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Sunday, October 23, 2016

WASHINGTON — The short-term future of politics in the nation’s capital will be determined in large part by which party ends up in control of the Senate. But for a sense of the long-term future of politics in the country as a whole, watch the governors’ races.

The question to ask: Do voters begin to push back against the Tea Party tide that swept governorships and legislatures into Republican hands four years ago and produced the most radical changes in policy at the state level in at least a generation?

On the Senate races, two things are true. Simply because so many Democratic seats are at stake, the GOP has an edge. Republicans have probably already secured three of the six pickups they need to take control next year. But in the rest of the races, they have yet to close the deal. This year, late breaking news and how well campaigns are run will really matter.

But something else is true about the fight for the Senate that is much less relevant in the struggle for governorships. Most of the key Senate contests are in Republican-leaning states where President Obama is not popular. GOP candidates are thus making him a big issue against Democrats. The 36 governors races, by contrast, span red and blue states, and many are in battlegrounds that decide presidential elections.

The Senate elections are backward-looking referendums. The governors’ races are forward-looking.

The one exception to the Obama rule may be Florida, where the former governor — and former Republican — Charlie Crist swept to a 3-to-1 victory in the Democratic primary on Tuesday over former state senator Nan Rich. The primary was taken as a measure of how well-accepted Crist is in his new party, and the result was heartening for the Democrats’ marquee convert.

Unusually for Democrats this year, Crist has hugged Obama close and has hired many of the president’s key operatives to run his campaign. The former governor is essentially deadlocked in the polls with incumbent Republican Rick Scott, and much will depend on the willingness of Democrats to go to the polls in November. Four years ago, turnout was lopsided in favor of the Republicans, as Adam Smith, the Tampa Bay Times political editor, has noted. Crist is one of the handful of Democrats whom Obama may really be able to help this year.

Tuesday’s other major gubernatorial primary was in Arizona, which offers exactly the opposite lesson. Republicans chose the Tea Party’s favorite, state treasurer Doug Ducey, a former partner and CEO of Cold Stone Creamery. Ducey got 37 percent in a six-way race, and vastly outspent second-place finisher Scott Smith, the former mayor of Mesa and the moderate in the race. Smith supported Gov. Jan Brewer’s expansion of Medicaid (she endorsed him over Ducey) and also the Common Core education standards.

It was striking on Tuesday night that Smith’s concession speech sounded a lot like the victory speech of Democrat Fred DuVal, who won his party’s nomination unopposed.

“We had a vision about bringing people together,” Smith said. “We gave them a message maybe that wasn’t red meat. Maybe it didn’t fit the primary campaign mode. But it was the truth.”

DuVal, who badly needs votes from independents and crossover Republicans, played down party altogether in his primary-night address. “What’s missing are leaders who care less about party politics and more about building a future together and growing our economy,” DuVal said. “We’re going to stop fighting and start fixing Arizona for Arizona families.” Ducey, who was endorsed by Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, will be pressed to occupy some of the center ground that DuVal hopes to make his own.

The Tea Party has opened opportunities for Democrats elsewhere to frame this year’s choice as being between right-wing ideology and problem solving. In Kansas, a poll released this week showed Democrat Paul Davis with an eight-point lead over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. A Brownback loss would be a devastating blow to the Tea Party’s approach to policy. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, another hero to the right, is in a dead heat with Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke.

Democrats also have a very good chance of ousting Republican governors in Pennsylvania and Maine, although they face tough challenges to their own incumbents in Illinois and Connecticut.

In 2010, an electorate heavily populated with Tea Party supporters expressed rage against government at all levels. In 2014, voters may decide that rage has its limits and that government has work to do.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected]. Twitter: @EJDionne.

Photo: Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT

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  • Dominick Vila

    The key to keeping control of the Senate, and winning most gubernatorial races, is turnout. If the Democratic party manages to motivate its base, and convince them of how critical this election is to ensure the rest of President Obama’s agenda is implemented, the Democrats are likely to succeed, but only by the slimmest of margins. The best we can hope in the Senate is a one seat advantage or a tie.
    I live in a heavily Republican area in Central Florida, where most neighbors support Gov. Rick Scott. His record as Governor, and what he did before entering politics is of little interest to them. The goal for them is simple: they must wing to “take the country back”, presumably to the days when we all knew who belonged at the back of the bus, and when our elders enjoyed the pleasures of shopping at the company store. Most importantly, their goal, having failed at unseating President Obama almost two years ago, is to make sure he cannot govern, to make sure his agenda is stopped, to make sure that if there are any Supreme Court vacancies they are filled with ultra conservatives, and to make sure his place in history is in the dumps.
    Facts, the record, or logic, are of little consequence for those whose opinions are based on issues that ought to be irrelevant to most civilized people.

