Analysis of the 2014 Mid-Term Election

Advance text from Stacy Hilliard's analysis of the Republican Wave in the 2014 Midterm Elections, prepared for the APPG Post Midterm Election Panel.


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First I would like to start by saying thank you to the APPG for inviting me here to speak.

"Start from a place you agree and then move on…" this was Mia Love’s advice to her new Congressional and Senatorial colleagues last night. After speaking with her and several other candidates and Republican Leadership over the past few days, I am optimistic that Republicans can take on this sound piece of advice.

As we sit here today the Republicans have gained seven Senate seats and are predicted to win one more in Alaska and possible another in the Run off in Louisiana in December. If these two are won, the Republicans will have gained 9 seats and will have a majority of 54-46.

It wasn’t just the Senate and the House that Republicans won, Republicans won 31 of the 46 Governors’ races picking up four new Governor’s mansions – Arkansas (former home of Bill Clinton), Illinois (home of Barack Obama), Massachusetts (home of Mitt Romney), and Maryland.

There were also import incumbent Governors that fought tough elections to win reelection – Florida, where Governor Scott, beat former Republican  Governor turned Democrat Charlie Crist and Wisconsin where Scott Walker who previously fought  recall election (see recall isn’t anything to fear) held his seat.

So what does this mean for Washington politics?

Many are currently speculating that a Republican led Senate combined with the largest Republican majority in the House of Representatives since World War II is only going to produce gridlock, but I disagree. A Republican majority will produce results – something that has been lacking in Washington for the last six years.

Time and time again the Republicans have been blamed by Democrats for “blocking legislation” and the “gridlock in Washington”, when all they need to do is look in a mirror to discover who is causing gridlock – and the American people know that.

The Leader of the Senate has the authority to bypass the committee process and bring legislation to the Senate floor for a vote, as well as refusing amendments; Harry Reid has used this authority on controversial legislation. These actions inspire filibusters from those who have been left out of the process and results in the gridlock we have seen.

In a report earlier this year a report by the Brookings Institute, a left of center think tank, showed that the House passed twice as much legislation as the Senate and concluded that approximately 87% of legislation was killed in committee by The Democrat Senate Majority Leader, making him the locus of gridlock, and thus denying Republicans a say in the shaping of legislation. 

So how will Republican Mitch McConnell be any different?

He has vowed major changes in the Senate Chamber; he has told Senate colleagues to expect a radically different working environment next year. It is time for Republicans to govern and to give the American people the change they are so desperately craving. He has said he will allow amendments from all sides, they will be debated and then voted on.

History has dictated that much of a President’s legacy is determined in their last two years in office, therefore it is in President Obama’s interest to take a page out of the Clinton playbook and work with Congress to pass legislation and move the country forward, but will he do this? Will President Obama compromise? Can a Republican led Congress and President Obama find common ground?

Yes, hopefully. As Mia Love said, find something you agree on – Republicans and the President agree on two trade deals that he has been trying to pass, but Democrats have been stalling – The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

So is this the time for compromise in Washington? The President is making the right noises and gestures by inviting the bi-partisan leadership to the White House on Friday. So we will see.

So what other changes will a Republican led Congress produce?

Trade is an area to watch, I have already mentioned the two frozen trade agreements, and we may also see the Republicans grant the President Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which Senate Republicans previously offered to put forward for the President, but Senate Democrats declined.

Corporate Tax reform, this is something that President Obama voted in favour of as a Senator in 2005, so there is a good chance we could see Republicans work with the President to lower corporate income taxes to bring US companies and jobs back home. This could provide a well needed boost to the economy and jobs market, some estimates are as high as $1trillion. This is something Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky has said he and Senator Barbara Boxer from California already agree on, so that is a start.

Republicans and Democrats broadly agree on expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to childless workers. The question remains here how will we pay for it? So there might be some battles to be fought there, but at least we have a common starting point.

These are a start, but you will see Republicans focusing on holding the President to account, policies that create real jobs, directly benefit hardworking Americans and restore our leadership in the world.

So how did Republicans win?

The GOP focused on voter turnout, specifically focused turning out low propensity Republican voters and turning them out early. Additionally Republicans invested heavily in a permanent ground game, emphasizing the quality of contact with voters over the quantity. Republicans ran on the issues, and won on leadership.

Cory Garnder the Senator-elect from Colorado, said that he found people were voting on two key issues the economy and the President’s failed leadership.

The President had said he wasn’t on the ballot, but his issues were, the voters saw this as a referendum on the President – this hurt Democrat candidates. We saw them distancing themselves further and further away from Obama and declaring themselves Clinton Democrats. But the Clinton start power didn’t help either – only 17 of the 48 candidates the Clintons endorsed and campaigned for won.

Foreign policy very rarely plays a part in mid-term elections; they tend to be much more focused on domestic issues, but the President’s failure in foreign policy motivated voters to seek strong leadership.

You hear Democrats talk about the economic recovery and blame Bush for the economic conditions Obama inherited, but history shows us that the worse the recession the stronger the recovery. Interesting to note is that every US President, going back over a century, had the economy booming within 5 years after a recession, this includes Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression.

We are far from a booming economy – yes, there have been strides and growth, GDP was up in the second quarter to 4.6%  and unemployment is down to 5.9% but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Real unemployment, which includes the total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of all civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers, hovers around 12%.

At the beginning of the year there were still 4 million fewer full time jobs than before the recession. People are under employed, been moved to part time work, retiring or just flat out giving up.

What does this mean for 2016?

So what you really want to know: what does this mean for the Presidential race in 2016. In my opinion, I see a few things happening, I think you will see challengers start to emerge for the Democrat nomination, look towards Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, whose speech last night sounded more like a Presidential stump speech than a Gubernatorial acceptance speech.

I predict you will also see a strengthening of the Republican Party, we will return to a big tent party. This election has seen Republicans regroup and understand the need to come together to govern.

I will ask before you do – who will be the Republican candidate in 2016? I don’t know. Republicans have a strong field of experience waiting in the wings and personally there are several I would be happy with as a nominee – a few to keep an eye on:

-      Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin

-      Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

-      Governor Bobby Jindal in Louisiana

-      New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez

-      Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

-      Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin

-      Texas Senator Ted Cruz

-      Senator Marco Rubio from Florida

-      and who knows…Mitt Romney

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