Michael Bennet is the junior Senator from Colorado. He became Senator after being appointed by the Colorado governor to serve out the remainder of Ken Salazar’s term after Salazar resigned to become President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior. Bennet was then elected to a six-year term on his own merits during the 2010 mid-term election, which many have characterized as one of the first big tests of the Democrats’ so-called “Blueprint” for turning redstate Colorado into bluestate Colorado. Bennet’s 2010 election effort was run out of a building on Bannock Street in Denver, Colorado, so the application of the successful Colorado Blueprint to the key battleground states in 2014 became known as the Bannock Street Project. For the 2014 mid-terms, the Democrats identified ten battleground states on which to focus the Bannock Street Project’s $60M strategy. Those ten were Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and West Virginia.
It seems to be a matter of opinion as to whether the Bannock Street Project was a success. In light of the many victories for Republican candidates, it would seem to be an obvious failure. But for Nate Cohn, about whom I have posted previously, HERE, the coin has two sides. In his November 14th postmortum at The Upshot, his NYT political blog, Cohn gleans insights from comparing the election results in two neighboring states, North Carolina and Virginia. Writes Cohn:
The preliminary and qualified answer is that the Democratic field effort was probably a success. An analysis of precinct and county-level returns, supported by exit polls and limited voter file data, suggests that the turnout in key Senate battlegrounds was generally more favorable for Democrats than it was in 2010. When it wasn’t, the Democratic turnout still seemed impressive when compared with the states where they did not make significant investments, like Virginia or Maryland.
North Carolina has 100 counties, and Virginia, our neighbor to the north, has 95. With the possible exception of the area just south of Washington, D.C., our income and ethnic demographics are also somewhat comparable. Cohn continues:
Perhaps the most compelling comparison is between Virginia and North Carolina. The two states are demographically similar, and both had close contests. But Democrats invested heavily in field efforts in North Carolina, while they made little or no effort in Virginia, which was not thought to be competitive. Better still for our analysis, the states also have significant precinct-level data from this year and 2012.
Since 2010, turnout increased by 14 percent in North Carolina counties that voted for President Obama, but just 4 percent in counties that voted for Mitt Romney. In Virginia, turnout fell by 4 percent in Obama counties, but 2 percent in Romney counties.
Note that in the graphic below, based on the U.S. Election Atlas site run by David Leip, the last off-year election in Virginia was the gubernatorial race of 2013. Also, North Carolina counties are depicted in purple, while Virginia counties are shown in green.
There are many lessons to be learned from the recent election results. But, in our joyful gratification for the Republican gains, we must not forget that they can be transitory. We cannot let up. If anything, we must redouble our efforts for 2016.
For more on the Bannock Street Project, check out THIS article from earlier this year by Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly.