The inherent challenge of ‘what it all means’

THE INHERENT CHALLENGE OF ‘WHAT IT ALL MEANS’…. When election results on a big day come in, it’s the job of political analysts to make note of the trends, find the common threads, and make sense of it all by explaining What It All Means.

But what’s a pundit to do when voters refuse to play along? It makes for an unsatisfying electoral examination, but the truth is, for every apparent trend, there’s an equally evident counter-trend.

Democrats got exactly the match-ups they wanted…

With their eyes on November, Dems desperately wanted to see Angle win in Nevada, and Campbell lose in California. They got their wish and are feeling better about both competitive Senate races.

…except where they didn’t.

Dems’ odds in South Carolina’s Senate race went from long to impossible when Alvin Greene somehow managed to win the Democratic primary, and Dems also would have loved to see Vander Plaats upset Branstad in Iowa’s GOP gubernatorial primary. He didn’t.

Tea Party candidates fell flat…

The so-called “movement” rallied behind right-wing candidates like DeVore in California, Vander Plaats in Iowa, and congressional primary challengers in New Jersey’s 7th and Virginia’s 1st, 2nd, and 5th. All of them lost by fairly wide margins.

…except where they won.

The so-called “movement” rallied behind right-wing candidates like Angle in Nevada and Gowdy in South Carolina, both of whom looked very strong yesterday.

It’s an anti-incumbent year…

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) lost badly, becoming the first incumbent governor of the year to lose in a primary. Similarly, Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) was forced into a runoff and appears very likely to lose.

…except where incumbents did fine.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) scored a surprise victory in Arkansas, while Reps. Harman, Miller, Lance, and Wittman had very little trouble staving off primary challenges.

Voters rejected establishment-backed candidates…

Three members of NRCC’s “Young Guns” program lost in GOP primaries yesterday, including unexpected setbacks in Iowa and South Dakota. For that matter, the Republican establishment made no secret of its support for Sue Lowden in Nevada.

…except where voters embraced establishment-backed candidates.

Practically the entire slate of party-backed GOP candidates in Virginia thrived, and in most cases yesterday, the candidate who enjoyed their party establishment’s support actually won.

Palin-backed candidates continued to lose …

The former half-term governor threw her backing to Cecile Bledsoe in Arkansas’s 3rd, but Bledsoe nevertheless lost, adding to a string of defeats for Palin-backed candidates this year.

…except where they won.

The former half-term governor threw her backing to Fiorina in California, Haley in South Carolina, and Branstad in Iowa, and they all won.

For my money, the moral of the story is that there is no moral to the story. On the same day, in different parts of the country, we saw completely contradictory trends. It may be unsatisfying for those looking for trends, but it’s true anyway.