Yesterday’s Elections Showed Importance of Party Base and Failed To Show National Republican Trend

The pundits are probably making far more out of yesterday’s elections than deserved since it doesn’t exactly make them look or feel important to say there is not terribly much to say. It is questionable as to how much predictive value yesterday’s results have but primarily they seem to show that the base turns out to vote in primaries and that the claims of a strong Republican wind have been exaggerated.

It is hardly surprising that party primaries are dominated by voters from the party base. This means that Democrats who have voted against Arlan Specter were reluctant to vote for him this year, especially when given an alternative who appears to be stronger in the general election. Similarly it is no great surprise that the far right Republican base (now called the tea party movement) won in the Kentucky Senate primary.

 One big question remains how well Rand Paul will do in a general election campaign if this is seen as a race between a moderate Democrat and an extremist Republican. It is interesting that turn out among Democrats was higher than among Republicans in Kentucky. I also wonder how many of his father’s off the wall ideas he has picked up. Unfortunately he does not appear to be all that terribly strong on civil liberties and he supports many of the authoritarian social positions of the far right. I would be far more interested in the libertarian candidates if they actually were libertarian in the old sense of the word before so many Republicans began using it.

The only race to have a Democrat face a Republican was the special election to fill John Murtha’s old House seat. Mark Critz’s decisive  53 percent to 45  victory may finally end the narrative that there is a strong Republican wind or that 2010 will be a replay of 1994. The entire narrative was built based upon a small number of races in which factors unique to each race greatly influenced the outcome.

We also cannot say too much about the predictive value of this Pennsylvania race but it is notable that this is one which Republicans might be expected to win if there really was great voter discontent with the Democratic Party. This is a district with conservative voters which flipped from Kerry in 2004 to McCain in 2008. Failing to win here raises questions as to how many of the districts which flipped to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 will vote Republican this year.  Despite the attempts of the right wing noise machine to portray all Democrats as leftists and socialists, the Democratic Party is a big tent which includes the middle and center-right as well as left, leaving the GOP isolated on the extreme right.

It is possible that this race is not predictive if more Democrats turned out due to the hotly contested Senate primary race. It is also notable that there have been seven special elections for Congressional seats since Obama took office. The Democrats have won all seven. Perhaps this simply means that Democrats have found a way to do better in such special elections. On the other hand, Republicans did win the special elections prior to taking control of Congress in 1994 and it may mean something that they cannot do this now. They are likely to break this streak in Hawaii, but only because there are two Democrats in the race dividing the vote.