The loss of Mark Udall stings. He's the archetypal Coloradan, a fine senator, a fine person, but, alas, not particularly good at retail politics. He's wooden, and that can be deadly. I once saw him grip a podium so hard I thought he might reduce the thing to sawdust.
Being politically nimble is a much under-rated quality--perhaps skill--in politics. FDR was politically nimble, as was JFK. Gerald Ford, on the other hand, was a plodder, but not nimble at all. Jimmy Carter, bless him truly, probably regards nimbleness as something of a sin. Richard Nixon was nimble, in his way. Bill Clinton could be a little too nimble.
Mark Udall, bless him too, truly, is not nimble. His first attack on the personhood amendment was good, and it drew blood. He was right to pound Gardner on it, and Gardner completely deserved it. Gardner's riposte, that he was in favor of over-the-counter birth control, was a fairly effective counter.
Over-all, Udall's attack on the personhood amendment was politically productive in September, but the campaign desperately needed a second act and there wasn't one. (If, instead of hammering on womens' reproductive rights, about which he had already said plenty, he had instead shifted to Gardner's rank hypocrisy, that also might have drawn blood. Tea party Republican Cory Gardner was the liberal in this race. How did that happen?)
I kept waiting for candidates of either party to talk about jobs and the economy, the true concern of the voters, but, for some reason, nobody seemed to want to go there. If jobs were mentioned, it was usually in a long list of other things the candidate was for. I didn't follow every campaign everywhere in the country, but I didn't hear any Democratic candidate make jobs the centerpiece of his or her campaign. What the hell is wrong with these people?
Other than Udall, however, the damage for Colorado Democrats was limited. Hickenlooper survived barely, as did control of both houses of the legislature, barely. Rep. Daniel Kagan survived a challenge from a political unknown who was exceptionally well-financed. In the final weeks, Koch money came down like that huge hail storm that hit here in Colorado a few weeks ago and caused $8000 damage to my car.
I was surprised that Andrew Romanoff in CO-6 lost by 8 percent. I'm not surprised he lost--over the final weekend, the enthusiasm for turnout didn't quite seem to be there--but I was surprised he lost by that much. The only way Andrew Romanoff loses by 8 percent is if the Democratic vote does not turn out.
I read somewhere that the national turnout was only 38%. If it falls under 40%, Democrats are in trouble, as indeed they were, all across the nation, although that, too, is not quite the debacle it seems. Shaheen survived in New Hampshire. Hagen was running for re-election in a southern state, and barely lost. (Better turnout would easily have saved this seat.)
Alison Grimes probably has a future in politics, but her campaign was poor. She assiduously avoided Obamacare and President Obama and that was a mistake, especially in the way she did it. If she had used Obamacare as a weapon to beat Mitch McConnell over the head, she could hardly have done worse. If she had said she had voted for President Obama, which everybody of course already knew she did, she would have at least scored points for honesty and directness.
Ironically, President Obama's reluctance to act on immigration before the election, in order, the pros thought, to help a few Democratic candidates, might have backfired. It doesn't seem like the hispanic vote turned out, which, along with low turnout among young people, definitely hurt Udall and Romanoff in Colorado, and definitely hurt Paul Davis and Greg Orman in our neighboring state of Kansas.
Democrats tried so hard to appeal to a handful of swing voters that they forgot about the millions in their base. That is not very astute. Recent elections have been about turning out the base. Why should hispanics turn out if one of their major concerns is put on the back burner, with vague promises, again, for the future? Why should young people turn out if one of their major concerns, jobs, isn't mentioned at all?