As in yesterday’s off-year elections in Missouri and around the country.
You’ve probably read by now lots of chatter about the GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey and what they might portend about Obama’s agenda and the Democratic electoral prospects in the midterms. For example, Bill Lambrecht has a steaming turd in the P-D’s Political Fix in which he claims that Obama should worry about a rebuke even though the GOP victories were on the state level while the Democrats picked up all the federal victories. He also claimed that Blue Dogs would be looking over their shoulders nervously as they cast votes on key issues like health care and climate change, even though Bill Owens took over the seat in NY-23 (first Democrat there since Rutherford B. Hayes) while proclaiming his support for the public option. And yet another strange claim is the massive shift in independents favoring the GOP over the Democrats, which actually stems from the fact that many of the independents are former Republicans who left the party but still lean Republican. It’s not the same universe of independents as there were in 2000, and 2004, and 2008.
So what lessons, if any, should we in Missouri draw from what happened around the country yesterday? I think Ben Tribbett’s dissection of Creigh Deeds is a good one. He was a terribly underwhelming candidate unvetted by a primary in which his chief rivals attacked other and allowed the underdog Deeds to scoot by, buoyed by a WaPo endorsement that helped Northern Virginia suburban voters feel comfortable with him. The Deeds campaign’s efforts to moderate in the general election cut against capturing the same voters that propelled Democrats to victories in Virginia over the last several cycles, and predictably, a crushing defeat at the top of the ticket led to losses down the ticket, too.
The antidote to this is something along the lines of what grog proposes: be bold and fight for what you believe in, and for God’s sake, stop fighting against your own supporters to prove you’re not “one of them.” The latter doesn’t gain anything aside from a dispirited base, and we’ve seen what happens with that in New Jersey and Virginia.
I mean, look at the election results in Missouri. Tax increases and bond issues passed in Springfield and St. Louis County, along with a smoking ban in both STL County and in Liberty, MO. The Tea Party set opposed all of these things, and in a low turnout election, completely failed to deliver votes when matched against campaigns that clearly spelled out the benefits.
One thing that Lambrecht got right is the poor youth turnout yesterday. It’s almost as if the Democratic campaigns thought that youth didn’t turn out for off-year elections (just like they once thought youth didn’t turn out in presidential elections or primaries, either) or believed that a couple of appeals from Barack Obama would do the job. Barack Obama proved that a campaign could turn out young voters in droves by communicating directly to them about their issues,