Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Republican Wave Hits Land

In Governor, House, Senate on November 5, 2014 at 10:43 am

As was beginning to be forecast during the past weekend, the speculated-about Republican wave did form, and it hit the political terrain with much greater force than predicted.

The 2014 election is as strong a Republican wave as occurred in 1980, 1994, and 2010. GOP candidates may exceed 247 seats in the House (and could reach 250), which will be the largest majority they’ve had since reaching 270 seats all the way back in the 1928 election. They also exceeded expectations in the Senate by winning at least 53 seats, and actually increased their total of governorships in the face of virtually all predictions projecting GOP losses.

Republicans successfully took control from the Senate Democrats and gained eight seats for total of 53 with Louisiana in a run-off still to come in December. Senate Committee leadership will now all change to Republican and the membership ratios between the two parties will reflect the full Senate’s new partisan division that will be finalized in the next few weeks.

The Louisiana Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) is still to be decided in a Dec. 6 run-off. Sen. Landrieu barely finished first in the state’s “jungle” primary (42 percent) and came nowhere close to obtaining 50 percent of the vote needed to win the election. Not only will this election decide who holds the seat from Louisiana, but whether the balance of power in the entire Senate is 53-47 or 54-46.

In early 2013, not many people thought Republicans could obtain the Senate majority. But 2014 brought low approval ratings for President Obama and the Democrats, which turned the tide in favor of Republicans despite the GOP having even lower approval numbers. The 2014 election featured a unique voting pattern because both parties are unpopular. The low mid-term turnout factored heavily into these results, just as it did in 2010. We continue to see a pattern where Republicans do well in the low turnout elections and Democrats excel in the higher turnout, presidential election years. Expect this state of political flux to continue into the 2016 cycle and likely beyond.

In the House, the GOP increased its current majority by gaining as many as 16 seats for a possible total of 250 when the western states’ votes are finally counted. Two seats in California and one in Arizona could come through to expand the majority to the 250 plateau.

For the most part, committee leadership and membership will be tweaked somewhat, but most chairmen will remain in their current positions. Major posts such as House Ways & Means, Agriculture, and Oversight and Government Reform will choose new chairmen.

Republicans held their majority despite Congress’s approval ratings dropping to historic lows in job approval. Moreover, Republicans hold favorability ratings even lower than for Democrats and President Obama yet they were able to substantially improve their political position. Redistricting, the lack of a strong Democratic candidate recruitment class, especially in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia where the party has the potential of running strong, and the inability for Democrats to create more offensive opportunities led to the result. Additionally, the Democrats found themselves on defense in too many seats, thus hampering their ability to expend resources in GOP districts.

Going into the election, 47 seats were open. Added to the number of incumbent defeats, the freshman class will likely feature at least 60 new members when all of the votes are counted, 43 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

Republicans also increased their national majority in state governors from 29 to 31. Democrats drop to 18, with likely one Independent (Alaska’s Bill Walker who appears to have unseated Gov. Sean Parnell (R))

Only one GOP incumbent, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, lost his bid for re-election to a Democratic candidate. Republicans gained open seats in Arkansas, Maryland, and Massachusetts, while defeating incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in Illinois.

The Maryland race, featuring Republican attorney Larry Hogan, Jr., whose father had previously run for governor, captured the state’s top job with a stunning 54-45 percent victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D). This is the shocker of the evening both because of the Republican victory, and the size of Hogan’s margin.

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