Independent voters, white working-class voters, seniors, and men broke heavily against the Democrats due to the economy. Turnout levels were also unusually low among young and minority voters and unusually high among seniors, whites, and conservatives, thus contributing to a massively skewed midterm electorate. The Democrats therefore faced a predictable, and arguably unavoidable, convergence of forces. Incumbent Democrats suffered a genuine backlash of voter discontent due to a weak economy with considerable concerns about job creation, deep skepticism among independents, poor turnout among key base groups, and strong enthusiasm among energized conservatives.
The most significant shift against the Democrats occurred among the white working class. Congressional Democrats lost this group by 10 points in both 2006 and 2008. Yet this deficit ballooned to 29 points in 2010--a deficit even larger than Democrats experienced in 1994 (22 points). That created an awfully big hole for Democrats to crawl out of, especially given relatively depressed turnout among Democratic-leaning constituencies.
I suppose the basic 2010 story is that of a wave of angry tea partiers and Dem voters just stayed home and there was nothing anybody could do. But in 2010 I couldn't have told anybody why they should vote for Democrats. I mean, sure, I could explain at length why team D is usually better than team R, etc. etc., but there was no message being put out there. It was like they didn't try.
Except for 2006, when they, you know, won, this is always the Dem approach to midterm elections. Don't make it a national campaign. Don't be too specific about policy. Make your election about biography and character. Don't spend any money until after Labor Day, then spend it all on teevee. Then they lose and it's all, well, our voters suck because they stayed home sucky voters, probably because of those negative Daily Kos diaries.
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