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The Midterms Road Map To 2016

Memo Pad Politics

The Midterms Road Map To 2016


The Republican tsunami has for the moment made the GOP the glad party and Democrats the sad party. But if past is prologue, both parties are in trouble. Their weaknesses are still with them, awaiting attention before the next big test in 2016. Here are five midterm lessons that the parties should heed.

• Republicans have a substance problem and Democrats have a messaging problem. President Barack Obama’s agenda was indeed on the ballot and it did very well — when it showed up directly on the ballot, minus any candidate or party affiliation. Washington state voters approved expanded gun background checks. North Carolina and Colorado voters rejected “personhood amendments” that might have led to bans on abortion and limits on birth control. In four red states — Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Alaska — voters approved raises in the minimum wage. In Massachusetts, they voted to require paid sick leave.

What does this tell us? The Democrats’ agenda does well when it is not linked to them or Obama. Clearly they need to make a different and stronger case, and hope their brand becomes less toxic. For Republicans, the successful initiatives are a reminder that their rightward drift on economic and social issues is not broadly popular. Among voters who chose GOP Senate candidates this week, according to the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, 61 percent support a paycheck fairness act meant to help underpaid women and the same percentage support allowing people to refinance old student loans. Republicans have blocked both proposals in the Senate.

• Mitch McConnell is looking at a John Boehner problem. The House Speaker has been famously unable to corral his Tea Party contingent. McConnell, on the verge of becoming Senate majority leader, is going to be in the same predicament except multiplied exponentially. At least three senators associated with the Tea Party movement — Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida — are expected to run for president in a primary process heavily influenced in early states by conservative activists. Cruz, a de facto advisor to House Tea Party disrupters, told The Washington Post he would aim to make a GOP Senate as confrontational as the GOP House.

On top of that, at least six new senators — Joni Ernst of Iowa, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and David Perdue of Georgia — were endorsed by Tea Party groups. Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin said their wins proved that “Tea Party support is essential to the success of the Republican Party.” She added: “You’re welcome, GOP. Now keep your promises.”

• Democrats were the ones with candidate-quality problems this year. They had flawed nominees in winnable states (Martha Coakley for Massachusetts governor, Bruce Braley in the Iowa Senate race). They had candidates who imploded (Wendy Davis for Texas governor) and candidates with late-breaking problems, such as North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (stories about her family receiving federal stimulus money) and Wisconsin governor contender Mary Burke (stories about the circumstances of her departure from Trek, the family-owned bicycle business). A top nominee, Michelle Nunn in the Georgia Senate race, couldn’t even force a runoff.

• The GOP emerges with a stronger national bench for 2016. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker first won a recall election and now has won a second term despite polarizing his state with anti-labor moves. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former congressman who expanded Medicaid in his state under the Affordable Care Act, scored a decisive victory in a key state. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder won a second term in a blue presidential stronghold. And whether he helped create the wave or merely rode it, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — chairman of the Republican Governors Association — has bragging rights in an excellent year. The Democratic bench, never deep, is further depleted. Deep-blue Maryland rejected Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s handpicked successor in favor of a Republican. That could give pause to O’Malley, the only active potential challenger to Hillary Clinton, as he hopscotches from one early primary state to another.

• Democrats have a Ferguson problem. Many presidential-year voters in demographic groups favorable to Democrats sat it out this week, and now they will have to live under a Congress that may not share their views. The Democratic Party worked hard to fix midterm turnout, but it’s still broken. Exit polls show that people under 30 dropped 6 percentage points from 2012 as a share of the electorate, while those aged 30 to 44 declined 5 points. The share of Latino voters shrank 2 points and black voters 1 point, while white voters grew from 72 percent of the electorate to 75 percent. If there’s a way to convince Democratic dropoff voters that these elections should matter to them, no one has found it yet.

Follow Jill Lawrence on Twitter @JillDLawrence. To find out more about Jill Lawrence and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

AFP Photo/Win McNamee

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Jill Lawrence

Award-winning journalist Jill Lawrence is a nationally syndicated columnist and a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report. She also contributed to The Surge: 2014's Big GOP Win and What It Means for the Next Presidential Race (2015). Lawrence has discussed political and policy developments on television, radio, and many other media outlets. She was an adjunct professorial lecturer at American University in 2014, teaching on the relationship between politics and the media.

