The Stunning Victory of Thad Cochran
|Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)|
The answer, in truly bizarre fashion for a race that has just stunned since it started, is in the African-American community. Yes, that's right, the bedrock of the Democratic Party turned out in enormous numbers after Cochran reached out to the communities of north Jackson. This came despite the fact that Democratic pundits across the country universally agreeing it would be easier for the Democrats to beat McDaniel than Cochran in the general election.
Most people called Cochran's appeal to black voters a gambit (at best). African-American voters historically don't turn out for primaries in as strong of numbers, and certainly not to vote for a man who has been largely opposed to President Obama's agenda (in exit polls in north Jackson, most voters said this was the first time they had ever voted for a Republican). And yet, it seems to have worked. What caused this is something that political scientists are going to have to pour over, but it almost assuredly had to do with both McDaniel's past comments regarding race and women (which Cochran had made a key point of his campaign in the past few weeks) and McDaniel's reaction to Cochran reaching out to the black community (a senator should be a senator to all, not just some, and constituents don't like it when you don't listen to them even if you aren't going to vote for them).
This victory begs two pertinent questions for the future, though. One is what this win means for how Thad Cochran will vote in what is surely going to be his final term in office. Without the pressure of running again, will Cochran be a little bit more willing to cross the aisle? I'm not saying he's going to start praising the president at every turn, but there is some precedence of an incumbent moving to the middle after being rejected by their own party and saved by the other (Lisa Murkowski and Joe Lieberman both spring to mind). Particularly on things like unemployment benefits, education reform, and spending bills-will Cochran be a new ally for Harry Reid or the White House?
The second question is more pertinent for DSCC political strategists: how the hell did Thad Cochran get record African-American turnout when Democrats continually struggle to do so in Midterms?!? With major Senate and gubernatorial races in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina this November (all states with more than 20% of the population being black), how can Democrats learn from what happened in Mississippi today to help the likes of Mary Landrieu and Michelle Nunn win their crucial elections?
What is the Status of the Tea Party?
We'll move on from Cochran/McDaniel in a second here, but the last point that this election poses is what is going on with the Tea Party? Just a few weeks after a random challenger rocked past the House Majority Leader the Tea Party had literally everything going for it in Mississippi but dropped the ball. What exactly does this mean? The Tea Party has by-and-large had an awful campaign season-establishment Republicans have consistently won in states like North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky, and now Mississippi, and even in Virginia it's not like the Tea Party was organized there. In addition to Cochran last night, the Tea Party couldn't get Tom Tancredo into the general (the NRSC and NRCC must have been popping champagne on that one considering how damaging Tancredo would have been for the campaigns of Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman). This question is probably unanswerable for now, but it's a serious question heading into the 2016 primaries, as someone like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul are surely going to be pushing for the Tea Party banner, and as a result of that the question has to be asked: what exactly is the Tea Party worth?
The Republicans Get Their Women
|Elise Stefanik (R-NY)|
In addition to Stefanik, the Republicans advanced Patrice Douglas into the runoff in Oklahoma's fifth district, which should bode well for her if she can win (this is a solidly Republican district, so winning the runoff is tantamount to winning the seat), and though she was unopposed, it's worth noting that Mia Love in Utah got one step closer to being the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress as a Republican. Again, these are all steps that pale in comparison to what Democrats have achieved with women in Congress, but it's a strong start.
The Cautionary Tale of Richard Hanna
I'm still not sure what happened with Doug Lamborn in Colorado-did he vote for the Farm Bill or something to tick off the right? That barely there win came completely out of nowhere. However, I can explain Richard Hanna, who is one of only three House Republicans to have endorsed gay marriage, and that fact almost cost him his seat. This wasn't a race on a lot of people's radars, and though he still won, it will likely serve as a cautionary tale for Republicans in marginal district who may want to come out for gay marriage but fear a primary challenge.
Also, a note to the DCCC-it is completely unacceptable that we didn't have a candidate in this race on the off-chance that Hanna had lost. Mitt Romney only won this seat by .4% of the vote-this would have been competitive had Hanna lost to a conservative challenger, something we all could have seen coming.
A Not So Great Night for Democrats
|Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice (D-NY)|
The Democrats admittedly didn't have as much riding on last night, but what they did have going for them was a mixed bag. Pushing aside the fact that Democrats were hoping for some of the Tea Party challengers in New York or Colorado to be successful (to enhance their candidates in November), their actual results were a bit meh. Charlie Rangel won't lose his district (no Democrat could), but he's an embarrassment to the party and the Democrats should have sent a message in Harlem by voting him out of office. Oklahoma Democrats (yes, there is such a thing) don't have a prayer of winning against Rep. Jim Lankford in the general election for the Senate, but they at least had a scandal-free, sitting state senator in Connie Johnson to vote for in the primary, but thanks to people randomly voting (who does that, especially in a primary?!?), perennial gadfly Jim Rogers (who persistently wins huge vote totals in Oklahoma despite never campaigning or debating) pushed her into a runoff. This depletes Johnson's resources for the general, and part of why Democrats occasionally like to run strong on-paper candidates in states like Oklahoma is to see what areas of the state have become more in-their-column. Depleted resources mean less accurate results.
The news wasn't entirely bad. The Democrats got their preferred candidate to succeed Carolyn McCarthy in Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and in Maryland the Democrats wisely chose Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown over controversial Attorney General Doug Gansler to be their gubernatorial candidate. But this is lackluster for the Democrats considering how few elections they had last night, and something they should be looking hard at themselves for in the coming months and certainly headed toward November.
Those were my standouts-what about yours? What really shocked you about last night's elections?