a narrow edge in the House into a big majority.

Texas (R hold): In office since Bush became President in 2001, Gov. Rick Perry won a third full term easily, a win which solidifies him in a potential run for national office soon. Perry, thought to be vulnerable early on, won 55.1% against 42.3% for Democrat Bill White, a former Houston mayor. White did better than Obama in old Dixiecrat places in east Texas, but still lost handily statewide. In addition to holding all other statewide positions, Republicans also routed Democrats in the House, where Democrats thought they could overturn the 76-74 Republican edge there. On the contrary, Republicans now hold a 99-51 majority there.

Utah (R hold): Incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert, in office since his predecessor Jon Huntsman was named ambassador to China in 2009, won his first term easily with 64.2% against 31.8% for Democrat Peter Corroon. Corroon won only one county, Summit.

Vermont (D gain from R): Left open with the retirement of Gov. Jim Douglas (R), Vermont was one of the Democrats’ few bright spots. State Senate President Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, won narrowly over Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, a moderate Republican. Shumlin won 49.6% against 47.8% for Dubie, meaning that the legislature will elect the governor given that nobody has over 50% – but that’s a formality and Shumlin will win while Dubie has already conceded. Dubie ran a moderate campaign focused on jobs and taxes, while Shumlin gave social issues such as abortion and gay marriage a larger role. Dubie might have been hurt by two factors: negative ads backfiring on him and his support for controversial Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The legislature remains solidly Democratic, but Republicans did better in other statewide races, narrowly holding Dubie’s old seat (LG) and reelecting Auditor Thomas Salmon, a former Democrat who switched parties.

Wisconsin (R gain from D): Held by unpopular retiring Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, Republicans easily won in Wisconsin with 52.3% for Milwaukee County exec Scott Walker against 46.6% for Democrat Tom Barrett, who still got surprisingly close to Walker. Republicans also took control of both houses, giving them redistricting power.

Wyoming (R gain from D): Republican Matt Mead easily won term-limited Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s seat, taking 71.6% against 25.1% for Democrat Leslie Petersen. Mead even narrowly won traditionally Democratic Teton County, ski bunny country.

In other state legislative results, Republicans took North Carolina’s House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction, meaning that Republicans will get to undo last time’s Democratic gerrymander in their favour (the Democratic governor has no veto power over that). The Republicans also gained Indiana’s House and easily held the Senate.

One can’t conclude this wrap-up of the midterms without featuring the best campaign ads of this cycle, and likely of the decade: Dale Peterson, defeated in the primary for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner.

Tea drinking season in the US

Rarely has a midterm primary season in the US generated so much press coverage, especially abroad. It isn’t a stretch to say that the Tea Party movement and the enthusiasm it has generated in the United States is one of the main causes for this exceptional interest in what is usually a boring thing which interests only the most passionate American psephologist. In the story of these primaries, we had the defeat of two sitting Republican Senators, Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) by candidates running to their right. The latest incident in the Tea Party’s wild ride is the recent primary in Delaware.

Delaware has a special election for the US Senate seat vacated in January 2009 by Joe Biden, and, up until recently, it hadn’t generated much interest. Mike Castle, the state’s sole Representative in the House and a rather senior moderate Republican figure in Washington circles, announced his intention to run for Senate, likely as a nice way to seal off a long career including two terms as Governor and nearly eighteen years as the state’s Representative. Because politics in Delaware have historically been based on a gentlemen’s agreement between the main Democratic and Republican officials in the small state, Joe Biden’s son, Beau, the state’s AG, declined to run against Castle and instead that job went to former New Castle County executive Chris Coons, who was the sacrificial lamb against Mike Castle, whose senior moderate stature would most likely have carried him easily to the Senate.

