Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Primary Wrap

I'd say the best thing about the primaries yesterday was that, for political junkies, the returns were exciting, with several races coming down to the wire.  I love election day! 

Politico thinks that the night went well for the Dems...I'm not sure that's right.  Yes, it's clearly good for the Democrats that popular CT AG Richard Blumenthal will face Linda McMahon, but that's not really a story from yesterday; that's a story from months ago.  Similarly, the CO GOP mess in the gubernatorial race wasn't created by yesterday's results.  Scourge of bicyclists Dan Maes certainly looks like a mediocre candidate, but so was Scott McInnis, and while it's possible that McInnis would have dropped out and the GOP could have recruited a great candidate and everything would have worked out, on the other hand perhaps Maes has at least as good a chance of blunting third-party immigrant-bashing candidate Tom Tancredo.  And, again, the GOP is certainly in trouble in the Georgia gubernatorial contest, but that would have been true no matter which candidate won (and while I see now that a recount won't happen, I suspect that usually day-after stories of a party doomed because of a close primary needing a recount turn out to be dramatically overblown).  Basically, I think that yesterday's visible elections are a good set of contests for the Democrats, but I'm not sure that the actual results yesterday did much to change that.

Ah, but What It All Means.  I recommend Seth Masket's initial thoughts on Colorado.  First, I want to endorse his treatment of the idea of "anti-incumbency" feeling.  John Sides (and Christopher Beam) are correct in pointing out that whatever anti-incumbency mood there may be in the nation, most incumbents will, as usual, win.  But Seth is right: it may be a little more difficult for incumbents this year.  The key here is as usual to think about elections in terms of multiple influences and probabilities.  So if in a normal year voters don't really care if a pol is in office or not (incumbents have advantages, but not because voters deliberately try to vote for incumbents), but in 2008 voters are, say, 2% less likely to vote for a pol if they know she is an incumbent, then that's worth knowing, even though it won't affect the results of most races.  Now, we don't yet know whether that's actually true -- it may be that those incumbents that have lost or been threatened so far did so for a variety of other reasons having not much to do with incumbency per se -- but it wouldn't be surprising at all to me if voters have and (again, in a small way) act on a bit of a "throw all the bums out" feeling.  Even though we shouldn't expect that to overwhelm partisanship, name recognition, candidate quality, and other large effects.  So I endorse the Masket position, which I think would be, at this point, anti-anti-anti-incumbency.

So that's anti-incumbency; I guess the other Big Theme people are talking about has to do with "establishment" candidates.  I don't think the discussion so far gets it right at all, however.  For example, in the Democratic contest in Colorado, Michael Bennet was the "establishment" candidate and Andrew Romanoff wasn't.  But that doesn't sound right to me at all...Romanoff had been a leader in the state legislature, was popular among party activists, and of course had the support of Bill Clinton.  That sounds pretty "establishment" to me.  Obviously, Seth Masket knows a lot more about Colorado Democratic Party politics than I do, but to me that particular contest seems more like one between factions or groups within the party than of outsiders and insiders.  The same applies, as far as I can tell, to many of the contests on the Republican side.  In some cases, apparently, Tea Party activists and the candidates they support may really be new to GOP politics, but in other cases the Tea Party banner seems to be simply a convenient label for conservatives who have long been key players in various state and local parties. 

In other words, just because the national committees choose a candidate, I'm not convinced that we should be calling that candidate an "establishment" choice.  In some cases it may be true; in others, "establishment" is going to turn out to be campaign rhetoric and spin (hey, in America everyone loves an underdog) that does not reflect any reality of party insiders competing with people who previously were either losers in intraparty battles or uninvolved in party politics.

1 comment:

  1. Romanoff had been a leader in the state legislature, was popular among party activists, and of course had the support of Bill Clinton. That sounds pretty "establishment" to me.

    Perhaps we need a better definition of "establishment." Yes, Romanoff is definitely of Colorado's Democratic establishment, but the establishment didn't want him running. It would be like if Jeb Bush decided to run for president at a time when every Republican senator and governor was already endorsing Mitt Romney.

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