Wow, Barack Obama and the Democrats suffered a thermonuclear butt kicking. This was 1994 and 2010 put together.
When the dust settles after recounts and run-offs, it appears that the GOP will have picked up 9 Senate seats. That’s one more than I predicted, and I thought I was probably overstating the GOP wave.
The House results are equally remarkable. There are a handful of close races that haven’t yet been decided, but it seems that Republicans will control at least 246 seats and may even hit or exceed my prediction of 249 seats. And that estimate at the time was way too high, based on what almost all the experts were predicting.
So what lessons, if any, can we learn from these results (other than that I do a decent job of predicting mid-term elections)?
1. Obama has been a disaster for his party. At their high point in 2009, Democrats controlled 60 seats in the Senate and 257 seats in the House of Representatives. But thanks to unpopular and misguided policies such as Obamacare and the faux stimulus, the President created conditions for GOP landslides in 2010 and 2014. And don’t forget that Republicans also have made huge gains in state legislatures during Obama’s presidency. I already joked that libertarians were going to give the President a “man of the year” award for reawakening interest in the principles of liberty, but Republicans may want to give him an even bigger award and make it official rather than satirical.
2. Obamacare is still deeply unpopular. It appears that at least 17 Democratic Senators since 2010 have been replaced by anti-Obamacare Republicans. That’s a remarkably large number of casualties. And don’t forget what happened to House Democrats in 2010. Some advocates of government-run healthcare claim that voters are no longer agitated about Obamacare and that Republicans didn’t make it a big issue. But if that’s the case, why did Republicans dramatically increased their focus on Obamacare as the elections got closer?
If you want an example of whistling past the graveyard, considering this blurb from an article in The Hill last April.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer on Sunday rejected the suggestion that Republicans will take control of the Senate in the midterm elections, saying that the GOP argument to repeal ObamaCare is a “political loser.”
I wonder what he would say if asked about Obamacare today?
3. The government shutdown was almost certainly a net plus for the GOP. Back in 2011, I explained that Republicans could play hard ball, largely based on what really happened during the 1995 government shutdown. And in 2013, I again defended a shutdown, pointing out that voters probably wouldn’t even notice that some government offices were closed, but they would remember that the GOP was branding itself as the anti-Obamacare party. The establishment, by contrast, thought the shutdown was a disaster for Republicans. Here’s some of what one academic wrote last October.
…the shutdown leveled the House playing field in a rather unexpected manner. …in a Congressional election today, Democrats would retake the House with >90% probability and a 50-seat margin.
And remember that many establishment Republicans felt the same way, excoriating Senator Cruz and others who wanted a line-in-the-sand fight over government-run healthcare. The moral of the story isn’t that shutdowns necessarily are politically desirable, but rather that it’s very important for a political party to find visible ways of linking itself to popular causes (such as ending Obamacare, fighting big government, etc).
4. Voters still hate taxes. I’m stunned that Governor Brownback won reelection in Kansas, but I’m even more surprised that pro-tax Democrat gubernatorial candidates lost in deep-blue states such as Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts. The one common theme is that voters – when given a real option – generally prefer candidates who will let them keep more of their money. We also can learn something by reviewing the outcome of various ballot initiatives. By a 2-1 margin, Tennessee voters amended their constitution to prohibit an income tax from every being adopted. And by a 3-1 margin, Georgia voters made sure the top tax rate could never be raised. On the other hand, more than 60 percent of voters in Illinois voted for an advisory referendum that called for a class-warfare tax hike (even though they voted for a governor who will block that from happening).
A few other observations.
Scott Walker’s victory, along with the outcome of gubernatorial races in places such as Michigan and Illinois, suggests that unionized state bureaucrats no longer have carte blanche to pillage taxpayers. Or at least they no longer have the necessary political muscle to endlessly line their pockets at the expense of the overall electorate.
Rand Paul gets points for the most clever political satire of the evening, popularizing the #hillaryslosers hashtage along with some amusing images. Here’s the one for Kentucky.
Let’s close by reveling in some Schadenfreude. Here are some excerpts from a story in the Washington post in early 2013.
President Obama…is taking the most specific steps of his administration in an attempt to ensure the election of a Democratic-controlled Congress in two years. …Obama, fresh off his November reelection, began almost at once executing plans to win back the House in 2014, which he and his advisers believe will be crucial to the outcome of his second term and to his legacy as president. …Obama has committed to raising money for fellow Democrats, agreed to help recruit viable candidates, and launched a political nonprofit group dedicated to furthering his agenda and that of his congressional allies. The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office… Obama has committed to eight fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this year… The president has also pledged to put his formidable campaign organization, now known as Organizing for Action, behind Democratic House candidates and to find ways to share its rich trove of voter data with the party’s campaign committee. …“If 2012 was a referendum on President Obama, then 2014 will be a referendum on the tea party Congress,” Israel said. “And the president and House Democrats are joined at the hip on this.”
Gee, things didn’t exactly turn out the way Obama hoped.
But Congressman Israel was right. Obama and the Democrats were joined at the hip.
Now the big question is whether voters will get a clear choice between big government and small government in 2016. If they do, this hypothetical poll shows the outcome.
But if it’s another Tweedle Dee vs Tweedle Dum election, then Washington’s ruling class will win regardless.