Lawrence has covered every presidential campaign since 1988, as well as historic events such as the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, the Clinton impeachment, the Florida recount, and the 1993 and 2009 battles over health reform.

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  1. TZToronto November 6, 2014

    Here’s what we can expect from the new Congress:
    1. Repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care act. The bills will repeatedly pass both the House and Senate but will be repeatedly vetoed by President Obama. Of course, there will be nothing in the way of a program to replace or improve the ACA.
    2. Repeated hearings related to Benghazi and, especially, the role of Hillary Clinton.
    3. Calls to shut down the government and prohibit raising the debt ceiling.
    4. Bills that call for massive tax cuts, especially for the “job creators,” the super wealthy.
    5. At least some talk in the House about impeaching President Obama for, well, having the audacity to be President and, perhaps, taking vacations, vetoing bills reaching his desk, and issuing executive orders.
    6. Bills that call for massive cuts to social programs and anything that relates to science.
    7. Bills that would try to privatize Social Security, giving a huge gift to Wall Street.
    8. Bills that call for military intervention (on the ground) in the Middle East.
    9. Total opposition to anything that President Obama suggests.

    Any other guesses?

    1. FT66 November 6, 2014

      Wow! if thats all will take them straight to the White House, I take my hat off for them and encourage them to stretch their big mussle on these issues!

    2. Lynda Groom November 6, 2014

      No, I think you’ve covered the salient points very well.

    3. exdemo55 November 6, 2014

      The grapes are really sour!

      1. TZToronto November 7, 2014

        Why should the next two years be any different from the last four?

        1. exdemo55 November 7, 2014

          Because Obama can not hide behind Reid any longer. He, by himself, is the only one that can try to keep his failed socialist policies going.

          1. TZToronto November 7, 2014

            I’m not sure that Reid was much help anyway.

          2. exdemo55 November 7, 2014

            Reid protected Obama by not allowing even popular bills passed by the house to even come to a vote in the Senate so Obama would not have to face the public if he vetoed them.

    4. FireBaron November 7, 2014

      You forgot, awarding No-Bid government contracts to major donors.

    5. mike November 7, 2014

      1. Possibly, other shoe hasn’t dropped on all the delayed programs and this month new cost will be revealed on premium. Even some dems will see how bad it is. 2. Yes, hearing will continue. 3. Baloney 4. Wrong again. Corporate taxes changed to bring trillions back to US, period. 5. Other options than impeachment 6. Baloney!! again. 7. Wrong again. 8. ISIL is a real threat and has to be destroyed. 9. Obama suggests!!! I guess you failed to watch his press conference after massive defeat of his party.

      What you will start to see a new attitude by the country, knowing that things will really change economically.

      1. TZToronto November 7, 2014

        Perhaps you misinterpreted what I wrote. All I’m saying is that this is what can be expected from the GOP in Congress. Many of the same crackpots (you’d probably refer to them as patriots) are still in Congress, and their Tea Party masters will not let them turn sane. So they’ll continue to waste the taxpayers’ money on futile efforts to make President Obama’s Presidency a failure. Of course, you’d say that it already is a failure, but all quantitative indicators point to a very real success. I think that the economic change you suggest has already happened, but you haven’t noticed, blinded as you are by your hatred.

        1. mike November 7, 2014

          Crackpots!!!! Now that is funny!! I think you were referring to reid and pelosi. LOL!!!
          Additional new house members will dilute the Tea Party as a whole.
          So the participation rate has gone up, Right??? Not!!
          Under and unemployed seeking jobs doesn’t exist at 18million, Right?? I could go on and on.
          Just answer why in both, the direction of the country and loss of confidence that Obama can lead the country economically are both in the negative by 60%. Explain why the majority of new jobs are part- time and low paying. Explain why the many people feel they will never get ahead again in this country.
          This election was about the economy, stupid.

