Wave or Sweep, Whatever

If you wisely checked out last night and didn’t put yourself through the agony of election returns (not sure I can remember an early election night with so many false signals), the basic news is that Republicans won nearly all the tossups and leaners among Senate and gubernatorial races and won or threatened to win a couple of races that weren’t supposed to be in play at all.

If Dan Sullivan holds onto a fairly solid lead as mail ballots trickle into Juneau, and Mark Warner doesn’t lose his 12,000 vote lead in Virginia to very late returns or a recount, then GOPers will have 53 senators pending a December runoff in Louisiana they are expected to win.

The House results are still a bit murky, but the New York Times estimates that Republicans have already picked up 13 seats, a few more than the 9 predicted by, for example, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Three gubernatorial races are still in play, with Colorado’s John Hickenlooper holding a narrow lead, as is Connecticut’s Dan Malloy and indie Bill Walker in Alaska. But all the really bad people won–not just Scott Walker, who was leading in late polls, but three incumbents thought to be on the brink of a well-deserved retirement: Paul LePage, Rick Scott and Sam Brownback. Tom Corbett was the only GOP incumbent (pending the Alaska results) to lose. Charlie Baker’s win over Martha Coakley was no big shock. But the Maryland results–not just Larry Hogan’s win, but its dimensions– were simply astounding.

Given this near-sweep, or “wave,” or whatever you choose to call it, I’m a bit surprised Republicans didn’t make more striking state legislative gains while they were at it. According to NCSL’s wizard Tim Story, Republicans picked up new majorities in the Nevada House and Senate (that one you could see coming), the New Hampshire House (ditto), the West Virginia House, the Minnesota House, and the New York Senate (without the necessity of Democratic turncoats). On the other hand, Republicans failed yet again to get control of the Iowa House, and also didn’t take over the Kentucky House, which is bad news for Rand Paul who had hoped for legislation allowing him to run for re-election and for president simultaneously.

In terms of turnout patterns, yesterday’s electorate looked an awful lot like 2010’s: over-65 voters represented 22% of the electorate and under-30s just 13%. White folks were 75%, not quite the 77% of 2010 but more than the 72% of 2012. It looks like Republicans will wind up winning the national popular vote by around seven points, a bit short of the 2010 landslide but good enough, obviously. Democratic margins among the young and minority voters who did turn out were significantly down from 2012–again, close to the 2010 numbers–indicating most likely that the more conservative among them turned out disproportionately, though we’ll hear some claims about “discouragement” in the Obama coalition.

You can safely ignore a lot of the spin we’re hearing this morning about the “why” of it all–you know, the center-right nation repudiating its incompetent socialist president–and we’ll be spending some time later today and in the immediate future exploring that question, even as we move on with examining a new issue of Washington Monthly that addresses the inequality that can and should be an overriding concern in the next two years. And speaking of that, those in psychic pain today can rest assured that a big piece of the GOP “wave” receded instantly today as we entered a presidential cycle in which the turnout patterns and landscape will be significantly different.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.