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What to Watch for on Tuesday

The only question about Tuesday’s elections is how good they will be for Republicans.

Anything less than recapturing the Senate—either outright or after two Southern runoffs—will plausibly be spun as a disappointment, especially combined with a couple of Democratic gubernatorial pickups. But even the GOP’s worst-case scenario would entail real gains.

How good Tuesday night will be for conservatives is a more complicated question, one that may also depend on what kind of conservative you are. Even a Republican Senate will only marginally change the balance of power in Washington. President Obama would have to rely on his veto more and Harry Reid less, while continuing to expand his interpretation of lawful executive power to grandiose John Yoo-like levels.

Here are four things that bear watching.


Social issues and the “war on women.” After election cycles dominated by Todd Akin and “legitimate rape,” the conventional wisdom emerged that Republicans were doomed to repulse women voters with social-issues blundering.

The truth is that many swing voters don’t like being harangued about controversial issues like abortion by either side of the debate and will punish the candidate they see as the culture-war aggressor.  This year, that has mainly been the Democrats. The two most prominent examples have been Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, whose over-the-top pitch on birth control has earned him the nickname “Mark Uterus,” and the obviously not ready for primetime Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.

Davis likely would have lost even if she had run a much better campaign. But the national media adulation that accompanied her abortion-related filibuster as a state senator apparently misled her as to the issue’s appeal in Texas. Davis has since pivoted to ads emphasizing her Republican opponent’s physical handicap (Greg Abbott has been in a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a 1984 accident) and social-media comments suggesting he would defend bans on interracial marriage (Abbott’s wife is a Latina).

You can make legalistic arguments for the propriety of either line of attack, but it doesn’t take a great deal of foresight to imagine how they will play with normal people lacking deep partisan commitments. And indeed they have largely made Davis look at best desperate to a previously persuadable slice of the electorate.

Udall is in a more competitive race. His Republican opponent Cory Gardner has been shifty about his support of “personhood” amendments—he’s reversed himself on a state pro-life initiative that appeared to impact some widely used forms of birth control while denying a similar federal bill he co-sponsors would do much the same thing. But Gardner has largely blunted birth-control attacks by supporting the sale of oral contraception over the counter.

It’s not that the “war on women” is always an ineffective campaign line, but any tactic can be taken too far. Think of Republicans who looked at the success of the Willie Horton ad back in 1988 and have tried to launch similar “soft on crime” attacks when either crime was a less salient issue with voters or their specific opponents’ records didn’t fit the caricature quite as well.

Will the hawks take flight? While Justin Amash, Walter Jones, Thomas Massie, and Mark Sanford will all cruise to reelection, it doesn’t appear any newcomers like them emerged from this year’s Republican primaries (though keep an eye on Dave Brat, slayer of Eric Cantor in Virginia). There is no Rand Paul.

There might be another Marco Rubio, however, in Tom Cotton: the Arkansas Republican Senate candidate is articulate, fiscally conservative, and quite hawkish. Cotton is also a combat veteran. He is almost certain to prevail against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in a state where Obama is deeply unpopular. With him in, and the relatively civil libertarian Udall possibly out, will it change the complexion of the Senate on important foreign-policy issues like nuclear negotiations with Iran?

A Republican Senate majority could also give Paul new leverage to force congressional authorization of the president’s military interventions. Paul has faced criticism (some of it deserved) for his own position on the war against ISIS, but a congressional resolution could conceivably limit the scope of such action compared to a presidential war, especially if the resolution is bipartisan.

Libertarians and the Senate majority. Libertarian Party nominees may have swung as many as nine races in 2012, including Senate seats in Indiana and Montana. The party was also a factor in the Virginia governor’s race in 2013.

The Libertarians’ best spoiler opportunity—though the party with some justice denies that its absence from the ballot would always benefit Republicans—this year is in North Carolina. Thom Tillis defeated liberty Republican Greg Brannon in the primary. He has since been trailing trouble incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, with Libertarian Sean Haugh more than making up the difference.

