Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Off-Year Election Clues

The results are now in for most of the races in the 2013
off-year elections, including contests for two governorships,
one senate seat, a congressional seat, numerous mayors,
and assorted other offices and referenda.

What clues, if any, do these results portend for the 2014 national
mid-term elections and beyond to 2016 when a new president
will be elected?

One result was unmistakeable, that is, the re-election of
Chris Christie as the governor of New Jersey. Christie, already
a charismatic and significant figure in the national Republican
Party, won so overwhelmingly in a traditional Democratic state,
and with such a broad base of voters, that his role as one of the
frontrunners for the GOP nomination for president in 2016 is
assured until further notice. He is, of course, far from having
that nomination secured, but only two or three other GOP
figures now can try to match him in appeal. He clearly now
controls the center of his party, and the center-right of the
American electorate. (But three years lie ahead of any quest
for residence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, and
many issues, challenges, and circumstances stand in his way.)

In Virginia, a much-flawed and controversial Democrat, Terry
McAuliffe, narrowly won the governorship, a race he was
predicted to win by a much larger margin. His opponent, a
much-flawed and controversial Republican, was outspent eleven
to one, and could not match the “star” power of President Obama,
Vice President Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, all appearing
for his opponent. It was a pyhrric victory for the Democrats.
McAuliffe’s prospects, based on his past record, indicate a likely
controversial term of office ahead. The consequence of that
might likely help Virginia Republicans in 2014 and 2016. To be
fair, defeated gubernatorial candidate Cuccinelli would have
likely been as controversial and unpopular a governor as
McAuliffe might now well be, but the bottom line is that the
Democrat will occupy the office.

The question is: How did Cuccinelli, so controversial and
flawed get so close in a race where he was outspent eleven to
one, had little support from his own national party, and had
the biggest names in the Democratic Party appearing against
him. The answer is quite simple, and was verified by exit polls.
Cuccinelli finally figured out the one issue that might salvage
his campaign, and that issue was the huge unpopularity of the
Democratic Obamacare legislation now beginning to be
implemented. That is the indelible clue from the 2013 off-year
elections for 2014, i.e., voters are powerfully angry about
Obamacare, and will, as they did in 2010, be motivated to go
to the polls to say so.

Although few Democrats will admit it publicly just now, any
shrewd candidate, incumbent or challenger, of that party in
2014 is extremely nervous about this issue, especially so since
its perhaps worst news (higher healthcare rates for most
Americans, cancellations of current policies, enrollment
confusion, etc.) is ahead, and will unfold during the first ten
months of 2014, the worst possible time.

The third clue, and strike two against the Republican Party, is
the consequence of nominating extremist, far right or
unqualified candidates for office. Mr. Cuccinelli was chosen
by the Virginia GOP state convention, and not in a primary.
Most observers contend that, had there been a statewide
GOP primary, a much more electable candidate would have
won.  An even more weird GOP nominee for lt. governor had
been chosen in that convention, and he was crushed on election
day by his Democratic opponent. The GOP nominee for attorney
general, a mainstream conservative, holds a small lead before a
recount, in his race. (As they say, case closed.)

Strike three for the Republican Party nationally would occur if
it allows candidates like Mr. Cuccinelli and his lt. governor
running mate to either defeat Republican senatorial and
congressional incumbents, or otherwise become GOP nominees
in the 2014 midterm election competitive races, particularly in
the U.S. senate races where the conservative party could regain
control in advance of the 2016 election. Most recently, in 2010 and
2012, Republicans indulged themselves with extremist, obviously
unprepared, and otherwise inappropriate senate nominees who
subsequently lost races the Republicans should have easily won.
A political party, like a baseball batter, I suggest, is out after
three strikes.

There were other results in 2013 that might be noted, including
a referendum in Colorado in which the voters of that state clearly
refused to raise their taxes to pay for government programs.
Democrats joined Republicans in that state which leans to the
liberal side. Common sense, I am glad to report, can be bipartisan.

With the ill-fated government shutdown imposed by Republican
U.S. house legislators behind them, and continual bad news
likely ahead about the implementation of Obamacare, the worst
bad news ahead for the conservative party would be if it indulged
itself in more “can’t win” unpopular acts of self-important
ideological symbolism (like defeating their own party incumbents
in primaries) to gratify the “feel good” emotions of a party base
that cannot deliver victory at the polls.

Mark my words.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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