This remarkable graph comes to us from Sam Wang, In State Races, as Much Suspense as 2006 and 2010 Combined. For all the years before this year, it shows the number of Senate and gubernatorial races that that were won by less than three percentage points. And for this year, it shows the number of races that are this close based upon Wang’s aggregation of polling data. This isn’t a partisan breakdown. There are Democrats and Republicans and Independents on this graph. But the point is that the election is incredibly close by historical standards.
You probably already know that despite people constantly complaining about politicians, incumbents do really well. They tend to get re-elected at a rate just shy of 90%. That isn’t so much the case this time. Of course, as always, this is just about fundamentals. Four years ago, the Republicans had a wave election and a whole bunch of Republicans ended up as governors — including in states that aren’t red. So they are vulnerable. On the other side, six years ago, the Democrats had a wave election and a whole bunch of Democrats ended up as Senators — including in bright red states like Alaska. So they are vulnerable.
But a big part of what is going on is that Democrats are simply doing a lot better than they should be. We will have to see how the vote turns out. It may be that for some reason, all the polls are favoring the Democrats and that the races that look close aren’t. But I tend to think that these are close races. It will take some serious statistical analysis after the election to say whether we are seeing the edge of demographic changes. But I wonder if it isn’t just that the country is exhausted from years of the same old nonsense from the Republicans.
I understand that “the party of ‘No'” is just a Democratic talking point. But how long can a party continue to push the same ideas that don’t work before the voters just give up? We’ve been living in Reagan’s world for more than 30 years now. The only improvement in the lives of the middle class was under Bill “Socialist! He’s a socialist, I tell you!” Clinton. And no one can seriously look at Obama and think that he is the bogeyman. He most clearly isn’t that. He may be detached and too inclined to a world view that is divorced from the day-to-day struggles of regular Americans. I certainly think that. But he isn’t out to harm America. He’s the President of the United States, for Christ’s sake! No reasonable person is going to buy the whole Antichrist Manchurian Candidate ranting that is now well inside the Republican mainstream.
The close elections are a source of comfort for Democrats, because it could turn out that we do a lot better than is expected. But it also means that 2014 could be a rout for the Republicans, and we have to look forward to Obama talking about his “shellacking” — showing that he still doesn’t understand how politics works. But I have seven days to hope that things go reasonably well for the Democrats. (It would also be good for the Republicans too, but that’s long-term.) After that, we will all know — except for Georgia and Louisiana most likely.