Voters in three states had the opportunity yesterday to dump incumbents and prove the media’s latest meme that voter anger is really just an anti-incumbent mood this year. Instead, incumbents and establishment candidates succeeded in proceeding to the general election. The AP postulates that “voter anger didn’t translate at the ballot box,” but they missed the point:
It turned out anger didn’t translate at the ballot box.
Voters in North Carolina and Ohio kept their incumbents while those in Indiana turned to an old Capitol Hill hand — Republican Dan Coats — in Tuesday’s primaries despite the nation’s bottom-of-the-barrel support for Congress and frustration with the Washington establishment. …
Coats, 66, retired from the Senate in 1998, has worked as a lobbyist and was U.S. ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush. He overcame spirited challenges from four opponents, including state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, a tea party favorite who was endorsed by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, and former Rep. John Hostettler, who had the support of one-time presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
Coats imposed his own term limits on his first run in the Senate, retiring as promised after two terms, but decided to run again after the debacle of the past fifteen months. Stutzman and Hostettler were good candidates as well, and Stutzman in particular ran a good campaign. He finished second by a surprisingly wide margin over Hostettler and will undoubtedly build on this momentum for more success in Indiana politics.
Indiana saw its highest turnout in ten years, including presidential cycles. In Ohio and North Carolina, voter turnout was light, which the AP took as a sign of ebbing enthusiasm:
Turnout was exceptionally light in Ohio and North Carolina, a possible indication that voter anger over economic woes, persistently high unemployment and Congress itself wasn’t influencing elections — and, perhaps, a reflection of the limited influence of the conservatives and libertarians who make up the fledgling tea party coalition.
Or perhaps it indicated that there wasn’t much doubt or competition in those primaries. The only real competition in Ohio was on the Democratic side of the ticket, where Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher held off Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the Senate nomination to run against Rob Portman. Portman’s nomination was already secured, so the Tea Party had little to do with this race. They certainly weren’t turning out Democrats to the polls, and in what should be a warning to Democrats, neither were their own candidates.
The mood isn’t anti-incumbent. It’s anti-Democratic.