In the aftermath of the North Rhineland Westphalia (NRW) election from Sunday, and the failure of the SPD Party.....one might sit back and examine three key things.
1. Generally, if you drive around Germany....you classify regions by appearance, run-down condition, or new infrastructure. NRW, while one of the larger regions, ends up giving you a mixed appearance of either a really successful state, or a ghetto state. The public realizes that....against some history of gut-feeling of the period before the Wall came down (before 1990).
If you watch interviews of locals in NRW, they talk about this image and this poor nature. People are negative about view, and it reflects upon political parties who are in charge of the state.
2. After the 31 December 2015 episode in Koln.....the SPD leadership did a lousy job in getting their hands around the episode and realizing what had happened (a massive riot with a thousand police reports centering bad behavior and sexual assault by mostly North African gentlemen). It was like a train-wreck in slow motion, and no one from the party wanted to stop everything, ask questions, and start fixing things. It was like they were guilty of something and didn't want to admit it.
3. The whole last one-hundred days in NRW prior to the election....centered on a remarkable Martin Schulz (the party savior). Schulz could do everything. In the end, the Schulz effect was like dragging some movie-star into the middle of some party and figuring that's all you needed to make this a four-star party.
Schulz has been a EU fixture for a decade. It's true that TV news kept him in some focus, and people continually saw him as their big-guy in Brussels, but beyond that.....Schulz really didn't fit into the big picture like the party tried to hype.
It's not to say that Merkel had a better image or that the CDU has a plan to fix NRW. In some ways, I think the state of NRW has yet to hit bottom, and the next five years might even be more negative than the past five. Of the sixteen German states, the one state that really needs some help and motivation....is NRW.