Thursday, May 8, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Emerging Tone of 2014

I noted a few months ago that it appeared that the
Republican Party and its grass roots had decided they
wanted to win the 2014 national midterm elections
decisively with their best candidates for competitive
U.S. house and senate seats.

Tuesday’s primaries in North Carolina and Ohio
reinforce my earlier observations. Most notably, North
Carolina house Speaker Thom Tillis won enough votes
to become the GOP nominee without going to a
runoff. Tillis had been opposed in the primary by
two so-called Tea Party protest candidates, and as
they have done in recent elections, Democratic Party
strategists spent money against him hoping it would
elect one of the protest candidates (who would of course
be easier to beat in November). Democrats did this
successfully in races in 2010 and 2012, most notably in
Missouri where they spent more than $1 million to defeat
a strong GOP senate candidate, The result was a weak
and gaffe-prone Republican senate nominee who lost in
November to an otherwise vulnerable Democratic

(There has been, incidentally, little media discussion of
the political ethics of one party interfering and intruding
in the candidate selection process of the other party.
This has been particularly true of the biased so-called
“mainstream” media, which in fact have mostly cheered
this practice on, resulting in the success of their
preferred candidates. After two cycles of this, however,
the Republican electorate has evidently caught on to
the mischief, as North Carolina and other primaries
have demonstrated. Led by Harry Reid in competitive
senate races, the practice continues, but it is now likely
to turn out to be mostly a waste of campaign dollars
that might be more needed in November. Doing this is not
illegal, of course, but it might be interesting to see how
loudly Democrats and their media friends complain if
Republican strategists resorted to the same practice in
future elections.)

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who led the fight to block
Mr. Tillis’s primary win in North Carolina by campaigning
for an obviously flawed Tea party candidate, then did the
right thing by immediately and strongly endorsing Tillis
on primary night. Mr. Paul, who is emerging as a serious
contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination,
hopefully learned an important lesson from this experience,
especially as he has been reaching out beyond his libertarian
base to gain support for 2016. As Governor Chris Christie
learned in 2012 when he “embraced” Barack Obama in the
closing days of that campaign, a certain party loyalty is
necessary if one expects to then obtain party support for
oneself. (It will be interesting to observe how Senator Ted
Cruz of Texas, another GOP protest figure with national
ambitions, will conduct himself during the rest of the 2014

More contests with intraparty challenges lie ahead, most
notably in Georgia, Kentucky, Alaska and Iowa. In these
races so far, the strongest GOP candidates appear to be ahead,
although surprises can yet happen. On the Democratic side,
the left wing of the party appears to be stirring, especially
against the prospects of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic
nominee in 2016, but so far Democrats are not indulging in
intraparty fights against their own U.S. house and senate
candidates. Democrats, to their advantage, avoided these
squabbles in 2010 and 2012, and reaped rewards for their

Public opposition to Obamacare remains the largest issue
of 2014 so far, but other issues are emerging, including
President Obama’s stubborn refusal to permit the
construction of the Keystone pipeline to please a few
rich supporters (but not his union friends), and some
pocketbook issues such as a sluggish economy and
raising the minimum wages. Democrats hope the latter
will work to their advantage.

Although foreign policy issues very rarely affect midterm
elections, the constant headlines featuring Russian
aggressiveness in Ukraine, Chinese aggressiveness in
Asia, North Korean provocations, and bestial murder and
kidnapping by warlords in Africa, to name only the most
prominent, could have an affect on voters, especially if they
want to protest Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.

The curious advice by administration supporters and some
Democratic strategist for candidates to “double down” by
supporting unpopular and controversial Obama policies
so far does not seem to be working for most of these
vulnerable Democratic candidates. Those who early on
have tried to separate themselves from Washington, DC
seem to be having the most success. In the U.S. senate, now
controlled by the Democrats, majority leader Harry Reid
is becoming more and more erratic in his speeches and
pubic comments, and thus further enabling the 2014 election
to be nationalized, something which in this cycle clearly
helps the Republicans.

With six months to go, and a potential electoral catastrophe
for the Democrats approaching, it would seem only a matter
of time before Mr. Reid, Mrs, Pelosi and other liberal
hardliners are superseded or abandoned by cooler heads
in their party who still want to win.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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