In two separate press conferences today, the language from Senator Mitch McConnell and President Obama sounded the same as it ever was; has anything really changed? (Yes!… ish)
The 2014 Midterm elections are over, resulting in a dominant GOP in the Senate and key Republican wins in the House and state gubernatorial races. While the Republicans rally and wear cowboy victory hats, the blame game has begun for the Dems. The camp of Senator Harry Reid, who has enjoyed his status as Senate Majority Leader for the Democrats, has already made it clear that they feel that the Obama Administration has failed in politicking Democract wins. Many pundits have commented (including those hosted by this very Political Review) that not much will change in terms of political climate.
That may be true! But here are some nuanced yet meaningful points that we now know about the 114th Congress from Tuesday’s election:
1. To win, the GOP took a page from the Democrat’s book of Big Data
Back in 2012, the Obama campaign engineered a way to target voters not only through demographics and localities but by whether or not they were worth the time to try and convince. This was using data and analytics not previously utilized in such a way, as documented from several sources. This use of data, and the tapping of Silicon Valley geeks who can conduct such analysis, left the GOP at a disadvantage. At Reboot 2014, I participated in many sessions where it was clear the GOP wanted to change their relationship with the the technology firms and operators who could potentially design programs that could turn elections around. Leading to the 2014 midterms, it’s clear that the correct use of data can give those who wield it the power to better target issues and better target votes to sway. Now that both parties have had success using enhanced analytical methods to win elections, data will surely remain a tenant in US politics. The next battle on this front already exists; several firms, such as Socrata, are trying to position themselves as the leading providers in public and voter metrics, spurring a boom in new data provider and aggregator firms.
2. MaydayPAC, the “Super PAC to end all Super PACs”, got hammered
This midterm election cycle involved a record $4 billion in campaign spending. Super PACs are alive and well since the last election, and are proving to be an efficient resource in allocating incredible amounts of money for campaign purposes. If you aren’t familiar with MaydayPAC, it’s an interesting story. Founded by Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard professor and technological innovator in terms of political technology, MaydayPAC is a SuperPAC created to fight what Lessig considers to be the ultimate corrupter of politics: money. By raising their own money through crowdfunding and social media campaigns, MaydayPAC donated as much as $10.6 million to candidates Republican and Democrat whose campaigns incorporated promises to end SuperPACs and take up comprehensive campaign finance reform.
Well, last night every single candidate in the Senate who MaydayPAC bankrolled got swamped, by large margins of 3-4% or higher. Looks like attempts to get money out of politics, and attempts to inform voters about its dangers, were not issues that resonated in practice or in theory this election. Mayday has previously stated that how well they do in Election 2014 would determine how much they scale for the next election cycle.
3. Republicans are cracking down on the crazies
The Republican win for the Colorado Senate seat will be seen as a future playbook for winning purple electorates. Senator Mark Udall, who wasn’t unpopular, rested on a comfortable liberal-leaning independent base in Colorado. To unseat him, the GOP establishment carefully chose Cory Gardner, a rational Republican whose stance on key issues could resonate with these independents; issues like over-the-counter birth control and abortion, that not only discredited the “war on women” narrative coming from the Udall campaign but also made Udall’s embrace of women’s rights seem weird and contrived. Gardner ended up collecting majority votes in districts that are traditionally Democrat-leaning, such as the stronghold of districts that make up Denver and the surrounding metropolitan area.
The idea here was encapsulated in today’s New York Times: handle the extremists in the Republican party to stop turning off voters. The story chronicles a process that many GOP candidates were put through, including a lecture that involved watching Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comments, and then discussing how and why Todd Akin failed so miserably after that. And to be sure, this midterm had few quotable moments; Joni Ernst’s (R) “castrate hogs” comments and Alison Lundergard-Grimes’ (D) “I am not Obama” lines were about as crazy as it got. The result is a party better attuned to voters. To gauge discontent with Democrats, GOP candidates listened closely to their constituents and formed their platform accordingly, a concept too foreign in today’s democratic republic.
4. The 114th Congress: the most inclusive Congress ever?
Without question, both parties would be more favorable with voters had they acted on a comprehensive immigration reform. This didn’t stop GOP from making headway in Latino communities, focusing more on job creation rather than immigration. Further, the 114th Congress set records in terms of inclusivity of candidates. In Utah, the 4th district elected Mia Love (R), who is now the first black female Republican legislator to be in Congress. South Carolina elected Tim Scott (R), who will become the first popularly-elected black US Senator from the South. The number of women in Congress is now over 100. Almost half of the new members of Congress are under 50. The fact that Congress and the Republican party has seen so much change in one election gives the appearance that attempts to be more progressive with the GOP’s party platform has worked.
Bonus round: Every election is about the next election…
Bonus Bonus Round: Cowboy Karl Rove
There are plenty of photoshops of this by now. Go. Go look. Ahhh
Karl Rove and Chris Wallace are wearing cowboy hats on Fox News right now. This is what I want to do when I grow up. pic.twitter.com/WudQnRPbLj
— Pearce Crosland (@PearceBerry) November 5, 2014