ENPR: Election Results


  1. The landslide election of a black President of the United States, unimaginable not long ago, highlighted the Democratic triumph Tuesday night. Sen. Barack Obama, garnered the largest popular vote total in American history and is buoyed by sizable Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress.
  2. A bungled campaign by flawed Republican nominee Sen. John McCain made impossible an already difficult task: winning as a Republican in the wake of the failed administration of President George W. Bush.
  3. This is the legacy of the Bush era: a Democratic President and overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress–propelled in large part by an unpopular war in Iraq, a GOP culture of incompetence, and a philosophic and ideological shallowness.
  4. Senate Democrats fell short of expected gains, and House Democrats matched our expectations, but not the Democratic promises of another 30-seat pickup.
  5. The bright point for Republicans: a Senate minority of at least 41 seats that can jam the Democratic works and prevent the sort of inevitable-march-to-progress that marked the Great Society and the New Deal.
  6. The central question going forward: Will President-elect Obama’s conciliatory, open-minded rhetoric carry the day in a Democrat-dominated government, or will the killer instinct of long-frustrated congressional Democrats take over?
  7. Economic collapse was the impetus that transformed a solid Democratic year into a landslide.


Popular Vote: A Democratic nominee, for the third time since World War II, won a majority of the popular vote.

  1. As we expected, Obama garnered approximately 52% of the popular vote. A Democrat piecing together a popular-vote majority is an extraordinary accomplishment, and attributing it to increased black turnout misses the mark. Some exit poll data suggest this was a base election rather than a swing-voter election.
  2. Nationally, black turnout increased from 11% to 13%, while the Democratic share of the black vote increased from 88% to 93%. Even with higher black turnout, had the Democratic nominee not improved his showing among black voters, McCain would have won.
  3. As we expected, the talk of increased youth turnout was more hype than reality. The 18 to 29-year-old vote increased from 17% to 18% compared to 2004 (and, in fact, decreased in Ohio from 21% to 17%). The difference was not a high youth turnout–it was Obama’s astronomical popularity among young voters: Obama captured 66% of under-29 voters to Kerry’s 54% four years ago.
  4. One demographic that swung dramatically was the wealthy vote. In 2004, voters earning more than $200,000 voted 63% to 35% for Bush, according to CNN. This year, they voted 52% to 46% for Obama–a far higher margin than Obama enjoyed among the middle class.
  5. Party identification numbers in the exit polls tell an interesting tale. While Obama did about the same among Democrats as did Kerry four years ago (both with 89%), and McCain did slightly worse among Republicans than did Bush (McCain’s 90% to Bush’s 93%), the Democrat-to-Republican ratio shifted dramatically. Self-identified Republicans were 37% of the electorate four years ago, while this year they were only 32%–meanwhile, Democrats jumped from 37% to 40%.
  6. McCain’s unimpressive share of the Hispanic vote, 32% while running against a black nominee, should put to rest the notion that by pushing liberalized immigration laws, Republicans can come close to political parity in that section of the electorate.

Electoral College: Obama far exceeded our Electoral College projections, capturing historically Republican Ohio and Florida and possibly North Carolina.

  1. Obama did not lose a single Kerry state, and he picked up Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada. Those Western pickups should worry Republicans going forward, as they appear to be part of larger Democratic trend.
  2. McCain’s late play for Pennsylvania now looks like a misstep. He was closer in Colorado than in Pennsylvania, and if he had played for Colorado–and worked harder to hold Ohio and Florida, or, alternatively, Virginia–he might have had a better chance of pulling out an upset. Once again, the prize of Pennsylvania caught the eye of Republicans–and this time it provided a distraction that may have killed any chance of a McCain comeback.
  3. There was no Palin effect in the Electoral College. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin barnstormed Pennsylvania and Ohio in the final weeks, but the Republican ticket underperformed in those states.


