There's been a bit of chatter on the nets about the Great Western Firewall, in which ground game and infrastructure in CA, OR and WA (and I suppose, NV and CO) prevented the Big Red Wave from washing the Democratic Party into the Pacific. Tuesday was a bad night for Dems nationally, no doubt, but not so much 'round these parts, at least near the top of the ticket.

Down ticket though, that was another story. On election night, Washington State House Speaker Frank Chopp was losing a ton of seats, particularly in the former Republican strongholds for which he had compromised so much, while the state Senate, currently a Democratic near-super-majority, looked to be teetering on the edge of Republican control. Meanwhile, Democratic incumbent and all around nice guy US Rep. Rick Larsen looked to have surely lost an upset in WA-02 to teabagging mouth-breather John Koster. Ouch. Gloomy.

Then the second round of ballot tallies came in yesterday afternoon, and suddenly... not so much.

As the Washington Poll's comparison of 11/2 tallies to those reported on 11/3 suggests, late voters appear to have broken hard for Patty Murray, almost throughout the state, with the Democratic Senator's margins improving in 19 of the 22 counties that reported new results. For example, here in King County, Murray's percentage jumped from 62.03% of Tuesday's results, to 66.88% of the 50K-plus ballots reported yesterday, a substantial 4.58 point shift. Snohomish rose 1.9 points, Pierce rose 2.1, while Island, Kittitas, Klickitat, San Juan and Whatcom counties all moved in Murray's favor by between 4.85 and 9.55 points.

Furthermore, this late-ballot Murray trend appears to be translating into a broader if less steep Democratic trend in legislative races throughout the Puget Sound region. Democrats Dawn Morrell, Hans Dunshee, Steve Hobbs, and Rodney Tom were all trailing on election night, but have managed to scratch out small leads on the basis of yesterday's returns. A number of other Democrats in very close races have extended their margins, while Roger Goodman, Luis Moscoso and Kelli Linville have clawed back within striking distance.

And in WA-02, Rep. Larsen's fortunes improved in all six counties his district crosses, pushing him ahead of Koster by 507 votes.

Yeah, I know, two days of returns do not provide enough data points to definitively plot a trend, but the nature of vote-by-mail means that ballots are tallied chronologically. For example, in King County, Tuesday night's returns represented three weeks of balloting, consisting almost entirely of those that had arrived as of Monday morning, while Wednesday's returns mostly reflected those that arrived thereafter. And with Thursday's and Friday's returns pretty much coming from the same universe of ballots as Wednesday's, there's no reason to expect them to be much different.

The obvious conclusion is that Democrats tended to vote late, and as Eli has already reported, in record midterm numbers. At least in King County.

For Sen. Murray, record turnout and the late ballot trend means certain victory, probably by a comfortable 3 to 4 point margin, maybe even more; it's kinda amazing that no media organization other than HA has officially called it. For Rep. Larsen, I'm cautiously optimistic, although I'm waiting to see some more numbers out of Snohomish County before breathing a sigh of relief. And as for the Wiggins-Sanders race, well, that's still a hefty margin to overcome, and Wiggins isn't exactly scoring Patty Murray-like margins in King County, but there's hope.

All in all, not nearly as bad an election as it looked on election night. Indeed, if this is the best Washington Republicans can do in a wave election year, they shouldn't be doing too much gloating.