Lisa Murkowsi’s defeat by the Tea Partier Joe Miller, who had Palin’s endorsement, was not all that surprising. Murkowski, whose corrupt father was defeated by Palin in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, did not have a blank slate in terms of corruption and shady dealings. She was a major pork-barrel spender and a key Washington insider (and one open to working with Democrats), something which isn’t an asset in Republican primaries. On these conditions, it seemed unlikely that Mike Castle could lose. He was an honest man, moderate and well-respected. He also didn’t have a history of personal rivalry and family feud with Sarah Palin, like Murkowski had. On top of that, his opponent to his right, Christine O’Donnell (who had run against Joe Biden for Senate in 2008 and lost badly), wasn’t as intelligent and able as Joe Miller and her outings on conservative talk radio weren’t crowned with success. She said she had won two counties against Biden in 2008 (she won none), then backtracked to say she had tied in both and then said she had tied in one (she had come close in Sussex County, but lost by 272 votes there). She got press saying she was anti-masturbation. Furthermore, historically, O’Donnell, who had run in a GOP primary in 2007 and came third with a paltry 17%, has historically played the role of every party’s inoffensive crazy oddball. Normally, these type of candidates don’t cause much pain to old respected politicos. But in this climate of Republican anger at Obama’s policies and his big-government or ‘socialist’ agenda, O’Donnell managed to portray Mike Castle as a fake Republican who would be another vote for Obama and who did not have good conservative credentials. In doing so, in the context of a month, she managed to turn opinion against Mike Castle. What O’Donnell, not a strong candidate at any rate, managed to do, is quite impressive and speaks volumes about the radicalization of the Republican Party.

O’Donnell, strong from a Palin endorsement, defeated Mike Castle 53-47, a six-point margin, not predicted by any poll (PPP’s shock poll on Monday had her up 3). Mike Castle showed some strength in New Castle County, which he won 58-42, but O’Donnell beat him by massive margins in Delaware’s two other more southern and conservative counties.

However, O’Donnell is now more than likely to lose rather badly, likely by double digits, to Chris Coons. If one Democrat is unhappy, it must be Beau Biden, who declined to run in order to maintain the Delaware gentlemen’s agreement and to give Mike Castle his shot in the Senate. But now that O’Donnell has upset this longtime gentlemen’s agreement, Beau Biden is left all alone without any major political openings unless Senator Carper retires in 2012.

In other primaries on Tuesday, teabagger Carl Paladino won the New York, soundly defeating 62-38 Rick Lazio, the NY GOP’s perennial fail candidate, though Rick Lazio will be running on the Conservative line, splitting the vote of an already weak Republican Party in New York and increasing Andrew Cuomo’s chances to win from 95% to 99%. In New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte narrowly survived her Senate primary against Tea Party-backed businessman Ovide Lamontagne, winning 38% to Lamontagne’s 37%, even though Ayotte’s conservative credentials were far more firmly established than Mike Castle’s. Ayotte’s win is good for Republican odds to hold on to Judd Gregg’s seat.

CO, CT, GA, MN, TN Primaries (USA) 2010

On May 5, a primary was held in Tennessee and on May 10, primaries or primary runoffs were held in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia and Minnesota ahead of the American mid-term elections on November 4. In continuing coverage, here’s a rundown of the main primary battles in these five states.

Colorado

Colorado, a traditionally ‘purple’ state, has turned heavily Democratic at almost all levels of government since 2006-2008, but Obama’s unpopularity in this traditionally ‘libertarian’ state and a shift to the right in the country, Colorado’s Democrats find themselves in tough races to retain a Senate seat and the Governor’s mansion. In their quest to retain these big prizes, they find themselves helped by the far-right and the Colorado Republicans.

The Democrats picked up an open Republican-held Senate seat in 2004 with Ken Salazar, who stepped down to become Obama’s Secretary of the Interior. Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, appointed a young little-known Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Michael Bennet, to the Senate seat. Bennet’s very low name recognition hurt him in polls against Republican contenders earlier this year and also won him a primary challenge from former state house speaker Andrew Romanoff, who ran on a liberal grassroots-based campaign. The primary battle was also seen by some as a showdown between Obama – represented by Bennet, who supported him in 2008 and Hillary/Bill Clinton – represented by Romanoff, who supported Hillary’s 2008 campaign. Romanoff gained ground rapidly in polls though struggled a bit later on, which led him to sell his own house to finance his campaign.

On the Republican side, the two contenders were Weld County district attorney Ken Buck and former Lt. Governor Jane Norton. Norton, the Republican establishment candidate, was seen by the party’s activist base as a establishment stalwart and a party hack, leading the Tea Partier and activists to get behind Ken Buck, a more ‘libertarian’/GOP grassroots figure, though the Tea Partiers were not so happy with Buck when he called them, on the record, stupid. Latest polling indicated a neck-and-neck race.

