2014 and Republican Morale

Sexy Karl Rove 622

There’s been a lot written about the impact of the 2014 elections, but let’s not overlook one of the really crucial points: its effect on Republican morale. Republicans didn’t just need a win: we needed a win that met or exceeded pre-Election Day expectations. 2014 delivered that – every Republican who was expected to contend on Election Day contended; every Republican who was expected to win won; most Republicans who were expected to be in tossup races won; several Republicans who were expected to lose won; some Republicans who weren’t expected to contend did. Almost nobody entered Election Day with a reasonable expectation greater than the net results in the Senate, House, Governors and state legislative races. And while a few races that were thought of as close to tossups disappointed (the Senate race in New Hampshire, the Governors races in Colorado, Connecticut and Alaska), every race that was really symbolically important to Republicans ended in victory. Republicans proved they could win Senate races in light-blue Iowa and demographically shifting Colorado, could defend Governors with key conservative policy agendas in Wisconsin, Kansas and Michigan (as well as North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Kay Hagan6%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard6% tried to make Thom Tillis’ race a referendum on the GOP-controlled state legislature). No Republican-held Senate seats were lost, no red-state races fumbled away aside from the Alaska Governor’s race, and every single surprise result compared to the polling was in the GOP direction.

The fact that this happened is a crucial psychological boost to the party and all its factions, from New England moderates to Deep South Christian conservatives, from the Tea Party grassroots to the K Street lobbyists. And that has ripple effects that may prove important in 2016.

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Concepts like “morale” and “momentum” and “chemistry,” in politics just as in sports, are as often byproducts as causes of success. And political parties naturally undergo a cycle of confidence leading to swagger leading to hubris after successes, and recrimination leading to disarray leading to demoralization leading to renewed purpose, focus and hunger for victory after defeats. Winning after losing is a good thing, but it’s not that unusual; indeed, it’s been the rule in American politics.

What was significant about the …read more    

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