Dems Win Again

Democrats win the congressional special election in PA-12, despite GOP claims that this would be their bellweather victory. This is a pattern:

For those keeping score, there have been seven special elections for U.S. House seats since the president's inauguration 16 months ago: NY20, IL5, CA32, CA10, NY23, FL19, and PA12. Democrats have won all seven.

The Democratic wing of the Democratic party also won in the Pennsylvania Senate primary, defeating ur-DINO ex-Republican Arlen Specter. Progressives tied in Arkansas, forcing incumbent and sometime corporate shill Blanche Lincoln into a runoff (although if I had to bet, I'd give odds she'll win the runoff, having better access to funds and likely winning more votes from the third candidate's supporters). And Democrats won the Republican primary in Kentucky, as the GOP voted down the bland establishment candidate supported by the party leadership, in favor of extremist anarcho-libertarian candidate Rand Paul, a man whose graciousness and charm are already winning deserved plaudits.

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12 Responses to Dems Win Again

  1. Just me says:

    Do you think it was a good thing that Arlen Specter was defeated?

    If I were a Democrat I would be less than happy about this. Specter represents a middle of the road, can make compromises, version of the party (whichever party he belongs to) that has wide appeal among national election voters. Having him in your camp come November 2012 bodes well if you want to capture the center. Also, he has been in the Senate for almost 30 years, I’m gonna guess that in those 30 years he has figured out how to get things done in the Senate.

    The fact that a politician like him can’t get elected in a primary in either major political party speaks volumes for the unfortunate polarization of the parties in this country. Had he won this primary, the Democrats could have raised the flag of victory over such polarization in their party. They could have said “see, we are moderates. We hold the middle ground. The Republicans are all a bunch of crazy tea party nuts. Re-elect our president.” Now…not so much.

    Just my $0.02

  2. michael says:

    I think it is a *tremendous* thing that Specter was defeated. He does not represent much that the Democratic party should be happy about. His tenure as Chair of the Judiciary Committee was shameful and craven. His prior service on that committee had the occasional bright spot but also some very ugly moments. Those 30 years, often marked by water-carrying for the GOP leadership, give Democrats ample reason to vote against him. Specter’s MO was most often to talk a good game then cave in on the key votes when the GOP whip’s office came calling. What Specter had most figured out in 30 years — more than anything — was how to protect Specter.

    That Specter was rejected by his own party in favor of a Club for Growth extremist indeed may tell us something negative about the current state of the GOP. But the fact that a 30-year Republican can’t win a Democratic party primary against an incumbent Congressman with a powerful personal history tells us something good: that the 2-party system is not quite dead yet, despite the best efforts of some in the Democratic party machine.

  3. Just me says:


    Your point is reasonable enough. I wonder though whether the Democrats will come to regret this if Specter ends up running as an independent.

    If he runs and wins, who does he caucus with?
    If he runs and loses, who does he take the most votes away from?

  4. michael says:

    I believe that Penn. law prohibits Specter from running as an on-ballot independent because the filing deadline has passed, but I could be wrong about that. As I understand it, the exceptions to this general rule are said to be Connecticut, Iowa, New York and Vermont. The rest of the USA either has ‘sore loser laws’ which explicitly prohibit this, or (as does Penn.) registration dates that make it a practical impossibility. (Whether state ‘sore loser’ laws can apply to a federal office is left as an exercise for the reader.)

    A more immediate problem for the Democrats, however, is how Specter votes for the rest of this Congress. That said, both the White House and the Senate Democratic leadership supported him, so IF he has any loyalty…

  5. Just me says:

    Good to know. I wasn’t really aware of “sore loser laws.”

  6. Specter isn’t Lieberman. He can’t win as an independent.

  7. Vic says:

    One might note, for what it’s worth, that only FL19 and PA12 occured AFTER the Health Care bill was passed, of the rest, I believe 3 were early in Obama’s presidency, the other two were in November 2009. One might also note that part of why the Dem won in PA was precisely because Dems were galvanized to come out to oppose Spector in the concurrent primary. In fact, 62% of the voters were Democratic, just 34% Republican, and a measly 4% were Independent or had a third party affiliation.

    In primary elections (which was the backdrop of PA12), voters go to the polls and are asked their party affiliation. They are then given a ballot which corresponds to that affiliation. Independents are given a separate ballot. Nearly 35,000 more voters filled out Democrat ballots than Republican ballots. For Burns to have won, he would have had to overcome those 35,000 votes by a combination of Independents and ticket splitters. Independents, of course, are not known for their high levels of participation in primary elections…quite the opposite in fact.

