Vote 2014: Post-Election Analysis

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Arizona State University pollster Bruce Merrill will give his insight into elections results.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon, I'm Ted Simons, the 2014 election was a big one for Republicans in Arizona and nation-wide. We'll hear from pollster and political scientist Bruce Merrill in a moment, but first some reactions last night from the winners and non-winners.

Doug Ducey: In every way I know I will work as your Governor to make our state a more just, compassionate, and welcoming place. We'll stay true to Arizona's independent streak, so we can find our own way, free of mandates and commands from Washington. Things go a lot better in our state when we work matters out among ourselves. Irrespective of political party.

Fred DuVal: I hope that he will be a Governor for all of Arizona. I would like to, to -- I would like to call the, the -- and congratulate the other winners of tonight's race, but frankly, a lot of the big winners are undisclosed, unknown and out of state.

Mark Brnovich: And I will tell you, I am committed, when I'm your attorney general, to making sure that we work hard every day to protect those that can't protect themselves, to go after those that prey on our children and make sure that we prosecute those that go after our, our parents and grandparents and the elderly and our disabled and our returning Veterans.

Michele Regan: I am confident that we are going to bring this home. This is a Republican night. A Republican sweep. A Republican victory and it is all because of you!

Terry Goddard: Arizonans are learning the truth about corporate forces too cowardly to come out in the open. Corporate forces who were trying and make no mistake about this, to buy control of our state.

Krysten Sinema: What I keep seeing is that for folks like me with a reputation of getting things done, we've been able to get past the labels of party, Republican or democrat. When I won in 2012, I promised the district those who voted for me and those who voted against me, that I would serve all of them equally. I think that we did that, and that's how we see the win tonight.

Ted Simons: Here to talk about last night's results and what it all means is ASU pollster Bruce Merrill. Good to see you again.

Bruce Merrill: Good to see you, Ted.

Ted Simons: What kind of narrative can you pull out of this election? What happened last night? There.

Bruce Merrill: This might surprise some people, but nothing happened that we did not expect. If you look at what happened in Arizona, happened around the country. Let's look at Arizona. There is more Republicans here. They vote in a much higher percentage than Democrats do, and you had a situation where the Governor-elect had more funds, more resources to get his message out. So, it was just a situation, frankly, where we did not think that any of the Democrats had a real chance to win. We thought that maybe Goddard because he has high name I.D., run for statewide office several times before, might have pulled it out. But, I really think that it was simply an environment where, where the last time I looked at a poll I did, Obama had a 38% rating in Arizona. People were just voting, really, against Obama. They are mad, they are angry about what's going on in Washington. I think that you see this through the turnout. We have a 36% turnout in an off-year election, and only 70% of those eligible to vote are registered. We're talking about people that got a majority in any of the races, maybe 15% vote of the people in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Did Republicans field better candidates, run better campaigns, get more voters out?

Bruce Merrill: I think so. In an off-year election, particularly this election, it's hard for the Democrats to really mobilize their voters, their base, the Hispanics. The lower socioeconomic people. There were no issues that really motivated them. And I think so, although I would say that two things -- I think that both Fred and Doug were good candidates. I think if either one of them had won, Arizona was very lucky to have the quality of candidates that both of them were. So, I think that what happened is, is that Doug ran a much more focused campaign like he did in the primary. Played to his base much more so. I think that that was a major factor.

Ted Simons: And we have the, the numbers here, 100% reporting now, and we have the 12, 11.5 differential there. You mentioned the primary. Were Republicans helped and Democrats hurt, perhaps, by contested primaries? The conventional idea was you don't want too much of a primary and get bruised because the other side will beat you up. It seemed like that didn't matter at all.

Bruce Merrill: I think that's true, Ted, but I think what you have to keep in mind is that one of the real problems that we have is the primary, the way that we select people in the primary. If you look at Arizona, we had a 22% turnout in the primary. So, what happens is, when you have very, very low turnout in primary elections, the people that, actually, vote are the ideologues, the extremists to the right or the left. There is almost no representation for the moderate in Arizona, and as you know, there is now more independents than Republicans or Democrats, and they simply -- they are so turned off, that that's why they are independents, they don't vote.

Ted Simons: They don't vote, and I know that a lot of people mentioned, and a lot of Democrats are mentioning the impact of money in this particular bun, what was that impact?

Bruce Merrill: It was big. There's no question. If you look at North Carolina, they spend $120 million some in the Senate race? And so, Citizens United decision really changed American politics, and not in a very good way. Tremendous amounts of money come into these elections. We don't know from where. There is no accountability. There is no transparency. Most of that money comes from large corporations and very wealthy people. Again, it really is one of the reasons that we're hurting in the middle class in America.

Ted Simons: Obviously, we're going to see more of this. Are we going to see a lot more of this in the coming elections?

Bruce Merrill: There is no question. Look even in Arizona, look at the amount of money that was spent in the Corporation Commission race. I mean, and what does the Corporation Commission do? Regulates corporations. Big financial interests have a real interest there.

Ted Simons: But that was an interesting race in and of itself as we look at the results here. Republicans ran as a team, and those business are very, very close for Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats tried to make a case for you are doing fox guarding the hen house business here. That did not resonate with voters.

