Why didn't the wave bring along more Democrats?

Barack Obama had an incredible showing last night. Not only did he win just about every “swing state” from 2004, he won several states that have long been considered safe for Republicans.

Who seriously thought Indiana, which last voted for a Democrat for president in 1964, would go for Obama? He flipped Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina, and may yet win Missouri.

But the down-ticket races have been disappointing in many states. Becky Greenwald and Rob Hubler underperformed Obama and Tom Harkin in Iowa’s fourth and fifth Congressional districts.

Minnesota Democrats failed to pick up any Congressional seats and may not win the U.S. Senate race either, even though Obama won the state by double-digits.

Oregon’s U.S. Senate race is too close to call, despite a huge Obama victory in that state. Democrat Jeff Merkley has led all the recent polls in that race.

We didn’t win as many down-ticket races in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida as many people expected.

Republican incumbents in Alaska who trailed in all the recent polls may keep their jobs.

A lot of analysis needs to be done to figure out what has happened. Perhaps the Republican scare-mongering about “socialism” failed to turn voters off from Obama, but helped convince them to vote for divided rule in Washington. Maybe with so much media commentary about the presidential race being a foregone conclusion, Americans wanted some checks and balances on Obama.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Swing State Project runs through what Democrats won and lost in the U.S. House races. With some districts still too close to call, we have picked up 21 Republican-held seats while four of our own incumbents lost (two who captured heavily Republican districts in 2006 wave). We lost a lot of seats that had seemed to be trending our way, as well as some districts where we outspent the Republican candidate in the final weeks (MN-03, MN-06).

Jerome Armstrong has some thoughts about the apparent swing against Democrats in a lot of the close U.S. Senate races.

Having slept on it, I realize that one wrong assumption I made was that the universal commentary about McCain being toast would depress the Republican vote.

Instead Republicans seem to have turned out in large numbers to prevent one-party “socialist” rule in Washington. Perhaps also a lot of independents voted for gridlock (Obama plus GOP down-ticket).

Of course the presidential landslide is the most important result from yesterday, but I can’t help feeling like wise-beyond-his-years Populista:

Couldn’t this election have nicer frosting? The cake is great but this frosting makes me sick.

  • I also must say that I am disappointed

    When the Obama ground guys came back, the state party really catered everything toward Obama.

    I was than helping with a few legislative races and we where unable to get staffers, even part time, for very close races.

    When I asked the central committee and my regional rep about it they said Obama would help downticket dems, and it just didnt work.

    • that was my fear

      in July when news first leaked out that the Iowa Democratic Party was transferring a lot of the GOTV operation to the Obama campaign.

      What’s interesting is that even Obama didn’t win Iowa by as big a margin as the most recent polls suggested.

  • I concur with the assessment that the coordinated

    campaign wasn’t as coordinated as it should be, and that the push was for Obama.  The doorhangers we got, for example, had the names of my local state rep and other local candidates stamped in maybe 8-point type.  The phone scripts for GOTV, the  way that the campaign dealt with local parties who have been doing this work–It was all about the O.

    As for transferring GOTV to the Obama campaign:  what it amounted to in my county was an Obama staffer showing up and trying to get the locals to staff the campaign according to the grandiose plan that they had written down.

    If the campaigns were really coordinated you would have seen far more effort to lengthen the coattails.  I think the down-ticket races were on their own to a great extent.

  • Coordinated effort

    I think that there was more coordinated effort some places than others…but that often happened because those of us doing the actual work pushed for it.

    There are other factors working against democrats this time around:

    1. The bailout–Latham and King centered their campaigns around “voting against bailing out wall street.” Though I haven’t heard either of them say what they would do instead.

    2. The smoking ban–I know that I talked to many people who weren’t voting for our state representative and senator because of “that damn smoking ban.” Many bar owners are seeing profits decline and are blaming the ban…though I imagine that the financial crisis has at least as much to do with it.  

  • Spectre of One-Party Rule

    Remember toward the end of the campaign when McCain kept bringing up this “can’t give the Democrats one party rule” line? Remember all those ads with a scowling Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? That’s what killed us.

    That strategy, repeated and magnified by every news network and talking head, is a big part of what made voters split the ticket. The message sank in with voters, and either Obama or the down-ticket candidates had to go–and voters decided to cancel out their choice for Obama by choosing the Rep. candidate elsewhere.

    McCain asked voters why on Earth they would give the Democrats so much power…and we didn’t answer them. We came up with a great argument for Obama…change; but we couldn’t come up with one overarching theme for the Congress.

  • The Obama Brand and the Undecideds

    This election really was all about Obama–people showed up to vote for him or against him. I think that increased turnout had unexpected results in many places. Many people showed up to vote in the presidential election that hadn’t really prepared for any of the other races. I think that happens in any presidential year, but might have happened more so this year.

    Looking at exit polls I see that in many states up to 10% of people who voted on Tuesday decided who they were going to vote for for president in the last 3 days! I talked to several people when I was canvassing who said that they were going to decide “when they got into the booth.” After nearly two years of campaigning they wait until the day of the election to decide. I find that amazing and  irresponsible. It looks like those people broke pretty evenly between Obama and McCain, but I bet they mostly went for the incumbent in down ticket races simply because the name was more familiar.

    One of the most devastating and unexpected side effects of is that proposition 8 passed in California. It looks like minority voters overwhelmingly voted for it. That combined with the religious right turnout machine took away civil rights of other minorities.

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