In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Governor Bill Ritter, performing poorly in polls, read the writing on the wall and retired, leaving the spot open for popular Denver Mayor John Hickelooper. The GOP cast was far from top-notch, featuring former Rep. Scott McInnis, who got in trouble over a plagiarism case, and Dan Maes. Neither of them got much affection from the conservative base and the Tea Party, a fact which led former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a famous tough ‘secure the border’ anti-immigration congressman, to jump into the race – for the Constitution Party. The Democrats should be quite happy with Tancredo’s decision, given that polling since he jumped him gave him 24% or so and allowed Hickelooper to lead the polls by a wide margin over the divided right. Here are the results:

Senate (Dem and Rep)

Michael Bennet (D) 54.2%
Andrew Romanoff (D) 45.8%

Ken Buck (R) 51.6%
Jane Norton (R) 48.4%

Governor (Rep)

Dan Maes (R) 50.7%
Scott McInnis (R) 49.3%

On the Democratic side, voters backed the establishment candidate, but Republicans went with the underdog and maverick-type candidates in both races. In terms of electability, both parties likely made the right choices: a late poll by PPP showed Bennet beating both Republican contenders, while Romanoff was statistically tied with both of them. Furthermore, Norton, widely seen as an establishment party hack, would have done more poorly than Buck will manage to do. Bennet beat Buck by 3% in yesterday’s poll, but the race is still wide open. On the gubernatorial side, Dan Maes’ victory gives the Republican a slightly less steep hill to climb, but he’ll still have to contend with Tancredo, although Tancredo’s high support of 24% should evaporate as Republicans return to the party’s candidate, though Hickenlooper should be counted with an advantage in this race. But November, in both cases, is still a long way away.

In House races on the GOP side, State Rep. establishment candidate Scott Tipton won the primary in CO-03 to face Democrat John Salazar. He beat the rugged tea party challenger Bob McConnell 56-44. The other main race is in the suburban 7th, held by Democrat Ed Perlmutter. He’ll face a black Republican, Ryan Frazier, who beat attorney Lang Sias 64-36. Both races will be tight in November.

Connecticut

Democratic Senator Chris Dodd and Republican Governor Jodi Rell will be retiring this year, leaving both main seats up for grabs. Dodd’s retirement came as a blessing for Democrats, who were badly trailing Republicans because Dodd had been involved in some shaky financial dealings on his side. They got the popular Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to run, but Blumenthal’s gaffe concerning his non-service in Vietnam has made the race in November a bit less of a safe Dem contest. The Republican contest gained notoriety as a showdown between former WWE magnate Linda McMahon, who has lots of money, and former Rep. Rob Simmons, a moderate Republican. Peter Schiff, a Tea Party-endorsed Paulite, was the third man in the race, with the backing of Ron Paul’s internet fanboy base. McMahon beat Simmons 52-44 in an earlier convention, which allowed both of them to be placed on the primary ballot (party rules required a candidate to win at least 15% at the convention to get on the ballot, or gather 10,000 signatures – which is what Schiff did). Simmons then suspended his campaign, but in late July got back in, but to no avail since McMahon had already owned the field with her ad frenzy and putting millions into her campaign. Money buys Republican contenders lots of stuff.

Democrats would like to pick up the GOP-held Governor’s mansion (they’d like to have control of all 6 New England gubernatorial mansions this year, with CT, RI and VT being held by retiring Republicans). Their two main candidates were Ned Lamont, the liberal grassroots favourite who beat Joe Lieberman in the 06 Senate primary but lost to Lieberman (Ind) in November; and ’06 Governor candidate and former Stamford mayor Dan Malloy. On the Republican side, it was an unequal contest between Bush fundraiser and former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley and Lt. Governor Michael Fedele, with Oz Griebel being the third man in the race. Here are the results:

Senate (Rep)

Linda McMahon (R) 49.1%
Rob Simmons (R) 28.1%
Peter Schiff (R) 22.7%

Governor (Dem + Rep)

