It takes about three months distance to get any semblance of an idea about what happened in an election. Any sooner than that, and the analysis will be distorted by the raw emotions (jubilance and despair) of those involved. Any later and it's stale news.
I've had my own interpretation of the state results for some time, but wanted to hold off on writing them for the reasons stated above. Unlike some of even our bluest blue Democrats who donned their fancy clothes and went out for this week's Inauguration, I'm still quite disappointed that Larry Hogan is our Governor. And that's ok. I'm not writing this to express sour grapes, but rather to offer camaraderie to those who feel the same way I do. We don't all need to express wonder at the "peaceful transition of power" that was mentioned on countless Facebook pages and tweets (really? Does this fit under the "if you don't have anything nice to say" category?). We can still hold our personal concern that elections have consequences, not only with regard to those who stand underneath the Calvert and Crossland banners, but also for the families who barely knew there was an election in 2014.
So how did we get here? I think it's much more than voters staying home (as argued by the left), the paucity of Anthony Brown (as argued by the left and right), or the strength of Larry Hogan (as argued by the right). It came down to the mood of the electorate, but more precisely, the persuadeables.
And let's define that term. If you voted for Romney and Hogan, I hate to tell you this, but you did not win this election for Republicans. You held serve. If you voted for Obama and Brown, I hate to tell you this, but you did not do much to move your candidate closer to Annapolis. If you voted for Obama and Hogan, congratulations! Your vote played a significant part in making this a Republican 2014!
The persuadeables were well defined by most polling in this election cycle. They were socially liberal fiscal conservatives. Hogan knew this well, as he said nearly from day one that social issues "were off the table" and a distraction from the concerns of hard-working Marylanders.
What does this demographic look like? If I told you that the vote in Maryland would be determined by white females over 65 with no children in the house, you probably know someone in the target audience. They voted for Obama, but not enthusiastically. Their husband is a Republican, but thinks his wife is too. They complain about the liberal media and maybe even watch Fox news (See Husband/GOP). But when it comes to gun control, marriage equality, reproductive rights, and the environment, they're as blue as you get. They probably have a "Save the Bay" bumper sticker on their car.
Bottom Line: These voters want to support "fiscally conservative Democrats", and often do, but in 2014 decided that they just couldn't take it on faith any longer. They voted Republican because social issues were "off the table" and taxes were "just too high". The narrative of Marylanders being "taxed out of Maryland" sounded true to them because so many of their friends were leaving (retirement having such an effect on folks).
And here's something else - they've been taken for granted by Democratic leaders for far too long. They were part of a presumed coalition, the premise of the Democratic party, that would always stay together so long as their individual interests and concerns were met. This strategy falls apart when the battles appear to have been won and your Democratic candidate is on state-wide TV promising not to raise taxes. "See, even he gets it now," said your target voter's husband.
One more thing - this is a demographic that may be easy to take for granted. We weren't even 24 hours into the new Hogan Administration before the Governor dropped protections for the LGTB community and removed regulations on the amount of nitrogen going into our Bay.
These voters will continue to be in play. And they'll probably vote for the Democratic nominee for President in 2016.
That's all for today. Have a great Friday doing what you love.