By Clare Myers
Voters across the nation indicated their dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and a “do nothing” Congress last Tuesday in the midterm elections. For those readers to whom “midterms” means exams and not politics, here is a list of takeaways.
Republicans take Congress: The GOP picked up seven Senate seats to secure a 52-44 majority. It also increased its majority in the House to 244-184. This is the first time since 2006 that Republicans control both houses of Congress.
Two Senate races have yet to be decided. There was no majority winner in the Louisiana Senate race between Mary Landrieu (D) and Bill Cassidy (R), so a runoff election will take place in December. Votes in Alaska are still being counted due to ballots coming from remote locations.
More Republican victories: Voters elected Republican governors in many states, including typically Democratic states such as Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois.
Follow the money: This was the priciest round of midterm elections to date. $3.7 billion went into the elections nationally, and the North Carolina Senate race between Kay Hagan (D) and Thom Tillis (R) became the most expensive senate race ever, exceeding $100 million. Tillis won by a slim margin.
Election night surprises: The Republican takeover was largely expected. Some races, though, were tight. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) managed a victory over challenger Paul Davis (D), and Bruce Rauner (R) defeated Pat Quinn (D) in the Illinois gubernatorial race despite Obama’s in-person campaigning on behalf of Quinn. Democrats also narrowly lost the race for governor in Maryland, Maine and Massachusetts.
Obama sees red: Many attributed Democrat losses to the president’s low public approval rating. Obama took the blame, and he now must work with a hostile Congress for his last two years in office. Some predict that this will lead to more gridlock in Washington. Obama has said he wants to work with Republicans, but also that he will use executive authority to sidestep Congress on immigration reform.
Texas results: The GOP won big in the Lone Star State, with a strong victory for Greg Abbott over Democrat Wendy Davis in the gubernatorial race. Abbott will take over from Rick Perry and will continue a nearly 20-year streak of Republican power in the governor’s mansion.
Liberal gains in ballot measures: Washington approved stricter background checks for firearms. Colorado and North Dakota voted down personhood measures. Four states approved minimum wage increases. Alaska, Oregon and D.C. legalized recreational marijuana.
“Rising stars”: There has been a considerable amount of buzz over some new names in the GOP. A few to watch are Joni Ernst (Iowa), a hog-castrating, Harley-riding senator; Mia Love (Utah), a Mormon and the first Republican African-American woman in the House; Tom Cotton (Arkansas), a young Harvard grad and U.S. army veteran; and Elise Stefanik (New York), at 30, the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress.
Lessons learned: Democrats were counting on a strategy that characterized the GOP as primarily old, white and male, and attacked its “War on Women.” Democratic candidates also faced the difficulty of deciding how far to distance themselves from an unpopular president, with varying degrees of success. Republicans used the grassroots approach that propelled Democrats to victory in 2008 and 2012, with great success. The War on Women campaign was less effective than expected, but for the Republican Party to continue its success, it must create a better image for itself.
2016. Yes, already: Before the polls had closed, pundits were discussing the 2016 presidential election. The race is officially on. On the Democratic side, Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be the front-runner. The Republican race is still wide open, with various candidates such as Rand Paul, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie beginning to distinguish themselves.
Both parties will be trying to show competence as the 2016 race heats up. Democrats must regain popular support, and Republicans must show that they can do better in power than the previous mixed Congress. That means both parties will have to decide when and how to compromise. All signs point to an interesting relationship between the president and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell (R), likely to become the Senate majority leader.
The writer would like to thank Dr. Richard Dougherty for his assistance in the researching of this article.