Voters Opt for the Status Quo
In Tuesday’s elections, voters opted for the status quo
where the balance of power will remain shared among President Barack Obama,
Senate Democrats and House Republicans.
Unlike the past three elections, which resulted in significant changes
in incumbents and party control, the federal government essentially remains
unchanged despite a reported $6 billion in advertising spending. Much of the
change that did occur in congressional races was a result of the once-in-a-decade
redistricting as a result of reapportionment.
Heading into Election Day, history was on the side of the
president. Since World War II, only three presidents were denied a second term
by voters – Ford, Carter and Bush ’41. Incumbency is a powerful factor and it
certainly benefited President Obama. When Republicans were enduring a rancorous
primary, his campaign was able to build a massive Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV)
ground effort which would eventually drive his supporters to the polls in key
Obama also benefited from an
improving economy. The unemployment rate is down to 7.9 percent from 9.1
percent in January. The number unemployed is down by three million workers over
the last two years. Consumer confidence is up 30 points from one year ago.
Although the economy still has a long recovery process ahead, voters believe
that it is improving and better days are once again within reach.
As we saw in the results, much of
the president’s coalition remained intact. While votes in Florida are still
being counted, Obama carried all the states that backed him in 2008 with the
exception of Indiana and North Carolina, as well as Nebraska’s second
congressional district. As it stands today, Obama received 303 electoral votes
to Romney’s 206. Though the difference in votes is stark, the margin of victory
within the battleground states was close.
In many of the competitive Senate
races where there was no distinct demographic or partisan advantage, the
deciding factor was the quality of the candidate. Simply put, the better
candidate who ran the better campaign won. This was the case in 2010 when
Republicans fielded exceptional candidates (i.e. Ayotte, Portman and Rubio) and
is still the case in 2012.
At the same time, there were several
races where the strongest possible Republican candidate was on the ballot with
Heather Wilson (N.M.), Linda Lingle (Hawaii), Linda McMahon (Conn.) and Sen.
Scott Brown (Mass.). Maybe in a non-presidential election, the results could
have been different, but all fell to their challengers in the four
The Senate will become slightly more
Democratic when it convenes in January with 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans
and two Independents (expected to caucus with Democrats) and will include 12
new members (8 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 1 Independent).
Following redistricting, neither party could claim an
outright victory in the number of House seats gained by the redrawing of
district boundary lines. However, there was significant change resulting from
the new lines at the district-by-district level. A large number of incumbents
decided not to run for re-election largely because they faced too steep of a
re-election fight, as their district had become more favorable towards the
A significant shift also occurred in the number of
competitive districts that could possibly change hands. Many districts that
were once competitive were made much safer for one party or the other. With
Republicans in control of the redistricting process in more states than
Democrats, the result was that more Republican seats were moved into safer
territory. This resulted in Republicans having to defend fewer seats –
especially many from the large 2010 freshman class – than they would have if
the maps had not changed. As a result,
there is only an expected net gain of +6 seats for Democrats – a far cry from
the 25 needed to regain control of the chamber. As it stands now, voters
elected 233 Republicans and 193 Democrats in the House. Nine races are still
undecided. The freshmen class will include at least 82 Representatives (35
Republicans and 45 Democrats).
Republicans certainly will look at
the 2012 election as an election of missed opportunities. They could have done
better, but Democrats benefited from a slow, but improving, economy and a
better set of candidates in key senate races.
information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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