Dan Malloy (D) 57.8%
Ned Lamont (D) 42.2%

Tom Foley (R) 42.3%
Michael Fedele (R) 39%
Oz Griebel (R) 18.6%

The main shock of the night is Ned Lamont’s defeat, yet again, but this time in a primary in which he was the favourite. It’s hard to see what went wrong for Lamont this time, but he definitely lost his base of support with anti-Iraq War liberal Democrats this time around. Or perhaps being a super-wealthy person running in a Democratic primary isn’t an asset in a year where people aren’t all that fond of rich people and Wall Street-type businessmen. In other races, predictable things happened: McMahon, with loads of cash, trounced on-and-off candidate Simmons, who only won his old CD in eastern Connecticut, but Schiff did surprisingly well, performing best in suburban areas close to the NYC metro. Blumenthal and Malloy are the favourites in their respective races as of now, but McMahon and Foley shouldn’t be counted out early.

Did I say that money buys everything for Republicans? Not so. In the GOP primary in the 4th district, the guy with the least cash, State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, came first with 39.7% against Justin Bernier (32%) but most importantly wealthy real estate magnate Mark Greenberg who won 28.3%.

Georgia – Runoff

A primary election runoff was held in Georgia as well on May 10, featuring a gubernatorial showdown on the Republican side between Georgia SoS Karen Handel and former Rep. Nathan Deal. Handel got 34% in the first round against Deal’s 22.9%, and, with the support of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, she was the big favourite, especially against Deal who got desperate in the last days with tough attack ads on Handel – who attacked Deal on the ethical front. The results go against the big narrative of establishment defeats and gives a black eye to Palin-Tea Party folks.

Nathan Deal (R) 50.2%
Karen Handel (R) 49.8%

The difference between Handel and Deal was roughly 2,400 votes, but Handel has already conceded the election and thrown her support behind Deal.

The map is revealing of the electorate of the Tea Party. Handel dominated the Atlanta urban and suburban region, where the Republican electorate is both white and generally upper-middle-class, thus very keen on the low taxes message. She also did well in most Black Belt counties and surrounding white flight areas, areas where the GOP electorate is obviously majority white. At risk of being overly controversial, I won’t delve into the details about Black Belt white voters.

Though polling disagrees, many feel that Deal is the weakest candidate in November against a top-tier Democratic nominee, former Governor Roy Barnes, who lost to Governor Sonny Perdue in the Confederate flag-dominated 2003 election, but who stands a real chance at picking this seat up in November.

Minnesota

Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has his eyes set on 2012 already, is term-limited, leaving Democrats (in Minnesota, known as the DFL) with good chances at winning back this traditionally Democratic state in November.

At a DFL convention earlier this year, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak won the straw poll against State House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, but Rybak later dropped out to endorse Kelliher. The straw poll was useless because the big name in the race, former Senator Mark Dayton, wasn’t in it. Dayton, who was a rather poor Senator known for his erratic behaviour, came back into politics as some kind of populist candidate whose message is centered a lot around the idea of defending the common man. Matt Entenza, a former state house minority leader, was the third and distant candidate in the contest. Here are the results:

Mark Dayton (D) 41.3%
Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D) 39.8%
Matt Entenza (D) 18.2%
Peter Idusogie (D) 0.7%

Dayton faced a surprisingly close race and only came ahead of Kelliher very late in the night. Perhaps Democrats rallied around Kelliher, who was more the establishment candidate, later in the race? However, Democrats should be pleased that Dayton won, because he has a higher name recognition and his primary electorate reflects a much wider base, demographically, than Kelliher’s very urban support, big in Minneapolis-Saint Paul but rather weak outside of those places. Dayton is the favourite in a two-and-a-half man race against Republican Tom Emmer (who trounced token joke challengers), who is very far to the right and a poor fit for the state and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, who could draw nearly 10% support in a field where the top two contenders are very much establishment-type party stalwarts.