Bruce Merrill: No, I think it didn't. And it's, it's interesting to me because I think that we kind of look -- the Republicans are saying gee, we have had a great year, and you have to give them credit. They did. Although, it's very typical when you have a two-term President. Every, every President, two terms, has lost the Senate when -- in the last part of their administration, for the last 50 years.

Ted Simons: It happens every time, and the other side then -- and we also hear when this happens, that the losing party, in this case, the Democrats, they are done for and out of it and it will be a Republican landslide for years, and that does not usually happen.

Bruce Merrill: No, it does not. And particularly, in this election. If you have somebody like a Hillary Clinton that runs, that reenergizes the base of the Democratic Party, gets minorities out, it will be a completely different environment in two years.

Ted Simons: As far as, we talked about this earlier, with that money coming in, some of the candidates were not that open, did not appear all that -- Diane Douglas, except for our debate, I don't think that she ever debated David Garcia anywhere, rarely appeared anywhere. And yet, some of the other candidates, Michele Reagan, didn't have the sharpest of campaign, shall we say, and the big money in the Secretary of State race. Is that the new -- lay low and let the outside forces come in and do the dirty work?

Bruce Merrill: Yes. At least in Arizona. All politics is local. Basically, what happens in Arizona is you have the high visibility Governor's race, but every race after that is called a ballot drop-off. What happens, the problem with David Garcia, and in that particular race, is the last poll that I looked at, 70% of the people in Arizona didn't know either one of them. They did not have enough money, really, to, to get their message out, so as you go down the ballot in those lower offices, people tend to vote more party, and there is more Republicans in Arizona than Democrats. They were counting on that.

Ted Simons: And that, that, that change in voter registration, that, that advantage, that is huge, isn't it?

Bruce Merrill: It is huge. And, and but, as we have said, the interesting thing is that the number of independents is increasing and will continue to increase and will be a bigger factor in two years.

Ted Simons: Ok, explain this to me then, Republicans, very good results statewide. Advantage in voter registration, and yet, and obviously these are districts, so the advantage doesn't go to each district, and yet Sinema wins handily, and Ann Kirkpatrick beats the speaker of the house. How do you explain that?

Bruce Merrill: You explain it, campaigns matter, and I think that Kyrsten Sinema ran maybe the best campaign of anybody I saw, certainly Doug Ducey ran a good one, and Fred ran a very good campaign. But campaigns, actually, do matter, and I think when you run a good campaign, when you stay on message, when you are focused, it pays off. They had good consultants.

Ted Simons: And we are looking at the results here. Kyrsten Sinema, that is a landslide, and two years ago, most folks were saying that she was the most vulnerable of the newly elected Congress-people.

Bruce Merrill: That's an interesting district. But, I think where she gets a lot of her support is, is over in Tempe in the University areas where you have a lot of students that tend to be moderate.

Ted Simons: As far as nationally, GOP control of the Senate, does that mean John McCain will run again?

Bruce Merrill: Well, you know, the new campaign is starting tomorrow. One of the things is going to be is John McCain going to run again? He's one of the most powerful men in America in politics. There will be speculation. The fact that the Senate became Republican, really, won't have any, any impact significantly because what's going to happen is that you will have a democratic President that will veto the things that he does not like. What people don't realize is in two years, when we have the next congressional elections, there is three times as many Republicans that are up for re-election than Democrats. This time, it was reversed, and that was a factor in the loss of the Senate.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, you mentioned, as well, Obama's falling ratings, the President's falling ratings. Say and we had some analysts, as I was talking about this, that it was a mistake for Democrats to run so far away from the President. In other words, embrace, show confidence, show this, that, and the other, as opposed to trying to separate yourself. Do you agree with that?

Bruce Merrill: Well, absolutely. I think that, that in certain local areas, he could have been, he could have made a difference, and I think that they should have used him much more. But there is no question that the general environment was anti-Obama.

Ted Simons: As far as Arizona is concerned, what do you expect to see? Do you expect to see some, some friction there between the Governor's offices? There is always friction in the legislature, but how much and what are you seeing?

Bruce Merrill: Well, I think it depends on how they handle it. I think Doug is a businessman, and I think he's more of a, a practical politician rather than an ideologue. I am excited about the possibility of having a younger, more professional business-oriented person become Governor. My guess is that he's going to do a pretty good job in trying to involve more people, to try to minimize some of the partisanship in Arizona.

Ted Simons: And you think that could mean better relations with the legislature, as least getting more things done?

Bruce Merrill: You are going to see candidates emerge assay the hell with both political parties. I am sick and tired of it. Major issues, people are getting to the breaking point in terms of the Government that does not work and doesn't seeming to anything done.

Ted Simons: They are getting to that break point, but it's still tribal.

Bruce Merrill: Well, at least the ideologues and they are the ones that vote. Remember, this is a system where you have to give credit to the people to go to the polls. They have a right. It's not how everybody feels in Arizona. It's those that feel strong enough to participate.

Ted Simons: Well, it was an interesting night. Good to have you here.

Bruce Merrill: Good to be here, Ted.

Bruce Merrill:Pollster, Arizona State University;

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