In an increasingly divided United States, the November 4th midterm elections are seen as a referendum on the president, but local interests, economic strategies and future visions will influence the result.
The 2014 midterms are a referendum for and against Barack Obama. This is how they have often been depicted over the past few months. In fact, it is becoming apparent that the November 4th elections are something more, and even different, as the days are going by and the election day approaches. Of course the midterms do pass judgment on the president’s performance. A survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted between the 15th and the 20th of October, reveals that 52 percent of American voters see this election as a means of showing their approval or disapproval of Obama’s policies. Those who will vote, however, will consider local interests, economic strategies and future visions, which have only partly to do with Obama. Here is a short list, at less than one week before the polling stations open, of points to keep in mind concerning November 4th.
The Republicans Have a Slight Advantage
Over the last few weeks, many analysts have focused their studies on trying to assess how many seats the Republicans could snatch from the Democrats, or even if they could win a majority in the Senate; they have already won the majority in the House. As an NBC/Marist poll released on Sunday has shown, the Grand Old Party seems set to win major victories. Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota, which were until now represented by Democratic senators, are likely to change political color and switch to Republican leadership. In order to win a majority in the Senate, however, the Republicans need to win over another three seats. The states which are most undecided, but seem to be leaning toward the right, are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina. The Republicans, however, risk losing their hold on Senate seats in Kentucky, Kansas and Georgia. Conclusion: A Republican majority in the Senate is likely, but it is much less certain than previously thought and what the Republicans themselves had everyone believe.
An Increasingly Divided Country
In the 2008 elections, there were six “toss-up” states, for which analysts could not predict a result. In 2010 there were eight states, and now there are at least 11. This progression shows increasingly divided American states supporting two almost equivalently powerful sides that confront one another, with one side often beating the other by only a few percentage points. This uncertainly results in a real dilemma for the two parties’ National Committees, which are handing out the few dollars that remain in the hopes of swaying the toss-up states. It is precisely about choosing — taking away funding from one candidate and giving it to another means an almost certain political death. A few days ago the Republican National Committee admitted defeat when they cut off funding to their candidate in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land. In other cases, however, funding cannot be cut because the hard-pressed politician is too important and influential. This is what has happened in Kentucky, where Sen. Mitch McConnell, the current Republican minority leader in the Senate and one of Washington’s “mandarins,” is faltering in the face of the “blows” delivered by Alison Lundergan Grimes, his Democratic rival. Despite a wave of expensive campaign ads, the old McConnell has not yet managed to secure a victory, which seemed certain only a few months ago.
You Fool, it’s the Economy
During the 2014 midterm elections, the Republicans mostly played under the slogan, “Win over more states.” They wanted to turn more states and seats red, which have up until now been blue. The Democrats lacked a characteristic slogan; in fact, in many cases the liberal and progressive candidates appear hesitant, more concerned with setting themselves apart from Barack Obama’s unpopularity than giving voters a vision of their politics and plans for society. When this happened, the Democrats developed a series of proposals — above all, economic proposals often at the local level. This has always paid off. Issues such as equal pay for women, student loans and increasing the minimum wage have invigorated the Democrats’ campaigns, from Kay Hagan in North Carolina to Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. In Georgia, Michelle Nunn won several points when she made job outsourcing the focus of her political rhetoric. The undisputed star of this campaign has been, along with Bill “Evergreen” Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.* Everyone wanted her, in some way or another, at their rallies thanks to her tirades against the Republicans, depicted as the party of the rich and people with vested interests.
A Peak into the Future
These midterm elections are also, of course, the possible prelude to the 2016 presidential election. It is true that for the moment Obama is an unpopular president — only 29 percent of the American population thinks that the country is headed in the right direction. The Democrats shouldn’t despair just yet. Many of the toss-up states are in fact uncertain, and, more importantly, the Democrats continue to be perceived as the party that is more capable of defending and fighting for American citizens’ everyday concerns. The same survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, which was cited above, reveals that the Democrats have a 26 percent advantage over the Republicans. According to the survey, registered voters see the Democratic Party as being “more concerned with the needs of people like me.” Fourty-six percent of Americans think that the Republicans are “more influenced by lobbyists and special interests,” while only 32 percent of Americans think this of the Democrats. Fifty-two percent of respondents think that the GOP is “more extreme in its positions.” (http://www.people-press.org/2014/10/23/as-midterms-near-gop-leads-on-key-issues-democrats-have-a-more-positive-image/) This is as if to say that even though at the moment the pendulum is swinging in favor of the Republicans, that could change in the near future.
*Editor’s Note: “Evergreen” is the Secret Service code name for Hillary Clinton, not Bill Clinton as the original author states.