Going into Tuesday’s election, there were a lot of predictions. A lot of polls. A lot of prognostication. The conventional wisdom was that we would see a Democratic tidal wave across the nation, sea to sea, from the House to the Senate to state governorships.
Yes, I grant you, there was more pessimism in the Senate, where the expectation was that Democrats would, at worst, perhaps lose a seat, but that they would likely run the table in places like Arizona, Nevada, and Montana. However, there were still plenty of people predicting a net pickup of one or two seats, and the potential for a Democratic wave to deliver the Senate.
Counting still isn’t done at the time that I write this, but enough results have come in to reliably judge what happened on Election Day. Right now, everyone from the president to Nancy Pelosi is busy spinning, trying to shape public opinion of election night, so it can be hard to sort through it all and understand what actually happened.
So let me add my voice to that.
One thing is very clear from Tuesday night, and that is that the notion of a blue wave never materialized.
I’ve been doing politics a long time, and I have lived amid wave elections — in both directions — on many occasions. I was working on campaigns in 2006, which was a classic Democratic wave. I was working on campaigns in 2010, which was one of the most historic Republican waves in American history. I’ve even been working on campaigns during “mini-waves” like the Democratic one in 2008 and the Republican one in 2014.
One thing is present in all of these cases: a complete domination by a single party.
The whole concept of a wave is built around the idea that there is a powerful front of political momentum that has been built, and about which you can not realistically do anything to stop, that “washes away” entire groups of elected officials, pushing one party’s candidates over the edge in competitive races across the country.
In 2006, for instance, Democrats won six U.S. Senate seats and 31 House seats away from Republicans, capturing the majority in both Houses. In 2010, Republicans won six Senate seats and 63 House seats away from Democrats. In each case, toss-up races fell over and over and over to the party that was the beneficiary of the wave.
This year, it is true that the Democrats did very well in the House, winning (most likely) more than 30 seats. But in the Senate? As of my writing this column, the Republican candidates in Missouri, Indiana, Florida, and North Dakota — all seats currently held by Democrats — as well as the candidates in Arizona and Tennessee — for seats currently held by Republicans — have either had their races called for them, or are leading. That is, if it all holds, a pick up of four Senate seats.
In only two states — Nevada and Montana (narrowly) — did a Democrat win a toss-up Senate race.
Over in the governors races, Democrats did pick up a few seats, but far less than they were expected to. They were unable to win in Iowa, Alaska, South Dakota, Georgia, Florida or Ohio, which were all states that showed Democrats leading in recent polling. When all is said and done, Republicans will still control 27 governor’s mansions, to the Democrats 23.
There is no definition by which that could be classified as a “blue wave.”
But here in Maine, there was a wave.
Republicans were wiped out in Maine, top to bottom. The state Senate looks to feature roughly 20 Democrats to 15 Republicans. The state House may be close to a supermajority for Democrats. Janet Mills won a rather resounding win in the gubernatorial race. The 2nd Congressional District is a toss-up, with the race to likely be decided by ranked-choice voting.
In short, the wave crashed here, if not the rest of the country.
Why? Was it the quality of candidates? Was it campaign strategy? Was it money?
The answer is yes to all, but particularly the money question. Democrats, for all of their virtue signaling about money in politics being evil, wrong and corrupting, overwhelmed Republicans with money. Three, four, five and sometimes 10-to-one in race after race across the state.
And while I have always said that money advantages do not decide races, that truth is not universally true, and when one side is so overwhelmed that they can’t even make their case for why you need to vote for them, they will lose.
And that, more than anything, is why the wave crashed in Maine but not the country.