The 2014 national midterm elections are concluded, and only
a few house races remain in doubt. The senate election in
Alaska has now been called for the Republican challenger
Dan Sullivan, and the run-off of the senate race in Louisiana
appears to be only a pro-forma one, with GOP challenger
Bill Cassidy almost certain to defeat incumbent Democrat
Mary Landrieu. That will make it a net gain of nine for the
conservative party, with comfortable margin of control for
the next two years.
The GOP also picked up a surprising number of U.S. house
seats to be added to their already existing majority. Their
net gains will be about 13-15. The larger majority could give
Speaker John Boehner some room to maneuver in the next term
as he and putative Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
try to position the Republican Party for the 2016 presidential
The 2014 elections did complete the realignment of U.S. state
politics to the conservative party. Not only did the GOP
successfully defend all of its innovative governors, they
surprisingly made a net gain in governors despite expectations
they would lose ground. Equally important, Republicans
increased their control of state legislatures. Gains were made
at the state level even in hyper-blue New York, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Maryland and Minnesota.
The question is: What impact will this wave election have on
the 2016 presidential election? The victory of a Republican
presidential candidate in 2016 would almost certainly result
in continued control of the Congress and the inevitability of
a conservative agenda for the nation for several years.
The wave election of 2010, won by the GOP, did not result in
the election of their presidential candidate in 2012, so it is
not automatic that 2014 will lead to victory for GOP in 2016.
But the circumstances of 2014-2016 are quite different from
2012-2014. Although the voter unpopularity of Obamacare
fueled the 2010 wave, the full impact of the leftward direction
of Democratic public policy was not evident until President
Obama’s second term.
The challenge for the Democrats, presumably under the
banner of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, is to
convince voters that the failures of the Obama years will not
be repeated. As John McCain discovered in 2008, however,
it is difficult to separate credibly from an unpopular
president and administration. As Mr. Obama's secretary of
state for four years, Mrs. Clinton will have a difficult task
to do this.
On the other hand, the Republicans, with the momentum of
2014 behind them, must transform voter negative attitudes
to liberal programs to positive attitudes to conservative
programs. This is much more difficult to accomplish than
it seems, but conservatives must remember that 2014 was
not an embrace of the GOP, but instead a rejection of the
Democrats in power.
Both parties have notable divisions, but at election time in
recent years, the Democrats have demonstrated the stronger
inclination to pull together. Tea Party conservatives,
libertarians and the so-called GOP establishment will surely
have a debate over the specifics of public policy in the next
two years, but at the 2016 convention they will need to
integrate their differences behind a strong candidate if they
want to regain the White House.
The good news for the GOP was that this process actually
worked in 2014. In primary after primary, conservative
voters selected their strongest nominee, and in those cases
when the malcontents ran as third party candidates, they
failed to prevent Republican victories. The bad news for the
GOP is that discordant voices will be even louder in 2016
as the party attempts to find a new national leader.
The huge money advantage the Democrats had in 2014 did
not make a critical difference in most final results, nor did
their much vaunted ground game, but that does not mean that
the liberals won’t regroup, revise and renovate their strategy in
It will take some time for the 2014 results fully to sink in.
Consequences we think we see now might be illusory as 2016
approaches. Personalities will certainly play a much greater
role than they do in a midterm election; after all, a new president
is going to be elected.
This is only the beginning of a long conversation.
Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.