OK, so if you are a Republican or even if you are not, but wanted change and/or wanted to send a message, you were happy with last week’s US midterm election results. I thought it was a pretty good night, and for those of you who have been following my blog, you know I wrote an extensive column published last Monday that had predictions about the close Senate races along with some other analyses. Most of my predictions were right, a few were wrong. House Republicans did pick up seats, albeit more than I thought, and I gave an ‘only maybe’ for the Republican loss of any governor’s seats. It didn’t happen.
The economy was the number one issue for voters, and by a large margin. I wrote the following two weeks ago, “So after the polls have closed on November 4th and you see that the economy was the number one reason why someone voted the way he or she did, and the Senate Democratic majority is lost, even in this “recovery” when over 200,000 “jobs” are being created each month, you will know why.”
Alaska’s Senate race is still undecided because collecting and tallying votes from outlying, rugged areas is time-consuming. But my predicted winner, Republican Dan Sullivan has a nearly 4 point lead over incumbent Democrat Mark Begitch, and even Democrats don’t have much hope this will turn around. Some generally Democratic Alaska Native votes have not yet been collected and that gives the Democrats some hope, but Sullivan’s wife is Native Alaskan and that has helped him make inroads into Native areas. The votes will split and within a few days perhaps, the race will be called for Sullivan.
I was also correct with Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky (Mitch McConnell winning by a wider margin than I thought), Iowa and New Hampshire. I thought Georgia would go to a runoff with the Republican winning. No runoff, the Republican contender pummeled the Democrat. I should have gone with my gut for the Kansas race, but I didn’t, thinking Republican Pat Roberts would go down. He actually won by over 10 points. Calling those stumping for Roberts, including legendary Kansas Senator Bob Dole, clowns, just before the election, was not a smart thing for the challenger to do, and he paid the price.
I was very glad I was wrong about North Carolina going to the Democrat, incumbent Kay Hagan. I thought Virginia’s Democratic incumbent was a shoo-in to win. It was so close, however, that I am sure Mark Warner is still shaking. For Louisiana, I had incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu winning the 3-way race, and it going to a runoff with the mainstream GOP candidate prevailing. Bill Cassidy actually bested Landrieu in the 3-way, but a runoff is still coming, and Cassidy should take it.
And now for a few winners and losers. Professional pundits and politicos had their punctilious, pontifications. These are mine.
Screw the polls, screw the ads, and screw the fear-mongering. Voters used this year’s exercise in democracy to send a message. Not just to Obama and those insulting their intelligence with nasty tactics, but to pollsters and pundits. Veni, Vidi, Vote-ci.
Republican Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio
Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, raised $106M for GOP gubernatorial candidates and traveled all over the country campaigning for them. Republicans picked up 3 more state house seats in the process. Cozying up more than was necessary to Obama after Hurricane Sandy, “Bridgegate” and Christie’s legendary artlessness in dealing with hecklers and others may still be hindrances in his bid for the Republican 2016 nomination or general election.
Walker was first elected in 2010, then beat back a recall try in 2012 and now he won reelection – all three elections in 4 years by comfortable margins. He gained notoriety for changing the collective bargaining process in his state, causing a revolt by unions, and his actions paved the way for other governors to put more stock in the average citizens of their states, rather than in special interests. Good thing. It worked. Walker is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, and he is a great leader, but I think he is too much of a lightning rod to win, perhaps to even run.
Very popular Kasich beat his Democratic opponent by an astounding 31 points in Ohio, a major battleground state. I have always admired this former Chairman of the US House of Representatives Budget Committee, and if he doesn’t run for president in 2016, he will be on everyone’s short list for vice-president. Great governor, critical Ohio. Choosing Kasich is a no-brainer. Imagine this ticket: Jeb Bush/John Kasich. May not win, but I love the thought. Another nice 2016 thought would be Kasich or Bush running with Hispanic New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez or New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.
Republican Senators-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Joni Ernst of Iowa
These predicted winners are excellent, quality additions to the upper chamber and will become Senate (and maybe later office) stars. [Another future star is Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who coasted to her win, the race never being in contention, which is why I didn’t discuss it last week.]
Republican Senatorial Candidate Ed Gillespie
Virginia’s Senate seat stayed with incumbent John Warner instead of going to Republican challenger Ed Gillespie, and by a very surprising, razor-thin margin. Gillespie, a good guy, did lose, but then again, he will be the next governor of Virginia.
Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell
McConnell was at only 39% approval in the Bluegrass State before Election Day, but his very unworthy opponent was at the same pathetically-low level, and as time went by proved to Kentuckians that she was a lightweight, to say the least. McConnell won by 15.5 points and with the GOP taking the Senate, he becomes the next Majority Leader.
They blew it. Races polled as close, were not, and others that were supposed to be shoo-ins went down to the wire. It’s OK. Our fascination and dependence on polling will only continue and get even more prevalent and persistent.
Bill and Hillary Clinton
They campaigned and cajoled and fear-mongered for many candidates, but alas, they didn’t do too well. Her inability to help many Democrats may not hurt Hillary, but it certainly didn’t help her.
Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Reid’s despicable do-anything, say-anything, win at all costs strategy, did more harm than good. He gambled. Play the race and sexism cards vs. making an already angry opposition even more irate. He lost. The very angry, who don’t like Obama and the direction of the country, voted much more than the simply annoyed, taken-for-granted, Democratic base. If he had any decency he would resign as Majority Leader after such a bruising. But then again, Nancy Pelosi didn’t resign her leadership post when her party lost a whopping 63 House seats in 2010. Let’s see if Reid, a terrible Majority Leader, does the honorable thing or the Pelosi thing.