As was the case with 2013 Virginia LP gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis, there are questions about how small-l libertarian this Libertarian really is. Haugh supports [1] Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and has criticized education spending cuts made by the Republican-controlled state legislature. Sarvis is running again this year as the Libertarian nominee for Senate in Virginia, but that race is not as close.

What happens on immigration? The one issue where the president could conceivably make some progress with an all-Republican Congress is immigration. Bipartisan majorities in favor of some form of immigration reform likely will still exist in both houses. Republican leaders could decide acquiescence will help the party with Hispanic voters in 2016, or at least take an issue that hurts Republicans off the table.

There are reasons to doubt this, however. There has been a Senate majority for immigration reform, including the legalization of most illegal immigrants already in the country, since at least 2006. That has been true no matter which party controls the Senate. It is noteworthy that the Democrats did not try very hard to advance legislation on this front when they had unified control of the federal government—including a period where they enjoyed a filibuster-proof Senate majority—between 2009 and 2011.

The coalition for immigration legislation frequently fractures over whether the provisions for new workers should be weighted to the benefit of business, labor, or ethnic activists. And a majority of House Republicans still opposes Gang of Eight-style bills, meaning that leadership will have to ram legislation through with more Democratic than Republican votes.

How likely is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who owes his job in part to the fact that Cantor made much more subtle pro-immigration gestures before losing his primary, to do that? Any executive action by the president that impacts millions rather than thousands of illegal immigrants will make legislative progress less likely, not more.

Last but not least, the next two years will help determine whether Obamacare gets repealed and replaced after 2016 or the Republican gains in this election do.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [2]

25 Comments (Open | Close)

25 Comments To "What to Watch for on Tuesday"

#1 Comment By Michael Kaiser On November 3, 2014 @ 1:28 am

Immigration “reform”. LOL. Love how that gets spun.

#2 Comment By JonF On November 3, 2014 @ 6:23 am

Re: Last but not least, the next two years will help determine whether Obamacare gets repealed and replaced after 2016 or the Republican gains in this election do.

Oh good grief, we already know that answer to this: No.
Obama will veto any such attempt during the next two years, and the playing field for the Democrats in 2016 is much much friendly, leading to likely retention of the White House and winning back the Senate. The ACA does need some tweaks, but it is otherwise here to stay.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 3, 2014 @ 7:41 am

It all takes is some fim footage of some whites guys and dllas getting beheaded, real or not andsuddenly US citizens are chompling at the bit to do some head hunting themselves.

And people are befuddle why the public is not to be trusted. One would have thought that Mr. Cotton had actually gained some practical knowledge from his experience. Unless his strategy is a full on war with Iraq soas to completey rule the place, I guess not.

If he advances the same nonsense as what was past and current — yawn.

#4 Comment By SteveM On November 3, 2014 @ 8:54 am

Re: Michael Kaiser “Immigration “reform”. LOL. Love how that gets spun.”

Exactly, immigration “reform” is simply Crony Capitalism run amok.

Cronies with low wage workforces want Hispanic labor to drive low wages down even lower. While the Cronies in the C-Suites of STEM related businesses want a flood of cheap, compliant H-1B’s that will work as indentured servants for a Green Card rather than hire native born American technologists

And Re: “Republican leaders could decide acquiescence will help the party with Hispanic voters in 2016, or at least take an issue that hurts Republicans off the table.”

Last time I looked, voters had to be American citizens. Why would Hispanic citizens be in favor of mass immigration that drives down their wages and negatively impacts their opportunity space? If Republicans were only slightly less stupid they would realize that their message to Hispanic voters should be limited immigration because it is in their best economic interest, not the interest of the professional victimologists.

And OBTW, in these immigration “reform” bills, where are the sections that allocate significantly increased appropriations to audit work places for citizenship/right to work status? And how about auditing HR job applicant databases of STEM companies to see if American applicants are passed over for H-1B’s? Where is that important activity in those bills?

