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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Downballot Results

Democrats had a very good, though not sensational, election night below the presidential level. The hope that a decisive presidential win would push Democrats over the edge in every close race was not realized, but the fact remains that the Donkey Party now has impressive majorities in the Senate, the House, the governorships, and state legislative chambers.
As expected, Dems picked up Senate seats in NH, VA, NM and CO without breaking a sweat. Kay Hagan’s big win in NC was a bit less predictable. The race everyone considered a true tossup, MN, ended that way; last time I looked, Norm Coleman led Al Franken by 700 votes with scattered precincts still out, and there will definitely be an automatic recount.
With significant votes still out, Gordon Smith of Oregon is hanging onto a narrow lead in a race most expected him to lose. In a true shocker, convicted felon Ted Stevens of Alaska holds a tiny lead over Mark Begich with a small but unknown number of votes remaining to be counted. And there’s one other shoe that could fall: in GA, Saxby Chambliss’ totals are hovering just above 50% amidst confused reports that a lot of early voting ballots haven’t been counted. If he slips below 50%, he could face a December 2 runoff against Democrat Jim Martin.
If Republicans win all the nail-biters, Democrats would still have a net gain of five Senate seats, and most obviously, will no longer need Joe Lieberman’s vote to control the chamber.
There are still eleven House seats undecided, but at present, Democrats have a net gain of 20 seats, and will probably wind up at the low end of what most experts predicted. Republicans contained their losses in part by knocking off four Democratic incumbents, including three (in TX, KS and LA) representing districts that went heavily for McCain. There were some very satisfying Democratic wins over long-time targets, such as Chris Shayes of CT (the sole remaining GOP House member in New England), Robin Hayes of NC, and Marilyn Musgrave of CO. VA produced the biggest single-state gains, with Dems winning an open seat in NoVa and beating incumbents in Hampton Roads and central/southside VA.
Democrats won a net gain of one governorship, winning the two closest races in WA (Christine Gregoire) and NC (Beverly Perdue).
And according to our buddy Matt Compton at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Democrats won control of five new legislative chambers: Delaware House, Ohio House, Wisconsin Assembly, New York Senate, and the Nevada Senate. This means Dems control 60 of the nation’s 98 partisan state legislative chambers.
In ballot initiatives, it was a bad night for marriage equality. Though votes are still out, it appears California’s Proposition 8 won by about three percentage votes, in one of three states where gay marriage is currently legal. Gay marriage bans also passed in AZ and in FL.
In better news, abortion bans lost in CO and most notably in SD. A parental notification restriction lost in CA. Also in CA, a rather weak redistricting reform initiative narrowly won, as did a ban on inhumane treatment of farm animals.

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