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U.S. mid-term elections: Republican Campaign Wins 2014, May Make 2016 Harder


Republicans powered through the U.S. midterm elections, achieving a coveted Senate majority and prompting American pundits to decry a major defeat for President Barack Obama.

Republicans powered through the U.S. midterm elections, achieving a coveted Senate majority and prompting American pundits to decry a major defeat for President Barack Obama.

While all true, that description offers scant insight into the forces at play in U.S. politics.

The main take-away from the vote, which as is usual with mid-term elections had low voter turnout and engaged mostly older voters, is that Americans remain unhappy – with the economy, with their employment situation, with their health insurance, and with the prospects for a major terrorist attack on American soil.

Exit polls in fact showed that more voters have an unfavourable view of the Republican Party than they do of the Democratic Party, by 56% to 53%.

So how did the Republicans triumph?

The short answer is they won by focusing their efforts on what might be called a parliamentary campaign, one aimed at maximizing their seats in the legislature. This approach may contribute little and even contradict the presidential campaigns the parties will roll out in 2016, when as it happens the electorate will be younger and less white.

In short, winning the presidency – and even selecting a candidate – is a nationwide process requiring the definition of a same-size-fits-all political platform for common use. That’s not what happened in the mid-term elections.

First, the Senate seats up for grabs were in districts where Republicans are traditionally stronger, a situation that will reverse for the Senate seats up for the vote in 2016.

Second, many of the winning candidates pivoted to the center. Take Colorado, an increasingly critical swing state where Cory Gardner unseated Mark Udall. The latter, scion of a storied environmentalist dynasty, focused his campaign on scare issues such as abortion, while his Republican challenger Cory Gardner deftly dropped his support for a ban on contraception and publicly said he favoured making it available over the counter.

Such a move would be a very hard sell for an eventual Republican presidential contender.

Indeed, a leitmotif across the campaigns of most Republican challengers was the evocation of hot-button subjects typically associated with the left: poverty, the higher unemployment rate for blacks, gender equity in pay and the jump in people too discouraged to look for a job. Many even floated the idea they supported a minimum wage.

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