Tennessee

Republicans will win back Tennessee’s gubernatorial mansion in November with the retirement of term-limited Democratic incumbent Phil Bredesen, who was a popular conservative Democrat. The big names in the Republican race for Governor held on May 5 were Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, not too extreme for the party and the establishment favourite; as well as Rep. Zach Wamp and Tea Party-supported Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. Wamp and Ramsey, trailing in polls, got desperate and got out the usual ‘God card’ by playing up their supposed Christian values. Wamp went off the deep end when he said that if Republicans didn’t win and health care wasn’t repealed, states would secede; while Ramsey said weird things about Islam. There was, of course, YouTube favourite Basil Marceaux, an old lunatic, who got popular by saying that he’d kill Lindsay Lohan if she committed a crime or granting his voters immunity from prosecution.

Bill Haslam (R) 47.4%
Zach Wamp (R) 29.2%
Ron Ramsey (R) 22%
Joe Kirkpatrick (R) 0.9%
Basil Marceaux (R) 0.5%

Haslam is, of course, the overwhelming favourite going into November against Democratic nominee Mike McWherter (nominated unopposed), a businessman-son of former Governor typical Blue Dog Democrat. Neither of those two candidates will appeal much to liberal Democrats.

The primary results were favourable for Democrats, since their best candidates for November won and the Obama camp didn’t get a black eye after Obama-backed Michael Bennet defeated liberal insurgent Clintonite Romanoff in Colorado. On the Republican side, bad blood between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel in Georgia could hurt the party there in its attempts to hold onto the state in November. In Connecticut, picking Malloy over Lamont prevents attacks on Lamont as being too liberal to win while Linda McMahon’s victory will allow Blumenthal to take out the anti-Washington populistic anti-big business message that could carry lots of weight in a year like 2010. Meanwhile, in the establishment vs. anti-establishment battle which has dominated primaries this year, the results from last night indicate that Democrats are more keen on backing the establishment candidates – a relief for Obama who faces discontent from the party’s more liberal base, but Republicans are more angry in this climate and back anti-establishment candidates. Yet, Handel’s surprise defeat in Georgia did give a black eye of sorts to Sarah Palin, though Handel wouldn’t have gone that far if it wasn’t for Palin.

Kansas, Michigan and Missouri (USA) Primaries 2010

After an unfortunate hiatus in coverage of American primary elections in the run-up to the November midterm elections, primary coverage returns with three primaries held yesterday, August 3, in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri.

Kansas

The general election for Senate and Governor in the Midwestern state of Kansas won’t provide much excitement, so the primary ballot was the big happening in Kansas.

A rare species was elected Governor of Kansas in 2002 – a Democrat, Kathleen Sebelius, who won easy re-election in 2006 but was named to President Obama’s cabinet in 2009 and was replaced by her Lt. Governor, Mark Parkinson, also a Democrat. However, Parkinson isn’t running for re-election and the top contender is Republican Senator Sam Brownback, a strong social conservative. Brownback, the overwhelming favourite come November, easily trounced a challenge from the far-right nutjobs, trouncing scary lady Joan Heffington with 82.2% to 17.8% yesterday. Democratic State Senator Tom Holland was unopposed for the Democratic sacrificial lamb nomination. The last poll showed Senator Brownback leading Tom Holland 59-31.

The big contest last night was a closely-watched Republican Senate primary, the winner of which will most certainly become Senator in November. In a four-person field, the top two contenders were Representative Jerry Moran (KS-01) and Representative Todd Tiahrt (KS-04). Moran, who has enjoyed a large lead in polls since the race kicked off, is the establishment’s favourite and somewhat wrongly considered the most ‘moderate’ contender. Indeed, he’s been endorsed by John McCain but also hardcore conservatives like Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn or John Thune. Tiahrt, who is even more right-wing than Moran, especially on social issues, is the “maverick” choice chosen by Sarah Palin, Karl Rove and James Inhofe. Tiahrt, maybe as a result of Palin’s endorsement, catched up with Moran in polls in the last few days and gave Moran a close race.

