Sunday, November 16, 2014

Baker squeaks it out, The Prof Nails Most Races

I must give myself an A- in my predictions for this past election...did quite well!

Prediction                    Actual
Baker          48%            48.5%
Coakley       45%            46.6%
Falchuck        3%              3.3%
McCormack   2%              0.9%
Lively             2%              0.8%

Baker's win was due to multiple factors:
  • Exit polling did show a gender gap with Coakley winning women by 14 points. However, Baker won men by 16 points.
  • Although Coakley won the cities and inner Boston suburbs, her margins were worse than in Patrick's reelection in 2010. For example, Patrick won in the city of Boston by 47 points, but Coakley won by "only" 36 points. Baker also over-performed in many Democratic bastions such as Everett, Sharon, and Newton, won the liberal suburban communities of Wayland and Sudbury, and kept Coakley's margins in Worcester and Lowell to under 15 points.
  • Cambridge and Amherst were both 80-20 for Coakley - no surprises there!
  • Voters never really "liked" Martha Coakley and she failed to drive up Baker's negatives.
  • Baker was able to effectively distance himself from the national GOP. He also ran a very disciplined and largely mistake-free campaign.
  • Voters were most concerned about the economy and this is where Baker was seen to be a better manager than Coakley.
  • Coakley's campaign never really got off the ground and she did not enjoy unity among Democratic voters or politicians. About 20% of registered Democrats voted for Baker and several Democratic mayors and legislators endorsed Baker as well.
  • Third party candidates likely drew support away from both candidates in roughly equal proportions.
  • The death of former Boston Mayor Menino the week before the election effectively "froze" the election during the final weekend and kept a potential Baker gaffe about a New Bedford fisherman out of the headlines.
  • Baker won in the areas where he needed to and ran up large margins in Worcester, Plymouth, Essex, and Norfolk counties. This counteracted Coakley's wins in the Boston area and Western Massachusetts. See the below map for details.

Although Baker won, it was very close and was a margin only by two points (40,000 votes out of over two million cast). He succeeded in threading the needle for a Republican in Massachusetts to prevail.
  • Minimal campaign mistakes
  • Distance from national GOP, non-partisan approach
  • Liberal or agnostic on social issues
  • Willing to work with Democrats, angry Tea Party candidates simply cannot win here
  • Weak Democratic candidate juxtaposed with an attractive Republican candidate
In all other major statewide races, Massachusetts remained solidly blue and elected Democrats to all other constitutional offices by wide margins. Senator Markey won reelection against a largely unknown challenger, 62-38. Republicans did pick up 2 seats in the State Senate and 6 in the House...still in a tiny minority, but some progress.

I nailed most of my other prediction as well, missing only one call.
  • Question 1 did pass narrowly where I thought it would not. My predictions on Questions 2,3, and 4 were all correct along with the predicted lopsided margins.
  • Seth Moulton defeated Richard Tsei in the 6h Congressional district. While I thought Moulton would win a narrow race, he won by 15 points. In this case, I think that Moulton's status as a newcomer and military veteran contrasted sharply with Tsei being on the ballot for the past three cycles and his being in state government since 1984. Being a fresh-faced outsider helped!
  • Scott Brown may now consider moving to another state for Senate after losing by 3 points to Shaheen in NH. I think that a Vermont seat is open in 2016...
 Good Night for Republicans Nationwide

Republicans won the Senate in a major wave, flipping 8 seats (possibly 9, after the Louisiana runoff in December). The GOP will enjoy a nearly 50 seat majority in the House. They also won a number of Governorships in Democratic states (IL, MA, and MD) and expanded their nationwide lead in state legislatures. 

Looking at exit polls, the GOP benefited from higher turnout among white voters, low turnout among minorities (typical for a midterm election cycle), and the continuing unpopularity of the President. I do not necessarily see this as a mandate for the Republicans, but more a rejection of the status quo.

Now, can they govern and how does this affect the last two years of President Obama's term? Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell have alternated between conciliatory and fighting words - as has President Obama.

I think, based on early observations, that there will be continued confrontation on Capital Hill. If the president issues any sort of amnesty decree via executive order, there will be little, if any, cooperation going forward. Additionally, 2016 presidential politics will affect both legislation and the dynamics in Washington. I will write more on this and what it means in the near future.


The Prof

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