Tuesday, the GOP won a resounding victory in the mid-term elections. They gained 14 seats in the House of Representatives to run their total to 243, with 13 races still undecided. More importantly, they gained seven seats in the Senate to give them 52 seats with three races still undecided. Virginia and Alaska are still too close to call and may have recounts. In Louisiana, neither candidate received a majority, so there will be a run-off on December 6, 2014. Regardless of the ultimate results in these three states, the GOP will have a majority in both Houses and will be in position to have a significant impact on legislation.
It should be noted that there were five groundbreaking results on November 4, all of which augur well for the GOP:
1. Elise Stefanik, 30, a conservative Republican from upstate NY near Glens Falls, became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress.
2. Mia Love, Utah, became the first African-American Republican woman to be elected to Congress.
3. Wisconsin Republican Scott Walker became the first governor to win three elections in a four-year span. He had won his first term in 2010 and a recall election in 2012.
4. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, became the first African-American to win a Senate race in the South since Reconstruction.
5. Alex Mooney, a Republican, became the first Latino to be elected to Congress in West Virginia history.
My advice to the GOP is not to fall into the trap of believing that Tuesday’s results was a positive referendum on its policies and political positions. To some extent, it was, but it was also a negative vote against President Obama and his policies. After all, the President, himself, had said that his policies were on the ballot even if he wasn’t.
In addition, as usual, turn-out was low, which normally helps the GOP. Moreover, historically, mid-term election turn-out averages only about 40% of eligible voters compared to 50-60% in Presidential elections.
Exit polls showed that the voters are very unhappy with the direction of the country. Many of them, particularly the middle class, are worse off today than they were six years ago. They have seen their income decrease, their expenses increase, and they have not shared in the run-up of the stock market, because relatively few of them own stocks. They are extremely frustrated and dissatisfied with ALL politicians – Mr. Obama, Dems and Republicans. They want a change in direction. Many of them just voted for the “outs” as opposed to the “ins.”
Additionally, the GOP should be mindful of the fact that historically, the nature of mid-term elections has been that the party in power loses ground, particularly in the sixth year of a two-term presidency. To put Tuesday’s results in perspective, in the last 100 years the President’s party has gained seats only five times in the Senate and three times in the House in a mid-term election. Furthermore, the GOP’s seat gains so far, though significant, are not the highest in history. The Dems gained 63 House seats in 2006 (G. W. Bush’s sixth year), and 13 Senate seats in 1958 (Ike’s sixth year). So, the GOP would be wise to proceed carefully in the next two years.
Also, the GOP would be wise to cease being merely the party of “no.” Put forth alternative policies. Coordinate efforts and ideas with the Dems. Bring them under your political umbrella. Try to compromise. The leadership of both parties must reign in their respective fringe elements. No one gets everything he wants. The idea is to pass the best bill that most people can live with. To quote one of my grandson’s teachers: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Pass bills and put them in front of President Obama. Yesterday, he said he was willing to work with the GOP; let’s see if he meant it.
I recommend that Congress start with the easier items. For example, don’t get bogged down on repealing Obamacare, which won’t succeed anyway until and unless there is a GOP President. Cease focusing on divisive issues such as race-baiting, class warfare, and the “war on women.” According to exit polls most voters now see right through those tactics, and they backfired. (Ask Senator Mark Udall, soon to be ex-Senator Udall.) Focus on items that concern the voters the most, such as:
1. The economy/creating jobs
2. Reducing the deficit
3. The Keystone Pipeline
4. Immigration reform (piecemeal, if necessary)
5. Avoiding another government shut-down
6. Avoiding defaults on debt payments
This election was a significant victory for the GOP, but I caution them to be careful what you wish for. As I said, prospectively, the GOP will no longer be able to blame the Dems for an underperforming economy, legislative gridlock and failures internationally. Rather than merely complain, they will have to promulgate alternative solutions. They will have to work with the Dems. Hopefully, one or two prominent leaders will emerge who can articulate the GOP’s positions on the issues. The electorate will be watching and holding them equally accountable, along with President Obama and the Dems.
Rather than resting on its laurels the GOP must use this victory as a springboard for capturing the real prize – the Presidency in 2016. I could make a good case that based on recent voting patterns all but five states are already “locked in” to voting either blue or red in 2016. The five states that are up for grabs and will decide the election are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Colorado. Whichever candidate wins most of those will win the election. Both parties must be mindful of the issues that are important to the electorate in those states. Sometimes, the issues are different from state to state. As Tip O’Neill said: ”All politics is local.”
Forewarned is forearmed. The electorate will expect improvement in the state of the nation by 2016, or else it will exact its retribution at the voting booth.