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2014 Elections: The Aftermath
Wednesday, 2014 November 5 - 12:13 pm
Well, it's pretty much over: Republicans have retaken the Senate. Alaska is still counting but will probably go to Sullivan (R) over Begich (D). Louisiana will go to a runoff in December that favors the Republican. It looks like Warner (D) will squeak by in Virginia over Gillespie (R); this after he was projected to win by something like 9%. So in the end, it looks like a 54-46 majority for the Republicans.

The hyperbole has already begun: CNN proclaims: "A Republican tide ripped the Senate away from Democrats Tuesday, giving the GOP full control of Congress and the power to pin down President Barack Obama during his last two years in office."

Um, what? They've already had Obama pinned down by controlling the House. Not much really changes in terms of what kind of legislation will get passed (i.e., none). The only thing that will change is that Senate Democrats will be the ones filibustering bills now, and every now and then Obama might have to exercise his veto power. There might be some kind of splashy show as Obama issues executive orders to bypass Congress altogether. Republicans will grandstand about impeachment, even though there's zero chance they'll get a two-thirds majority to pass the Senate.

So, the gridlock will continue. But now the real election begins: the 2016 campaign. The real gain today for the Republicans is that Harry Reid will not be able to force headline-grabbing votes on issues that could embarrass potential 2016 Presidential candidates currently sitting in the Senate (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz); and they'll be able to use the big stage to get themselves onto television and in front of voters. Of course, that may well backfire as there's plenty of potential for them to alienate voters... after all, Harry Reid isn't winning any popularity contests these days.

In any event, there'll be a big splashy presidential campaign, with a flood of money (thanks, SuperPACs) and nationally-known candidates; the effect will be that voter turnout will probably be high, and that's favorable to Democrats.

Now let's look at the Senate. It's probable that there'll be at least ten competitive races:

- Arizona: John McCain (R)
- Colorado: Michael Bennet (D)
- Florida: Marco Rubio (R)
- Illinois: Mark Kirk (R)
- Nevada: Harry Reid (D)
- New Hampshire: Kelly Ayotte (R)
- North Carolina: Richard Burr (R)
- Ohio: Rob Portman (R)
- Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey (R)
- Wisconsin: Ron Johnson (R)

Republicans are defending eight of those races; Democrats just two. McCain and Reid might not make it out of their primaries; Rubio may be running for President and thus might not be in the Senate race at all. Several of the Republicans are one-term Senators brought in during the 2010 wave.

It's easy to see Democratic pickups in Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The other races may be questionable, but if Democrats can get just one more of them, they could even survive a loss in Nevada and still retake the Senate 51-49.

Certainly, the Presidential campaign will have a lot of effect on the Senate races. Hillary Clinton is enormously popular among Democrats but is reviled by many conservatives; a polarizing figure might not be helpful for Democratic Senate candidates in swing states. Chris Christie is well-liked by moderates but less liked by conservatives in the South; he might have a dampening effect on enthusiasm and voter turnout among conservatives, putting North Carolina in jeopardy and potentially putting races in Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky into play for Democrats too. And you can't discount what's likely to be a wild Republican primary season: it'll will provide plenty of opportunities for loony far-right Republicans to shoot themselves in the foot with Twitter-worthy comments about rape, abortion, and climate change. One poorly-worded remark at the right time could be enough to sink the whole party.

The House, unfortunately for Democrats, is a lost cause for quite a while, due to the heavily gerrymandered redistricting in 2010 after the Republican wave. That problem will probably not go away until 2022; Democrats may retake some state legislatures in 2020 as the census falls on a Presidential election year, and may be able to redraw some electoral maps for the 2022 election. But until then, barring a major demographic shift, Republicans have gamed the system with the district maps and that's probably too high an obstacle to overcome.

In the end, the sun still rises and life goes on. Despite all the attention paid to campaigns, and despite all the talk of "big government", the effect that federal government has on our lives is small compared to the effect of our families, friends, bosses, and our local governments. So it's not time to panic. Let's keep looking forward.

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Posted by Ken in: politics

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