The 2014 elections are over, and it was a bigger rout for the Democrats than expected. A quick look over the election results showed that, not only did a Republican wave materialize, it was larger than expected.
Fivethirtyeight.com had some interesting numbers in their election coverage last night. Most notable was their comparison of pre-election polling to actual results. In short, this year’s polling skewed heavily Democrat, translating to victories where Republicans were thought to be trailing by a few points and tight races where Democrats believed they had large margins. (Average skewing for gubernatorial races: +2 points for Dems; average for Senate: +6 Democrat.)
So, Obama is now in a situation similar to W at this point in his presidency – his popularity with the electorate has fallen off, and he faces a House and Senate controlled by the opposition. What happens now?
Option 1.) We spend the next two years in gridlock with virtually nothing substantial being accomplished. A Republican House and Senate passes multiple bills that Obama is forced to veto – approving the Keystone XL pipeline, repealing Obamacare, etc. These votes are all used to campaign in 2016, with Democrats painting Republicans as pure partisans and the Republicans painting Democrats as obstructionist. (Oh, the irony.) A quick perusal of Democratic pundits this morning shows they believe the field to be stacked in their favor for 2016 for retaking the Senate, so the blue team may take this route with the confidence of electing Hillary in 2016 with control of the Senate on her coattails.
Option 2.) Obama compromises with the Republican-controlled legislature to pass some items on his agenda and get some of his appointments through. Arguably the best situation for the country, but it makes talking-points campaigning harder in 2016. Republicans will likely push for this route to prevent the “party of no” meme from returning – after all, they have control of substantial portions of the government, and now they need to prove they’re willing and able to use it well. Whether they succeed is questionable and can only be answered by the 2016 election.
Here in North Dakota, Republicans won virtually up and down the ticket. Perhaps the most notable thing about the election is the lack of surprises. State government remains in Republican hands with a few seats changing parties, but the State Democrats failed to make serious inroads. The question, then, is “Why?” Personally, I’d say the national party hurts the state party; ND is right-wing enough that the far-left stances from major Dem figures has a negative effect on centrist lefties here. (Personally, I believe if Heidi Heitkamp had been running for office this year, she would have lost, and badly; but by 2018 the political landscape could be entirely different yet again.)
The eight ND measures boiled down to one simple fact: North Dakotans found it easier to say “No” then “Yes.” Aside from Measure 2 (which I’ll address in a moment), there were plenty of doubt-raising arguments made against each measure, and while I don’t think some of those arguments were valid, a majority of my fellow voters disagreed.
Measure 2 was the sole passing item, and I suspect it passed because a “Yes” meant “No”. For those who aren’t aware, Measure 2 amended the constitution to forbid certain types of taxes (mortgage taxes, property transfer taxes, property sales taxes). Given how flush the ND government currently is with oil money, it’s no surprise how the measure turned out.
Finally, a note on Measure 5. Given the 80/20 drubbing it got, I wonder if there’s going to be some backlash against the conservation groups that supported it. A lot of voters suspected groups like Ducks Unlimited were trying to get their hands in the ND oil cookie jar, and they got their knuckles rapped for it. There could be longer-term consequences.