Newest piece at the Wall Street Journal: "It’s Shocking How Little Was Spent on the Midterms"

My newest piece in the Wall Street Journal, co-authored this time with Brad Smith, starts this way:
The “most expensive election in history.” Our democracy is being “bought and sold.” This election, “debased by money, shames us all.” These are some of the recent expressions of outrage about what the Center for Responsive Politics estimates to have been $3.67 billion spent for federal offices during the 2014 midterms.  
Two days before the election on “Face the Nation,” CBS’s Bob Schieffer asked viewers to name one item whose costs have gone up as much over time as campaigns. That’s easy. While campaign spending soared to $3.67 billion this year from $1.6 billion in 1998, federal government spending rose 5% faster, to $3.9 trillion from $1.65 trillion.  
It is logical that these expenditures have gone up in tandem. The bigger the federal government, the more is at stake, and the harder politicians and special interests fight to see who gets to control it. If the federal government were still the 2% to 3% of GDP that it was a century ago, people likely wouldn’t care as passionately about the outcome of most elections. 
In the Journal of Law and Economics (2000), John Lott, one of the authors here, studied gubernatorial and state legislative campaign expenditures from 1976 to 1994. After accounting for such factors as the number of contested races, how close the elections were, and how closely divided control of the legislature was, his research showed that almost 80% of the increase in campaign spending for state offices was explained by changes in the size of state governments. States with the fastest-growing budgets saw the biggest increases in campaign expenditures. . . .

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Newly elected Texas Gov Greg Abbott affirms support for open-carry

From My San Antonio:
Attorney General Greg Abbott affirmed his support for allowing Texans to openly carry handguns at his first press conference after being elected governor.  
“Throughout the campaign I announced my support for open carry in Texas,” said Abbott when asked about the issue at the Texas Capitol.  
Abbott said Texas is one of only a handful of states that doesn't allow open carry of handguns. . . .
Who knows how honest the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate in that race, Wendy Davis, also said that she supported open carry.  From Politico:

The Wild West tradition of openly carrying your six-shooter on the street has long been banned in Texas under state law. But the next governor could change that. 
Rising Democratic star and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has joined her top Republican rival in supporting a proposed "open carry" law. It would allow people with concealed handgun licenses to wear a pistol on their hip, in full view, while in public. . . . 
I am skeptical of the benefits of open carry for reasons that I have detailed before.  Still, passage of the law has one benefit, it will presumably stop those people who are openly carrying long guns into public places.  Hopefully, open carry advocates will realize that it is best for them to lay low and not create more of a ruckus until the legislation gets passed and then that they will openly carry only handguns, which is what I understand that they have been wanting all along.


So why were the polls so incredibly wrong?: Huge bias in favor of the Democrats

What was supposed to be an easy Democratic victory in Maryland ended up being a Republican landslide win by nine percentage points.  In Illinois the Democrat was supposed to win, but the Republican won easily.  In Kansas what were supposed to be a couple close races turned into Republican comfortable victories for the Senate and governorship.  In Virginia, a race that no one thought would be remotely close turned into a late night nail biter and still isn't quite over.  Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky was supposed to be fairly close to Mitch McConnell, but it turned into a 15 percentage point tidal wave against her.

Larry Sabato:
"I want an investigation of the polls in Virginia," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told Fox News. "They were completely wrong, just as they were in Georgia. They were also way off in Illinois. And I could go on and on.
 From Nate Silver:
The Democrats’ complaints may have been more sophisticated-seeming than the ”skewed polls” arguments made by Republicans in 2012. But in the end, they were just as wrong. The polls did have a strong bias this year — but it was toward Democrats and not against them. 
Based on results as reported through early Wednesday morning — I’ll detail our method for calculating this in a moment — the average Senate poll conducted in the final three weeks of this year’s campaign overestimated the Democrat’s performance by 4 percentage points. The average gubernatorial poll was nearly as bad, overestimating the Democrat’s performance by 3.4 points. . . .  
Interestingly, this year’s polls were not especially inaccurate. Between gubernatorial and Senate races, the average poll missed the final result by an average of about 5 percentage points — well in line with the recent average. The problem is that almost all of the misses were in the same direction. . . .
A possible explanation is provided by Politico:
Republicans nearly swept the 10 Senate races rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report on Election Day, winning seven of the 10 outright – they lost New Hampshire, Alaska remains undecided and Louisiana is going to a runoff. 
To be sure, Republicans were favored to win back the Senate on Tuesday. They led in six of the 10 contested races – and hold the advantage in a seventh, Louisiana, in the runoff next month.
But it wasn’t that Republicans won so many of the most competitive races — it was how much they won by. . . . 
Republicans have long claimed that public polls, usually conducted by randomly dialing phone numbers rather than only contacting voters with a history of turning out in midterm elections, include too many people who won’t ultimately cast a ballot – a group that tends to lean Democratic. 
Those public surveys, they say, also weight, or peg, their demographic data to known Census parameters, ignoring historical trends of the midterm electorate – which is usually older and more white. 
“I think the media polls were dramatically off because too many media pollsters use Census weights,” said Republican consultant Brad Todd, whose firm, OnMessage Inc., conducts polls and creates TV ads for GOP candidates. “In a midterm electorate, using the Census as a reference point would have the same value as using a grocery list as a reference point.” . . . .
Nate Silver gave Republicans just a 15.6% probability of getting 54 seats in the Senate.



