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May 19, 2010

About Last Night....

Lots of different takes on what the results mean.

One thing is clear, Obama can't deliver for Democrats. Even the AP notices that.

Sen. Arlen Specter became the fourth Democrat in seven months to lose a high-profile race despite the president's active involvement, raising doubts about Obama's ability to help fellow Democrats in this November's elections.

The first three candidates fell to Republicans. But Specter's loss Tuesday to Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania's Democratic senatorial primary cast doubts on Obama's influence and popularity even within his own party — and in a battleground state, no less.

Of course, it's possible that Democrats will fare better than expected this fall. And there's only so much that any president can do to help other candidates, especially in a non-presidential election year.

Still, Obama's poor record thus far could hurt his legislative agenda if Democratic lawmakers decide they need some distance from him as they seek re-election in what is shaping up as a pro-Republican year. Conversely, it might embolden Republican lawmakers and candidates who oppose him.

In Arkansas, Blanche "I've always relied on the kindness of DC insiders" Lincoln barely beat Lt. Bill Halter but since neither candidate got 50% of the vote, they are headed to a runoff.

One of Lincoln's primary issues was getting tough on Wall St. Funny thing is, Chris Dodd, expecting the primary to be over, just tried to water down her signature proposal. Now they either have to keep her measure in or pull the rug out from underneath her. Since she's a lost cause in November, they'll probably just cut her loose now.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul and the tea party movement just wiped out establishment Republican Trey Greyson. I still think a guy who is comfortable hanging out on the radio with Alex Jones is a very bad idea for Republicans. I hope he manages to stay focused and disciplined enough to win in November.

Paul has some work to do to get Greyson supporters on board for November. If Greyson Republicans don't come home or just stay home, a safe Republican seat could go to the Democrats.

The big race of the night was the special election in PA-12 to replace Jack Murtha.
There are as many theories on what the Democratic win means as there are people offering them, probably more.

The conventional wisdom is if this really is a Republican wave year, then you would expect to see them winning this kind of seat. The Democrats won a bunch of specials leading up to their victories in '06 and '08. When Democrats won in a place like Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, everyone knew something was up.

On the other hand, despite all the talk about this being a socially conservative district, it does have a 2-1 Democratic advantage and did send Jack Murtha to
Congress for over 30 years.

PA-12 didn't lean that much in the GOP's favor. Yes, as Democrats and MSNBC reporters are enthusiastically pointing out, it is the only district that flipped from voting for John Kerry in '04 to John McCain in '08. But McCain only carried it by 900 votes. And that was after Obama had personally insulted western Pennsylvanians as bitter xenophobes who cling to their guns and God because of economic alienation. Fifty-eight percent of voters in the district were still willing to vote for Democrat John Murtha in 2008.

As Sean Trende has pointed out, Republicans don't need to win districts like PA-12 to win back the House: "there are over sixty districts represented by Democrats with better Republican performances than PA-12. The Republicans' path to 218 seats doesn't necessarily run through this district – in fact, I don't think their path to a 1994-esque 230 seats necessarily runs through this district."

All that plus the Democrat ran as a fairly conservative candidate (anti-health care law and against Cap and Trade). Add that all to the district's long standing addiction to pork, which a Democrat who worked for Murtha is more likely to continue and that's what you get.

While it's possible to explain/rationalize the Democratic victory there, image is important in politics. A Republican victory was what people expected and if Burns had pulled it off, we'd be spinning dreams of huge Republican gains in the fall. It doesn't mean they won't still happen but I think it's time to put away ideas of 100 seats in play and concentrate are more likely targets.


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posted by DrewM. at 12:28 PM

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