Dem Wins Squeaker in West Virginia, Media Still Says It's Bad News for Democrats
A coin-flip win for Dems is great news...for the GOP!
For those engrossed in playoff baseball last night, the special election to select a permanent replacement for Democrat Joe Manchin in West Virginia culminated in a Democratic victory last night.
Amid polls predicting a toss-up and a growing sense in the pundit class that an upset was imminent, acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin bested Republican Bill Maloney by a 50-47 margin.
One would think this would force a reassessment in the pundit class, who were eager to proclaim this the latest brick in their "Democrats are doomed!" wall. The pundit class, instead, elected to surge full steam ahead with their narrative, results be damned.
The comedy in that was, in multiple examples, the narrative was so divorced from reality that they were rendered practically comical.
Exhibit A came courtesy of a tweet from Cook House analyst David Wasserman:
So Tomblin survives in #WVgov, but with Obama on ballot next year, will Rahall if stronger R than Spike Maynard runs? Hmm...
Nick Rahall represents WV-03, in the southern tier of the state. As uber-analyst Gregg Giroux noted last night on Twitter, Tomblin carried WV-03 by a 60-37 margin. Hard to imagine Rahall trembling at those results. And while Obama will not be carrying West Virginia next year, Democrats downballot will be buoyed not just by Tomblin's presence on the ticket, but also Sen. Joe Manchin, whose approval ratings are stratospheric in the state.
Not to be outdone, the breaking news email from Politico added this bit of...ahem...context to the race:
Tomblin, the acting governor, beat drilling executive Bill Maloney...in a race that narrowed considerably once Republicans started airing ads tying Tomblin to an increasingly unpopular President Obama.
Since no one else had the guts to poll this special election, let's look at PPP's numbers here. Their final pollhere had it as a one-point race. But a poll in early September, before the RGA ad blitz, had the race at six points. A five-point swing is hardly a dramatic shift, and in actuality, the final result was just three points off of that early September PPP survey. To put it another way, the RGA ads attempting to link Tomblin to Obama were far from a game-changer. In fact, they only moved the needle a few points.
Indeed, if you track Maloney's movement in the race, it actually came far earlier than the closing weeks of the campaign. He halved his original 33-point disadvantage before the primary even ended, the beneficiary of people actually knowing who the hell he was. He then cut the lead from 15 points to 6 points over the summer, consolidating the GOP vote as supporters of the establishment pick in the primary (former Sec of State Betty Ireland) gradually moved his way.
Therefore the more logical answer, which the "serious people" who engage in analysis don't want to admit, is that Maloney's "surge" from the beginning of the campaign until now was the simple process of (a) improving name recognition and (b) consolidation of the GOP vote in the wake of a close and competitive primary against Betty Ireland.
But you can't build a sexy anti-Obama narrative around boring things like that. Hence the references to a dramatic anti-Obama tide that fueled a shift that, in reality, was not dissimilar from a race where a better-known "incumbent" gets a legit challenge from someone who was unknown at the start of the campaign.
Others in the chattering classes are making the simpler transition: the one from "ZOMG! This is the end for the Dems!" to "Meh. Special elections don't mean anything."
Check out, for example, this tweet from
GOP cheerleader Hotline executive editor Josh Kraushaar:
Sharp take on #WVGOV from @daveweigel. Lesson: don't read anything into this race for '12.
On this, Kraushaar and I agree. The difference, and it is not an insignificant one, is that I would have agreed with Weigel's take no matter who won.