WASHINGTON – Last week’s midterm elections have come and gone and with them nearly $3.7 billion (spent on House and Senate races). Throw in another $500 million for governors’ races around the country and you had a very expensive election, but with a low turnout. Roughly only one-third of eligible voters showed up to cast a ballot.
But, we did learn a few things about the electorate and political side stories that will be worth keeping an eye over the next two years headed to the presidential election.
1) Polling left much to be desired. It was no secret the first Tuesday in November would boast a big Republican night. We just had no idea it was going to be this big — but beyond the main story of the GOP picking up control of the U.S. Senate, there were GOP gains in the House, governors’ mansions and legislatures around the country.
With the polling, no one expected the GOP wave would be a tsunami.
Polls were considerably off in a number of high-profile contests, including the Senate races in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia and the gubernatorial races in Florida, Michigan and Maryland.
This could have an impact in 2016. Regardless of what the polls say, people may still come out to vote because, well they were wrong in the midterms.
Polling companies are going to need to make some serious adjustments to their models and determine what constitutes a “likely voter” in future elections.
If the polls had indicated the reality in a place like Virginia, where the incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) barely defeated the Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, might outside groups and Republican committees have put more effort into the contest, potentially changing the outcome?
2) One-party states have boring general elections. Has there ever been such a lackluster election for statewide office in Alabama? Now that Republicans dominate Montgomery, all the action occurs in the state’s Republican primary contest.
It was hard to see a path for incumbents Gov. Robert Bentley or Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey to lose. However, the one contest that supposedly was up for grabs was a nothing-burger as well. Despite having to take on a Joe Hubbard’s campaign that was funded by the Poarch Creek Indians, incumbent Attorney General Luther Strange cruised to reelection.
There will be one new face in the Alabama delegation, however, Gary Palmer beat his Democrat opponent Mark Lester to win Alabama’s 6th congressional district seat soon to be vacated by the outgoing Rep. Spencer Bachus.
Palmer looked to be a long-shot candidate coming out a crowded Republican field earlier this year. However, Palmer made it to his party’s runoff election against State Rep. Paul DeMarco and defeated him soundly.
3) Both Alabama’s senators are poised for high-profile chairmanships. One of the benefits of a one-party state is you have two members that will likely leave the U.S. Senate on their own terms. Sen. Jeff Sessions won his contest unopposed last week.
Of course, if you’re a Democrat in Alabama outside of a handful of precincts, the effort does appear futile.
This electoral invulnerability has made both Sessions and his colleague Sen. Richard Shelby two of the most senior members in the Senate. Shelby will be the seventh most senior member in the new Senate next year and Sessions will be either the 18th or 19th most senior member which hinges upon whether or not Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) can win re-election in her runoff contest later this year.
That sets Shelby up to be the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and Sessions up to be chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, two very powerful committees.
Sessions as budget chairman could set up an interesting story as the Senate controlled by current Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has avoided passing a federal budget since for political reasons. That will set the stage for an interesting tug of war between a soon-to-be Republican-controlled Senate and the Obama White House, with Sessions playing a pivotal role.
4) An immigration bloodbath is forthcoming. President Barack Obama has made it clear he is going to unilaterally move on immigration — as it appears less and less likely he will get the immigration policy he desires from Congress.
But if Obama acts alone and grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, there will certainly be a push from the GOP base and some members of Congress to react.
In what form would that be?
Impeachment doesn’t seem to be an option. Republicans are still weary from the failed impeachment effort of the 1990s of then-President Bill Clinton.
But if Obama acts alone, Washington will be even more polarized than it is now.
5) The “War on Women” meme is dead. Running on the notion that Republicans would try to ban birth control worked for some reason in 2012, but as we found out in this election, people are wising up to these Democratic scare tactics.
In California, self-proclaimed birth control activist Sandra Fluke, who was made famous when Rush Limbaugh ill-advisedly called her a “slut” on the airwaves, was soundly defeated in her contest for state legislature. Abortion rights champion Wendy Davis was also crushed in her bid for governor in Texas.
Outgoing Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) tried to run on the war on women playbook as well, but was beaten by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO).
What worked so well in 2012 didn’t work this time and should not be counted on by Democrats in 2016.
6) The GOP wave is not a sign for 2016. For whatever reason, Democrats don’t come out to vote in midterm elections. They may not be aware of off term elections or just don’t view determining elected representation in Congress as important.
Obama’s reelection in 2012 wasn’t a wave election as the country witnessed last week. If we’ve learned anything from the past several presidential elections, the country is still fairly split 50/50.
Likely Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton didn’t exactly fare well in 2014, be it on the campaign trail or in the exit polling. But until the Republican Party has a definitive answer to her, we can’t assume this wave will mean anything for GOP prospects in 2016.