  1. Democrats made big gains, but as we expected, Republicans have fought off the threat of a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority, for now.
  2. Senators John Sununu (R-N.H.) and Liddy Dole (R-N.C.), freshmen first elected in 2002, both lost badly Tuesday.
  3. Democratic candidates easily won the open-seat contests in New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia, scoring those three pickups by wide margins, as expected.
  4. Shockingly, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), days after being convicted of a felony, appears to have pulled off an upset reelection win.
  5. Senate races in Minnesota, Oregon, and Georgia remained too close to call as of press time.
U.S. Senate
Democrats + 5, 54-41-2, 3 undetermined
Seats not up for reelection: 37 Democrats, 26 Republicans, 2 Independents
Incumbent Races: Democrats 14, Republicans 13
Democratic Retention (12) Democratic Takeover (2*) Republican Takeover (0) Republican Retention (13*)
Baucus (Mont.) Sununu (N.H.) [None] Alexander (Tenn.)
Biden (Del.) Hagan (N.C.)   Barasso (Wyo. Special)
Durbin (Ill.)     Cochran (Miss.)
Harkin (Iowa)     Collins (Me.)
Johnson (S.D.)     Cornyn (Tex.)
Kerry (N.H.)     Enzi (Wyo.)
Landrieu (La.)     Graham (S.C.)
Lautenberg (N.J.)     Inhofe (Okla.)
Levin (Mich.)     McConnell (Ky.)
Pryor (Ark.)     Roberts (Kan.)
Reed (R.I.)     Sessions (Ala.)
Rockefeller (W.Va.)     Stevens (Alaska)
      Wicker (Miss. Special)
Open Seats: Democrats 3, Republicans 2
Democratic Retention (0) Democratic Takeover (3) Republican Takeover (0) Republican Retention (2)
[None] Colorado (Allard) [None] Idaho (Craig)
  New Mexico (Domenici)   Nebraska (Hagel)
  Virginia (Warner)    
Undetermined (3)
Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Coleman (R-Minn.)
Smith (R-Ore.)


  1. Democrats gained at least 18, and possibly 24 seats, giving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a solid majority, with a margin of at least 73 votes.
  2. Democrats made gains in open seats, but fewer than expected. They made up for this by knocking off 13 to 15 Republican incumbents. For perspective, that’s more sitting Republican congressmen than Democrats defeated in 2000, 2002, and 2004, combined.
  3. Most surprising were the Democratic pickups in Southern Virginia: Rep. Thelma Drake (R) lost, while Rep. Virgil Goode (R), a former Democrat, appears to have lost a very close contest. Drake’s loss combined with the GOP’s probable open-seat loss of Maryland’s 1st District, would yield a Democratic gain of two seats around the Chesapeake Bay.
  4. Republicans unexpectedly held onto three open seats in New York and New Jersey, and also exceed expectations by winning both tough battles in Minnesota.
  5. Democrats held onto most of the GOP-turf seats they picked up in 2006, with the only losses in that category being Representatives Nancy Boyda (Kan.), Nick Lampson (Tex.), and scandal-tainted Tim Mahoney (Fla.). In addition, Republicans took back one of the three seats they lost in early-2008 special elections, winning the Baton Rouge-area House seat from Rep. Don Cazayoux (D).
  6. Republican House losses were not mostly in suburbia, but in rural areas, including formerly industrial counties. These areas can be recaptured.
  7. Another theme in GOP open-seat losses: harshly contested primaries that shattered party unity.
U.S. House
Democrats + 18, 254-175 6 undetermined
Defeated Incumbents (Democrats + 9)
Democratic Takeovers (13)
Republican Takeovers (4)
Chabot (OH-1) Boyda (KS-2)
Drake (VA-2) Cazayoux (LA-6)
English (PA-3) Lampson (TX-22)
Feeney (FL-24) Mahoney (FL-16)
Hayes (NC-8)  
Keller (FL-8)  
Knollenberg (MI-9)  
Kuhl (NY-29)  
Musgrave (CO-4)  
Porter (NV-3)  
Sali (ID-1)  
Shays (CT-4)  
Walberg (MI-7)  
Open Seat Takeovers (Democrats + 9)
Democratic Takeovers (9)
Republican Takeovers (0)
Alabama-2 (Everett) [NONE]
Arizona-1 (Renzi)  
Illinois-11 (Weller)  
New Mexico-1 (Wilson)  
New Mexico-2 (Pearce)  
New York-13 (Fossella)  
New York-25 (Walsh)  
Ohio-16 (Regula)  
Virginia-11 (Davis)  
Undetermined (6)
Maryland-1 (GOP-held open seat) too close to call
California-4 (GOP-held open seat) too close to call
Goode (R-Va-5) too close to call
Louisiana-4 (GOP-held open seat) election to be held Dec. 6
Reichert (R-Wash.-8) too close to call
New Jersey-3 (GOP-held open seat) too close to call


New England: Six years ago, Republicans made gains in New England, fostering hope that this region might not be lost forever. Today, these six states appear nearly lost forever.

