Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Post-Mortem: Florence under the knife...'s November 3, which means as far as the 2010 mid-term elections go, it's all over but the shoutin'. Now it's time to cut open the carcass of this election and see what we have...

Nationally, we have not really even had a chance to look at anything. From what we have seen, it certainly looks like the national stuff went as expected. If there was any surprise other than the occasional races that surprisingly went the other way, it was probably that the GOP appears to have picked up a higher amount of seats in the House than some expected.

As we mentioned in the predictions post, there were some who felt like the Dems may have a shot at keeping the House. They were obviously wrong. We were saddened to see a great public servant in Congressman John Spratt be defeated, and quite handedly we might add (55% to 45%). We're glad to see our Congressman go back to Washington, but hate to see Congressman Clyburn lose his position as Majority Whip. Florence had a brief tenure there of having two representatives in great positions of power: Clyburn as Whip and State Sen. Hugh Leatherman who still serves as Chairman of the Budget and Control Board. Clyburn is now relegated to a minority leadership status, while it remains to be seen what Nikki Haley's election will mean for the future of the Budget and Control Board.

According to the SC State Election Commission's website, 1,343,311 South Carolinians voted out of a 2,631,459 registered voters. That's about 51%. (Their numbers reflect that Sumter County is not yet in. Why that is, we don't know. Computers...)

How did we do with our predictions? The big one we missed was Sheheen. We really thought he had a chance to take it. The final spread wound up being 59,906 votes or just 4%. About 2 months ago, we were told by the Sheheen camp that they felt the race was going to be a 3 point race either way. Last week, we heard some poll numbers from another race that had it a 4-pt spread exactly. They hit it pretty close. Best of luck to Mrs. Haley. She and our State need it. BTW, Mrs. Jenny Sanford, please put a sock in it. No one thinks this election was a validation of your former husband's policies. Would have been interesting to see how this one went if redistricting was not on the table.

We, along with just about everyone else, were right on the Lt. Governor's, Attorney General's, Secretary of State's and Commissioner of Agriculture's races. We were wrong in picking Barber, but admitted we were simply taking a shot with that one. Zais win over Holleman surprised us. We thought Holleman would pull it out, but it wasn't even really close. Zais won by about 8% which did surprise us. Holleman really was not able to pull as well in the Upstate as we thought he would.

Local races, both Rep. Lowe and Rep. Crawford cruised to victory as we thought they would. (59% and 64% respectively). We also predicted Glynn Willis and Russell Cullberson would both win their respective City & Council races and both did by about 10%.

We told you that the numbers suggested Ed Clements would win re-election as the 12th Circuit Solicitor by about 10 points. We knocked that number down to about 6 points due to a number of factors we thought would influence the race (national political climate, lots of local attention, Rose Mary Parham's hard work during her challenge run, etc). We were wrong on that. Clements won re-election by 12 points.

So all in all we're gonna say we went 11-4. Hey...that would be enough to make us a wise guy in Vegas.

But what does it all mean? During this autopsy, we're gonna focus on what it means locally more than anything else. Why? Because as we said above, we haven't really dove in to examining what happened nationally yet. Plus, we think the national results are similar to what we've seen before. Yes, yes...we know that everyone will want to paint this as a referendum on President Obama, but the truth of the matter is that referendum will come and it's called the 2012 election. We've heard all this song and dance before, remember the Republican Revolution? Add in the fact that we really don't want to talk about it since we think it sucks and there you have it. Since we've all heard that all politics is local, lets perform our autopsy with that in mind, shall we?

So what important thing can we take from this election about our area? Florence is more moderate than the rest of the state. With the exception of Clyburn, all the Democrats in this race did better in Florence than they did overall. 4-5 points better in some. Sheheen actually won Florence 51-48 compared to losing overall 51-47. Matthew Richardson was just 1 point behind here 50-49 as opposed to 10 everywhere else, 54-44. Sen. DeMint was a good 5 points lower here in Florence than he was overall (56 here compared to 61 overall). Congressman Spratt actually won the small sliver of Florence he has in his district, 57-43.

Of course, the City of Florence swings more left, as Sheheen took city precincts 54% to 46% over Haley (compare to 51-48 in Florence County and 47-51 overall).

So what does that mean? Well there is no clear cut answer. Obviously what seat/office one is running for makes a huge difference. Certain seats like Rep. Crawford's or Sen. Leatherman's are simply extremely Republican leaning. Redistricting is about to come up and it will be interesting to see what happens (especially with talk of a 7th Congressional district being created).

But we would like to think it means that maybe bitter partisan races aren't the best option when running here in the Florence area. Blogger Earl Capps did a post back in March of this year that centered on Rose Mary Parham's challenge as a Republican for the 12th Circuit Solicitor's office. We disagreed with the numbers analysis that was offered in that post (you can't compare Presidential election year numbers with midterms and comparing a race challenging an incumbent in an office like Solicitor/Sheriff to any Governor's race is gonna be flawed, let alone an election that featured a still bubba-popular Mark Sanford versus a dull-as-paint Tommy Moore), but did find some of his other analysis interesting.

We thought Earl was right about the challenge for Democrats to secure the AG's spot as they continue to lose Solicitors, although we would have loved to see what had happened in the AG race that just concluded if Richardson had gotten into the race sooner.

More interesting was Capps' take on the significance of the race for the local Florence County Republican Party:

There's a lot at stake for the Pee Dee Republican team as well. They swamped the Florence GOP convention last year, but have yet to show they can win elections. Parham's candidacy is one of their first chances to play in the political big leagues and prove they're more than simply a club of political enthusiasts. Big stakes in the battle for influence in a region which is expected to have its own Congressional district in two years' time.

For those who are not familiar with the background of what Capps was referencing, check here and here. So, why do we find the bit above interesting? Is it because they lost? No. The numbers never lie and the numbers always said Clements would hold on to the office. No, the intriguing aspect of the Solicitor's race and what it shows us about our local politics is visible when combined with another local race: Glynn Willis' election to the Florence City Council at-large seat.

All you have to do is ask yourself how Willis was able to win a city council seat by 10 points when that same city typically produces better numbers for Democrats (see Sheheen's city numbers versus county). It's because you can not run a strictly partisan campaign and expect to win. Willis did get creamed in the staunch city democratic strongholds, but you have to at least hold the line in the other precincts. Fryer was not able to do that and got killed in the Edisto-over precincts. Clements was able to hold the line in many of those, keeping things close with a lot of 5-4, 4-3, 5-3, 6-3 type precincts. Clements was able to do this because he appealed to both sides. And he did this in what many are terming a "historic" Republican wave.

There are reasons why both particular winners were able to win and why both particular losers lost. Those reason are all in the numbers. But in both cases, we think you had two unsuccessful campaigns that both focused too much on their bases and not enough on the actual numbers. It's like a code and you got to crack it. In Parham and Elijah Jones, you had two candidates that decided to direct their efforts towards the hard right, we suppose in efforts to capitalize on the tea party wave. In Glynn Willis, you had a candidate who did not. Only one of those three was successful. We don't think that is a coincidence.

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