Top Three Takeaways from Election 2014

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Adam Tiouririne Adam Tiouririne | Bio | Posts
10 Nov 2014 | 7:42PM

A week after Election 2014, the dust has settled. And that dust — depending on your perspective — comes from either a triumphant fireworks display or a devastating carpet bombing. Whether you were waving the red flag or curling up under a blue blanket last Tuesday, here are the top three takeaways from Election 2014.


1. This is what a wave looks like.

Literal waves are usually blue, but this figurative one was red. Deep, deep red.

Races that should’ve been close turned into Republican blowouts. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) claimed the Governor’s Mansion by taking every Illinois county except Cook, home to deep-blue Chicago. Cory Gardner (R-CO) deftly navigated social issues to win by three points and make his seasoned opponent look like a rookie. Michael Grimm (R-NY) retained his House seat by a margin (13 points) almost as large as the number of federal fraud counts he’s facing (20).
And races that should’ve been Democratic blowouts turned close. Mark Warner (D-VA), a man who left the governor’s office in 2006 with a 71% approval rating, hung on to his Senate seat by less than one point. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has won every election since 1986, but it appears that she’ll squeak back into the House this year by only about 600 votes. Peter Shumlin (D-VT), whose race has still not been called, could become the first-ever sitting chair of the Democratic Governors Association to lose reelection.
That leaves Democrats with precious thin silver lining. Just three newly won House seats, one gained governorship, and not a single conquest in the Senate. Astute analysts have argued that voters’ partisan preferences are at odds with their policy preferences, but you have to win to govern — and it’s clear who won Election 2014.


2. It's all about the bench.

Election 2014 knocked dozens of promising young Democrats off the political career ladder, and vaulted a few fresh-faced Republicans to its highest rungs. Keep your eye on these three winners from last week.

Senator-elect Tom Cotton (R-AR) Tom Cotton (R-AR) will be President someday. The telegenic Army veteran from tiny Dardanelle ousted incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor by 14 points and ended Arkansas’s Pryor political dynasty — all after less than one term in Congress. Before Cotton won his 2012 House race, Arkansas Democratic power player John Goodson predicted that Cotton would “be our congressman, then our senator, then our president.” Two out of three (so far) ain’t bad.
Charlie Baker (R-MA) will be a national figure. The Boston Globe editorial board gave its first Republican gubernatorial endorsement in 20 years to Baker. It was a sign of the cross-party appeal that not only vanquished his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley (or, uncharitably, Martha Chokeley), but that will also propel him to national stardom. We shouldn’t be surprised if, for example, he’s tapped for Republicans’ 2016 State of the Union response. Baker is a combination of Chris Christie without the rough edges and Mitt Romney without the flip-flopping. That’s wicked formidable, Chah-lie.
Senator-elect Ben Sasse (R-NE) Ben Sasse (R-NE) will be the next Ted Cruz. The Senate minority (now majority) shadow-leader, Ted Cruz of Texas, has counted on Utah’s Mike Lee as his sidekick and Kentucky’s Rand Paul as an occasional third wheel. Now he can add Sasse to the burgeoning Senate Tea Party caucus. Like Cruz, Sasse comes with an elite pedigree (Cruz excelled at Princeton and Harvard, Sasse at Yale) and Washington experience (each served as a Bush appointee) to inform his fiery anti-elitist, anti-Washington views. Says Sasse, “If it [Obamacare] lives, America as we know it will die.” We can all look forward to his interpretation of Green Eggs and Ham.



Gobsmacked Democrats are left wondering how Republicans managed to take the House in 2010, keep their majority in 2012, and still deliver another wave victory in 2014. The answer lies earlier than any of those elections.

Only one party recognized the 2010 census as a golden political opportunity. After each census, Congressional seats are reapportioned (each state’s number of seats is adjusted for population changes) and redistricted (each district gets new boundaries to reflect population changes). Whichever party controls each state legislature controls redistricting, which determines the new district boundaries, which determine who wins the House. So the Republican State Leadership Committee, which focuses on electing Republicans to state legislatures, established the Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP) to win as many statehouses — and thus control as many redistricting processes — as possible in 2010. It worked.
Republican-controlled state legislatures in 2010 created districts that favor Republicans. That means gerrymandering most of a state’s Democrats into a few lopsided blue districts, and then spreading the Republicans just widely enough to create several safe red districts. In 2010, that enabled Republicans to win 55.6% of House seats with only 51.7% of the nationwide popular vote. In 2012, the GOP won 53.7% of the seats with only 47.6% of the vote. And in Election 2014, REDMAP delivered again.
REDMAP is the most brilliant — and underreported — political strategy of the 21st Century. Yes, more brilliant than Barack Obama’s caucus plan or microtargeting efforts in 2008, because those only mattered for one candidate in one election. REDMAP locks in a Republican House majority for a decade. Only if Democrats can reverse REDMAP in 2020 redistricting can they return Nancy Pelosi — who will then be 80! — to the Speaker’s chair. The lesson for both parties is that long-term strategy, like REDMAP, works.

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