ELECTION ANALYSIS 2014
Americans spoke with a vengeance on Election Day 2014. They no longer trust big government to solve their deepest worries. They’re tired of the war on women narrative, too. They still want their economy fixed and don’t mind their governors taking on public unions, either.
And oh yes, Kansas, you’re still a red state.
Those are the top line lessons of a turbulent election that gave Barack Obama the biggest rebuke of his presidency, reversed the gains Democrats made just a few short years ago in states like Iowa and Colorado and awarded Republicans the full control of Congress that they coveted.
But make no mistake, the love for Republicans is a fleeting, inch-deep right now. It can grow with decisive, clear action. Or it can fritter away with a dose of GOP infighting, excuse-making and gridlock.
In fact, more than a third of those who voted for a Republican House candidates were dissatisfied or even angry with GOP leaders in Congress, an early warning sign.
Voters made clear they expect more action in Washington on the issues that matter to them, and a better economy by the next time they cast their ballots in 2016.
That’s why House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy went on TV as the ballots were still being counted to urge a joint retreat of House and Senate Republicans to ensure they forge a single message, game plan and agenda.
“It’s the first thing we should do,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Republicans will have plenty of early agenda items to choose from: send Mr. Obama a full budget for the first time in years, roll back a hugely unpopular medical device tax in the Obamacare law and press to improve border security as a first step toward immigration reform to name a few.
To guide their early decisions, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the expected Senate majority leader, and House Speaker John Boehner have some takeaways from the exit polls that were the barometer of this election.
First up, Americans who voted for Mr. Obama’s big government agenda as a solution to the ailing economy in 2008 no longer believe his approach worked or that a bloated federal government can deliver.
By a wide margin, voters declared the economy still broken and their confidence in big government eroded. Only one in five said they trusted government to make the right decision.
“It’s the incompetance of big government that voters are responding to,” declared Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman and Republican nominee for vice president in 2012.
Mr. Ryan said he and Mitt Romney ran against the Obama agenda two years ago, but at the time the had the challenge of arguing against “big government in theory.”
“Now we have big government in practice, and it doesn’t look anything like the rhetoric used to sell it,” Mr. Ryan said.
The Democratic narrative of a GOP “war on women” – a key to the 2012 election results — also got resoundingly rejected this time around.
The Democrat who most embraced that narrative this time around, Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado, was ousted easily by Republican Corey Gardner.
And Republicans elected high-profile women like Joni Ernst in the Iowa Senate race, former congressional investigator Barbara Comstock in a closely watched northern Virginia race and30-year-old Elise Stefanik, a former aide in President George W. Bush’s administration, to be the youngest House member from suburban New York City.
“We are here tonight because you believe that Washington is ready for fresh ideas and a new generation of leadership,” the youthful Ms. Stefanik declared in her victory speech.
Gov. Scott Walker’s resounding victory in Wisconsin made clear that unions don’t have the clout they once had. Mr. Walker, who took on collective bargaining reform and busted the grip of public worker unions on his state’s budget, was Big Labor’s No. 1 target this election. And he won easily, despite millions of dollars in outside money spent against him.
Other union foes, like Govs. Rick Snyder in Michigan and Rick Scott in Florida, also won, further eroding image of Big Labor as an mighty election force.
In the end, the unrest of the 2014 electorate demolished the coalition of voters that sent Democrats to control of both chambers of Congress in 2006, and Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012.
How far was that coalition disrupted?
Well, Republicans captured the governorship of three of the bluest states in America: Mr Obama’s home state of Illinois, Maryland and the land of Kennedys in Massachusetts. And they were in position to capture the governorship in another bright blue state, Connecticut.
It was just a few days ago when Democrats were dreaming of stealing the red state of Kansas, unseating longtime incumbent Pat Roberts. That, too, didn’t come to fruition. And Democrats, it is fair to say, aren’t in Kansas anymore.
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