The recent turnabout in Kansas does not fully qualify as a
last-minute surprise, the kind of which almost always appear on
a national mid-term elections night. The collapse of the GOP in
that state is real enough, but it occurred enough in advance of
the actual election for the Republican incumbent to make a
serious effort to recover.
The real surprises percolate either on election night itself when
the results are being tabulated, or at most, a few days before in
the final polling when little or nothing can be done to affect the
Somewhere in the list of “Safe” Democrats and/or “Safe”
Republicans is a candidate or two who is not so safe at all. Why
the dynamics of these campaigns are so sudden and late is
often unclear, but invariably they occur. And they can occur in
either party. The Kansas example demonstrates this. It is
shaping up to be a GOP year in the midwest, if not most of the
country, and Kansas is usually as red as red can be, but both
the conservative governor and the conservative U.S. senator are
Early possibilities for a last-minute surprise include U.S. senate
races in Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, Minnesota, and South
Dakota. The four former are “safe” Democratic seats, the latter
race is considered now “safe” Republican. But a “wave” could
defeat the Democrats, and a third party candidate could upset the
Republican. In fact, there are several third party candidates this
year who could alter the final results. Most of these races are now
considered likely Republican, but Democrats could pull out
surprise victories because some Republican voters might be
moved to vote for independent or libertarian third party candidates.
I have been covering national mid-term and presidential election
cycles for a very long time, and I cannot remember even one of
those many election years when there was not at least one or two
true surprises on election day.
I think this is one of the most wonderful and reassuring aspects
of U.S. representative democracy. As much as my fellow pundits,
myself included, labor to analyze and prognosticate the behavior
of the American voter, it is the single voter, counted in an
aggregate, who has the last, and often surprising, word.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.