The 2014 midterm election was never going to be kind to Democrats, with a map that favored Republicans to pick up at least some seats in the Senate, and a 2010 redistricting spree that practically guarantees a GOP majority in the House for, well, ever. But with an avalanche of good news about health care and the economy, and a Death Star-sized advantage on the issue of immigration reform, Democrats rolled up their sleeves and ran as hard away from that as they could. So, how’d that work out for them?
Of the many high-and-lowlights of Election Day 2014, I think this special Democrat’s Cut of Joni Ernst’s victory speech in Iowa sums it up best. In a six-minute televised speech, Ernst spent a good, solid minute laughing a weird, Fire Marshall Bill laugh at fuck-knows-what, but I like to think it was at the Democrats’ genius strategy:
Things really could not possibly have gone worse for the Democrats. When the dust settles, Republicans will probably hold 54 Senate seats, if Democrat Mark Warner (D-Va.) can hold off a surprise challenge by Ed Gillespie, and may also flip Angus King (I-Maine). If Warner falls, then there could be a 56-44 Republican majority. In the House, Republicans look to pick up 25 seats, and in the states, Democrats lost in solidly blue states like Maryland and Illinois.
It doesn’t look like walking around saying “Barack who?“ and convincing President Obama to break his promise on immigration did Democrats any good at all. But the exit polls from Tuesday’s election strongly suggest that those moves did manage to hurt Democrats in states they desperately needed to carry (well, all of them). While Republicans gained with there bread-and-butter, white voters, Democrats lost support from 2012 among black voters (-4%), Hispanic voters (-7%), unmarried women (-7%), and unmarried men (-6%). As CNN’s last pre-election poll indicted, Obama was not a factor for 45% of voters, while another 19% said their vote was cast in support of the president. Only 33% said they cast their vote in opposition to the president. That number is consistent with every poll ever of Republican opposition to Obama.
So, while Democrats lost ground in their share of every group that Obama carried, preliminary exit polling indicates that turnout among these groups, as a share of the electorate, was mostly flat. That means not only did Democrats lose decent chunks of their voters, they also failed to turn out significantly greater numbers of them. On the Republican side, however, President Obama’s decision to delay immigration action until after the midterms doesn’t seem to have quelled nti-immigration turnout at all. The most important issue to voters was the economy, where Democrats were basically tied with Republicans, but to the 14% of voters to whom immigration was most important, 73% of them voted Republican.
Despite all of this, the conventional wisdom now is that this election was a repudiation of President Obama and his policies, neither of which any of these losers ran on. Policies like health care, which, according to the exit polls, Democrats carried a 59%-39% advantage over Republicans on among voters who thought it was the most important issues. Issues like the minimum wage, which passed in all five states where it was on the ballot, including 69%-31% in Alaska. Personhood lost by a mile in Colorado, while a measure requiring coverage for birth control passed by 32 points in Illinois. Democrats ran candidates who insulted farmers in Iowa and called a U.S. combat veteran “entitled,” but it was Obama who screwed them.
Unfortunately, Democrats have a habit of listening to consultants and pundits, rather than facts, so we can look forward to significant numbers of them drawing the lesson that they didn’t run away from Obama hard enough. Joni Ernst may not have laughed best last night, but she and her party surely haven’t laughed their last.