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Sorry I haven't been around much but family medical issues and such...  The Republicans didn't do quite as well as expected (including by me) in the Senate.  Here are some thoughts:

Nevada - The line coming from the Weekly Standard and National Review is that Nevada shows that candidates matter.  That is true, but what does it mean?  One of Sharron Angle's problems was that she had a way explaining conservative positions in a way that put them in a bad light, and she made at least one statement that was either obnoxious or a threat of sedition depending on how charitably you want to interpret it.  I think an even bigger problem than her more famous quotes is that she is a rightworld provincial. She seemed very uncomfortable talking to any audience that she wasn't sure was friendly.  If you can find the videos, check out her appearance on FOX and Friends and then her thirty minute interview with one of the Nevada television stations.  She exuded anxiety in front of skeptical or indifferent audiences.  That is probably not uncommon among the general population (I don't think that I would have done better) but such on-the-surface social anxiety is an unfortunate quality in a Senate candidate in a tough race who depends on winning over swing voters.  Her combination of social anxiety and inability to translate her worldview to people who don't share her political assumptions is symbolized by her talk to a group of Latino students.  She pathetically tried to form a rapport by showing that she is so unbigoted that she thought some of them looked like Asians and that one time somebody thought she was Asian.

Pennsylvania - This was as close to an even fight as you were going to get.  Pat Toomey is an excellent candidate.  Every principled conservative who is aspiring to office in a mixed constituency should read this profile explaining how Toomey crafted a persona and message designed to win over blue collar urban and suburban white persuadables.  He isn't perfect, and his coalition might need updating, but conservatives can't hope for much better than Toomey.  Joe Sestak is a principled, articulate, tough and very likeable liberal.  The state leans Democratic but the national environment favored the Republicans.  The closeness of Toomey's win is disturbing.  Toomey's appeal is geared toward Reagan Democrats.  Those Democrats (plus Republicans of course) were enough to win for most of the last thirty years.  The Republican coalition is going to have to expand to win over some post-Obama Democrats.  Be that as it may, a lot of Republicans have a lot to learn from Toomey.

Colorado - See Nevada.  Buck wasn't too extreme exactly.  He was no less conservative than Rubio or Toomey (well maybe Toomey a little on abortion.)  The problem was he couldn't effectively deal with having his ideas cross-examined.  This isn't the same thing as being inarticulate.  I suspect Buck is very articulate in expressing the depths of his beliefs to  people who share his views.  The problem is in explaining those views to those not already on your side and then explaining away the misrepresentations of the opposition.  Conservative candidates need to master pithy responses to the most effective liberal jabs and seem comfortable in doing so.  Some of being able to do that is talent, but a lot of it is preparation.  One of the reasons Reagan was so persuasive was that he pitched his message to appeal to (but not only to) FDR-loving Democrats and then practiced and practiced and practiced.  I get the feeling that Buck and Angle have spent too much time in a conservative bubble and had little practice in winning over nonconservatives in elections where the relationship between ideology and policy was important.   

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 17 Comments

He was no less conservative than Rubio or Toomey

I think you're over-selling the Rubio win here. It would have been a much different race had it not been a threesome. Denying that would be like me arguing Bill Clinton's win in 1992 had nothing to do with Ross Perot.

Matt, so Meek (or Alan Grayson) beats Rubio straight up? Wining 50% against two opponents, one of whom is marginally popular governor who is running as a moderate and another who is a mjor party candidate running as liberal is quite impressive.

Hetherington (1996) demonstrates pretty soundly that the Bush defeat mostly had to do with negative perceptions of the economy created by media. I'd grant that Perot ran on fixing the economy, but.

Pete has got a pretty good point here. 50% sounds better in a three way ran than in a two way race. It suggests that his share of the vote may have been higher otherwise.

It's certainly not as impressive as winning 50% of the vote when the Democrats and Independents are splitting their electorate between two other candidates.

I think the whole mood of the campaign (not to mention fundraising dynamics) would have changed had either Meek or Crist not been involved. I think its naive to suggest otherwise. 90% of registered Republicans voted for him. I think something like less than 50% of registered Democrats and less than 20% of Independents voted for Meek.

But I kind of understand. Rubio is a rising Republican star and I will be über-surprised if he is not on a ticket for the White House in 2012 or 2016. He is a Jesus-loving Hispanic who can't stand big government and hates Cuba. I mean, in his victory speech he made it clear that his winning was god's will. How can you guys ignore that? He's your best shot at the Hispanic vote and you should take it.

