Chuck Todd, politico and the DCCC continue to spin this election bigtime. However if you look at the factors deep within this race you see that this race was not the Scott Brown race, in fact it was a race that would be tough for a republican. Lets look at the facts:
1. Statewide race vs District race:
On a Statewide level the dynamic is different than on a local level, individual pork projects for example in Boston won’t impress a person in Worcester or the Berkshires, but in a single district pork is much more noticeable. Whatever else you might say about John Murtha he was an incredible “provider” in his district and congressman Critz was worked for him for years. Kennedy’s impact was much less concentrated.
2. Primary Opponents:
What many people may not be aware of is that the democrat and republican primaries for congress were held at the same time as the special election. While economically it was a good move for the county it meant that both Critz and Burns had to win a primary election as well.
Critz took 72% of his primary vote Burns only took 53% With nearly 40k more votes to grab from Critz has a larger margin for error/anger than Burns. That suggests that Burns was not as popular within his own base. Bad sign for Republicans in the fall: Democrat primary 82,000 votes, Republican primary 45,000. In Massachusetts the primary took place weeks before. Brown’s opponent was easily beaten, Coakley won but her opponents supporters were not enthusiastic about her.
3. Other Ballot races.
One of the things often overlooked in Scott Brown’s victory is the fact that due to democrats being too smart for their own good the race was scheduled as a special election. This meant that it was the ONLY race on the ballot everywhere. In a state where democrats have a huge registration advantage in registration there were no races down the ticket to draw democrats to vote. In Pa of course you had a critical primary on the democratic side that drew national attention between Specter and Sestak that drew over 1,000,000 votes statewide.
Consider in 2008 there were 260k votes cast in pa-12 for congress, in 2006 200k. Yesterday there were less than 135k.
4. Registration/party loyalty::
In Massachusetts the majority of voters are NOT democrats. They are unenrolled 51%. That make a huge difference. Scott Brown had an independent base of voters to draw from. In Pa that is not the case. Lets look at the votes totals from 2006 & 2008 again. In 2006 Murtha took 123,000 votes. In 2008 he took 155k votes On the republican side in 2006 Irey took 79k votes, in 2008 Russell (Burns primary opponent) took 113k votes. Critz had a huge number of votes to draw from.
Yesterday Burns took 59k votes. In other words he drew 75% of Irey’s 2006 vote and just over 53% of Russell’s 2008 votes. Critz drew 65% of Murtha’s vote in 2006 and 52% of Murtha’s 2008 vote. In other words Critz drew 10% less than Burns did among his “base” voters from the last midterm and STILL won by over 12,000 votes. Or to put it another way. In order to defeat Burns Critz needed to draw only 49% of Murtha’s 2006 totals or 39% of Murtha’s 2008 totals. Think about that a second. Critz could afford to have over 60% of his base stay home and would have still won!
On a percentage basis Burns outperformed his republican predecessors by 5 and 2 points respectively Critz underperformed by 7 and 4 points. and STILL won by 9 points. Or to put it another way percentage-wise Burns needed to outperform his republican predecessors by 25 & 20% respectively to get to 50% of the vote. This proves that Ali Akbar like Tip knows how to count.
5. Barack Obama:
Scott Brown ran against Barack Obama and his healthcare plan.. Martha Coakley embraced him and the healthcare plan. President Obama campaigned for Coakley in Boston. Mark Critz ran AWAY from the president, saying (now that there is no vote to cast) that he OPPOSED the healthcare plan. He distanced himself from the president and that distance paid dividends. As Steve Maloney put it:
Admittedly, Critz is a good liar. He proclaimed that he was “pro-life” and “would have voted against the health care bill” (that Murtha voted for). He was “against the Medicare cuts” in the health bill. These comments were all incredible, but he said them with a straight face. Pelosi, whom Critz will worship as he once did “Mr. Murtha,” will tell Critz what to do, and he’ll salute and stand at attention.
There WERE incredible but they were made and the people in the district believed him. If he ran as himself it might have been a very different story.
6. No Sicilian in a Fedora:
Finally the most decisive factor. As Roxeanne De Luca clearly pointed out. “‘Every Campaign Needs to Have a Sicilian Guy in a Fedora” Scott Brown had one. Tim Burns did not. Nuff said.
Update: Ruby Slippers has more
Update 2: As does conservatives 4 Palin
Update 3: Robert Stacy who has spent more time than anyone else there puts in his two cents.