    • charleo1

      The, “thing,” about your neighbors Dom, is their politics are governed by how how much they care, or don’t care, about the people who were most effected by the wars in the Middle East, and the recession. Neither of which, ever touched most of them. So for them, the stop the Obama agenda. Repeal healthcare, deport the illegals, and start with the most innocent ones Obama sought to protect, the Dreamers. And “take our Country back,” feel as if they got nothing from Obama, except what they expected. That he’d expand the welfare state. The, “thing,” about your neighbors, and I have many just like them. Is they were never in danger of losing their jobs, their homes, their pensions, their healthcare, or falling into poverty in this recession. And the fact that some of their fellow Americans, somewhere out there, were facing just those things. Only concerned them, when it looked like the Federal Government might run out of money, and stop paying for their benefits. If that sounds like a collective group of self absorbed, heartless, narcissists, who should be ashamed of their behavior, but aren’t in the least. Who ought to know better, and probably do. Then, I think that’s pretty fair description of the politicians they’re presently supporting. When was it anyway, when they started referring to the Boomers, as the, “Me,” generation? Most of us have never seen a company store, or stood in a bread line. Or, have ever been been bone hungry, and had no idea where the next meal was going to come from. Most of the Boomers grew up in a time of great Middle Class prosperity, and also racial inequality. And see Liberals, and their Socialist leanings, as just stirring the pot for political reasons, and nothing else. They 100% expected this from a Black President. So they see it, whether it’s there or not, and resent it, and want it stopped. Our neighbors, mostly White, mostly well off, used to be Democrats, many of them, back in the day. They burned their draft cards, and listened to a lot of Dylan, until they became vested in the status quo, and turned all, “Conservative.” And now support a quick lethal war once in a while. If their kids aren’t doing the fighting, and it brings down the price of gas. They’ve never had the experience of having a family member sick, without an ambulance if need be, to rush them to the finest possible care. And have the insurance down at work pick up most of the tab. And have very little empathy for those who don’t. Believing, without much thought, if we punish the poor, instead of rewarding them, and that protects what they’ve got, well, it works for me. So screw the poor, and their enablers. I’m GOP! Paul Ryan’s estimate of the dividing line was located at about the age of 55. That wouldn’t care so much if the generation behind them got a voucher instead of the Medicare program that has kept so many millions of them, the same Me generation, out of poverty since it’s introduction. And I don’t think he, [Ryan,] misjudged it by much. They thought so highly of him, in fact, they put him on the Presidential ticket. And, they’ll probably put him there again, or someone just like him. So much does our neighbors think of the GOP, and their ability to ignore things like justice, equality, and the importance doing the right thing. And only appeal to their lowest common dominator. To their sense of entitlement, ingrained so deeply into their psychic. It is almost impossible for them to diverge this, from their sense of what it means to them, to be an American.

    • elw

      I too live in a heavily Republican area. My neighbors actually were caught pulling down some Obama lawn signs in 2012. So I know exactly what you mean. They are pretty much still living in the 1950s and still use the N word and statements like “Jew them down.” It can be a little depressing when you are surrounded by the crazy right. But you have to always remember that we out number them, even if that is not true in you immediate neighborhood. I do have one advantage over you, I live in Southern California and there are more of those Socialist/Commie Democrats here than Florida. All I can tell you though is I am glad to have you on this side.

    • FT66

      It is so sad Dominick you call yourself as a Dem, BUT according to what you write every now and then, it seems you are not eager to help one way or the other Dems win election. What is the use writing or rather blogging on this thread while you don’t belong there in a real sense. You might claim you are expressing the truth, BUT does your truth help anyone?? Am tired having people I think we sail on the same boat, while in reality they are not with us at all.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    American voters often take out their revenge in the silence of the voting booths. This is why voting to the GOP is such a huge threat to their pretense of being the most powerful in the US.

    I have no doubt that angry, fed up Americans will realize that everything the GOP promised with all of their sequestration, shut down, impeachment and warmongering operatives has gone belly up.

    We Americans KNOW the GOP is the cause of this unending Great Recession. We also KNOW that the GOP masterminded the whole thing in the 8 years of the Bush Administration. It was always their plan to keep control long after Bush left office..which only serves to prove that Bush never was president, the GOP back room was.

    How does a Great Recession affect just Main Street Americans while it enriches Wall Street billionaires? That’s a recession imposed on the middle and lower classes deliberately.

    • paulyz

      STILL trying to blame Bush after 6 years of failed Obama policies? Americans aren’t that stupid, they have seen his lies, scandals, terrible economy for his entire 6 years, and getting worse. They have seen his refusal to work with House Bills, many bi-partisan, because he has Harry Reid block everything. Obama want’s it HIS way, or NO Way! And flooding the U.S. with Millions of Illegal aliens to gain power, are you for that also?

      • BillP

        Gee Obama must be the worst president. After all his policies have resulted in the several stock market indices recording record or near record highs, unemployment rates decreasing month by month for over 4 straight years, the housing market rebounding and consumer confidence at its highest since 2007. Yeah I guess he is the worst!!

        • idamag

          In my state, unemployment went from 11% to 4.1%.

