by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republicans have retaken the U.S. Senate and increased their majority in the U.S. House. Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute argues in his latest National Review Online column that this electoral win does not mark the end of the story.
[T]here are several things that we can we take away from this election.
Voters have not fallen in love with Republicans. A win is a win is a win. Still, Republicans will be making a mistake if they interpret this election as an endorsement of the Republican agenda. There is no doubt that this was a clear repudiation of President Obama and his agenda. But the Republican agenda — what exactly is that? Moreover, polls show that, as Rand Paul indelicately put it, the Republican brand still “sucks.” Even as they were pulling the lever for GOP candidates, voters held an unfavorable opinion of the Republican party, by 53 to 36 percent. It does appear that, by backing away from or downplaying their stance on divisive social issues, Republicans were able to improve their standing with women, young people, and even Hispanics, but the party’s long-term demographic problems remain. If Republicans want to build on last night’s success, particularly for 2016, they will have to come up with a positive agenda, and prove that they can govern without surrendering on basic principles. That’s a tough order.
Obamacare is not getting more popular. Throughout the fall, Democrats and the media have asserted that Obamacare was no longer an issue. Headlines like “Obamacare Losing Power as a Campaign Weapon” and “Repeal of Health Law, Once Central to G.O.P., Is Side Issue in Campaigns” from the New York Times became staples of the election coverage. In reality, however, opposition to Obamacare was a major issue for nearly every winning Republican candidate. In fact, Republicans ran more campaign ads about Obamacare than any other issue — more than 160,000, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Since Labor Day alone, Republicans ran more than 51,000 anti-Obamacare ads. There is a reason for that: The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows the voters have an unfavorable opinion of the law by a 13.5 point margin. The health-care law is unlikely to be repealed in the next two years, but the evidence suggests that it will be an albatross for Democrats for some time to come.
Follow the link above to learn why Tanner also believes this week’s election results were very good for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, why Paul’s Kentucky colleague Mitch McConnell “will not be a happy camper,” and why the 2016 Iowa caucuses will play a major role in next year’s congressional debates.