Nevada Rejects Nihilism, California Rejects Euphoria, and Volatility Reigns

And now, some morning-after election dispatches from the West:

* Jerry Brown has handily defeated Meg Whitman’s self-funded campaign for the California governorship with what’s now being reported as a 13% margin. That’s bad news for the Romney 2012 campaign. Romney has close political and personal ties to Whitman (I’ve even heard that Whitman lets the Romney kids use her private jet). Methodically building his 50-states organization for 2012, Mr. Romney expended cash and personal capital all over the map with mixed results, making appearances in Western states in support of Sharron Angle (who lost) and Idaho’s incumbent Republican governor Butch Otter (who was always expected to win). Romney also made robocalls in support of Meg in California. After the Proposition 8 victory in 2008, the conservative Mormon grapevine in California was abuzz with the idea that California’s small but highly disciplined 2-3% Mormon population could create an unbeatable ground operation and change the game in California. But it appears that neither Romney himself nor his LDS-style disciplined ground organization are game-changers.

* Was Harry Reid’s victory a victory over nihilism itself? In his coverage of the Nevada race, Esquire’s Mark Warren offered a Joan Didion-esque portrait of Angle voters as desert state castaways with short memories, big outrage, a penchant for end-game solutions, and a “let the chips fall as they may” attitude. But nihilism did not win last night in Nevada, as Reid claimed the victory; thanks in no small part to solid ground game, Angle’s many missteps, and the state’s 26% Latino population which went 90% Reid. Surely Angle’s anti-Latino, anti-immigrant television ads helped get Latinos to the polls.

*The lone congressional Democrat in Idaho has fallen, but don’t credit the Tea Party quite yet. Freshman Blue Dog Democrat Walter Minnick lost Idaho’s 1st Congressional District 51-49% to Raul Labrador, who is Mormon and a graduate of Brigham Young University. But even though news sources are now touting Labrador as a Tea Party darling and Labrador’s campaign cashed a lot of Tea Party checks in its last weeks and months, those with a longer memory will recall that Labrador beat Palin-endorsee Vaughn Ward in the primaries. As Sarah Posner argues here at RD, what folks are calling Tea Party victory is really an illusion. In Idaho, it just looks like historically Republican districts returning to Republican hands. In Idaho, Labrador’s LDS calling card didn’t hurt him either.

* Polls in the West have been consistently off, especially in states with large populations of Latino voters. Even the redoubtable Nate Silver had Nevada in the red column. If you’re feeling good about being a Democrat in the West this morning, thank Latino voters.

* Finally, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana usage, by a margin of 8%—which isn’t so bad, considering that the Yes on 19 campaign had virtually no war chest and no organized ground game. Ultra-reliable older voters, of course, drove the opposition to Proposition 19. But on the ground in California, Proposition 19 got a lot of otherwise reclusive “millenials” to the polls, providing perhaps a little insight into what motivates their enigmatic generation. After all, when you’re facing the bleakest economic conditions in memory and the systematic undoing of economic-growth building state infrastructures, who really cares if consenting adults (gay or straight) marry the people they love and smoke pot once in a while? Could the millenials change the definition of “morality” in this country?

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