    Ticket splitting is fairly common in general elections but not in primaries. It’s difficult to imagine significant numbers of Democrat voters asking for a Democrat ballot upon arrival at the polls, then voting simultaneously for Critz in the primary and Burns in the special. Partisans, by definition, show up on primary day, not squishy ticket-splitters. Undoubtedly there were a few ticket-splitters, but to expect an amount sufficient to swing the election to Burns was nothing more than a pipe dream. That Burns was able to close that huge gap from 35,000 to 10,000 with Independents and ticket splitters on a primary election day is actually quite impressive. In a straight election, who knows what might have been?

    Since it is the events of the last couple of months that have galvanized many against Congress and the President, I wouldn’t read too much out of the ordinary in the other elections. As for the two that have happened since healthcare, they both occured in heavily democratic districts, so the results are hardly that surprising or meaningful to prove anything. And remember, Bennett, a Republican out in Utah recently got his head handed to him by conservatives within his own party, even though he has a fairly respectable conservative record. Why: He supported TARP.

    The election that will matter is next November. I think there are going to be a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle that will be surprised then. The left can continue to smear the Teaparty independants and libertarians by calling them racists and (ironically) using an anti-homosexual slur to refer to them, but they are as a result a growing demographic and they will be deciding what happens in November. It will be, and always has been, the independants, both conservative and liberal that decide elections. An election that took place in 2009 doesn’t matter under the new rubric. Nor does party affiliation.

  8. Just me says:

    Two quick things:

    1) There is nothing at all anti-homosexual about calling the tea party fanatics “tea-baggers.” Tea-bagging can just as easily be performed by heterosexual couples (I will spare you all the details). In any event, I think calling them “tea-baggers” is more of a beavis and butthead “hehe” kind of thing than anything else. Vic, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Don’t read more into things than you have to.

    2) I’m not so sure that Bennett’s defeat in Utah serves as great evidence that the people, as a whole, are upset about TARP or any other “Obaminations” (my friends on the right love that term). Utah is perhaps the most conservative/right-wing state in the nation. Bennett’s defeat can just as easily be a sign that (as I have previously argued) the parties are becoming outrageously polarized, or simply that Utah has a quirky primary system (which they do).

  9. michael says:

    Today’s “Tea Party” originally called themselves “Tea Baggers”. For better or worse, the name was one they chose themselves. But I agree that one should in most cases call groups what they call themselves, so that appellation is history now.

  10. Vic says:

    I’m not so sure that the Tea Party folk really originally called themselves “teabaggers.” They did have an early campaign to “tea bag the white house” which was simply a tax protest which referred sybolically, of course, to the Boston Tea Party. Tea bags being the modern way that tea is packaged (I know…I drink loose tea as well), and how it can be easily sent.

    If any of the Tea Party called themselves teabaggers, it was in THAT context. This should be obvious.

    It was from there that OTHERS started calling them teabaggers, with the full understanding that it was a slur – like the infamous Rachel Maddow moment. Now, it is used pretty much universally as a slur referring to homosexual activity. It is a whole generation of sophistication above the school-yard taunt, “You’re such a fag!” which can somehow be used by “respectable people” in mixed company and on TV. (ignoring the equally offensive idea that simply calling someone a homosexual should be offensive of itself) I seriously doubt anyone now uses the term to refer innocently to the activity of sending tea bags to the WH! As to whether heterosexuals also teabag…well the word “sodomite” refers to an activity that can cross borders as well, but we all know how the term is used in practice.

    Personally, I think the term is just patently offensive and should never be used to refer to anyone. The fact that it is now used, pretty much exclusively by the left, for the very purpose of its alternate meaning, says loads about those who insist on using it. I think we should all agree not to use it, just as we all agree not to use other derrogatory terms.

    Bennett’s defeat is nothing less than a message that only conservatives that have specific ideologies need apply. Bennett was a long-time congressman who was aptly conservative by anyone’s measure, but he also was supportive of some of the Obama/Left efforts. So a message was sent that that’s not acceptable. If someone like Bennett can lose, anyone can.

    People need to start doing the math. The far left and far right will always vote their parties. It’s the independants, libertarians, Tea Party, DINO’s, RINO’s, that will decide the next election. Look at the actual numbers in PA-14. The Left should not be seeing this as a great victory. 25,000 people, most of whom were Dems (since almost no independants voted), crossed party lines to vote for the Republican. The Dem only won because the party registration numbers were so lop-sided. Think about what that says!

    Again, who knows what will actually happen in the fall, but you’re kidding yourselves if you think the middle ground and non-party voters just don’t matter. They are the entire race.

  11. Just me says:

    Hi Vic:

    I’m not sure if your statement that “you’re kidding yourselves if you think the middle ground and non-party voters just don’t matter. They are the entire race” was in response to something I said or just a general statement of your opinion. In any event, I couldn’t agree more. The middle is where national elections are won and lost. That was essentially the point of my first comment on this thread.

    But I think you are blowing the whole “teabaggers” thing WAY out of proportion. Then again, I guess reasonable people can disagree on all sorts of things.

  12. It’s interesting to read this article looking back. A lot has changed.

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