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First Thoughts: What we learned

Eleven things we learned after the midterms… First Read’s initial 2012 battleground map… Economy adds 151,000 jobs in October; unemployment rate stays at 9.6%... Obama: It’s the communication, stupid… Murray wins in WA… Hartford Courant says it appears Malloy wins in CT… And the nine uncalled House races.

*** What we learned after the midterms: After some reflection -- and rest -- it's time to list what we learned after Tuesday's midterm elections:
-- The Democrats and Team Obama currently have a Big 10 problem: While Obama won every Big 10 state in '08 (even one electoral vote in the Big 10's newest member, Nebraska), Democrats lost almost every major contest in them on Tuesday, and the two exceptions were Illinois governor (which was decided yesterday) and Minnesota governor (which looks headed for a recount, with the Dem in the lead). According to the exit polls, 54% in the Midwest voted Republican, and 44% voted Democrat.
-- Democrats have a bigger problem with the middle than with the left: Per the exits, the independent vote broke 56%-38% for the GOP. What’s more, the self-described moderate vote broke just 55%-42% for Democrats, down from 61%-37% in ’08 and 60%-38% in ’06. And for the notion that liberals didn’t turn out, the exits show that 20% of the midterm electorate was liberal, which was identical to ’06 but down two points from ’08.
-- The GOP was unable to make substantial gains on the coasts: The real Democratic firewall existed -- and held up -- in the East and West. The most recent example: The Washington Senate race, which was decided for incumbent Patty Murray (D) last night.
-- Candidates who ran away from health care Obama and the Dem agenda didn’t have a great record: Bobby Bright (AL), Travis Childers (MS), Lincoln Davis (TN), Chet Edwards (TX), Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (SD), Frank Kratovil (MD), John Marshall (GA), Walt Minnick (ID), Glenn Nye (VA), and Harry Teague (NM) all lost.
-- Candidates from swing or conservative districts who ran to the left didn’t have a great record, either: See Alan Grayson (FL) and Tom Perriello (VA).
-- Rich candidates don’t make winning candidates: Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Linda McMahon all lost. The exception: Rick Scott, and he won the election but arguably lost the campaign narrative, given he won with upside-down personal numbers.
-- The GOP now has more diversity: Say hello to Brian Sandoval, Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio, Allen West, and Tim Scott. Don't discount this: A party that didn’t have a 21st Century America bench now has one.
-- Tea Party statewide candidates didn’t fare well in blue or purple states: Sharron Angle (Nevada), Christine O’Donnell (Delaware), and Ken Buck (Colorado). The Tea Party can have an impact in primaries and survive in red state general elections (see: Paul, Rand).
-- There was no real mandate on health care: Per the national exits, 48% said the health-care law should be repealed, while a combined 47% said it should be left alone or expanded.
-- Palin’s endorsed candidates had a mixed record: Some won (Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez), while others lost (Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, probably Joe Miller). See our Tea Party nugget.
-- Dems had a turnout problem: As we noted on Wednesday, the Democratic vote in the Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Ohio Senate races was down from the levels in ’06.

*** First Read’s 2012 map: As we begin turning our attention to the 2012 presidential contest, we debut our initial presidential battleground map. Note: This is based on where we believe things will be a year from now, with the GOP candidates headed into home stretch in IA. It essentially combines what we know from '04, '06, '08 and '10, and factors it ALL in. Here's another way to look at this: The lean Dem states are winnable by a Republican if things break, say, 53%-47% nationally for the nominee. And the lean GOP states are winnable by a Democrat if things break, well, 53%-47% nationally for the president. And you can guarantee BOTH parties will play in every lean and toss-up state so the BIG battleground for 2012 begins with 17 states. We fully expect a David Plouffe to attempt to argue GA and AZ should be in lean. And we expect a GOP strategist to argue they can put one EV in ME and, say, OR in play. But here you go…

Solid Dem: DE, HI, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT
Likely Dem: CA, CT, IL, ME, WA, OR
Lean Dem: IA, MI, MN, NJ, PA
Toss-up: CO, FL, NV, NH, NM, OH, VA, WI
Lean GOP: MO, MT, NE (one EV), NC,
Likely GOP: AL, AR, AZ, GA, IN, LA, MS, NE (four EVs), ND, SC, SD, TX
DC Solid GOP: AK, ID, KS, KY, OK, TN, UT, WV, WY

*** Economy adds 151,000 jobs: Of course, our 2012 map will depend on the monthly jobs reports between now and then. Here’s the latest jobs report, per the AP: “Economy adds 151,000 jobs, most in 5 months; unemployment rate remains 9.6%.” More: “Private employers hired 159,000 workers, while governments at all levels shed only 8,000 jobs.” It almost adds insult to injury for the White House and Democrats that the best jobs report in five months comes the Friday AFTER the election, instead of the Friday BEFORE the election.

*** It’s the communication, stupid: CBS has released this excerpt of President’s Obama interview that will appear on “60 Minutes” this Sunday: “I think that, over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that, we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn't just legislation. That it's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone… Making an argument that people can understand. I think that we haven't always been successful at that. And I take personal responsibility for that. And it's something that I've got to examine carefully … as I go forward." This is something the White House believes deep down; they do not believe any of their policies were wrong, they believe they didn't connect the dots on their policies and they acknowledge many of their policies haven't produced real results.

*** Murray wins in Washington: As mentioned above, Patty Murray won her Senate race. The Seattle Times: “Sen. Patty Murray has won a fourth term, riding a wave of strong Democratic support in King County to defeat Republican challenger Dino Rossi. Rossi conceded at about 6 p.m., calling Murray to congratulate her, according to a statement released by his campaign.”

*** Less confusion in Connecticut? Breaking news from the Hartford Courant: "Democrat Dannel Malloy appears to have gained enough votes in Bridgeport to win the race for governor. Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch announced the totals at a press conference around 6:20 a.m., after elections workers there tallied votes through the night. The Bridgeport vote went for Malloy, with 17,800 votes to Republican Tom Foley's 4,075 votes. That margin of 13,725 appears to be enough to overcome the 8,409-vote lead that Foley held before the Bridgeport votes were counted. If the numbers hold up, Malloy will have won the race by a margin of 5,316."

*** The uncalled House races: Republicans are still at +60 and could get to about +64. There are nine races not yet called. All are held by Democrats. Republicans lead in four of them. Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) still has not yet conceded, though his race has been called. Some changes since yesterday: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) is now off this list. His race was called, and he survived 49%-45%. In WA-2, another 9% of the vote came in, and Rick Larsen (D) increased his lead by about 1,000 votes. In AZ-8, Gabrielle Giffords (D) increased her lead. In CA-11, Jerry McNerney (D) picked up 13 more votes for a narrow lead of 134 votes -- the closest race left.

-- CA-20: 100% in; Vidak (R) up 51-49 or 1,823 votes of 63K
-- NY-25: 100% in; 50-50, Buerkle (R) up 659 votes of 189K
-- IL-8: 100% in Walsh (R) up 49-48 or 559 votes of 194K
-- TX-27: 100% in; Farenthold (R) up 48-47, or 799 votes of 101K
-- CA-11: 100% in; 47-47 McNerney (D) up by just 134 votes of 164K
-- KY-6: 100% in; 50-50 Chandler (D) up 600 votes of 140K
-- VA-11: 100% in; 49-49 Connolly (D) up 920 votes out of 222K
-- WA-2: 80% in; 50-50 Larsen (D) up 1,451 out of 220K
-- AZ-8: 100% in; Giffords (D) up 49-47, or 3,055 votes of 239K

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