I may as well throw my oar in on why the Republicans did so well yesterday. I think there are basically three reasons. First, better candidates. Here in Illinois is a perfect example. Even Pat Quinn’s supporters wouldn’t characterize him as the best of all possible candidates. We didn’t have a general repudiation of the Democratic Party and the president remains pretty popular here in Illinois. And Rauner didn’t run a great campaign although he did wage a more cheerful one. More people thought Rauner would make a good governor than thought Quinn should remain governor. Simple as that.
Second, local conditions. In the states that mattered the president is a lot less popular than he is in California, New York, or Illinois. Running against him was a good strategy in those states and the president stepped in it in his insistence on nationalizing the election.
Third, the Democrats have taken their eyes off the ball. It’s still the economy, stupid. It’s the issue that matters most to most people. It’s the most important issue among women. It’s the most important issue among Hispanics. The heavily Wall Street oriented recovery isn’t cutting it for most people. Focusing their attention on healthcare reform, immigration, access to birth control, or anything other than the economy was a strategic error.
You may be able to eke out a victory in a general election by cobbling together voters from marginalized groups using wedge issues but that doesn’t work nearly as well in a midterm when voters in those groups don’t show up at the polls.
Daniel Henninger summarizes it pretty succinctly:
The party of economic despair will always lose.