It’s only been a week and I’m already getting burned out on election postmortems. Every warm body with a keyboard and a internet connection is telling us what happened and more importantly what it all means.
Here is what last week’s results mean:
1. Barack Obama will be POTUS for four more years.
2. The GOP will control the House of Representatives for at least two more years.
3. The Democrats will control the Senate for at least two more years, but they will lack a filibuster-proof majority.
4. The GOP will control a majority of the governorships.
5. Marijuana will be legal in two states (but it’s still illegal under federal law).
That’s it. That’s all the results mean. There is no deeper meaning, no lesson to be learned.
Barack Obama won a very close race. Even if you think he stole the election (I’m pretty sure he cheated but not so sure it mattered) you have to admit the race was close enough to make stealing it possible. Out of about 120 million votes cast the difference was less than 1%, and about 450,000 votes in 4 key states would have changed the outcome. Both sides each spent over a billion dollars on trying to win the White House, but even fewer people voted than in previous years.
We can sit here playing What If and Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda until the cows come home, but it still won’t change anything. Besides, there really are no clear answers. Keep in mind that hindsight isn’t always 20/20 – yes, Mitt Romney could have done things differently, but that doesn’t mean that he would have fared better if he had.
In this election every possible strategy had pluses and minuses. If Romney had been more aggressive in attacking Obama on some issues that might indeed have won him some more votes, but it would likely have lost him some others as well. The truth is we will never know for sure.
History tells us that 2014 should be a good year for Republicans. That’s because the party holding the White House usually loses seats in Congress in off-year elections, especially in the 6th year of an administration. But that’s really just a trend, not a rule that is carved in stone.
The biggest factors in 2014 and 2016 will be the economy and whether we are at peace or at war. But even then how those factors affect those elections will hinge on public perceptions as to which side deserves credit and/or blame for the situations as they exist then. (In 2002 war was popular, in 2006 it was not.)
If the voters are happy in 2014 chances are they will reelect incumbents. But if they are unhappy they might give the GOP the Senate or they might give the House back to the Democrats.
As for 2016, chances are the economy will have improved by then, regardless of what happens in Washington. But Obama won’t be running for reelection (never again praise Jeebus!) so it’s hard to predict how the economy will affect the election. Reagan’s popularity helped GHW Bush win in 1988, but Clinton’s popularity wasn’t enough to put Gore over the top in 2000.
1. The GOP will again hold the White House one day. Then the Democrats will eventually take it back. The same goes for Congress, and so forth and so on until the end of time.