Sunday, December 7, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Closing The 2014 Book

The massive wave election of 2014 in the U.S. senate races
was completed Saturday, December 6 when Republican Bill
Cassidy defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Mary
Landrieu by a landslide 12 points in a run-off in Louisiana.
That will give the GOP at least a 54-46 margin, and a gain
of 9 senate seats.

Two U.S. house seats had run-offs in Louisiana at the same
time, and Republicans won both of them, giving them a
246-188 margin in that body. One seat remains undecided,
in Arizona’s 2nd district where a Republican challenger leads
the Democratic incumbent by 161 votes before the recount.
That recount will be completed by December 17. The
Arizona secretary of state does not expect the recount to
change the leader, based on previous recounts. Should the
GOP candidate win, the 247-188 margin would be the largest
for the conservative party in many decades.

While political stalemate lies ahead, as it has existed since
the 2010 midterms when the GOP won back control of the
U.S. house, the ability of the “lame duck” President Obama
to control political and policy events will have been severely
curtailed by the loss of liberal control of the U.S. senate,
especially in terms of presidential appointments which must
be approved by the senate.

President Obama has so far indicated that his personal
political course has not been changed by the 2014 election,
but the combined GOP leadership in the Congress has many
cards to play over the next 18 months until the 2016
presidential and congressional election campaign begins.
House Speaker John Boehner especially has been through
four difficult years of his relationship with the White House,
and so far is indicating he will be, now joined by Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a formidable opponent.

Conventional wisdom has suggested that the upcoming
stalemate might ultimately benefit the Democratic nominee
for president (now presumed to be Hillary Clinton) in 2016,
but that also presumes that the majority of U.S. voters will
want the stalemate to continue past January 20, 2017 when a
new president is inaugurated. (The U.S. house almost certainly
will remain in GOP hands, and the large margin gained in 2014
in the U.S. senate makes it more problematic for the Democrats
to regain control of that body.)

The more the president now refuses to compromise with the
Republican Congress, the more difficult his final two years
will make it for the Democratic nominee of his party to
succeed him in 2017. The agenda of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi
administration was unambiguously rejected at the polls in
2014 in an election that was “nationalized” in large part by
President Obama himself.

On the other hand, the Republican legislators will need to be
skillful as the party in opposition. Some of their more radical
members could play into the hands of their liberal
opponents by trying to insist on unpopular or unwise courses
of action.

The Republicans, unlike the Democrats, also do not have a
likely presidential candidate. A competitive, and possibly
bitter, primary/caucus season lies ahead, beginning in January,
2016 (which is only a bit more than a year away). Candidates
do matter, as 2014 clearly demonstrated, and the GOP will
need to put forward a strong nominee in the next cycle.

Otherwise, their current advantages, especially the growing
fatigue with a Democratic president, could be lost. The
outcome in November, 2016 is still very much an open
question, and a book yet to be written.

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

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