Weekend open thread: Woulda, coulda, shoulda edition

Now that we’ve all had a few days to take in the election results, candidates and political activists in both parties can reflect on how our time and money could have been better spent during the campaign. After the jump I’ve posted links about Republican and Democratic regrets.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Republican strategists wish Mitt Romney’s campaign or outside groups had spent more resources building an effective GOTV operation. The Republican National Committee talked a good game on November 5: “we are poised to blow the Obama campaign out on Election Day thanks to a superior GOTV program and a historical GOP Election Day advantage.” But in fact, the Obama campaign had registered 1.8 million new voters in battleground states and put together a surprisingly effective turnout operation. They had a better plan than the competition and executed their plan more effectively.  

Meanwhile, Romney’s campaign relied on opinion polls showing greater enthusiasm among Republican voters. They didn’t invest nearly as much in GOTV, and their new “app” for election-day volunteers was a disaster.

Outside conservative groups didn’t put much money behind voter registration or GOTV either.

Conservative super-PAC money spent on the presidential and Congressional races produced a lot of stupid television commercials but a pitiful return on investment. “Bush’s brain” Karl Rove is now taking heat, although in his alternate reality, Obama won re-election “by suppressing the vote.”

Some Republican strategists wish they’d had better polling on the presidential and Congressional races.

Across the party’s campaigns, committees and super PACs, internal polling gave an overly optimistic read on the electorate. […]

Sources familiar with Romney’s polling say that it underestimated the Democrats’ 6-point voter identification edge, nationally, and put far too much stock in what one Republican operative called “false signs of Republican enthusiasm.” Multiple Republican pollsters also acknowledged that they misjudged how many young people and minorities would show up to vote.

The 2008 and 2012 elections may be anomalies because of Obama’s appeal to young and minority voters. Still, I bet a lot of pollsters will re-evaluate their turnout models for 2016.

Here in Iowa, Republican State Senator Merlin Bartz lost his re-election bid to Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm by about 120 votes. If he could do it over again, would he pay for his own fence and not cart around a cardboard cut-out of his opponent?

Democrats in Iowa and across the country have fewer regrets about the election result, but clearly, we left the Iowa House majority on the table. I understand why the Iowa Democratic Party poured most resources into defending the Iowa Senate majority, but think about what could have happened if some of the major donors to Leonard Boswell’s or Christie Vilsack’s Congressional campaigns had supported Democratic candidates for the Iowa House. Or, imagine if House Democrats had spent less on television and radio commercials for incumbent Mark Smith (who ended up winning by 2,400 votes) and more money on a few other candidates. What looks likely to be a 53-47 Republican majority could easily have gone the other way.

Susan Judkins trails by 22 votes in Iowa House district 43 (though there’s a small chance a recount could change that result).

State Representative John Wittneben (the only Democratic incumbent in the legislature to lose on Tuesday) lost House district 7 by about 57 votes.

Joe Judge lost House district 80 by 113 votes.

Bill Heckroth lost House district 63 by 152 votes.

Kristin Keast lost House district 95 by 210 votes.

Nathan Wrage lost House district 72 by 226 votes.

Donovan Olson lost House district 47 by about 420 votes.

The time to take back the Iowa House was 2012–a presidential year electorate and the first general election after redistricting. In 2014, the midterm electorate will be much less favorable to Democratic candidates. In 2016, Republican incumbents will be much better known among their constituents.

On a personal level, I regret not doing more volunteer work for Judkins in House district 43. A few dozen more phone calls, door-knocks, or postcards could have swung that race.

Share your own election-year regrets in this thread.

UPDATE: Given how California Republicans were decimated in this election, up and down the ticket, there must be quite a few who regret pushing so hard for Prop 187 during the 1994 Republican wave.

Karl Rove’s plotting to be more involved in Republican primaries during the next election cycle.

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  • Brian Quirk HD 52

    I regret that he did not have a primary opponent.  He did resign from ALEC recently (only Democrat to be a member in Iowa) so he is apparently aware that his new district makes a primary a possibility. We’ll see if he straightens up and votes with his constituents instead of his corporate donors.  I am not holding my breath.

  • Thoughts

    I suspect the voters may have rejected Donovan Olson at this point.  That is a tough district though, no doubt about it.  Dems may have done better in that district by just running a different voice though.  

    Bill Heckroth is a great legislator who truly studies the issues.  The voters continue to truly reject him without a real reason to do so.  I fear Sandy Salmon is going to be in the mold of the far right, socially conservative brand.  

    Nathan Wrage caught everyone off guard with his spectacular showing.  It may have been one of those races where it was almost better to catch the Republicans napping.  

    • Olson's district got tougher

      The district he represented for a decade included Perry. The new district lost Perry and picked up all of Greene County.

      The GOP ran terribly deceptive tv ads against Heckroth. He didn’t lose by much, but it’s depressing that those tactics continue to work.

      You may be right about Wrage’s race.

  • Close but....

    My regret is that the close outcome in HD43 (subject to recount) and several other House races is considered surprising to anyone. House Democratic leaders worked valiantly to convey the message that opportunities would be lost if the House remained financially unable to respond to the Republicans’ barrage of misleading advertising in some races. But, the fact that Democrats retained a majority in the Iowa Senate, and seven seats were gained in the Iowa House, shows a good return on the investment available.  

  • Wish we could have ran more candidates

    It just really gets to me when I see Republicans running uncontested.  

    • Agreed!

      We couldn’t find anyone brave enough to take on Dave Heaton in the Mount Pleasant area, it would have helped set up a good measuring stick for future years when Heaton retires.