What Last Night’s Vote Results REALLY Mean

Tuesday, May 18, 2010:  Primary elections (and one special election) were held in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oregon, USA.

The results:

1.  Pennsylvania:

a.  Arlen Specter, who served five terms as US senator from Pennsylvania (four and 5/6 of which were served as a republican), was defeated in the democratic primary by democratic US congressman  Joe Sestak.

b.  The only real (special) election of the night between a democrat and republican for the remaining term of deceased US congressman from Pennsylvania John Murtha, was decisively won by a democrat, Mark Critz, who served as an aide to Murtha.

2.  Kentucky:  Extreme-right-wing Tea Party member Rand Paul, son of Texas libertarian-leaning republican congressman Ron Paul, won the republican primary to be the republican candidate for US senator in the November election.

3.  Arkansas:  Incumbent conservative democrat US senator Blanche Lincoln, with 45% of the vote, bested Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, with 43% of the vote, in Arkansas’ US Senator Democratic primary.  However, since she did NOT win a majority of the votes (more than 50%), she will face Halter again on June 8th in a runoff election.

4.  Oregon:  In the only significant primary election in that state, incumbent US Senator Ron Wyden won the democratic primary to seek a third full term.

So what does it all really mean?

The GOP had been predicting a huge anti-democrat wave, but in the only official national election for office of the evening, the democrat Mark Critz won the congressional seat vacated by John Murtha against a republican.

The anti-incumbent sentiment might well have had a minor impact on the defeat of Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, but the 80-year old had been battered by his opponent during the campaign, and many citizens within the electorate had had enough of the king of political “switcheroo”.

Additionally, many politicos had been predicting the demise of the democratic party, referring to the history of the first two years of the Bill Clinton administration as a guide to what’s going to happen in November 2010.  They pointed out that the party that pushes health care reform invariably incurs the anger of the average US voter.  And they also referred to the historical fact that the party that wins the presidential election loses seats in congress during the first national mid-term election after the presidential race.

Perhaps that anti-democrat sentiment combined with the anti-incumbent movement will sweep the old out in favor of the fresh and the new…regardless of political party.  That would favor the GOP, at least from a “numbers” perspective.

But maybe this time there are new dynamics are in play which defies prediction.

There is no question that Americans are upset about the economy, In addition, there’s no question that many forget when the economic recession and resulting job loss actually started.  If the Obama administration rules over a lack of job recovery, than they and everyone associated with them are doomed.  But even this alone cannot explain the mixed results of last night’s balloting:

1.  Arlen Specter, the incumbent, lost.  But he was a switcheroo republican-turned-democrat, having spent 29 of his thirty years in the US senate as a GOP’er.

2. Incumbent Blanche Lincoln did not achieve the required majority to win her primary outright, but she still won a plurality of the vote cast, and is still alive to face the run-off primary election in June.

3.  In Oregon, incumbent US Senator Ron Wyden won the democratic primary to seek a third full term.

So much for the anti-incumbent theory.

In the “new dynamic” category, and in what can only be described as both a Tea Party victory and a defeat for the establishment GOP, Rand Paul won the republican primary.  However, whether he can actually win against a democrat in November is a totally different matter, and one which this blog will be watching closely.

And finally, defying the GOP claim that democrats are dog-meat in 2010 just as they were in 1994 when the last big health care reform overhaul effort failed to pass, democrat Mark Critz won the only real congressional election of the night against a GOP candidate.

So much for the “republicans will sweep the democrats from power” concept.

So what does it all mean?

Almost nothing.

Folks still seem to remember that the republican administration of GW Bush took us to the recess and massive deficit spending.  However, they are also impatient with the Obama administration for not having fixed all this in its entirety over the past year and a half.  Point scored and then point penalized, as they say.

The Tea Party movement has been making a lot of noise about government spending, and government being too big.  But they also have attacked some of the wrong causes and have alienated many moderates within the GOP and independent voters.  Point scored and then point penalized, as they say (again).

The anti-incumbent sentiment against Washington, congress, and government in general is loudly vocal, but not, it seems, strong enough to “throw all the bums outs”.  Point scored and then point penalized, as they say (one more time).

Based upon last night’s results, there is only one solid conclusion that intelligent observers can draw regarding the general elections coming up in November:

There’s going to be an election.  And no one knows who will win…yet.