November 4, 2010

THE COST OF PURITY:

The Tea Party Hurt the GOP: Republicans could have captured the Senate were it not for Tea Party candidates in swing states. John Avlon analyzes voting trends to prove the wingnuts spoiled a larger conservative victory. (John Avlon, 11/04/10, Daily Beast)

Here’s what’s even more remarkable—roughly 20 percent of Sandoval’s voters split their ticket to support Harry Reid rather than Sharron Angle when it came to the Senate. She might have raised $15 million in national activist cash last quarter, but for one-fifth of Nevada voters—even with 14 percent unemployment—Sharron Angle was simply too extreme to send to the Senate.

In Delaware, Christine O’Donnell’s campaign absorbed a lot of oxygen thanks to her serial absurdities and social policy extremism. Her loss took a sure win away from the GOP, who were poised to walk into the seat with the popular centrist former governor and congressman Mike Castle. But thanks to the fact that Democrat-leaning Delaware only has one congressional seat, it’s possible to make an apples-to-apples comparison of their election prowess. In the Democratic midterm wave year of 2006, the Republican Castle won re-election with 57 percent of the total. In this week’s Republican wave, O’Donnell won only 40 percent of the vote, for her third Senate defeat in five years.

In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey’s nail biting victory over Joe Sestak is the subject of much celebration in conservative circles. The former president of the Club for Growth has been a major proponent of RINO hunting in the GOP for decades, targeting Republican centrists on social as well as fiscal issues. He developed a voting record in Congress that was literally to the right of Jesse Helms. And he will soon be a U.S. Senator from the purple swing-state of Pennsylvania.

But in this wave election year, Toomey had been leading comfortably in the polls until a late inning Sestak surge that left the race too close to call for much of the evening. His eventual victory should not obscure this fact—Toomey trailed Governor-elect Tom Corbett by 143,000 votes. That’s a significant measure of ticket-splitting in the Keystone state this year—people who could comfortably support Attorney General Tom Corbett but voted for Democrat Joe Sestak for Senate. It’s a sign of the comparative weakness of Toomey’s mandate as he enters office.

Likewise, Connecticut’s self-funded professional wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon may have pumped millions into her campaign, but the race was over early on Tuesday night against Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal. Still, former Bush Ambassador Tom Foley was pushing for a recount early Thursday morning, reflecting his comparative strength on the Republican line. Current totals show Foley running some 70,000 votes ahead of McMahon, translating to a 15 percent ticket split between the WWE executive and the former ambassador to Ireland. Given the razor-thin margin between Foley and Democrat Dan Malloy, it’s entirely possible that a more broadly popular GOP Senate nominee in this state where independent voters outnumber Republicans or Democrats could have helped Foley over the top.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2010 3:29 PM
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