Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Surface Tension: A Topline Post Election Wrap-Up

There will be time for a deep dive into the numbers.  Now is not the moment.  Here are some initial observations regarding last night’s Election results:

The recent high-water mark for a Maryland gubernatorial race is Governor Martin O’Malley’s 56.2% in his 2010 re-election bid.  (Side note: what is he going to say in Des Moines? In Cedar Falls? In Sioux City?).   In 2006, he won with 52.7% and four years prior to that, the Democratic nominee for Governor obtained only 47.68% of the statewide vote.

My point is that Maryland has witnessed some competitive Governor’s races, four of the last six being won by single-digit margins. So even with the demographic trends of recent years, the 2014 gubernatorial election was unlikely to be a cakewalk. But any serious Democratic nominee for that office would have to be considered a significant favorite going into a general election contest.

Yet Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown lost, to a B-tier Republican candidate.  I believe this occurred because:

1)   Maryland was not immune from the Democratic shellacking that occurred nationwide.
2)   Biography aside, his campaign was uninspiring.  Yes, I was a Mizeur voter in the primary but I cast my ballot for Brown in the general; even though the campaign didn’t communicate much in the way of a positive rationale for such an act.
3)   Democratic turnout in MD was lower than expected. I don’t have the final or even penultimate numbers in front of me, but there was an enthusiasm/activation gap…and the Republicans ran a stronger than expected GOTV operation.  Also, the GOP brand seems to have recovered a bit from the earlier post-Bush 43 years, even though voters still show high dissatisfaction levels with both parties and with the both the President and Congress.
4)   “Articulation”-oriented campaign (covered elsewhere in this blog) can be tough.  You find yourself running against your opponent and the perceived sins of the affiliated incumbent administration.  I don’t believe the Brown campaign pulled together a truly compelling/cohesive narrative when discussing the O’Malley record.

Senator Allan Kittleman, apparently Howard County Executive-elect, would have been Governor-elect had he tossed his hat into that ring instead.  I am guessing he knows I am right on this matter.

How bad was it for Democrats locally?  Congressman Cummings' GOP opponent garnered 43.89% of the vote in the Howard County portion of the 7th Congressional District and said opponent would, charitably, be called a perennial candidate. 

It appears as though Jon Weinstein pulled off a victory in Councilmanic District 1, a true swing constituency.  How did he accomplish this? I believe he did an excellent job of localizing the election, framing the race on local issues and concerns.  That appealed to a majority of voters in the First.

I still maintain that Courtney Watson ran a strong campaign for County Executive.  Look, had they not attempted to reposition Kittleman, he probably would have won with 55% of the vote in an election cycle such as this.  The comparative effort was necessary and generally decently executed.  Moreover, Watson provided numerous reasons to vote for her, not just against Kittleman.  She had a good narrative but it just wasn’t enough in a Rejection Election cycle (you can read more about that concept here:

The biggest bummer of the evening, for me, was 9B.   From a technical perspective, it would be hard to find a Maryland campaign better run than Tom Coale’s.  Running a positive citizen-neighbor-legislator style effort that was focused on local issues and finding practical solutions for the present and the future…it simply wasn’t enough to overcome a well-known GOP opponent in a highly competitive single-member House of Delegates district.

On the Howard County Board of Education, the results were not a huge surprise.  I voted the Apple Ballot because I believe they would have been an effective team.  In terms of intensity, I was primarily concerned with electing Altwerger (who won) and Beams (who did not…which was very disappointing).  That said, I am not displeased that Christine O’Connor won a seat.  I was not thrilled when she allied herself with Mike Smith, that decision dropped her to the fifth position on my list, but she was in the running for a while.  And thank goodness that neither Smith nor Dyer finished in the top four.

At some point, I am going to talk about people who sought public office this cycle that were unsuccessful...but who should run again.  But I am too cranky to write about 2016 or 2018 right now.  Let’s call it a post.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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