A View From Across The Potomac – The Morning After

A View From Across the Potomac | 0 comments | by The Hawthorn Group

To Hawthorn Friends & Family —

Working with our long-time colleagues, Joe Perkins and his team at Matrix in Alabama, along with our own research team (bolstered by election savant Jim Comerford from Atlanta), here’s how we see things on the morning after:

U.S. Senate – While Alaska appears still too close for a final call, if the Republican lead holds there (and Ed Gillespie concedes a failed GOP bid in closer-than-expected Virginia), then the Republicans will have picked up eight seats to move to a 53 to 46 majority in the U.S. Senate. Pending the results of a December runoff in Louisiana, the GOP could go into January with 54 Senate seats, for a net-nine seat gain in 2014.

The biggest surprise of the night was Mark Warner’s very slim 12,000-vote margin in Virginia to keep the seat in the Democrat column.

Almost as big a surprise was Republican David Perdue’s 53% in Georgia, avoiding a runoff with Michelle Nunn.

Hawthorn’s Score – We called 35 of the 36 races right, wrong only in North Carolina (hardly a surprise; we knew it would be close but we thought Kay Hagan would survive).

Impact – Obviously problems for President Obama grow exponentially with a Republican Senate added to increased GOP control in the House.

The biggest changes come in committee chairs. Alabama is the big winner as Shelby takes Banking (from what would have been New York’s Schumer) and Sessions takes Budget (from Washington state’s liberal Patty Murray). Regardless of the outcome in the Louisiana runoff, Lisa Murkowski will replace Mary Landrieu at the helm of Energy. Other huge changes come as Inhofe takes Environment (from California’s Boxer) and Cochran takes Appropriations (from Maryland’s Mikulski).

The Democrats, of course, remain in control in the “lame duck” session between now and year’s end. That could see confirmation of Colette Honorable to FERC.

U.S. House – With, again, a few races too close to call, it appears the GOP will increase their margin by some 14 seats, to 243 t0 176. That margin could yet increase to 250 Republican seats in the 114th Congress, the party’s highest total since the Truman administration.

Notable in the context of the Republican gains are two historical notes:

  1. The West Virginia House delegation will be all-Republican for the first time since the 1920s. The defeat of Congressman Nick Rahall is the end of an era. John L. Lewis is spinning in his grave (as may be Robert C. Byrd).
  2. The defeat of Georgia’s John Barrow marks the demise of the white male Democrat in Deep South congressional delegations.

Republican Lee Terry’s loss in Nebraska’s 2nd district – fueled by an independent attack from the far right and – gives his Omaha-based district to democratic state senator Brad Ashford, who squeaked by with a plurality in one of last night’s few bright spots for the Democrats.

Democrat Nick Rahall’s loss in West Virginia’s 3rd district means that for the first time since the 1920s the state is without a Democratic representative in the U.S. House.

Hawthorn’s score – We predicted a GOP gain of six to eight seats and they did significantly better than we predicted.

Governors – The big (and possibly more impactful) news of the night was among the governors.

With Alaska (Independent leading), Colorado (Democrat incumbent leading), and Connecticut (another Democrat incumbent leading) still too close to call, if the leaders hold on to win those, then

  • the Democrats will have won Pennsylvania from the Republicans (and Rhode Island from an Independent) . . . beaten back Republican challenges in Colorado, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont (to be confirmed by a Democrat State House) . . . and held on to New York, Minnesota, Oregon, California and Hawaii.
  • the Republicans will have won Arkansas, Maryland and Illinois from the Democrats . . . beaten back Democratic challenges in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin . . . and held on to Ohio, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas (where no Democrat has been elected statewide since 1994), New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming
  • Independents will have taken Alaska from the Republicans.

The biggest surprise has to be Larry Hogan’s win in Maryland, denying the governor’s office to what would have been heavily Democrat Maryland’s first African-American governor (and first lieutenant governor to advance to the office). Shumlin’s Vermont race’s being forced to legislative confirmation is also an unexpected surprise for the Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Also surprising – after appearing in some trouble – is Scott Walker’s impressive re-election margin in Wisconsin – his third election win in four years – puts him back in the center of Republican presidential speculation . . . along with John Kasich’s huge win in Ohio . . . both eclipsing Chris Christie’s claim as favorite GOP governor in the presidential sweepstakes.

And rising to a modest “surprise” – although his late polls were trending this way – was Nathan Deal’s strong re-election in Georgia, with 53% avoiding a runoff with Jason Carter.

Surprising if only because it was the hardest race to call – and most expensive governor’s race in history – saw Charlie Crist become a three-time statewide loser (as a Republican, Independent, and now as a Democrat) in Floridaas Rick Scott won re-election.

Hawthorn’s Score: We called 33/36 right but, despite warning of a late GOP surge there, missed Maryland. And while we knew the outcomes would be close, so can’t claim they were a surprise, we also missed Kansas andIllinois.

State Legislatures –

There was a lot of action in state legislatures, with some 7,000 state senate and house seats on the ballot.

Republicans gained control of the New York, Washington, Colorado, and Nevada state senates; and gained control of the Minnesota, New Mexico, and West Virginia state houses. The GOP also improved their majority in the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures, and gained a veto-proof majority in Missouri.

Nation-wide, Republicans now have more state legislators than at any time since the 1920s.

Ballot Issues –


In Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC (and Guam), voters overwhelmingly approved legalization and taxation of marijuana. In Florida, a medical marijuana amendment garnered 57% of the statewide vote, but failed to pass the requisite 60% threshold for passage.