UPDATE: Republicans officially control 30 state legislatures (31 if you include Nebraska), Dems only 11

While Obama doesn't believe that he is responsible for the latest wave election, Republicans are more than happy to give him the credit (though presumably they would have preferred never having the damage done to the country to begin with).

To see how dramatic the change has been note that this change flips state legislatures that weren't flipped after the 2010 wave.  The new state legislatures controlled by Republicans are:

  • Colorado Senate (conceivable that Dems could still hold on after recounts)
  • Maine Senate
  • Minnesota House
  • Nevada Assembly
  • Nevada Senate
  • New Hampshire House
  • New York Senate
  • New Mexico House
  • Washington Senate
  • West Virginia House.
  • West Virginia Senate (after Democratic Senator Daniel Hall switched his party affiliation to Republican).
  • Legislatures: 30 R, 11 D and 8 split (Nebraska is technically nonpartisan, but is really controlled by Republicans so that would really make the total for Republicans at 31)
  • Chambers: 68 R, 30 D
  • Governors: 31 R, 18 D and 1 undecided (Alaska)
  • State governments: 23 R, 7 D, 18 divided and 1 undecided (Alaska)
  • Labels:

    Grocery Store Employee with concealed handgun permit shoots and kills armed man who made a disturbance

    From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
    An employee of Karsch's Village Market shot and killed a man who allegedly threatened him with a gun this morning . . . . 
    The man caused a disturbance in the grocery store at 1730 Old State Road M about 10:20 am., said Capt. Ron Arnhart.  The man appeared to be intoxicated. 
    Two employees followed the man to the parking lot in hopes of stalling him until deputies arrived so he wouldn't drive drunk.  
    The man pulled a handgun from his vehicle and pointed it at them, Arnhart said. One of the employees has a concealed-carry permit and had his own gun. That employee shot the man, who died at the scene, Arnhart said. . . .
    Thanks to Tony Troglio for the link. 



    Wave election had impact far down the ballot. Republicans picked up a number of state legislatures

    For some perspective, note that this tidal wave comes on top of the 2010 wave.  One would have thought that the Republicans had already reached as high as they could after all the offices that they took in 2010.  But they actually have one more governorship than after 2010 and more state legislatures.

    Republicans have picked up Colorado state Senate (possibly the state House), Maine state Senate, Minnesota state House, New Hampshire state House, New Mexico state House, New York state Senate, West Virginia state House and a tie in the Senate, Obviously not all the results are in yet, but Republicans now control both houses of 28 state legislatures as well as the single house in Nebraska.  

    Even in Pennsylvania where Republicans lost the governorship (the only one that they lost), Republicans added 8 state house seats(119-84) and 3 senate seats (30-20).

    UPDATE: Add in both houses in Nevada and the Washington state Senate.  The NCSL has this summary:
    It appears that Republicans will have a net gain of between 350 and 375 seats and control over 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 legislative seats. Republicans gained seats in every region of the country and in all but about a dozen legislative chambers that were up this year. . . .
    (Click on figures to enlarge.)


    Four Black Republicans who won federal or statewide races yesterday

    Texas' 23rd congressional district: "GOP challenger Will Hurd appeared headed for a narrow upset victory over freshman Democrat Pete Gallego in a southwest border district that Republicans had made a national target"  Hurd won by a 49.8 to 47.7 percent margin.

    Utah's 4th congressional district: "In Utah, Mia Love became the first black Republican woman — and first Haitian American — elected to Congress."  Love won by a 50 to 46.8 percent margin.

    Senator from South Carolina: "South Carolina's Tim Scott on Tuesday became the first African-American senator to win election in the South since Reconstruction. . . .  Scott's win also made him the first African-American in U.S. history to be elected to both the House and the Senate."

    Maryland's new Republican Lt. Governor is Boyd Rutherford: "Boyd Rutherford was raised in a Democratic family in Democratic Northeast Washington, but the running mate of Republican Larry Hogan says he decided early on that the GOP was closer to his values. Rutherford, who is African-American, came to the conclusion that Democrats saw blacks as victims. 'I'm not a political and social victim, and I don't live my life that way,' he said. 'They maintain poverty. They keep people in place.'"



    Faced with two armed robbers, restaurant owner with concealed handgun permit stops robbery and recovers money

    From the River Front Times in St. Louis:
    The owner of an Elicia's Pizza shot one, maybe both, of the gunmen who tried to rob the south St. Louis city restaurant early Sunday morning. . . . 
    Even with a weapon trained on him, the restaurant owner -- who has a valid concealed carry license, police said -- managed to retrieve his own gun and start firing at the robber at the cash register, striking him in the leg and buttocks. The suspect collapsed outside the restaurant trying to flee. . . .
    Thanks very much to Tony Troglio for alerting me to this story.