      • Taz202

        Bush and his cronies are responsible for 2 unpaid for wars, 2 unpaid for tax cuts, unpaid for Medicare Part D – he was one of the most fiscally irresponsible Presidents we’ve had. He doubled our national debt. And now we have the GOP in Congress continuing this practice – refusing to pass bi-partisan bills that will help our economy all for political reasons. And you should check the so-calls bills Reid refuses to bring to the floor for a vote. Many are good and still being discussed; those that will never make it to the floor do not have enough votes to pass because they are “toxic”. Reid doesn’t waste the Senate’s time or money on non-passable bills unlike Boehner.

      • booker25

        Still trying to blame this President for what GWB did?? Try again.

        • highpckts

          Don’t have to try again! Facts are facts!! Something you don’t deal in! Facts are Bush nearly ruined this economy and you don’t just fix it with a magic wand!! It’s on it’s way no thanks to the GOP! If they gain control of the Senate you will notice a huge slide and we will be back where we were!

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        Do all of you Great Angry Middle Aged Men feed on hate? All I see of men your age around me are bitter men who believe life must be easy and free of any stress or work. Sorry, Obama can’t be your favorite whipping boi. Bush IS to blame. Most leaders who hand out tax cuts the GAO in 2005 reported made 1% of the population 11% richer do get the blame for bankrupting Main Street America to redistribute wealth to the much for your so called GOP successes..Every GOP president since Nixon has had a recession. Even your one term Bush ’41…who bailed out his own son’s Silverado Savings and Loan.

        You are just one jealous little man who has yet to face facts. NO…we will not make YOUR life a piece of cake by paying more than OUR fair share of taxes.

        Your trickle down economics has been the cause of all of the GOP recessions. Harry Reid blocked nothing…the bills he blocked which your kind love to deny were to sabotage women’s rights, labor in the US and to destroy all hope for kids to afford a college education.

        Too damn bad if you can’t have your way. No one is going to hand anything to your right wing freeloaders. Time for you to join your president hating, government hating ISIS terrorists…that’s who your posts sounds like. Try again Mr. Anarchist…The day the US citizenry has to live with constant threats of being shot on public streets by gun nuts or to be defrauded by billionaires is the day you can expect the blowback mouths like you so richly deserve.

      • elw

        Actually pauly, the crash started before Obama was even elected President, so he inherited the mess and in those six year has brought the economy back to the plus side. Once more he did while fighting a “do nothing” Congress that would rather spend their time passing over fifty bills meant to destroy Obamacare, and that they know are going no where, than do anything worthwhile for the Country. It is why they have a low teens approval rating You can keep spewing your nonsense about the economy and untrue scare talk about Illegal aliens, but more people do not believe you than do. You are out numbered and pushing a losing agenda.

      • jimlscotland

        Paulyz – you just tell lies.

        • plc97477

          That is the reason I just call him lyz.

      • bfg

        Actually you are stupider than that. You are willing to believe the lies of the ruling class while the middle class is destroyed.

  • FT66

    I am sorry I was not able to finish reading this article, especially when I reached at: “GOP has an edge”. “Republicans have probably already secured 3 of 6 pickups they need to control next year”. Is this writer of this article OK?? How can anyone claim this, while no one has gone to voting boots to vote for someone they like??? This kind of reporting is quite astonishing. Will I be wrong to ask E.J. Dionne to take a rest. It seems he is fighting with time while it seems not to be on his side.

    • jimlscotland

      E.J is a pundit and analyzes the political landscape, takes positions based on what he knows and publishes them in many places. He is more right than wrong – you should listen to him when he says the Republicans likely have 3 of the 6 Dem seats locked up.

      • FT66

        They are not always right. Since the election of 2012 I lost hope completely of those pundits who through their crazy calculations they thought Romney gonna win while he lost completely. Since then I lost faith on these people who pretend to know everything, while they know nothing,

    • plc97477

      You should have finished reading what he said then you would have answers to your questions.

  • elw

    I have to agree with EJ, what happens in November is more important on a State level then who actually wins the most seats in the House and Senate. The truth is that no matter what happen in Congress not much will change, the Republicans will continue to block every piece of meaningful legislation they can and the President will continue to hold the power of the veto over them. However, if we see a shift in the Red States away from radical GOP Governors you can bet that the political pendulum has begun the slow swing back to the left. Politics in this Country are like the turtle they move slowly, steadily in the direction the voters want them to. I personally think we will see minor changes in the balance of power in the Congress in November and that 2016 will bring the balance of power back into Democratic hands, especially if enough Radical Governors are given their walking papers. Also watch State level legislatures they are good indication of which way the tides are going. In the meantime vote and help someone else to vote as well.

  • ExRadioGuy15

    If GOP Progressives and Moderates wake up to the sad truths of their party (Fascism, corruption, greed, bigotry, hypocrisy, etc.) and act accordingly (vote for Democrats, who truly represent them now, anyway), the GOP’s insurrectionist and seditious obstruction program fails.
    For years, GOP Progressives and Moderates have suborned the GOP’s gang of white-collar criminals by voting for them. Stop suborning the criminal GOP, Progressives and Moderates!