Election results in Wisconsin and California last night are putting political spin doctors to work this morning as they gauge voters' mood. First, Wisconsin, where an unusual primary was held between Democrats and fake Democrats, or, as Republicans like to call them, "protest candidates":
The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner gives some background on the strange politicking leading up to last night's primary. "After recall elections were triggered against six Republican state senators over the state's contentious collective bargaining law, Republicans launched 'protest' candidates in each primary to give their incumbents more time to campaign. The general elections were pushed back from today to Aug. 9," she writes. All six real Democrats easily won their primaries, setting the state for "GOP recalls," reports Tom Tolan at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But the GOP's machinations were fruitful in other ways, writes Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo. "By delaying the general elections to August, they bought themselves more time to quickly vote on various policies--including a redistricting maneuver for 2012, which will involve a suspension of the state's usual redistricting procedures in order to move up the process." Blogger and University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse was surprised that the fake candidates managed to garner any votes at all. "Note that the 'fake' candidate won at least 30% of the vote in all 6 districts, and one got 46%. Since everyone knew these were not real candidates and voting for them was a most an inarticulate cry of opposition to the recall process or a way to help out the Republican, what does it mean that these candidates did this well?"
Another widely-watched race last night was the "bitter special election" in California's 36th District between Democrat Janice Hahn (pictured above) and Republican Craig Huey. Hahn won by 9 points with 54.5 percent of the vote to her Republican rival's 45.4 percent. National Journal's Jessica Taylor explained the race in the early hours of the morning:
The runoff contest between Hahn and Huey, a wealthy businessman, had taken a sharp negative turn in the race's final weeks as the race appeared to tighten between the two, despite the Los Angeles-area district's double-digit Democratic registration advantage. Democrats were worried low turnout would make the contest close.
While Hahn's 9-point margin of victory was far under the district's nearly 18-point Democratic registration advantage, her get out the vote efforts - aided in the final days by a robocall from former President Bill Clinton and phonebanks organized by Obama for America - likely made a difference down the stretch.
Politico's David Catanese suggests that Hahn may have underperformed. "Though the district’s liberal leanings made Hahn the solid favorite from the outset, Democrats began expressing concern once the runoff contest got in to full swing about a lack of enthusiasm toward Hahn, who had launched a series of tough attacks against Bowen in the primary, potentially turning off some progressive supporters." The most outrageous attack of the race, though, actually came from conservative group, which in a video depicted Hahn as a stripper who aided gang members. The ad was swiftly denounced as racist and misogynist and rejected by Huey himself. Still, the Los Angeles Times notes that the difficulty Hahn faced could be telling. "The race drew some national attention as a possible harbinger of what lies ahead in the 2012 elections. The district will be redrawn, along with others in California, before then, and most expect it to be at least somewhat less Democratic."