And OBTW again, if there are indeed isolated shortages of some STEM sub-disciplines, where is the budget to train up Americans for those jobs. E.g., a laid off American Pharma Ph.D. scientist can’t be taught to write code?

Both cronied-up parties are selling the American worker down the river big time with with their oily versions of immigration “reform”. And it appears that James Antle III is more than happy to wave them goodbye…

#5 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On November 3, 2014 @ 9:34 am

Some kind of amnesty settlement is inevitable. Mind you, I don’t like it, but the illegal immigrant horse has long since left the barn…and “deportation” is a waste of time, money and manpower. The immigration problem had its genesis in the reform act that was passed in 1965 (with the blessings of the Kennedy brothers, whose only contact with immigrants was in the form of “the help”). “Sending ’em back” is a solution that is too little, too late.

#6 Comment By John Brendel On November 3, 2014 @ 11:07 am

SteveM: great analysis.

One thing, though: can we count on Hispanics who are us citizens to vote their own economic interest (not importing lower-priced competition for their own jobs and businesses)?

It seems that many hispanics — like people more generally — will vote on the basis of racial/cultural solidarity and identity, even if it goes against their own best interests economically.

After all, how did us-citizen Mexicans vote in recent federal elections — for the party known to support endless immigration and effectively open borders (democrats) or for the party which at least pretends to want some control over the border and crackdown on illegal immigration (most of which is from Mexico)?

#7 Comment By Joe F On November 3, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

I suspect that even if the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House Obamacare is here to stay.

#8 Comment By balconesfault On November 3, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

You ignored environmental issues.

Without a doubt, given how far to the right the GOP caucus has swung on enviro issues over the last decades, GOP control of the House and Senate are almost sure to unleash attacks on the EPA, the Endangered Species Act, Corps of Engineers Wetlands Protections (yeah – I know that Bush pushed the no-net wetland loss policy – but even the pro-corporate, pro-oil Bush was to the left of most of today’s GOP on environmental policy), and renewable energy subsidies.

Obama’s going to of course be using his veto pen copiously … but by 2016 voters are going to have a clear understanding of what handing Government back over to the GOP means in terms of environmental protection. I think the media, despite allegations of it being “too liberal”, has soft-played that over the last decade.

#9 Comment By SteveM On November 3, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

Re: John Brendel

John, agree on your points of ethnic solidarity. But it’s the job of politicians to clearly explain to voters (Hispanics in this case) why the policies they advocate would be beneficial to them.

The Republicans just happen to be terrible a it.

#10 Comment By Clint On November 3, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

The majority is speaking tomorrow and thereafter.

“As for Obama’s potential executive amnesty, 74% of respondents, including 81% of independents and 75% of moderates, reject it.”


#11 Comment By RadicalCenter On November 3, 2014 @ 6:31 pm

Clint: I’m being serious here in asking whether the poll was conducted only in English.

If so, it does not come close to representing the opinion of large numbers of voters in California, Texas, and elsewhere, who watch Spanish-language TV, listen to Spanish-language radio, and vote on Spanish ballots.

This is not at all a good development, it’s just a fact.

#12 Comment By RadicalCenter On November 3, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

SteveM: you’re right that Republicans are generally not effective at explaining why Hispanics (and others) should vote for them.

But my guess is that large numbers of Hispanics, probably a majority, are not open to voting for Republicans who call for deportation of illegal aliens and securing the border (as they should).

#13 Comment By Noah172 On November 3, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

It looks like 5-7 sitting Democratic congresscritters running for Senate who voted for amnesty are going down: Pryor, Begich, Landrieu, Braley, Udall, Hagan, and Shaheen — in that order of likelihood of defeat (with the first 5 consistently behind in the polls). Of these, 6 of their Republican opponents have explicitly made amnesty an issue in the campaign (the exception is the sellout backstabber Gardner against Udall).

