Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Initial Thoughts on the Midterms

If Ernst ends up winning, it will be thanks to many Iowans that oppose the current war that she supports.

Looking through CNN’s exit polls from around the country, I was struck by a few things. First, many voters backed candidates that clearly didn’t represent their views on at least one major foreign policy issue. For example, Iowa Democratic Senate nominee Braley built his political career around opposition to the Iraq war, and Ernst hammered him on this during the campaign, yet supporters of the war against ISIS split evenly between them. Among those that disapproved of the military action, Ernst won handily 53-43%.

If Ernst ends up winning, it will be thanks to many Iowans that oppose the current war that she supports, and her victory will be treated as a vindication of her hawkish views. That was replicated in Colorado, where Gardner won 52% among those that disapproved of the military action despite launching the most shamelessly demagogic attacks on his opponent on this very issue. This pattern was repeated nationwide: opponents of the war against ISIS tended to vote for Republican House candidates (55-43%), most of whom have been reliably in favor of the intervention, and a slim majority of supporters of the war (51%) voted for Democratic candidates. It is no wonder that the more hawkish candidates prevail when relatively dovish voters back them regardless of their positions. Nonetheless, this also gives us another reason to be skeptical when hawks claim that these election results are proof that aggressive foreign policy is a political winner.

Whatever the outcome of the Wisconsin governor’s race, there were a couple numbers in that exit poll that deserved a few comments. When asked if they thought that Walker would make a good president, 56% of voters in Wisconsin said no. Even if Walker does win re-election, that should put to rest the idea that he has much of a chance of carrying Wisconsin as the Republican nominee, and frankly it should put an end to the idea that Walker would be a good standard-bearer for the GOP in 2016.



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