  1. Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), after two cycles of serious Republican bleeding in this region, was the last remaining congressmen Northeast of New York. His loss Tuesday night marked the extinction of Republican House members in this wealthy white corner of the country.
  2. All 22 House members in the six New England states are now Democrats. After the defeat of Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) at the hands of former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), only three of the 12 New England senators are Republicans, with two of them being liberal Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.). Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is the only remaining conservative federal lawmaker in the region.

Pennsylvania: Democrats steamrolled Republicans in Pennsylvania, a state where we had foreseen some small Republican triumphs.

  1. Every Democratic incumbent in the Keystone State won, with Representatives Chris Carney (D) and Jason Altmire (D), whose 2006 wins were considered aberrations, winning handily, both winning by double-digit percentages.
  2. Contrary to our projections, Representatives John Murtha (D) and Paul Kanjorksi (D) fended off strong challenges despite serious weaknesses. Their wins reflect the vast brand advantage Democrats hold over Republicans, in Pennsylvania–where Democrats now hold three of four statewide offices in Harrisburg, plus a Senate seat and 12 of the 19 U.S. House seats–after the state legislature had gerrymandered the seats for Republicans in 2002.
  3. Adding to the pain, Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) lost his seat in Northwestern Pennsylvania, furthering the Republican collapse around the Great Lakes and along the Ohio River. This region–the formerly industrial Midwest–has been one of the anchors of the Democratic resurgence of 2006 and 2008. Unlike the suburban surge for Democrats, this trend could be reversible.

South: The Republican hold on the South, which looked in 2004 and 2006 like a vise-grip, has loosened, partly due to the Democratic embrace of conservative candidates in conservative districts, and partly due to the nationally weakened Republican brand.

  1. Republicans lost both competitive seats in Alabama, with Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright (D) edging out state Rep. Jay Love (R) for the seat left open by retiring Rep. Terry Everett (R), and state Sen. Parker Griffith (D) defeating advertising executive Wayne Parker (R) for the open seat of Rep. Bud Cramer (D).
  2. On the other hand, Republicans won back the Baton Rouge seat won by Rep. Don Cazayoux (D) in a special election.
  3. In the elections resulting from Trent Lott’s early resignation in Mississippi, Republicans held his Senate seat while failing to retake the House seat that Democrats had won in the special election spurred by Lott’s early resignation to take a lobbying position. Appointed Sen. Roger Wicker (R) defeated former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) 55%-45%, while in Wicker’s former House district, Rep. Travis Childers (D) easily retained his seat.
  4. Both parties maintained the status quo in Georgia, where Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) appears to have held off a spirited challenge, as did Rep. Jim Marshall (D), with both incumbents made vulnerable by their support of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.
  5. The other competitive Deep South House seats all broke towards the Republicans, with state Sen. Brett Guthrie (R) retaining a GOP open seat in Kentucky and Rep. Henry Brown (R) dispatching a strong challenger in South Carolina.
  6. In the Deep South states (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana), Republicans hold a House advantage of 20-15, where they should be dominant. Compare this to Democrats’ unanimous hold on New England’s 22 House seats, and the GOP’s failure to capitalize on geographical advantages becomes obvious.
  7. On the other hand, it was the Republican Senate retentions in Kentucky, Georgia, and Mississippi that prevented a filibuster-proof Democratic majority.
  8. Democrats gained ground in the upper South. The Democratic pickup in North Carolina, where state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) handily defeated Sen. Liddy Dole (N.C.), punctuated Democrats’ gains in that region. After a string of near-successes, Democrats finally knocked off Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) as teacher Larry Kissel (D) triumphed on his second try.
  9. Also in that region, Democrats defeated two Republican incumbents in Southern Virginia, yielding a gain across the whole South of three House seats, a Senate seat, and two states in the Electoral College worth 28 votes.