Mickey Kaus speculates that a powerful backlash against amnesty could cause middle American Democrats to conclude that amnesty is political poison outside coastal metros, similar to how middle American Democrats concluded gun control was career death after 1994 and Gore’s loss of several Clinton-voting states in 2000. We can only hope so. Too bad this year’s Republican primaries didn’t teach that lesson, what with so many Treason Lobby rodents surviving (Lindsey Graham the worst of the lot).

I think anti-Obama partisanship is strong enough to prevent Republicans from sending their own version of amnesty to the President’s desk (too risky he’d sign it and deftly claim credit, knowing that the amnestied and their descendants forever will be loyal leftists). The real danger is if Republicans get unified government come 2017, unless the Republican prez is a committed amnesty opponent (not likely — the money men won’t let such a person near the nomination).

How pathetic: the best outcome for immigration patriots in the current political environment is a Dem prez and Republican-majority Congress stalemating in partisan kabuki. (Second-best: the 2009-10 situation, unified Dem control, but distracted with other issues, not wanting to lose the amnesty issue to beat up Republicans with brown and yellow voters, but also not wanting to own amnesty completely, giving the Republicans a wedge issue with white voters in competitive states/districts).

#14 Comment By Noah172 On November 3, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

JonF is right that Obamacare is here stay (likely with modifications).

And why? Because its essential structure is Republican (Heritage/Romney). The Republicans can’t come up with an alternative that is practical, politically palatable, and plausibly “conservative”.

If Obamacare turns out to be a mess over the years, then the left will push for single-payer — what they have always wanted anyway — and the GOP will end up defending Obama’s signature achievement (and will look like fools for screaming “socialism!” against a plan, whatever its real shortcomings, that is a neoliberal, corporatist alternative to more socialistic single-payer [which still isn’t true socialism — that’s the UK’s NHS]).

#15 Comment By Noah172 On November 3, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

But my guess is that large numbers of Hispanics, probably a majority, are not open to voting for Republicans who call for deportation of illegal aliens and securing the border (as they should)

A majority of mestizos will never be open to voting for a right-of-center party because they are leftist on economic issues, benefit from affirmative action, are (contrary to stereotype) liberal on abortion and not any more (and arguably less) “family-oriented” than the rest of us, and then of course there is the volkisch solidarity on immigration to seal the deal.

#16 Comment By Noah172 On November 3, 2014 @ 7:47 pm

by 2016 voters are going to have a clear understanding of what handing Government back over to the GOP means in terms of environmental protection

Environmentalism cuts both ways politically. Republicans are ahead in the Senate races in WV, Kentucky, Montana, and Colorado in part because environmentalism has become a net vote-loser in these places. The Deomcrats have taken huge losses in rural America over environmental issues, with several Democratic HoR districts on the chopping block tomorrow in part because of Obama’s green policies (WV again, etc). Even the Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, who is a shoo-in tomorrow, takes a moderate line on nat gas fracking (not wanting to kill it, just wanting to reap some more tax revenue out of it — which means you have to have more fracking).

#17 Comment By balconesfault On November 3, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

@Noah172 Second-best: the 2009-10 situation, unified Dem control

An aside, but it should always be pointed out that filibuster-proof Dem control of the Senate lasted for less than 2 months – from July 7. 2009 (when Al Franken was officially seated as the Senator from Minnesota after the last of Norm Coleman’s challenges came to an end) to August 25, 2009 (when Ted Kennedy died).

#18 Comment By Clint On November 3, 2014 @ 9:09 pm

RadicalCenter:se preguntó en Inglés

The comprehensive survey from Kellyanne Conway’s The Polling Company found that a majority of likely voters want even fewer legal immigrants. The poll found that “half of Americans age 65 and over” and 46% of Midwesterners support a zero immigration policy. Furthermore, “independents (47%) were more likely than Republicans (40%) or Democrats (37%) to want zero new immigrants allowed into the country.”

