Thursday, November 18, 2010

Winners and Losers

More Losers Than Winners

One of the duties listed in the job description of Self Appointed Pundits is compiling a post-election list of Winners and Losers. This year, that's both easier and harder than usual, because the big winners are so obvious and the bright spots for my team so few. (I've already tried bragging that Roxanne Conlin won a county).

So I'm a couple weeks behind on this task, but I've been looking below the surface and have finally come up with my list. My left-wing bias helps me identify more Republican losers and Democratic winners than the results merit, but that's my job. I've also got more losers in general, maybe because I'm feeeling negative in general.

The Biggest Loser - Daniel Dirkx, Iowa's own Sharron Angle. Late-starting Democratic replacement candidate Dan Muhlbauer took over Rod Roberts' House seat for the only Democratic gain in the state, in large part becaue of Dirkx being "the worst candidate ever."

Winner - Rep. Curt Hanson. Despite the ugly environment, in which his home town senator Becky Schmitz lost, Hanson actually increased his winning margin in the House 90 rematch with Steve Burgmaier. And that was without the entire political infrastructure of the state descending on his district like it did in the 2009 special election.

Loser and Winner - Rep.-Elect Brian Moore (D R). I hate turncoats, but one has to admire the shameless chutzpah of a guy who lost a Democratic state senate primary in June, then jumped to the GOP in August and knocked off incumbent Rep. Tom Schueller in November.

Loser - David Hartsuch. The only Republican legislator who sought another term and lost. Hartsuch was knocked off in the primary by eventual winner Roby Smith, leaving the post of Nuttiest Wingnut in the Legislature open. (Unfortunately, there's plenty of new contenders for the job.)

As consolation, Hartsuch wins the David Levy Memorial Award. Levy was the Long Island Republican congressman who got knocked off in a 1994 primary and thus, like Hartsuch, was the only Republican incumbent to lose re-election in a landslide year.

Winner - Rep.-Elect John Wittneben. Held Marcy Frevert's open seat for the Democrats on tough turf.

Loser - Selden Spencer. Yeah, it was a bad year for Democrats, and the race against Rep. Dave Deyoe was always going to be uphill. But despite good fund raising and a lot of residual name ID from his 2006 congressional race, Spencer finished under 40%. Reminds me of that 2006 cycle when every lefty blogger in the state was talking up Spencer's chances against Tom Latham, and everyone except me was ignoring Dave Loebsack. Which brings me to...

Winners - Iowa's Congressional Democrats. If you had told me before the polls closed that the Democrats would suffer a 60+ seat loss in the House, I would have shuddered in horror -- heck, I still am. But I would have believed it. But a 60+ seat national loss... with Boswell, Braley and Loebsack all surviving?

Losers - Eric Cooper and Jonathan Narcisse. Cooper, the Libertarian nominee for governor, explicitly said his goal was the 2 percent of the vote his party needed to jump from minor party status to full party status. He also explicitly said Terry Branstad had the race in the bag, so you could spare a vote for him. He was right about the Branstad-Culver margin, but barely got halfway to the 2 point mark.

(Lost opportunity: What if Cooper had camped out in Iowa City and tied himself to the student side of the 21 bar referendum? He could have picked up a couple thousand votes just from people who skipped governor on their ballots, let alone what he could have taken from Culver and Branstad.)

Narcisse, meanwhile, maintained the fiction that he was going to win all the way to the end, but finished as a None Of The Above footnote. Even so, his "Iowa Party" fell just short of the 2 percent line (1.8) so Cooper gets listed first.

Winner - Jon Murphy. Yeah, he lost the auditor race. But even with his late start he ran even with the rest of the ticket, and David Vaudt had to at least spend a little time looking over his shoulder. Here's hoping we see more from Murphy.

Loser - Scott Ourth. The highly touted Democratic candidate in Kent Sorensen's vacant house district set all kinds of first timer fundraising records, but finished well behind tea partier Glen Massie.

Loser - Brenna Findley. With her Steve King 'credentials' (?) and pledges to join other Republican AG's in suing to block health care reform, Findley was the GOP's great hope (as evidenced by her impressive fundraising). But she was just too ideological and underqualified. Tom Miller saw this one coming, adjusted late, and outperformed the rest of the Democratic ticket.

Winner - Iowa Constitution. Despite the bigotry-driven defeat of the Supreme Court justices, Iowans weren't willing to go as far as the risk of a full rewrite to make discrimination legal.

Winners - Iowa's other judges. Iowans got it wrong by tossing the Supremes, but at least they got it right by tossing the judges they wanted to toss. There was no throw them all out collateral damage on the lower courts.

Loser - John Rooff. In a seat that Tami Wiencek gained in 2006 - one of the few Republican pickups in the nation that year - the former Waterloo mayor fizzled. Part of that is Democrats had an outstanding candidate in Anesa Kajtazovic, but in a year where Republicans were winning all over the place, Rooff should have been more competitive.

Loser - Cate Bryan. Iowans for Tax Relief invested heavily in her House District 2 primary win, yet she was the only Republican who lost as Sioux City rebooted its entire legislative delegation.

Losers - Johnson County Republicans. This was a target-rich year for Republicans, and my party's soft white underbelly was exposed in many places. (Pat Murphy winning with just 51 percent in Dubuque?!?) And the Iowa City bar issue was a major wild card; student precincts actually leaned a bit more Republican than the rest of The People's Republic.

Democrats left a quarter of the Iowa House uncontested, while Republicans did much better at finding candidates. But the exception is in my county. As they have for several cycles, Republicans scored a complete goose egg on candidate recruitment. Not that she wouldn't win big anyway, but Mary Mascher hasn't seen a GOP challenger since 1996. Dave Jacoby's challenger actually left the GOP to run as a Libertarian. When the Libertarians outscore you in candidate recruitment, you have a problem.

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