  1. In the end, only two governor races turned out competitive–and Democrats won both. Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), who won a disputed election four years ago, re-defeated former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) by more than 100,000 votes Tuesday night. In North Carolina, as part of the Democratic sweep of that state’s competitive races, Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue (D) defeated Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R).
  2. Democrats easily picked up the governorship in Missouri, with state Atty. Gen. Jay Nixon (D) thrashing Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R) 58% to 40%. In Indiana and Vermont, where Democrats had hoped to knock off Republican governors, the incumbent Republicans both won easily.

Unanswered Questions

  1. Alaska voters reelected a convicted felon, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). While there is no law or Senate rule prohibiting Stevens from serving as a felon, the upper chamber could decide–by a majority vote–to refuse to seat him. If they wish to wait until Stevens has exhausted his appeals (and he does have a strong case for a mistrial), it would take a two-thirds vote of the chamber to remove him.
  2. If Stevens were removed or were to resign, Gov. Sarah Palin (R) would appoint a replacement who would serve for only 90 days before a special election would choose a Senator to fill out the term. Palin could be the Republican candidate, as could her ally, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. On the Democratic side, former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) could run, or Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) could make a second run for the seat.
  3. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was elected Vice President the same day he won reelection to the U.S. Senate. Presumably Biden will resign after the 111th Congress begins, allowing incoming Gov. Jack Markell (D) to name Biden’s replacement. The appointed senator would not face reelection until Biden’s new term expires in 2014. Atty. Gen. Beau Biden, now with the Delaware National Guard in Iraq, could be picked to inherit the seat his father has held since the age of 30.
  4. In Illinois, embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) will now be charged with appointing a senator to fill out the remaining two years of Obama’s Senate term. On this score, speculation has been rampant around Springfield, with many factors at play.
  5. Blagojevich, to maintain decent relations with the black contingent of the state’s Democratic Party, may be pressured to appoint a black politician to fill this seat, held by black Democrats for 10 of the last 16 years. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. tops that list.
  6. Alternatively, he could name Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan (D) to the seat as a way of eliminating a potential primary challenger if Blagojevich wants to seek a third term. Unsuccessful congressional candidate, veteran and double-amputee Tammy Duckworth is a Blagojevich loyalist who could get the nod.
  7. Democrats could still reach 60 seats in this Senate, in view of some open questions about the upper chamber.
  8. With 600,000 early votes not yet counted in Georgia, the U.S. Senate race there is undecided. With Libertarian nominee Allen Buckley pulling in 4%, Chambliss could easily be below the 50% needed to win the election outright. If Chambliss comes in under 50%, he will face a December 2 runoff against second-place finisher Jim Martin (D). With national Democratic money and clout backing Martin, and the unpredictability of special elections, that would be a serious Democratic opportunity.
  9. As of press time, Minnesota’s Senate race between Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and liberal comedian Al Franken (D) was too close to call, as was Oregon’s contest between Sen. Gordon Smith (R) and state House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D). If Democrats win both of those races, they would hold 57 seats including that of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats.
  10. Whither Joe Lieberman? The “Independent Democrat” seemed to earn himself excommunication from the Democratic Party by endorsing McCain and speaking on his behalf at the Republican National Committee. With 60 seats possibly within reach, could Democrats make amends with their apostate?
  11. If Martin wins in Georgia and Democrats eventually capture the Alaska Senate seat in a special election, Lieberman would be the difference between 59 seats and 60 seats for the Democrats.
  12. As of press time, five U.S. House races remained unsettled. State Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) hang onto a razor-thin leads, and in New Jersey, Medford Councilman Chris Myers (R) holds a small but significant edge. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) and state Sen. Andy Harris (R) both trail by about 1,000 votes.
  13. Hurricane Gustav disrupted Louisiana’s new and drawn-out congressional-election calendar, meaning voters in the 2nd District and the 4th District voted in primaries yesterday, with the general election to be held Saturday, December 6. Indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D) won his primary, and as he is a shoo-in in the general election, we are calling this a Democratic retention already. In the open 4th District, Republicans nominated coroner John Fleming (R) while Democrats picked Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche (D).