#19 Comment By Noah172 On November 4, 2014 @ 11:18 am

it should always be pointed out that filibuster-proof Dem control of the Senate lasted for less than 2 months

No. An interim Senator (Paul Kirk) was appointed in Kennedy’s place on September 9 and stayed on until Scott Brown’s seating February 4, 2010 — a total of almost 7 months of 60 Democrats (with caucused indies). In any case, even with only 59 Dems, Obama and Reid could have plausibly peeled off at least one Republican — McCain, Graham, Martinez/LeMieux (FL), Murkowski, the Maine sisters — had they tried.

#20 Comment By RadicalCenter On November 4, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

Clint: That’s great, and I’m no softie on foreigners taking over our country either. I’d like to see massive deportation of illegals with all necessary force, military securing the borders and shooting to kill, NOBODY allowed in from African and Muslim-majority countries, and draconian workplace sweeps and jail time for employers found to knowingly hire illegals.

Having established those bona fides, I continue to doubt that public opinion — INCLUDING people polled in Spanish, the primary language for tens of millions of US citizens — favors any tough immigration and border-security policy.

As for people 65 and over, my parents are in that group and I hope to be someday too. But by definition, they die off sooner than younger people on average, and younger people are majority non-white or approaching it our largest States (California, Texas, Florida, New York) and tend to favor amnesty and to oppose deportation as “heartless.”

Also, I’d like to see the breakdown by State of those who say they want far fewer legal immigrants. Then let’s see how they voted and how they will vote for president and other federal offices. Obviously a good number of those States are voting Democrat often enough, so some people who poll “right” on immigration are either staying home on election day or (stupidly) voting Democrat.

#21 Comment By Myron Hudson On November 4, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

I’m wondering – what’s to stop the Dems from using the exact same tactics that the GOP has been using? Will we not simply switch from gridlock A to gridlock B?

#22 Comment By Myron Hudson On November 4, 2014 @ 6:26 pm

Noah172: re: the filibuster, I am reminded of the dynamic between the Democratic Congress and our then-new President. He had, in retrospect, the second-worst Congress possible. Followed by the worst. Frankly he was not even up to the task of handling the “friendly” Congress effectively.

As the Dems loose control of the Senate tonight my eyes will be fairly dry. Quite a few of them will be getting a much needed kick in the naughty bits.

As an independent I find myself voting against whoever most recently over-reached. Like what happened to the GOP in 2006. And what will happen to them again in a few more years; I give it about 15 minutes after the pols close until some clown claims a “mandate”.

#23 Comment By Former GOPer On November 4, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

“what’s to stop the Dems from using the exact same tactics that the GOP has been using?”

Nothing. The Democrats (Pelosi, prominently) invented those tactics. They used them on G W Bush all the way up to Obama’s first inaugural.

Where do you think the Republicans learned them?

(I don’t see things things improving until one or both parties collapse(s) and rebuild(s). Used to be Republican, switched to independent in 2004 after the Iraq crap.)

#24 Comment By Richard Parker On November 6, 2014 @ 6:45 am

I’m a member of the Gridlock Party. I like Gridlock — a lot.

#25 Comment By RadicalCenter On November 6, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

Gridlock leaves the massive wave of both legal and illegal aliens (primarily from Mexico) to continue unabated.

The country continues to balkanize without a common culture and language.

Our air and water become more polluted as we add unnecessary millions more people — and vehicles — to our roads spewing out poisonous substances from their tailpipes.

The water scarcity which a large portion of the country is suffering is exacerbated, and the nearly-inevitable water conflict hastened, by more rapid population increase. Many of the legal and illegal aliens settle in California and the Southwest, where severe drought persists with no end in sight.

Federal, state, and local taxpayers are burdened even more to cover the education, food stamps, and medical care of those many illegals who manage to become permanent residents in time.

Millions of our Mexican immigrants work full-time but pay little to nothing in federal income tax and state income tax. Their income, sales, and excise taxes combined often come nowhere close to defraying even half of what their larger-than-average families cost us.

Et cetera, et cetera.

So no, gridlock is NOT a good thing under our current circumstances. Inaction on border security and immigration, legal and illegal, continues the takeover of our country.