The past 36 hours or so (i.e., since the night of the primary election) have convinced me that there is a seismic shift going on politically the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
First, an anecdotal observation. This morning I drove from home (in Woodbine) to meet a client at Leisure World (a large age-restricted development in Silver Spring). On the way down Georgia Avenue, and then across Norbeck Road heading back to my office in Columbia, I noticed a handful of Ehrlich signs here and there. But I did not see a single O’Malley sign in my travels to and from Montgomery County, which is one of the bluest counties in this most blue of states. Even driving through the liberal hotbed that is Columbia, I see a roughly even split of O’Malley and Ehrlich signs. This is only anecdotal, but I am convinced that there is practically no enthusiasm this year for O’Malley.
Second, this morning I read that the latest poll done in the Ohio governor’s race has John Kasich (R) up 17 points over Ted Strickland (D). For those of you not familiar with the politics of my home state, the stunning thing about this poll is that Strickland is the INCUMBENT who was leading Kasich by 5 points in the polls in late June. Strickland is not mired in any scandal, and he has not made any significant campaign gaffe. The worst thing that Strickland has done so far in this campaign is a YouTube video clip showing him in a Howard Dean type tirade about how Republicans hate America. But that clip was not major news and the tirade occurred only about 10 days ago, when Strickland was already trailing badly in the polls. Across the Great Lakes states, it looks like governorships of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois are going to flip from Democratic to Republican.
Third, Christine O’Donnell defeated ex-Governor and current Congressman Mike Castle in the Delaware primary for the Senate seat previously held by VP Joe Biden. Normally an insurgent can beat a party favorite only when there is an very low turnout in the primary, and the insurgent’s villagers with torches and pitchforks are the only ones who show up at the polls. What was especially interesting about O’Donnell’s victory is that the turnout in Delaware was three times the average primary turnout.
All the pundits immediately said that the Delaware voters were crazy and the Republicans had just lost their chance at picking up that Senate seat, and hurt their chances to gain the majority in the Senate, citing polls showing Democratic nominee (New Castle County executive) Chris Coons with a 16 point lead over O’Donnell. Karl Rove promptly bashed O’Donnell for her past financial problems and quirks. Even before O’Donnell concluded her victory speech Tuesday night, the Republican Senatorial Committee said it would not be supporting her in the general election. Castle, in his concession speech, did not congratulate O’Donnell or even mention her by name (reminiscent of Maryland’s own sore loser Wayne Gilchrest in 2008). Why the outrage at O’Donnell, particularly from Republicans? What happened to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”?
Some Republicans dislike the Tea Party movement for its impact on the Delaware, and Alaska, and Nevada primaries. They like the enthusiasm that the Tea Party has generated for conservative candidates, but resent those same Tea Party-ers for upsetting the apple cart for some party insiders. Those Republicans are trying to have their cake and eat it too. You can’t expect a group to be enthusiastic about the political process unless that group can have an impact.
There were online reports that Karl Rove was working behind the scenes for the Castle campaign, so maybe he was just ticked off that his horse got beat. Even so, Rove is a political professional and his blast was a head scratcher. For those fans of conspiracy theories, I read one comment suggesting that Rove had done O’Donnell a huge favor. Now she was the underdog again, berated and dismissed by fellow Republicans. She was immediately transformed from a kooky fringe candidate to a sympathetic rallying point for conservatives across the country. On the day after the primary election, O’Donnell collected $750,000 in donations. By noon Thursday, she was up to $1,000,000. At the very least, she will have enough money to range a credible campaign, and the Democrats will still have to spend a significant amount of money in Delaware that they could have used elsewhere. Two days after the election, Coons’ lead over O’Donnell was down to 11 points. Now Delaware may be a blue state, but Chris Coons is no Joe Biden. He does not engender enthusiastic support. I think the momentum is shifting back to O’Donnell. I fully expect that any poll done the week of 9/19 will have her down by no more than 8 points. At the very least, O’Donnell is still going to make a race of it.
Let me try to connect some dots.
(1) There is no enthusiasm among Democrats.
(2) Republicans and independents are more likely to vote this year and they are angry. Ohio is the ultimate swing state, going back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. If an incumbent Ohio governor with no scandal or major gaffe is down 17 points, I’m extrapolating that Republicans have maybe a 12-15 point advantage over their base line of support this year.
(3) Christine O’Donnell is attracting money and support at an unprecedented rate.
Now let me go far out on a limb and make some predictions:
(1) Republicans take the House.
(2) Republicans take the Senate.
(3) Christine O’Donnell wins.