*With apologies to the Boston Herald.
I’m going to need some time to analyze the data from last night’s election, but I wanted to make four quick points and show some preliminary analysis from Charles Franklin, just to whet your appetite. But first, for those of you who had to dash off to work and didn’t catch the final results, Coakley closed the gap a little as some of the big urban areas finally began reporting. The final tally, pending final certification, looks to be about 52-47, exactly where the preelection polls had it. In looking at the total votes and their distribution statewide, two things are clear (and Franklin has a good post on this here): Brown basically recreated the McCain coalition from 2008, but actually drew 105% of McCain’s presidential vote in the state. That’s right. In a special election Brown won more votes than McCain did here in the presidential election. Coakley, in contrast, drew only about 56% of Obama’s supporters. When you look at the distribution of votes, however, it almost exactly duplicated the location of support for Obama and McCain in 2008. So there wasn’t a wholesale redrawing of voter coalitions that did it for Brown so much so that his supporters were far more energized. This chart by Franklin plots Brown’s vote as a percentage of McCain’s (x-axis) and Coakley’s as a percentage of Obama (y-axis). Coakley doesn’t come anywhere near Obama’s total in any city or town, while Brown exceeds McCain’s pretty much everywhere.
(The way to read the chart is to find the 100 percent marker on the relevant axis – bottom axis for comparing Brown to McCain, left-hand side axis for comparing Coakley to Obama. If the red dot is to the right of that 100 mark on the bottom, Brown beat McCain in that town. If the blue dot is above that 100 mark on the side axis, Coakley beat Obama. Clearly she didn’t even come close – onoly one blue dots is even above 80%, never mind 100%).
And now for the repercussions:
1. To their credit the major media outlets are hedging their bets somewhat, but the dominant analytic frame seems to be that, as the NY Times put it, “It is hard not to view that as a repudiation of the way Mr. Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders have run things.” I don’t think this is true.
2. The Long Knives Are Out. Much as predicted yesterday, Obama’s aides are running away from the Coakley campaign and results as fast as they can. Inevitably some critics will suggest that Obama never should have campaigned on her behalf, since it is now easier to make the case that this vote is a repudiation of him and his policies. I don’t think this is true.
3. Everyone is trying to read the tea leaves regarding 2010 – what does this portend for the midterms? To answer this, we have to know what drove the vote in Massachusetts, and see whether those conditions exist nationwide. I’ll try to address this.
4. What will happen with health care? It is remarkable how little impact the results from last night are having on advocates on both sides of the issue: supporters of the current Senate bill are saying “push it through now” and opponents, on both the Left and the Right, are saying, “See? I told you passage is a mistake!” I think saner heads will prevail and the rush to pass the current Senate bill will slow.
A final point. Today is Obama’s anniversary: one year in power. Think back to all those 100-day meditations trying to assess the state of his presidency. Seems pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it, that the media actually persists in trying to come to some assessment after he’s been in office three months. Yes it does.
Predictably, much of this conversation is taking place without much data to support it. I need to take some time to address lingering items from my day job (this race has been a fulltime occupation for close to a week now) but if I can, I’ll try to address all four issues in subsequent posts – with at least some data to support my argument! So stop by again later today and the days to come. And if you were one of those who hit on this site for the first time last night and you want regular email notifications regarding when I post, let me know and I’ll add you to the list.
Once again, thanks for all the comments and participation last night. Really a historic night.
Oh, and the t-shirt contest will remain open for another day.
More in a bit.