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Ben Kirby: Election night good for Democrats across America

If we’re honest, political watchers like me hate a surprise.

We are creatures of prognostication. What does the polling say? Which way are people leaning based on anecdotal information? What is our best guess at the outcome?

For election night 2013, the answers to all of those questions broke in favor of Democrats, more or less.

In St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman handed incumbent Mayor Bill Foster a solid defeat, 55.91 percent to 44.09 percent. It was a stunning rebuke for a man leading a city where, as Mark Puente noted in his comprehensive Times coverage, “seven out of 10 residents believed the city was headed in the right direction.”

But the party at St. Petersburg’s NOVA 535 was ebullient not because it was such a solid victory for Democrats and progressives — and for St. Petersburg. We had the data — polling from as far back as this summer showed Kriseman with an edge over Foster.

As the campaign moved along, you could feel the momentum swinging in favor of Kriseman. Yes, people are happy with their city, but they were ready for new leadership.

All of Rick’s supporters — I was and am one — expected, in some measure, this outcome. His campaign was run by an impressive group of outstanding professionals, and they set a high bar for themselves. It was a joy to watch them meet those expectations. All of it made it much easier to predict a big victory for Kriseman.

You get the sense, looking at other races around the nation, that there was a similar algorithm at work. In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe is the new governor.

Yes, this was a tight contest, but if you overlay the data and anecdotal information with momentum and expectations, you’ll come up with a similar, inevitable result.

Sure, Gov. Chris Christie was re-elected in New Jersey, but once again, the algorithm works. Christie dominated — no challenger ever had a chance. The only good news Democrats could take away from this race might be clues as to how Christie will conduct himself in a national campaign for President of the United States.

In political — but not necessarily electoral — news, Illinois became the 15th state to allow same-sex couples to marry. Politically, this may not be seismic news in reliably blue Illinois, but it does have something to do with momentum on a national level. This is an issue that is gaining traction, and the more socially conservative wing of the Republican Party should take note.

Speaking of the Tea Party, a man named Bradley Byrne won a Congressional runoff election in Alabama’s 1st district Tuesday night. You may not know the name Bradley Byrne, but he is a moderate Republican, and he beat a guy named Dean Young. Young is a Tea Party Republican who in recent days mentioned his belief that President Obama was born in Kenya.

Again, not necessarily good news for Democrats, but it’s good news for reasonable people everywhere. (But if it helps, Byrne was a registered Democrat until 1997.)

In New York City, Bill DeBlasio cruised to victory. It was expected, everyone was talking about it. He was way ahead in the polls. It was an easy prediction.

Back here at home, you can look at the great races run by new City Council Members Amy Foster and Darden Rice and use the same equation. We expected them to win because they raised a lot of money, ran good races, were good candidates, and told a good story about who they were and what they want for St. Petersburg.

They remained ahead in polling throughout the campaign season. We knew what was coming. It’s why Councilman Kennedy was re-elected handily. It’s why Councilman Nurse was re-elected with no problem.

Blogger Peter Schorsch asked a good question: is the St. Petersburg mayoral race a glimpse into the Crist/Scott match-up for governor? Yes, maybe.

It may also be a preview of what is to come for Democrats in 2014 across the nation. Political observers will point to Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and other places, but you know better, don’t you?

It all started here in St. Petersburg.

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