Democratic Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Democratic Senatorial Candidate Michelle Nunn of Georgia
Nasty race-baiting advertising was used in support of both Hagan and Nunn to try and get out the black vote. As I predicted, and to Harry Reid’s dismay, African Americans did vote at a higher rate than they usually do, but not as they did for President Obama. Instead of condemning the disgusting leaflets and ads, both Democratic candidates simply said the advertising was done by groups other than their own campaigns, and so, were not under their control. How brave.
Florida Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Charlie Crist
This former Republican Governor of Florida tried to win back his job as a Democrat. I didn’t think much of him as a governor, and thought a lot less of him when he changed his party affiliation to run as an Independent against Republican Marco Rubio for the Senate, after losing the Republican primary. The unscrupulous, power-hungry Crist who took money as a Republican and used it to run as a non-Republican, got pounded each time by Rubio. He lost this last race as a Democrat by only 1.1%, but I hope it is now the end of Crist’s political career. Good riddance.
Republican Senatorial Candidate Rob Maness of Louisiana As Well As Some Tea Party Groups
This Tea Party-backed Louisiana candidate knew he had no shot in a 3-way race, but as he tried to defeat incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu anyway, he took shots at his Republican opponent as well. Unlike other states, Louisiana uses the “general” Election Day as an open primary. Bill Cassidy could have defeated Landrieu outright, and not had to go to a December runoff had Maness and his selfish Tea Party supporters actually done the right thing and thrown their support behind Cassidy. They are losers for losing and for being losers, if you know what I mean. Now there is a runoff in December that Cassidy will most likely win, but it ain’t over till it’s over. A good sign for Republicans is that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has pulled its Landrieu TV advertising, deciding not to throw good money after bad for the runoff.
It is unclear at this time how much the runoff will cost the people of Louisiana, but it won’t be cheap. Louisiana has the second highest poverty rate in the country, and the dollars used on a runoff – with no guarantee for Cassidy till it’s over, could have been allocated for housing and job creation, etc., and not wasted on another election because some people have more ego and selfishness than big picture courtesy and common sense. Maness said he wanted Louisianans to have a choice. A choice to be even poorer, I guess.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, et.al., Maybe Even Gridlock
The upcoming Senate majority will be less rigid and strident than the current minority. There will be no debt-ceiling nonsense and government shutdowns in the upcoming Congress, and I hope and believe more cooperation between the main players. Maybe not as much collaboration and productivity that I would like, but something. There are still a good number of too-ideological House Republicans.
You may think I am being way too optimistic, but better legislation movement, along with comity within the Senate, and compromise on some bills, even with the president, such as on budgets, immigration reform, corporate tax reform, trade, the national debt, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the removal of the medical device tax from Obamacare, may put pressure on House (and Senate) obstructionists, of both parties, to play nice. At least a little. And a few Democrats (not very many though, because the Democrats by their Election Day losses have percentage-wise become even more left) may join flexible Republicans if the Tea Partiers dig in their heels.
I do think Senate Republicans will try to get things done, and it will help them in 2016, even if it gives the president victories at the same time. He is never running for anything again, and he will not be needed or wanted except by his own narrow base in 2016. Hillary Clinton has been out of office and is already more imposing and intimidating than Obama even though he is the leader of the free world and commander in chief. For the history books, the president should play ball, and who knows, he may leave office less-tarnished than he is now.
Of course, this is Obama, and he could wreck all the promise with controversial executive orders (e.g. his threat to go it alone on immigration reform), ideological in-your-face nominations, foolhardy foreign policy indecisiveness or decisions (e.g., weakness or apathy, or confrontation with friends such as Israel, and risky cooperation with Iran on their nuclear program), and as with many provisions of Obamacare, giving in to the extremists of his own party by vetoing good, even bipartisan legislation.
Texas Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, State Senator Wendy Davis
Davis gained fame by filibustering a Texas State Senate restrictive abortion bill. After she decided to run for Governor, it was revealed that she had lied about her supposed “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” single mom story in a number of ways. Her legacy will include a TV ad showing a wheelchair while at the same time, taken-out-of-context, blasting of her opponent Republican Greg Abbott for decisions he had made in previous offices. Abbott is a paraplegic. Davis, thought at one time to have a shot in red Texas, lost by 20 points. She disgraced herself and her party. As if they care.
The so-called “War on Women”
It didn’t work. And the gender gap between men and women voters actually shrunk as many going to the polls rejected the sexism card. Both major parties take advantage of parts of their bases, and both have played on fears, but this election cycle, Democrats sunk to new lows in their efforts to hold onto power.
The Democrats’ vaunted get-out-the-vote “Ground Game”
I won’t get into the damage the president has done to the country, but the damage he has done to his own party has been incredible. Midterms usually, but not always, hurt every sitting president’s party, but this guy – so anathema even to Democrats (and his popularity would be even lower were Democrats, unlike Republicans, quicker to turn on their own), has really dealt his party a blow. When Obama began his presidency there were 255 Democrats in the House. With the Democrats losing 12 more seats last week, they dropped to 184, with 7 still awaiting final tallies, and most of those will go to the Republicans. And he just lost the Senate. Ouch.
How so many Democrats ran away from Obama gives the lie to those who consistently claim that many who criticize Obama are racist. While bigots do exist for sure, are the many liberals who have excoriated the president and distanced themselves from him also racist? It doesn’t matter. The race card lie will continue to be played anyway.
And lastly regarding our president, as head of his party, he could have easily put a stop to the race-baiting at any time during the campaign. He could have publicly and forcefully condemned what his supporters were doing, and he could have privately twisted arms. But then again, he and his campaigns have used the race card as well. Why would he change? President Obama’s unwillingness to be the kind of bridge-building, fence-mending “better angels of our nature” leader, so desperately needed and for which so many had hoped, is a sad commentary about him and our politics, and is an important opportunity lost.
On to 2016.