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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

ABC’s Rick Klein asks “Did Republicans already win in Massachusetts?”

He immediately backs off the question by stating he doesn’t mean actually winning the seat, stating “few observers really think that’s winnable even now, no matter how toxic the environment for Democrats these days.”  Rather, he argues

the fact that this is a race at all — or, at least, the fact that it’s being treated like a race over the final week — is itself a victory that tells important tales for both parties.


Democrats are being forced to spend very real resources in a place they should not, by any calculation, have to worry about it. They’re being met by resources (perhaps a more renewable variety at this stage) that Republicans never dreamed would be worth spending.

Now, fair enough on the resources expenditures.  And, yes, the fact that Mass. Dems are sweating this at all is a moral victory for the Reps.   However, it won’t be a real victory unless they actually win the seat.  Ultimately real victories matter, moral ones do not.

The part about this analysis (indeed, almost all the analysis of this race) is that it seems to miss the rather obvious point that special elections are odd creatures that frequently do not fully conform to normal patterns.  We need not go any further than a few months ago and the NY-23 contest to find evidence of this fact.

The context of this race (i.e., the health care reform debate and the poor economy) also has to be figured into any understanding of the dynamics thereof.

Of course, even in terms of normal patterns, Nate Silver noted the other day by looking at, you know, actual numbers (rather than just functioning in the realm of conventional wisdom) that not all elections in the state are not massive blowouts for the Democrats:

Obviously Massachusetts is a very blue state, but the notion that the Democrat always wins by a 20- or 30- point blowout is just not true. The Democrat received more than 60 percent of the vote on only 4 of 19 occasions and averaged 56.2 points to the Republican’s 39.9. And although I generally disdain comparing governor’s races to races for the Congress, it is worth remembering that Republicans’ controlled the governors’ office for 16 consecutive years from 1991 through 2007. John Kerry, for his part, had some fairly close calls after becoming Senator; although it had been a long time since Kennedy did (a 17-pointer against Mitt Romney in 1994 was the closest.)

This comports with the basic point I was making in a recent post, i.e., that while Massachusetts is a very Democratic state, it does have Republicans in it as well.

It sometimes seems as if the press (and many politicos for that matter) think that “Blue State” equals “100% Democratic.”  This just in:  all 50 states have both Democrats and Republicans voters.

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4 Responses to ““Did Republicans already win in Massachusetts?””

  1. “Did Republicans already win in Massachusetts?” | The Moderate Voice Says:

    [...] Cross-posted from PoliBlog.  [...]

  2. Sam Says:

    I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I suspect Republicans can win in Masschusetts due to independents who sometimes vote for them, not on the rather outnumbered Republicans.

  3. Steven L. Taylor Says:

    Well, the independents in Mass. tend to vote Dem.-it isn’t that they are truly independent in the sense that they swing between the two parties. Brown can win only, really, if Rep turnout is substantially disproportionate to Dem turnout (and I include independents voting either Rep or Dem in the appropriate categories).

  4. MSS Says:

    Nate should stick to his usual disdain for including executive positions with legislative. States that are dominated by one party are many times more likely to vote for a governor than for a senator of the other party.

    While the state has had Republican governors in the recent past, the last time it elected a a Republican Senator was 1973. The Republican Party has not exactly moved closer to the median Massachusetts voter in the past 37 years.

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