The standard meme of the 2010 election was that an enthusiasm gap existed between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. People who had never been involved in politics before joined Tea Parties, mad as hell over out-of-control governmental spending. Progressives were supposed to stay home, demoralized over the whole Hope and Change-y thing being nothing but an empty campaign pledge.
Normally late-counted ballots trend--if they trend at all--in favor of Republican candidates. This election those votes went in favor of Democrats, and it wasn't even close. Up and down the ballot, from Senate to State House races, nearly every Democratic candidate who was in a close contest on election night has been swept into office on those late returns.
Go back in time one week and consider all the races which were still too close to call. Two-time gubernatorial silver medalist Dino Rossi was a fraction of a percent behind incumbent Patty Murray, and no doubt experiencing a recurrence of PTSD over the prospect of another recount. He is now 4 percentage points behind. Republican John Koster went from being 1,400 votes ahead of Rick Larsen in the 2nd District to more than 6,000 votes behind. In state-legislature races, Democrats pulled out wins in the 48th District with Rodney Tom and Ross Hunter, in the 45th with marijuana advocate Roger Goodman, and in the 1st with Luis Moscoso. On Mercer Island, Republican Steve Litzow went from having the whip hand with a 4-percent advantage, to a one-percent lead over Randy Gordon. Even the State Supreme Court Race between Richard Sanders and Charlie Wiggins (non-partisan in theory, but not in practice) saw liberal Wiggins close late to catch the more (libertarian, conservative, just plain eccentric) Sanders.
About the only close race on election night that has turned in favor of Republicans is that of former Worldnetdaily contributor Hans Zeiger, who is only 61 votes behind incumbent Dawn Morrell in the 25th District. Look forward to a hand recount.
Washington State Democrat Party Chair Dwight Pelz explained that while there was an initial enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, the malaise evaporated 10 days before the election. Perhaps it was the last-minute whistle-stop visits from President Obama and Co. Or it could even have been the much-hyped "Rally to Restore Sanity", which here in Seattle basically turned into a Democratic pep rally. Either way, Democrats dropped their ballots off late at post offices and county election drop boxes, or stood in line for hours the handful of "accessible voting centers" still in operation.
"Voters just woke up and realized that their beloved Senator Patty Murray was in trouble," Pelz explained. This Capra-esque ending might suffice for those rooting for the Blue Team: 5,000 volunteers and 150 paid staffers made a million phone calls and knocked on 350,000 doors to stop Old Man Rossi from shutting down the Murray Building and Loan. A more clear explanation can be that Republicans voted early, Democrats voted late.
Washington State Republican Party Chair Luke Esser agreed with his counterpart's assessment about the late surge for Democrats.
"A lot of times the more enthusiastic party gets their votes in earlier; the party that has to club their voters over the head comes in later," Esser expounded.
On election night, Esser had hopes that Republicans would pick up six seats in the state senate and had eyes on a seventh. That number has dropped to four in the Senate, and four in the state house. Esser said he had hoped Democrat voters would be "more deflated" this year.