Fifteen fun, fascinating, farcical midterm factoids

    If you haven’t OD’d yet on the GOP’s midterm tsunami, join me in sifting the most interesting factoids.

    These 15 are worthy of attention:

    Denial: President Obama refused to acknowledge yesterday that his unpopularity had burdened the Democrats. Perhaps he should study the Virginia Senate race, where Democratic incumbent Mark Warner was expected to win with ease. In the end, Warner barely survived. Why? Because, according to the exit polls, 58 percent of Virginia voters disapproved of Obama’s job performance – this, in a state that Obama won twice – and of those voters, only 15 percent cast ballots for Warner.

    Blue state blues. Yeah, the Democrats were fighting this year mostly in inhospitable red states that Obama had never carried. But as it turned out, they also lost gubernatorial races in supposedly reliable blue states like Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts. (The loser in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, had long been favored to win – just like when she ran for the Senate in 2010 against Scott Brown. She’s now stuck forevemore with the name “Martha Chokely.”)

    Bayou limbo. One red-state Democratic incumbent, Senator Mary Landrieu, is barely alive. She finished first Tuesday with 42 percent, but Louisiana law requires a 50-percent winner. So she faces a December runoff with the top GOP finisher. She’s probably toast. Republican voters, goaded by the GOP sweep, will be jonesing to nix her and pad the party’s Senate majority. Swing voters, assuming any show up, won’t be motivated to retain a senator who’s consigned to the minority.

    Money drain. It appears that billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has surpassed casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in the race to see who can waste the most personal bucks. Adelson coughed up $53 million for Republicans in 2012, and got virtually nothing for his investment. Steyer ponied up $57 million in a bid to boost climate change as a ’14 midterm issue, and failed to make it a campaign issue. His Senate candidates in Colorado and Iowa lost; his gubernatorial candidates in Maine and Florida lost. But yesterday he insisted, “This was money incredibly well spent.” Well. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

    Ebony and ivory. The GOP is generally painted (with good reason) as the party of white people, but it deserves credit, this election cycle, for adding some color to the palette. The new House will include the first-ever black Republican woman (Mia Love of Utah), and the first black Texas Republican since Reconstruction (Will Hurd). The Senate Republican caucus will include the first black elected in Dixie (Tim Scott of South Carolina) since Reconstruction. That era was roughly 150 years ago.

    Speaking of Dixie, take a guess how many white Deep South Democrats will have seats next year in the House of Representatives. None.

    Pack those carpetbags. This’ll sound like one of those obscure baseball stats (most homers against southpaws on a Sunday, or whatever), but it’s still a milestone: Scott Brown, by losing to Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, became the first person to ever lose two Senate races to two women in two different states. Gotta wonder where he will go in ’16….”Hello Vermonters! I’ve always loved Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!”

    Legal D.C. weed, but maybe not. Area stoners shouldn’t get too excited about Tuesday’s D.C. balloting. Yes, the voters overwhelmingly OK’d legalization. But as a colony of Congress, D.C. can’t do jack unless its overseers give the say-so. The ballot measure has to be reviewed by the House within 30 days, and rest assured that the ruling Republicans will be less than receptive. Besides, the measure is weird. It allows residents to grow pot at home (assuming they have the skills and the space), but not to sell it. Bottom line: Denver’s tourist traffic from east coast cities will remain robust.

    Obamacare, onward. Turned out, the GOP won big without needing to assail Obamacare 24/7. Which was lucky for them, because it wasn’t a huge issue. (In the exit polls, the GOP-friendly electorate was basically split 50-50 on the law.) Meanwhile, the law continues to embed itself. A new study by McKinsey & Company – which advises the business sector – says that free-market competition and coverage choices are rapidly increasing. The number of participating health insurers has already  jumped 26 percent since early this year, and the projected median premium hike in 2015, for those already with coverage, will be somewhere between two and four percent.

    Go figure. House incumbents rarely get thrown out of office, no matter what they do. Like, for instance, “family values” Tennessee congressman Scott DesJarlais, who was outed for conducting extramarital affairs with at least eight patients (he’s a physician), and for goading his first wife and one of his lovers into having abortions (he’s publicly anti-abortion, as in “all life should be cherished and protected”).  But he won re-election in a landslide. Meanwhile, on Staten Island, House incumbent Michael Grimm, who famously threatened to break a reporter in half “like a boy,” seemed doomed to lose after being indicted on 20 federal corruption counts. He won re-election by 13 points.

    The face of Pennsylvania. Tom Wolf will be the first Keystone State governor to sport a beard since Samuel W. Pennypacker in 1907. Just saying.

    Hickenlooper by a hair or two. It looked for a while that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper – a suburban Philadelphia home-boy – would sink beneath the Republican wave. But he managed to hang on, after working the middle ground and (of course) separating himself from Obama. Swing voters who ousted incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall split their tickets to save Hickenlooper. The gov also may have helped himself with an election eve announcement that voters will get a tax rebate, totaling $30.5 million – thanks to extra, unanticipated tax revenue brought in by the sale of legal marijuana. Just saying.

    Walker walks the walk. With his gubernatorial victory in blue/purple Wisconsin on Tuesday, Republican Scott Walker has now won three statewide races in the last four years (including the recall election). Figure on that boosting his stock for the ’16 presidential race, which unofficially began within milliseconds after the Tuesday votes were tallied.

    Hillary on deck. Speaking of ’16, will the new D.C. power alignment help or hurt the alleged Democratic savior? The sunny scenario: She’ll use the Republican obstructionists as a foil to sell herself as a seasoned pol who can work both sides of the aisle and knock heads together. The stormy scenario: Emboldened by the midterm results, Republicans will assail her as an aging has-been (contrasting her with their fresh-faced under-50s) who’s virtually identical to the dreaded Obama. Fasten your seat belts.

    Ballot bummer. How low was midterm turnout?  The last time it was this low, the hit song was Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. That would be 1942. Yup, only 36.6 percent of age-eligible Americans bothered to show up, and the boycotters disproportionately leaned Democratic. So this message is for all the abstainers who woke up whining about the Republican sweep: When you sit on your butts, you get the government you deserve.

     

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

     

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.