Sour New York Times Stories Warn GOP on 'Reading Too Much Into Their Victories'

November 6th, 2014 9:15 AM

The New York Times greeted the morning of Election Day anticipating Republican gains but downplaying the ideological significance of an "expensive" campaign "stumbling" to a close, in the lead story by Jonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker, "G.O.P. Confident on Election’s Eve, With Voters Sour -- Party Hopes to Seize Senate -- Midterm Spending a Record."

The most expensive midterm campaign in American history stumbled into Election Day on Tuesday with voters’ interest at record lows and their divisions deep over what they want their government to do in President Obama’s final two years.

Wednesday's front-page banner headline, after the GOP swamped the Democrats and took control of the Senate, emphasized anger: "G.O.P. Takes Senate -- Riding Voter Anger To Gain Control Of Congress." The Times' sour lead editorial was headlined: "Negativity Wins the Senate." Other front-page headlines were more pleasing to conservatives: "Democratic Seats Fall in Seven States – Repudiation of President Obama," "A President Left Fighting to Keep His Relevance."

In the paper's special election section, Adam Nagourney pointed to "big-money contributors and the Supreme Court decision that opened the financial floodgates for negative advertisements" while explaining why voters were (word of the day) angry: "To Angry Voters, Washington Comes Out the Biggest Loser."

The award for pro-Democratic wishful thinking went to Jackie Calmes (pictured) and Megan Thee-Brenan, who refused to see a Republican wave in "Surveys of Voters Signal Dismay With Both Parties." Calmes, a reliable Democratic Party cheerleader, suggested the GOP shouldn't read too much into its huge election victory and actually credited the Democrats with some success on Tuesday night, at least when it came to getting its base to the polls.

Politically divided Americans were in dour agreement about much as they voted in this year’s midterm elections -- broadly distrustful of government, overwhelmingly disapproving of Congress, convinced that the nation’s economic system favors the wealthy and doubtful that the next generation will inherit a better economic future.

Republicans went into the contest heavily favored to make significant gains; typically the president’s party is on the defensive in midterm elections, and most of this year’s battles for Senate seats were in conservative states. But voters surveyed after casting their ballots, both at the polls on Tuesday and by phone for those who voted early, signaled deep dismay with both parties and were at least as negative about Republican congressional leaders as about President Obama.


As bleak as Democrats’ prospects were, the party succeeded to some degree in its strategy of focusing on female voters, especially minorities and single women, by attacking Republicans for their legislative actions to limit access to abortion and birth control.


Yet political independents -- a group that six years ago helped propel Mr. Obama to the presidency -- once again supported Republicans, though by a smaller margin than in 2010. Democrats also failed again in other ways to rebuild Mr. Obama’s broad coalition of 2008, losing among middle-aged voters, suburbanites and Catholics, though not as badly as in 2010.Democrats did hold onto groups that form their base: union households, gays, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, younger voters, lower-income Americans, political moderates, Northeasterners, city dwellers, Jewish voters and both those without high school educations and those with graduate degrees.

Calmes and Thee-Brenan skipped the gains made by Republicans among black, Hispanic, and Asian voters in 2014 (10% of the black vote, 34% of the Hispanic vote, and 47% of the Asian vote, according to the paper's own study of exit polls), as opposed to 2012 (6% of the black vote, 27% of the Hispanic vote and 26% of the Asian vote, according to a survey by the Roper Center).

Over all, more than half of voters expressed negative feelings toward both the Democratic and Republican parties. In a cautionary note for Republicans about reading too much into their victories, one-quarter of the voters who supported the party’s candidates did so despite harboring bad feelings about the party. Among voters who backed Democrats, a significantly smaller share was negative toward that party.

The reporters cast around for hopeful signs for Democrats.

On several issues, majorities expressed views in sync with Democrats. A slim majority said abortion should remain legal; supporters favored Democrats and opponents Republicans. A larger majority agreed that climate change is “a serious problem,” and those who did overwhelmingly supported Democrats, while those who disagreed backed Republicans. And most voters favored allowing immigrants here illegally to have a chance to seek legal status -- a position at odds with Republican opposition that hardened in the course of the year’s campaigns.

Erik Eckholm and Richard Fausset typically discounted the threat of voter fraud as "negligible," and played the race card, in their roundup of the difficulties some voters faced, in "Voters Report Problems in a Number of States as New Limits Take Effect."

Most of the new policies were adopted by Republican legislatures in the name of electoral integrity, even though evidence of voter fraud has been negligible. They are opposed by Democrats who say tighter rules are aimed at discouraging minorities, poor people and college students, groups that tend to prefer Democrats, from voting.