On the Democratic side, there was a surprisingly large field of people contending to lose by a landslide in November. The top one was Lisa Johnston, a university administrator, followed by Charles Schollenberger, retired communications exec and David Haley, a State Senator from Kansas City. Here are the results:

Jerry Moran (R) 49.7%
Todd Tiahrt (R) 44.6%
Tom Little (R) 3.1%
Bob Londerholm (R) 2.5%

Lisa Johnston (D) 31%
Charles Schollenberger (D) 23.5%
David Haley (D) 19.4%
Patrick Wiesner (D) 16.3%
Robert Conroy (D) 9.8%

Tiahrt did surprisingly well given how large his deficit in polls was prior to the vote, and played especially well in his congressional district, the 4th, covering southeastern Kansas but also played surprisingly well in and around Kansas City. Moran, on the other hand, owned in his old district, the 1st, covering sparsely populated western Kansas. I can’t make heads or tails about the result in Decatur County.

In House races, State Senator Tim Huelskamp will replace Jerry Moran in Kansas’ 1st, after narrowly beating fellow State Senator Jim Barnett. The Democrats are facing a tough race to retain their sole remaining seat in Kansas, the small urban 3rd, covering Kansas City and its inner suburbs, especially after the retirement of incumbent Dennis Moore. However, they may be helped in their attempts at holding the seat by Moore’s wife, Stephene Moore, who defeated token primary opposition for the Democratic nomination. She’ll face State Rep Kevin Yoder, who won a divided Republican primary. In Tiahrt’s old seat, Mike Pompeo rather easily won the Republican nomination and he enters as the favourite over a surprisingly strong fundraiser, Democrat State Rep. Raj Goyle (a rare non-white guy in rural Kansas). Goyle has raised over a million bucks so far, but the Republicans should ward off the challenge easily come November.

Michigan

An economically troubled state known for its struggling auto industry, Michigan’s big race is a gubernatorial contest where incumbent Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm is term-limited. Local Democrats seem to be in bad terms with voters who hold them accountable for the state’s economic mess, giving the Republicans an edge in a traditionally safe Democratic state.

After Lt. Governor John Cherry, likely too associated with unpopular Governor Granholm to be a good candidate, bowed out; the centrist Democratic Speaker of the state House Andy Dillon became the favourite, but his anti-union rhetoric and conservative positions on issues such as abortion have made him unpopular with liberals and union backers, who have rallied behind young populist Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Bernero caught up with Dillon late in the campaign and got the crucial last-days momentum.

On the Republican side, there was an heavy primary. Rick Snyder, a businessman, got the momentum late in the race as the earlier favourite, Representative Pete Hoekstra saw his momentum slip away in Snyder’s favour. Hoekstra, who represents the heavily conservative Dutch-populated parts of western Michigan in the House, was a tough social conservative but that didn’t preclude a challenge to his right by Attorney General Mike Cox, who saw his late advantage disappear after allegations that he attended a house party hosted by former embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The 2006 Republican Senatorial nominee Mike Bouchard, a sheriff, was trailing in a distant fourth place. Here are the results:

Rick Snyder (R) 36.4%
Pete Hoekstra (R) 26.8%
Mike Cox (R) 23%
Mike Bouchard (R) 12.2%
Tom George (R) 1.6%

Virg Bernero (D) 58.6%
Andy Dillon (D) 41.4%

On the Democratic side, Bernero won a large victory, helped by big margins in and around emblematic struggling towns like Flint. He did more poorly in Detroit and the Upper Peninsula, but his margin remained surprisingly large over former favourite Andy Dillon. Another establishment favourite defeated?

On the Republican side, Snyder also won by a surprisingly large margin and dominated throughout most of the state. Hoekstra did well in his district – the heavily Dutch and conservative parts of the state, while Cox did well in the Upper Peninsula and other random counties in the Lower Peninsula.

Snyder is the early favourite in the race, with a June 10 Rasmussen poll showing him 12 points ahead of Bernero, but that’s an old poll and the race has probably tightened up since then.

In big House races, the major primary was a Republican primary in the 1st district, held by retiring Democrat Bart Stupak, of health care legislation fame. The district, which covers the UP and the northern Lower Peninsula, is socially conservative but pro-union, and a top GOP target. On early results, Tea Party favourite Dan Benishek has edged out establishment candidate State Sen. Jason Allen by a mere 14 votes in a primary which will go to a recount – but not to a runoff (Michigan has no runoffs). Only time will tell if the likely nomination of the tea party’s candidate will help or hurt State Rep. Gary McDowell (D), who, like Stupak, is conservative on social issues. In the 2nd’s Republican Dutch-American contest, it seems like State Rep. Bill Huizenga, with a mere 25.4%, has edged out second-place former football player Jay Riemersma who got 24.8%. State Sen. Wayne Kuipers trailed in third with 21.8%. Huizenga will easily defeat 2008 Democratic nominee Fred Johnson, who won again, in November. In a Republican primary battle in the GOP-held 6th, incumbent Rep. Fred Upton defeated another Dutchman (and also a big conservative-libertarian), former Rep. Jack Hoodgendyk but garnered a relatively paltry 57.1% against the 2008 Senate nominee’s 42.9%. In the 7th, held by freshman Democrat Mark Schauer, ex-Rep. Tim Walberg (R), defeated by Schauer in 2008, has won the right to a rematch by beating conservative attorney Brian Rooney 58-32. Another Democratic freshman, Gary Peters in the suburban 9th, probably faces an easier race in November against a former State Rep, Rocky Raczkowski, another failed Senate nominee back in 2002. The other big race was, ironically, in inner city Detroit, on the Democratic side, between incumbent Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, mother of embattled former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and State Sen. Hansen Clarke. Clarke won 47-41 over the incumbent, who becomes the fourth incumbent Rep to lose re-nomination. Needless to say, Clarke will trounce opposition in November.

Missouri

The old bellwether swing state of Missouri has gotten more Republican in recent years, most notably by breaking its decades-long streak of choosing presidential winners in 2008 by narrowly placing McCain ahead of Obama. Yet, Democrats are hopeful that they can go against the tide in Missouri and pickup retiring Republican Kit Bond’s Senate seat. The Democratic nominee for Senate is Robin Carnahan, incumbent Sec. of State but whose main claim to fame is being the daughter of Jean Carnahan, who served in the Senate between 2001 and 2002 replacing her late husband, Mel Carnahan, also a former Governor, who was elected – posthumously – to the Senate in 2000 defeating Republican incumbent John Ashcroft. She easily trounced token opposition.

Her Republican rival will be Representative Roy Blunt, father of former Governor Matt Blunt, who also defeated token opposition, notably from State Sen. Chuck Purgason who pulled only 13.1% to Blunt’s 71%.

Polls indicate that while Carnahan had the edge in 2009, Blunt is now the light favourite, leading by 6 points in the last poll by Rasmussen. Remains to be seen if Democrats will pull closer once Carnahan kicks off her campaign.

The only House race which isn’t a slam dunk for either side in November is the 4th, where Republicans are hoping to knock off centrist Democrat Ike Skelton, who has held this conservative seat since 1977. Though he votes with the Democrat’s liberal line on a lot of issues, Ike Skelton’s low-key demeanor has helped him survive in this seat which gave McCain 61% of the vote in 2008 – while at the same time giving Ike Skelton 66%. Skelton defeated a hopeless challenger, and will face Republican State Sen. Bill Stouffer, who beat social conservative State Rep. Vicky Hartzler 41-30 last night.

In Roy Blunt’s open seat deep in the Republican Ozarks, cowboy hat-wearing auctioneer/realtor Billy Long defeated State Sen. Jack Goodman with 36.5% to Goodman’s 29%.

Tennessee will vote tomorrow, August 5. The big race is for Governor, where Democratic incumbent Phil Bredesen is ineligible for re-election. On the Republican side, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam is the frontrunner while Representative Zach Wamp and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey are fighting it out for what will likely be second place for either. Also noteworthy in this race, of course, is internet star Basil Marceaux, who would notably force people to carry guns and who said he’d need to kill Lindsay Lohan if she murdered someone.

After watching Basil Marceaux’s electoral outing on the 5th, August 10th promises to be a big day with much-watched contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Connecticut. In Colorado, we’ll see if incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet will fall to Andrew Romanoff and which one of Ken Buck or Jane Norton will take on the Democratic nominee. In Minnesota, we’ll see how former Senator Mark Dayton (D) performs in his bid to become Governor. In Connecticut, it’s a big battle on the Republican side between former WWE executive Linda McMahon, the Tea Party’s Peter Schiff and also former Rep. Rob Simmons, a moderate Republican who recently re-entered the race after leaving it in May.