While the results were generally bad for Democrats, there were also some bright spots at least when taken against the dire predictions made before election day. For example, Colorado, a traditional swing state, saw Democrats win both the senate and governor's races. Oregon will likely remain out of the swing state category, as in 2008, as Democrats won both the senate and governor's races in that state.
There are also valuable lessons to learn as Democrats prepare for 2012 and beyond.
- The Supreme Court's change of campaign financing laws was a surprise for Democrats and one that they did not have sufficient time to prepare for. Corporations poured huge sums of money anonymously into independent groups that supported Republican candidates. Democrats now have more time to raise money and figure out ways to counter GOP money. Note that even huge amounts of cash did not help Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina or Texas oil-backed Proposition 23 in California. However, good grassroots organizing must be very thorough using both old school and new school strategies. The network should be activated early enough to allow a truly deep-reaching machine to self-organize. Give them the freedom to do what they're good at and enjoy rather than forcing them into traditional campaign work, which is not for everybody.
- Rather embarrassing that a party that depends so much on minority and women voters appears to have been outdone in respect to candidate diversity by Republicans and the Tea Party! The latter in particular fielded many women and minority candidates. Furthermore, they gave strong support to these candidates. The Democrats seem to have had either a lukewarm or hands-off approach to many of their minority candidates even after they had become nominees. They are back to their old insider game when what had worked for Obama's 2008 campaign was the inclusive approach. This election we saw the nation's first Latina governor and the first Indian American woman governor elected running as Republicans! All three winning Latino governors are GOP and the only Latino senatorial candidate to win was Marco Rubio in Florida. Many prominent women were fielded by the Tea Party although the most publicized races ended for them in defeat.
- Where are Democrats hiding the progressive wing and Dr. Howard Dean? The blue dogs need to eat some humble pie and restore these folk back into the fold. These are the people that won the nomination for Obama and played a large role in his election win. Yet they now seem forced to operate along the periphery.
- Voters in many states simply were expressing their anger at the economy by "kicking the bums out." That might swing back against the GOP come 2012 for a variety of reasons. For example, by around June of next year federal stimulus money to state and local governments will begin to shrink and will continue to decline until 2016. However, the revenues of those governments have generally not been growing enough to keep up with things like inflation and interest rates on debts. So, the state and local governments are unlikely to be able to handle the new budget stress. That means that they will be forced to layoff employees and cut government contracts unless new money is approved by the federal government. In fact, even with the current rising-rate federal aid we have seen that many of these smaller governments have still taken drastic action. The problem for the Republicans is there is strong opposition to any further stimulus spending, and this obviously could backfire against the GOP in working class areas of swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
- What happened to the 50 state strategy? Everyone promised Dean when he resigned that they would continue to implement this sound approach. Were they simply getting him to move his stuff out faster? The folks now using the 50 state party are the Tea Party, which is one factor behind their phenomenal, if uneven, success. During the height of the Obama campaign, Democrats and other supporters from Idaho to the Deep South felt like part of the team. But again we've moved back to the insider game and people in the "boondocks" party-wise are likely to get ignored.