This is the second part of two posts analyzing patterns in the 2010 Senate midterm elections. The previous part can be found here.
The previous post presented a table ranking the worst Republican candidates in the 2010 midterm elections. The model used to create the table is also explained in the previous post.
Let’s take a look at this table once again:
State Margin (R) Cook PVI Overperformance
South Dakota 100.00% 8.9% 91.10%
North Dakota 53.91% 10.4% 43.51%
Kansas 43.72% 11.5% 32.22%
Iowa 31.05% -1.0% 32.05%
Idaho 46.25% 17.4% 28.85%
Oklahoma 44.50% 16.9% 27.60%
Florida 28.69% 1.8% 26.89%
South Carolina 33.83% 7.8% 26.03%
New Hampshire 23.22% -1.6% 24.82%
Arizona 24.14% 6.1% 18.04%
Alabama 30.47% 13.2% 17.27%
Ohio 17.44% 0.7% 16.74%
Georgia 19.31% 6.8% 12.51%
Arkansas 20.96% 8.8% 12.16%
Missouri 13.60% 3.1% 10.50%
Illinois 1.60% -7.7% 9.30%
Louisiana 18.88% 9.7% 9.18%
Utah 28.79% 20.2% 8.59%
Indiana 14.58% 6.2% 8.38%
North Carolina 11.77% 4.3% 7.47%
Wisconsin 4.84% -2.4% 7.24%
Pennsylvania 2.02% -2.0% 4.02%
Kentucky 11.47% 10.4% 1.07%
Washington -4.73% -5.0% 0.27%
Alaska 11.94% 13.4% -1.46%
Colorado -1.63% 0.2% -1.83%
California -10.01% -7.4% -2.61%
Nevada -5.74% -1.3% -4.44%
Connecticut -11.94% -7.1% -4.84%
Delaware -16.58% -7.0% -9.58%
Oregon -17.98% -4.0% -13.98%
New York (S) -27.84% -10.2% -17.64%
Maryland -26.44% -8.5% -17.94%
West Virginia -10.07% 7.9% -17.97%
Vermont -33.41% -13.4% -20.01%
New York -34.10% -10.2% -23.90%
Hawaii -53.24% -12.5% -40.74%
Total/Average 5.54% 2.3% 8.08%
(Note: The data in Alaska and Florida refer to the official candidates nominated by the parties, not the independent candidates – Senator Lisa Murkowski and Governor Charlie Crist – who ran in the respective states).
There are six possible outcomes which are possible here. This post will look at each outcome.
Outcome #1: A Republican candidate, running in a red state, wins while overperforming.
This outcome was by far the most common in the November elections: indeed, 18 Senate races fit this category. In a way this is not too surprising: the definition of overperforming here is doing better than the state’s Cook PVI (how a state would be expected to vote in a presidential election in the event of an exact tie nationwide). The average Republican should have “overperformed” in this sense, given how Republican a year it was.
Another factor is incumbency. Red states generally had Republican incumbents. Facing little serious competition in a Republican year and benefiting from their incumbency status, these people were probably expected to overperform – and they did.
Outcome #2: A Republican candidate, running in a red state, wins while underperforming.
Technically this did not happen once in this election. The race that comes closest is Alaska , where Republican candidate Joe Miller did better than the Democratic candidate while doing worse than Alaska ’s political lean (on the other hand, he still lost to Independent Lisa Murkowski).
This is actually quite surprising. There were twenty-one Senate contests in red states – and in just one (or zero, depending on how you count) did the Republican underperform while still winning.
In fact, this outcome is quite rare, for whatever reason, throughout American politics. If a Republican underperforms in a red state, he or she usually loses. Rarely does a Republican candidate underperform in a red state but still win (another variant along the same theme: out of the counties Senator John McCain won, he almost always improved on Republican performances in 1992 and 1996). Why this happens is something of a continuing mystery to this blogger.
Outcome #3: A Republican candidate, running in a red state, loses while underperforming.
This was another rare occurrence in the 2010 Senate elections. Only two states fit this category: West Virginia and Colorado . The performance of Democratic candidate Joe Manchin is especially remarkable. Mr. Manchin was the only Senate Democrat to win in a deep red state this year, and his name stands out as an outlier everywhere in the table.
Outcome #4: A Republican candidate, running in a blue state, wins while overperforming.
There are five states that fit this category: Illinois , Iowa , New Hampshire , Pennsylvania , and Wisconsin . These account for three of the Republican pick-ups this cycle. Interestingly, four of these states are in the Midwest , where Democrats were pummeled this year.
Among these states, Illinois stands out the most. It is the only deep blue state that a Republican candidate overperformed in. Although much of this is due to other factors – the continuing Blagojevich scandal, the weakness of the Democratic candidate – credit goes to Republican Mark Kirk for an outstanding overperformance.
Outcome #5: A Republican candidate, running in a blue state, loses while overperforming.
This is another outcome that, for whatever reason, rarely seems to happen in American politics; if Republicans overperform in blue states, they generally tend to win.
In 2010 this happened in exactly one state: Washington , where Republican candidate Dino Rossi did 0.27% better than the Cook PVI, but still lost.
Outcome #6: A Republican candidate, running in a blue state, loses while underperforming.
This was the second-most common outcome in 2010; ten states fit this category. These states tended to be the bluest states in America . The fact that Republicans tended to underperform a state’s political lean in the deepest-blue states is another strange pattern in American politics. This is something that the previous post analyzes extensively.
All in all, the table reveals a lot of surprising patterns – things which were not expected when this blogger initially made it. And as for the worst Republican candidate in 2010? That was Campbell Cavasso of Hawaii, who won a mere fifth of the vote against the Democratic institution Daniel Inouye.