          1. TZToronto November 7, 2014

            Now, now now. There’s no need to get personal. (Well, maybe you have such a need.) The reason so many jobs are part-time is because companies are not hiring full-time workers. Don’t blame President Obama because companies don’t want to pay for employee benefits. Where are the jobs bills from the House? Could it be that they don’t want people to have jobs so that they’ll be dissatisfied with the only person they know who they can point a finger at? As for confidence, it’s been low for 40+ years, with a few exceptions. I think that given the hole President Obama was left with in 2009, he’s done pretty well to bring back jobs, the auto sector, and the economy. Granted, there are a lot of people who still can’t find jobs, but that’s partially a function of companies taking their tax breaks and stashing the money away, not spending it on upgrading facilities and hiring new workers. Ask most people who have jobs how much work they do and they’ll tell you that they’re doing the jobs of 2+ people–often because the “other” person who was laid off was never replaced. Whose fault is that? And dilution of the Tea Party influence? Please. Politicians will pander to votes, and to get Tea Party votes you have to go way past what used to be reactionary. To get the crackpot vote, you have to be a crackpot yourself.

          2. mike November 7, 2014

            Now Now you used the crackpot remark not me. Job bills were sent to the Senate and never seen again. Actually, around 300 bills were sent and Reid block all of them. Reid took over 4 years to have a budget and protected the President. Hell, this week one of his senior staff said “Obama was the reason they lost the senate”.
            Lack of full time jobs, hiring in general is because of Obamacare. Duh!! So it IS Obama’s fault.
            We will never know the outcome if the auto industry went thru a normal bankruptcy. What did we still lose 20billion. Unions made out like bandits.
            Nice try on answering my questions. I see still clueless aren’t you. Oh, I’m sorry was that to personal??
            You lose creditability trying to defend this pathetic leader.

      2. latebloomingrandma November 7, 2014

        Rolling the clock back to the way things used to be is not “change.”

        1. mike November 7, 2014

          I never said returning to the past. But we do know that Obama changes were terribly wrong for the country. Remember Obama is second place in the number of lost Congressional seats as a two term president. PS. the other is also a Democrat.
          The people have spoken from those who voted and didn’t vote.
          You hitched your star to a looser.

  2. Stuart November 6, 2014

    So, people like Democratic policies but not Democrats. Which, conversely, mean that people like Republicans but not Republican policies. Somebody’s really gotta help me with that.

    Well, I guess there’s a precedent. Teddy Roosevelt co-opted enough of William Jennings Bryan to keep the Democrats at bay a hundred years ago — at a time when the two parties stood for the opposite of what they do today.

    1. FireBaron November 7, 2014

      Sorry, Stuart, but by the time of TR, the Republican party had shed their progressive roots and become the party that favored the monied interests. Because of Roosevelt’s Progressivism, that is why the party shunted him to the do-nothing position the Vice-Presidency was back then. One of the best lines I ever heard in a film was from “The Wind and the Lion” when Brian Keith, playing TR, said “The best thing President McKinley ever did was die in office.” That meant Roosevelt now had the bully pulpit to carry out his agenda. Because of Taft’s failure to follow-up on what he started, that is why Teddy ran as a 3rd Party candidate in 1912.

  3. Lynda Groom November 6, 2014

    The road map to 2016 will be provided by the GOP, not the Democrats. The people who voted Tuesday will see what they’ve done and rush to the polls to correct their mistake. All the Democrats have too do the next two years is continue to point to the agenda driven drivel that the extreme of the GOP will try to accomplish. There is not much else the Democrats can do beside trying to motivate their voters to actually show up at the polls. They failed to do so this time and hence the tide of red this week.

    1. exdemo55 November 6, 2014

      You fail to realize or accept what actually happened or why. Obama was rejected because he is a socialist and socialism always fails.

      1. Lynda Groom November 6, 2014

        Europe overall is doing just fine with their version of democratic socialism. Socialism as you describe is not in use and Obama is far from a socialist. Centrist is a more correct definition of the President.

        1. FireBaron November 7, 2014

          Unfortunately, Lynda, exdemo55 is the type that believes anyone more liberal than he must be a Socialist. This is the same extremist view that has, unfortunately, been pushed by Sarah Palin and the other midwives of the Tea Party, to the detriment of intelligent Republicans (and yes, there still are some).

          1. Lynda Groom November 8, 2014

            You are certainly correct. These types toss around the ‘socialist’ label and clearly have no idea what or who a ‘socialist’ might be.

        2. exdemo55 November 7, 2014

          Nope, he is a far left-wing socialist and that is why he got his butt kicked.


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