What Last Night’s Elections Really Mean

The spinmeisters on all sides are out in force today with their ruminations on the meanings of last night’s elections, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate things we can take away from the results.

  • President Obama is now 0-for-4. Obama would be more than happy with Joe Sestak in the Senate, but it was Arlen Specter for whom the President stuck out his neck. When added to the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections from last year, and Scott Brown’s stunning upset in Massachusetts earlier this year, Obama has a perfect track record of supporting losers. It’s true that Obama distanced himself from Specter when it looked like Sestak would win the Pennsylvania primary, but his support for Specter was clear and strong, right down to offering Joe Sestak a job in order to get him to drop out of the race. Sestak’s win doesn’t hurt Obama, but it further points out that the President’s coattails are non-existent.
  • The Tea Party is a major player. In Kentucky the conservative son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, an eye doctor who had never run for public office, defeated the hand-picked GOP heir to Jim Bunning’s Senate seat. Trey Grayson had the support of almost every major Republican and is by all accounts a conservative. However, the Tea Party backed Rand Paul, who is more libertarian than Grayson but less libertarian than his father. The more conservative political neophyte beat the GOP favorite, and the reason is the Tea Party.
  • The special election doesn’t really tell us what the Democrat spinners are saying it tells us. The word on the street is that the Democrats are relieved that Democrat Mark Critz defeated Republican Tim Burns. The Dems feel that this bodes well for November, that the Republicans are not an unstoppable electoral machine. While they may be right about that, the special election for the seat formerly held by the late corruptocrat John Murtha isn’t exactly indicative of future results. For starters, it’s a heavily Democratic district, even though they tend to be Reagan Democrats. Secondly, there was a Democratic Senatorial Primary which naturally led more Dems to come out and vote than Republicans. Thirdly, that House seat had been the resting place of a Democratic derriere for almost 40 years. I think it would have been a major upset had Burns won, but the odds were stacked so heavily against him that it’s neither surprising nor a “lesson” that he lost. The fact that he came within shouting distance should be a warning for Dems.
  • Your Senate votes will count against you. Down in Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln learned that her votes for bailouts and Obamacare carried a price even among Democrats. A year ago Blanche Lincoln was considered a shoo-in to get re-elected in 2010. But that was before she vacillated on Obamacare, eventually voting in favor of bringing the bill to the Senate floor. Result: she failed to get 50% in the primary and now has to face a runoff election. She will probably win the runoff, but her Senate seat is now considered to be leaning Republican.
  • The “anti-incumbent” crowd are missing the point. There’s much talk about how the voters are fed up with “business as usual” in D.C. and how no incumbent is safe. Even Republicans are worried about this, as seen in the primary defeat of Republican Senator Bob Bennett in Utah. I think the “anti-incumbent” argument is more of an attempt at rationalization by politicians of both parties who are now being haunted by their previous votes. Bob Bennett did not lose in Utah because he was an incumbent. He lost because he voted for TARP and the bailout culture. Blanche Lincoln is not fighting for her political life because voters are sick of her face. She’s fighting because of her votes for bailouts and Obamacare. Arlen Specter did not lose because he’d been in his seat too long. He lost because he was rightly seen as a career opportunist who would do anything and say anything to keep his seat. Incumbency is not the problem. How you behaved in office is the problem. It is increasingly clear that on the major issues of the past few years—TARP, auto bailouts, bank bailouts, Obamacare—a vote in favor of more government and more spending is a vote against you in the election. Incumbents who can run on standing up to Leviathan have nothing to worry about.

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