Crimson Tide: Winners and Losers in the 2014 Mid-Term Elections
What began as an anti-incumbent riptide quickly swelled into an anti-Democrat tsunami, with Republicans surging into control of the Senate, establishing a new high-water mark in the House and crashing over the breakwall in key gubernatorial races. Yes, Election Day 2014 has come and gone, leaving behind a frothing wake of shattered dreams, rising stars and overwrought ocean metaphors. Who drowned and who rode… THE WAVE?
Wendy Davis: Wearing pink sneakers while talking about killing babies for 11 hours can get you on MSNBC, but, apparently, it can’t get you elected Governor of Texas. Davis lost to Republican Greg Abbott by 21 points in the contest to replace Rick Perry. Far from serving as a springboard for the State Senator’s career, the campaign will best be remembered for Davis’ biographical half-truths and an ad that claimed her wheelchair-bound opponent hated people in wheelchairs. Fare thee well, Abortion Barbie.
Alison Lundergan-Grimes: Even Peter only denied Jesus three times. Through mid-October, Lundergan-Grimes appeared to be a real contender in the Kentucky Senate race, closely tailing Republican Mitch McConnell in the polls; that is until she was stumped by what should have been a straightforward question: Did you vote for Barack Obama?
Deathly afraid of being linked with the nation’s first black President (racist!), Lundergan-Grimes launched into a painful-to-watch contortion about the sanctity of the ballot box. Insulting the collective intelligence of Kentucky’s voters cost her dearly as she tanked in the polls shortly thereafter, on the way to a double-digit defeat.
The War on Women: In the words of Charles Krauthammer, “I think this is the end of the ‘War on Women,’ and the Democrats have lost it.” What worked so well in 2012 backfired spectacularly in at least one Senate race: Colorado Democrat Mark Udall spent so much time harping on reproductive rights and abortion issues that he was ridiculed with the moniker “Mark Uterus”. Voters grew weary of the repetitive nature of his attacks, giving Republican Cory Gardner an easy seven point victory over the Masculine Feminist. Even Udall’s target audience was nonplussed: Udall won the female demographic by just five points. In other “War on Women” developments, Sandra Fluke, famous for being called “a slut” on the most-listened-to radio talk show in America, found votes as difficult to acquire as cheap contraception, losing her California state Senate race by a whopping 21 points.
Maryland Democrats: In one of the night’s bigger surprises, Republican Larry Hogan defeated Lt. Governor Anthony Brown in the Maryland gubernatorial race. Brown was seen as the heir-apparent to Martin O’Malley, two-term Governor and 2016 presidential aspirant. O’Malley gained notoriety last year when David Simon fingered him as one of the inspirations for Tommy Carcetti, the impassioned councilman turned self-interested political climber in his series The Wire. Explained Simon: “The writing was not unsympathetic to a man who comes in with the idea of changing things and emerges a completely different creature. That was the story [of Tommy Carcetti] and that is the story of Marty O’Malley.” Brown’s defeat was seen as a repudiation of O’Malley’s policies, particularly the high tax burden levied on the state’s denizens. For the former (one of the few politicians willing to be seen with President Obama during the campaign season), the loss could short-circuit any hopes for higher office. For O’Malley, it could mean an end to his 2016 campaign before it even officially begins.
Charlie Crist: Crist, the Republican turned Independent turned Democrat, couldn’t fool Florida’s voters, who saw the self-serving snake behind the chameleon act and re-elected Rick Scott. On the short-list for John McCain’s running mate just six years ago, Crist lost to Marco Rubio in a 2010 bid for the Senate, then suddenly decided he was on board with same-sex marriage, Obamacare, and a woman’s right to choose. The tan man and his fan will now slink away to ponder their next move; if he’s looking for new party affiliation, we have a suggestion:
Scott Walker: When will Democrats learn that they can’t defeat this man? Hugely unpopular amongst the MSNBC crowd, Walker has now won three gubernatorial elections in the past four years, withstanding a recall election in 2012 and cruising past Mary Burke last night. Walker’s reform of Wisconsin’s troubled budget is one of the great conservative success story of recent years: taking over a state saddled with excessive health care and pension liabilities, he challenged the might of the public sector unions, exposing the fraud that is “collective bargaining” between labor leaders and the politicians they finance. With his win last night, which even Ed Schultz dubbed “unprecedented”, he seems poised for a presidential run in 2016.
Ed Gillespie: The former political strategist for George W. Bush found himself in the limelight on Tuesday, arousing Republican hopes for a Virginia seat thought unattainable. While the early lead Gillespie racked up against Democrat Mark Warner dwindled and eventually evaporated over the course of the night, the race (presently 49.16% to 48.39% in favor of Warner) remains too close to call and may result in a recount. Regardless of the outcome, his strong showing puts him in position to challenge Terry McAuliffe for the state’s governorship in 2017.
Chris Christie: The GOP’s strong showing in the nation’s gubernatorial races should benefit the head of the Republican Governors Association, Bruce’s Biggest Fan, Chris Christie. While many Democrats hoped to offset potential losses in the Senate by adding state executives, the Republicans held firm and even flipped some red states blue. Incumbents were re-elected in Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Maine and New Mexico, while pickups were made in such liberal strongholds as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland. Christie’s work should help erase some of the stain left by the “Bridgegate” scandal, while he continues the work of rebuilding his brand and reducing his waistline. The latter, at the very least, appears to be working: when you compare the video of him yelling, “Get off the beach!” with the video of him yelling, “Sit down and shut up!”, it does look like he’s lost a few. A few.
Mia Love: The 38-year-old conservative rising star became the first black female elected to Congress in Utah’s history. However, she was quick to point out that her victory had nothing to do with race or her anatomy. During an interview with CNN, she shot down such insinuations, saying, “I wasn’t elected because of the color of my skin. I wasn’t elected because of my gender. I was elected because of the solutions that I put at the table because I promised I would run a positive issues-oriented campaign and that’s what resonated.” In a nation where Democrats are constantly attempting to divide the voting public by classifying individuals into groups, Love’s attitude is refreshing indeed.
Mitch McConnell: Perhaps the biggest winner and beneficiary of THE WAVE, McConnell not only breezed to a nearly 16-point victory, but will soon become Senate Majority Leader. He will be counted on to live up to that title, pushing forth the types of House bills that were buried by Harry Reid and standing up to President Obama on such hot-button issues as executive amnesty, the Iran nuclear talks and the Keystone XL pipeline. Simple intransigence, a successful stratagem for an opposition party, will no longer suffice, not with Hillary Clinton waiting in the wings to exploit any perceived rote obstructionism. McConnell will also need to embrace the party’s conservative base, represented in the Senate by the likes of Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, so as to avoid a potentially destructive, internecine war. As a great (Spider-)man(‘s uncle) once said, with great power comes great responsibility. It will be a very interesting next two years.