As expected, the midterm elections came in as a big win for the Republican Party on Tuesday night. Of course, every midterm election tends to favor the party outside of the White House, particularly when the sitting president is carrying a low favorability rating, as Barack Obama is.
The only surprises of the night were the strength and depth of the victory, as Republicans comfortably took control of the Senate in the next Congress, while creating a historic majority in the House and making big gains in gubernatorial races as well. In almost every instance, the margins were larger than expected and in favor of the Republican Party.
Regardless of comments emanating from the White House, the election results are in part a referendum on a highly unpopular president. The results are also a statement of impatience with an economy that continues to underperform, and a foreign policy in upheaval on no less than four continents. Then, of course, there is President Obama’s singular and signature legislative success – the overwhelmingly unpopular Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare.
With all that said, the Republicans’ gains are probably not all that surprising. The GOP now has the responsibility of actually trying to accomplish something. Reagan, Bush 1 and 2, and Clinton had great success after midterm elections by working across the aisle, which allowed them to actually move their agendas forward.
Most pundits would argue that Obama has shown little interest in working with the Democrats, and even less with Republicans. Now facing strong Republican majorities in both the House and Senate next session, Obama must work with Congress to avoid becoming irrelevant. I think there remains a strong possibility that the two camps can work together on smaller issues, as well as on issues where there is some agreement.
Much is being made of what the midterm results mean for the remaining two years of the Obama presidency, and what it may mean for the 2016 election. Without question, the Republicans’ Senate victories in states like Colorado and Iowa, where Obama handily won twice and were increasingly viewed as blue states, probably means those states revert to swing-state status. Yet, it should also be mentioned that midterm elections tend to favor Republicans as the electorate that gets to the polls tends to be older with less minority participation.
Sadly, for me at least, the single biggest message coming out of this week’s midterm elections is that the 2016 election cycle has already begun.
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