Minimum Wage

Likewise, proposed minimum wage hikes passed in all five states where it appeared on the ballot. Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota all approved legally mandated hikes, while in Illinois voters approved an “advisory question” on the issue.

Environment in Florida

Amendment 2, which will require the state to dedicate a portion of its real estate tax revenue to environmental protection, passed with 75% of the vote. The amendment directs funds from the already existing tax to be used to protect areas crucial to Florida’s water supply over the next 20 years.

Health insurance in California

The $100M campaign by health insurers and medical associations paid off, as voters rejected two propositions that would have hiked medical malpractice lawsuit damages and increased state oversight over insurance premium rates.

Alcohol in Arkansas 

Voters in Arkansas declined to legalize the sale alcohol in all of the state’s 75 counties (37 of which currently do not allow alcohol sales) 57% to 43%, leaving each county with the option to decide for itself.

Income tax cap in Georgia

Georgia voters overpoweringly voted (74% to 26%) for a constitution amendment that caps income taxes at 6%.

Personhood in Colorado, North Dakota, Tennessee

Colorado voters – despite voting for Cory Gardner, the initiative’s initial sponsor and subsequent deserter – overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 67 (which would have hugely restricted various types of birth control) was defeated 64% to 36%.

North Dakota resoundingly rejected the “Life begins at Conception” Amendment One, 64% to 36%.

A measure allowing state lawmakers greater leeway to restrict and regulate abortion passed in Tennessee with 53% of the vote. Voting patterns in the state showed a clear rural-urban divide.


Voters in Washington approved a measure requiring stricter background checks on firearm purchases, and voted down an opposing initiative which would have had the opposite effect.

The Big Environmental Money

Tom Steyer’s $85 million is generally being reported as a failed effort. He succeeded with only two of six vulnerable senate candidates he supported (New Hampshire and, barely vulnerable, Michigan) while losing inColoradoNorth CarolinaIowa and probably Alaska. He only won one governor’s race (Pennsylvania, a locked victory from Day One) and lost in FloridaWisconsinMichigan and Maine.

However, big out-of-state environmental money knocked off three Republican incumbent legislators in North Carolina, including a leading candidate for Speaker. And the solar industry supporting a former failed PSC candidate in Louisiana who leads an incumbent into a forced runoff.

Polling –

Is, clearly (and frustratingly for tea-leaf-reading pundits), a “work in progress.” ALL the pollsters missed by more than a tolerable margin the results in the Senate race in Georgia and in the governor’s race in Maryland . . . and failed to read accurately trends in the Senate and governor’s race in Kansas, the Senate race in North Carolina, and, most notably, in Virginia, where Real Clear Politics showed a pre-election Warner lead of ten points, in a race he is currently leading by less than a percent.

Pollsters clearly haven’t figured out how to couple new technology with old voting data (a far richer resource – precinct and voter data – than they realize or effectively use).

The Senate in 2016—

The prospect of 54 Republican senators considerably bolsters Republican prospects for holding their majority in the 2016 elections. As the 2016 election cycle begins now vulnerable Republican incumbents include Kirk of Illinois, Toomey of Pennsylvania and Johnson of Wisconsin. The success or failure of newly elected Republican Governor Rauner in Illinois and re-elected Governor Scott in Wisconsin could have a material effect on the senatorial prospects of their fellow partisans as could newly elected Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania affect Senator Toomey’s eventual challenger. The most vulnerable Democratic senate seat will likely be that of now-Minority Leader Reid in Nevada. The landslide re-election of Republican Governor Sandoval (along with the virtual collapse of the Democratic party there) may set up a battle royale in the Silver State in 2016.

 “Gone With the Wind”

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South.
Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow.
Here was the last to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair . . .
Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered,
a Civilization gone with the wind . . . ”

Ben Hecht’s opening lines of “The Greatest Movie Ever Made” also offer an accurate picture of the Democrat Party in the South: it, too, appears “gone with the wind.”

In Georgia, Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, perfectly good candidates, ran well-funded, well-run campaigns . . . and, even with third party candidates on the ballot, couldn’t get into runoffs. It appears Michelle Nunn got about 23% of the white vote, in line with President Obama’s approximate 20% approval rating among white Georgians.

In Louisiana, with her support dropping like a rock, Mary Landrieu is facing a runoff she probably can’t win. In next year’s governor race in Louisiana, the only question is WHICH Republican will win, presumably U.S. Senator David Vitter who is widely expected to come home to succeed the term-limited and broadly unpopular Bobby Jindal.

Democrat incumbents – good, well financed candidates with good campaigns – lost Senate seats in Arkansas and North Carolina. In the wake of Senator Mark Pryor’s defeat, there is not a Democrat left in the full congressional delegation from Arkansas . . . for the first time since Reconstruction!

Once – as a Republican governor – the most popular politician in Florida, as a Democrat Charlie Crist couldn’t, despite all the money he could have ever needed, take out a badly wounded Republican governor. Despite that, Democrat Gwen Graham won a Republican House district . . . but becomes the ONLY white Democrat from the South in the U.S. House.

Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since 1994.

There is not a Democrat in – or even a real contender for – statewide office in AlabamaOklahomaSouth CarolinaArkansas or Georgia and a number of other southern states. In Alabama, yesterday saw 14 white Democrats in the House drop to seven, with only one white Democrat left in the State Senate (a body with, now, NO Democrats north of Birmingham).

Look not in the Senate for Southern Democrat giants like Russell, Talmadge, Stennis, Sparkman, Fulbright, Long, Bentsen, Kerr, Sanford, or Hollings . . . or in governors’ offices for Hunt, Graham, Winter, McWherter, Breathitt . . .

Their world is “gone with the wind.”

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