But if you don't recognize the reality of this election in Florida - that he would have never won that easily in a two-way race - then how are you going to pragmatically approach getting Rubio into the White House?

Matt, I'm not sure that Meek and Crist were splitting "their" electorate - which is to say that some votes would go to Rubio if it was a stragiht left/right (Meek/Rubio) or weasel/right (Crist/Rubio) race. Rubio doesn't win by 21% probaby, but I think he would probably have preferred a straight fight with some Democrat than the race he faced where the recently Republican governor was peeling off some moderate and right-leaning votes. And I don't think Rubio won easily at all. It took a lot of discipline and talent to do as well as he did in a three way race.

And I would guess Rubio doesn't hate Cuba, though he seems to have some issues with the current government. And good for him.

And I would guess Rubio doesn't hate Cuba, though he seems to have some issues with the current government. And good for him.

Right. Staunchly supporting an embargo against Cuba is "good" when I'm fairly confident a McDonald's in Havana would do more for that country's free market aspirations than a continuation of our anti-commie, clearly ineffective hissy-fit.

Pete - I don't think you understand how deeply divided the left and center were about Crist/Meek. Ever since Crist vetoed Florida Senate Bill 6 every union down here was forced to endorse both candidates. Environmental groups endorsed both candidates as well because of Crist's 180 on many issues they cared about after realizing he was going to have to run as an independent. And Meek really wasn't that strong of a candidate to begin with (I mean, he pretty much existed as an option because of his mom - let's be honest).

So I still think Rubio enjoyed watching left-of-center interest groups run in circles trying to endorse both candidates and hope for someone other than him to win. I don't think he (or, I suppose, Jesus) would have wanted it any other way.

Pete, excellent post. Good points, all.

Matt . . . stop. Rubio did the unthinkable and you know it. If it was straight Rubio v. Meek, he'd have had even more votes (though Meek would have looked less er, meek). I feel your pain of living in a conservative state when you are a liberal. I live that in reverse. Maybe we should trade places?

I think that the several administrations spanning the embargo realize that too, Matt. But Castro is a man whose provocations come precisely at those moments when American-Cuban relations seem to be warming. They are meant to make any American efforts at outreach go sour because Castro knows that his consolidation of power depends on a less than open society. When the economy was really bad there, he experimented with some limited entrepreneurship, only to once again tighten the reigns again when economic conditions improved. Can't let that crazy populace get ideas, you know!

By the way, staunchly supporting the embargo is what MOST Cubans do.

Pete, you have a big fan in Jonah Goldberg--be sure to instruct him well, as you've instructed all of us over the years!

Did I read right? Did you say that Sestak was principled?

Matt, the implication that Rubio (or Obama?) hates Cuba because he supports the embargo is the kind of thinking that makes Alan Grayson the great logician of our time. Cue something about something stupid that some Republican said.

I have no doubt that Rubio enjoyed seeing left-of-center groups in an agony about whether they should support a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, anti-Obamacare, anti-tax increase, self-styled Reagan Republican (though he would eventually go back and forth about some of those things.) I enjoyed it too. So what? It wasn't like Rubio was running against two candidates of the left (like say Meek and some Green Party candidate.) He was running against a liberal Democrat and an establishment Republican who switched to independent and ran as a moderate. In the last poll, Crist retained a 42% approval rating among Republicans.
Winning 50% under those circumstance is pretty amazing. It would be like if Clinton had won 50% in 1992 with Paul Tsongas rather than Ross Perot as the independent candidate. I mean no insult to the memory of Tsongas for comparing him to Crist.

Julie, thanks!

Ken, that was a very pleasant surprise!

Come on, Pete. Do you really think I meant that Rubio hates all of Cuba - every single child, stream, and mountain? You know what I meant. This blog gets tiring when it implodes into silly semantic "gotcha" games.

But it's your party.

Should we instead wonder why a cultural relativist has taken up the "blue jeans win hearts" approach to foreign policy?

Matt, no I didn't think that and I think that you are neither malicious nor an idiot (both of which Alan Grayson seems to be.) I do think that the whole hates Cuba thing lacked the semblance of grounding in reality that would have elevated it from a cheap shot to satire.

Should we instead wonder why a cultural relativist has taken up the "blue jeans win hearts" approach to foreign policy?

Because it's fun to watch your e-self wrestle with it.

I do think that the whole hates Cuba thing lacked the semblance of grounding in reality that would have elevated it from a cheap shot to satire.

That's fair.

Mmm, not really wrestling with it (nor is my e-self). My false consciousness, now that is another story!

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