Siege mentality has put together the county-by-county numbers on the Boyda victory. There were 220,442 votes cast for Boyda and Ryun. Last time there were 286,857.
You can see the whole spreadsheet here.
Even with 60,000 fewer votes, Boyda got nearly as many votes in each county, in most cases more, than she got two years ago. Jim Ryun lost votes everywhere.
I suspect that the comment I heard at the watch party is right, that Republican GOTV was bringing Boyda supporters to the polls. Ed Brayton is suggesting that libertarian Republicans swung the election, and I suspect that played a role.
But Boyda also worked hard to tap into the disaffected voters who had backed Perot in ’92. Exit polls that year suggested that many of those voters might not have turned up at the polls at all if Perot hadn’t run. These are largely protectionist voters concerned about kitchen table issues, not ideological warfare.
I think the libertarian vote is a bigger factor in the Kansas AG race, and in the rising Mountain West Democratic party. The Attorney General is not supposed to be pushing policy through his prosecutions, or carrying out personal vendettas. You don’t have to be a libertarian to object to him sticking his nose into private medical records.
Jon Tester, like Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and our Governor Sebelius have succeeded by being moderate to liberal on social issues (Tester is an organic farmer for heaven’s sake!), while being economically conservative. On guns and other issues of personal rights, they are liberal (in the classical sense of the term, functionally libertarian).
Ed Brayton draws a distinction between conservative libertarians and liberal libertarians, which I find odd. I think that libertarianism is fundamentally liberal, which is why they share the same etymological root. Any political movement that favors a generally smaller government will almost always wind up being anti-incumbent. Republicans got 12 years of power before that desire for change kicked it.
It came from Reform Party voters who just want change, it came from Democrats upset with the direction of the government’s policy, and it came from libertarian voters who wanted to see a less intrusive government. It came from veterans who want to see current and former soldiers cared for.
This is the mandate for change that the new Congress will face. Voters have come to trust Democrats at least as much on issues of taxation and national security as Republicans not least because Republicans showed that they couldn’t handle it. January will present an enormous opportunity for Democrats to lead. As it’s become clear that Jim Webb has won Virginia, the only obstacle to that mandate for change will be the White House. Hopefully they got the message.