The day after an election is step-back time.
Step back, take a deep breath or, if you stayed up late and fell asleep awaiting the numbers, a deep yawn.
Then, try to make some sense of it all beyond knowing that our ordeal by hit-piece mailers and sinister campaign commercials from those secret societies known as super PACs is over until the next election.
OK, the campaigning is over. It's now time for Republicans and Democrats to forget all the barbs, insults, distortions and lies of the campaign trail and return to work in Sacramento and Washington, where they don't get along, either.
Republican Jeff Denham's easy victory over Democrat Jose Hernandez in the 10th Congressional District race was no shocker. The surprise? That Hernandez received 46 percent of the vote considering his campaign was one the worst-run we've seen in decades. Hernandez campaign signs or mailers were few. He did little outreach in Modesto the heart of the district. He debated Denham only once publicly.
Pro-Hernandez TV ads attacked Denham but did little to define the political newcomer. Some of the anti-Hernandez/pro-Denham spots were just as pathetic.
Beyond the fact Hernandez had been an astronaut, what more do you know about him now than you did before the campaign began? What did he stand for, personally or politically?
Chatting for a few minutes before his visit with The Modesto Bee's editorial board, I found him to be a pleasant, bright and engaging gent. He told fascinating stories about his time in space. But when the session began, his answers were scripted and limited at best.
Denham's seeming 1,000-to-1 edge in campaign signs along roads, on fences, in yards, you name it gave the impression Denham ran unopposed and simply wanted to take no chances. He received all of the area's most credible endorsements. And though he ran in a different congressional district this time the 10th instead of his former 19th Denham enjoyed an incumbent's name recognition.
Democrats comprised 40.1 percent and Republicans 38.9 percent of Stanislaus County's 232,887 registered voters for this go-round. Hernandez didn't capitalize on that built-in party loyalty because he was largely invisible throughout the campaign.
The blame falls squarely upon his hired guns from the East who ran it with no understanding of the politics out West.
Party loyalty in the county couldn't have been more apparent than in the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco and Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken.
Feinstein holds a minuscule 0.379-percentage point edge in this county while creaming Emken statewide (61.4 percent to 38.6 percent).
It didn't matter that Feinstein visits the valley periodically, spoke here in August and has been a supporter of agriculture. Nor did it matter that Emken, who lives in Danville, had virtually no presence here during the campaign beyond a brief speech to Republican Party members in Manteca the day after Feinstein spoke to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce downtown.
Party preference prevailed, barely.
The state's 5th Senate District matched two very strong candidates, Republican Bill Berryhill and Democrat Cathleen Galgiani, both of whom serve in the state Assembly.
As are so many other races in the vote-by-mail era, this one is still too close to call with Berryhill leading by fewer than 4,000 votes.
Here's the irony: Though Galgiani trails in the state race, I suspect she would have been a far more formidable opponent than Hernandez against Denham for the congressional seat. She is an experienced politician and campaigner, and has more credibility locally.
The smart mayoral money was on Matt Beekman in Hughson and Charlie Goeken in Waterford. Safe bets, indeed. Each ran unopposed.
While awaiting updated local results at home late Tuesday night, I channel-surfed up the dial and came upon yet another presidential election assessment, this one on MSNBC. It featured a woman bearing one of the great names in punditry of any kind: Krystal Ball. That, according to her biographies found online, is her real name.
Her parents had either a great sense of humor
or a vision.
And finally, the next presidential election is only four years away. That gives us, oh, about 18 months to rest up before the pols begin announcing their candidacies.
Then, figure on a year or so of hopefuls ripping each other to shreds during weekly debates, with the survivors becoming their respective party's candidates, followed by the usual six months of character assassination leading to the selection of Barack Obama's replacement.
It will be upon us before we know it, with mid-terms to sate the political animals' appetites.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.