The Bigger Picture
Published on November 1st 2010 in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
With America’s mid-term elections looming on Tuesday I will now attempt to gaze into my crystal ball and make some predictions ahead of this trip to the polls. Given the historically low overall turnout of voters in mid-term elections, these predictions will also prove to be the ultimate test of my political prognostications skills.
I will begin with a discussion of some of the most important races for seats in the US Senate where the Democratic Party briefly held the twenty seat majority required by arcane Senate rules to overcome filibusters and pass legislation. I will begin with the Senate races in the ‘swing’ states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania whose electoral votes often determine the outcome of Presidential elections.
In Florida, little known Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek trails Tea Party favourite Marco Rubio, who is the Republican nominee, as well as Governor Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican who is running as an Independent candidate. This is a Republican seat and although Rubio has succeeded in winning most of the support of Florida Republicans, most Independents and many Democrats are supporting Crist. I believe Charlie Crist will win this race if more Democrats decide to vote against Rubio and cast their votes for Crist instead of wasting them by voting for Kendrick Meek, who has no realistic chance of winning. If not, then Rubio will keep this seat in the Republican column with less than 45% of the votes cast.
In Ohio, another Republican seat must also be defended and because this state continues to suffer more than others from high levels of unemployment, Republican candidate Rob Portman stands to gain from voter dissatisfaction with the slow pace of economic recovery in their region. Many American’s have notoriously short memories and have likewise become addicted to the idea of quick fixes, so Portman is using this to his advantage by telling voters that Obama and the Democrats have failed to turn the economy around. Democratic candidate Lee Fisher has tried to remind Ohio voters that Portman was President Bush’s trade czar and budget director but has been unable to make much headway against the tide of sentiment that blames Obama rather than Bush for the economic malaise.
Pennsylvania is a neighboring state where the Republican Senate seat became a Democratic one when longtime moderate Republican Senator Arlen Specter switched parties rather than attempt to swim against the Tea Party tide sweeping the Republican Party. But Pennsylvania Democrats ignored the pleas of President Obama and opted to give their party’s Senate nomination to lifelong Democrat Joe Sestak instead of incumbent Arlen Specter. This was a classic case of Democrats ‘cutting off their nose to spite their face’ because despite their distaste for former Republican Specter, at least he had a good chance of retaining this Senate seat, while Sestak had no chance of defeating Republican candidate Pat Toomey.
But for Republicans to regain control of the US Senate they must not only retain or regain the aforementioned traditionally Republican Senate seats, they must also win some traditionally Democratic seats. Republicans initially appeared to have some pretty good prospects of doing just that given the tendency of Americans to vote against the party of the President in mid-term elections. But the Tea Party movement’s desire for ideologically pure conservative Republican candidates resulted in the defeat of the moderate Republican nominees who had a chance of winning Democratic Senate seats in Delaware, New York, Nevada and Colorado.
The most glaring example of Republicans following the lead of Democrats and ‘cutting off their noses to spite their faces’, occurred in Delaware where Tea Party activists succeeded in getting Christine O’Donnell nominated instead of Republican Congressman Mike Castle. The moderate Castle would have won Vice President Joe Biden’s former Senate seat in a walk but he wasn’t ideologically pure enough for Republican members of the Tea Party movement. As a result I expect Democratic nominee Chris Coons to easily win this seat and keep it in the hands of Democrats.
In New York, conservatives eschewed nominating the Republican State Convention candidate, Bruce Blakeman as well as the other establishment Republican candidate, David Malpass, and instead cast their Republican primary votes for Joe DioGuardi, an anti-tax gadfly. Among other things, DioGuardi has gained notoriety for burning the Serbian flag in front of the Serbian Embassy and for getting $5000 a month to serve as a consultant and member of the board of directors for Medical Capital Holdings, a Ponzi scheme that federal officials claim bilked investors of more than $1.7 billion. As a result, Kristen Gillibrand will easily retain her Democratic Senate seat.
Like Delaware, Nevada is another case where Tea Party activists succeeded in winning the battle for the Republican Senate seat on behalf of their favourite, Sharon Angle, which in turn will result in Republicans losing the war for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Senate seat. Tea Party activists opted to support Angle despite the fact that most state polls showed that former Republican state legislator Sue Lowden would likely defeat Harry Reid in November and that Angle probably couldn’t.
In Colorado, Tea Party activists likewise got their man, Ken Buck, nominated instead of the well respected Republican Lieutenant Governor, Jane Norton. Norton had an excellent chance of winning this seat that had once been held by Republican senator Ken Salazar before he accepted a job as President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior. Now it appears increasingly likely this will remain a Democratic Senate seat.
But while I don’t see much chance for Republicans to regain control of the Senate, I think it is likely they will achieve the net gain of 39 seats they will need to take control of the US House of Representatives. So barring an unexpectedly large turnout of voters on Election Day, I foresee America reverting once again to divided government. If this indeed happens, then that raises the question of; “What will Americans expect from the ‘Party of No’, once they are back in power?”