GOP stands to gain from midterm results

By Julian del Prado

(Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)
(Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

While Scott Brown may not have won his senate seat in New Hampshire, Republicans will control the United States Senate and House of Representatives in January 2015. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won reelection in Kentucky, and Republicans secured pickups in Arkansas, Montana, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Although it’s too soon to tell where the GOP will stand at the end of the election, it would appear that senate Republicans will soon have the leverage they so often clamor for. If this is the case, we will finally see the policymaking ability of a GOP-led Congress. We’ll also see how far President Obama is willing to go in the face of a combative legislative branch.

A constant theme of Obama’s presidency has been that a minority within a minority blocks any action he presents to Congress. Libertarians like Rand Paul and Republican senators like Ted Cruz have been vilified as stalling the government for the sake of making the president look bad. If the Republicans maintain momentum, that claim will be put to the test.

If a Republican Congress is able to present concrete, meaningful policy to the president (publicly), then Obama will have limited options. He may veto bills on party lines to support the new minority Democrats in Congress. Alternately, he could pass legislation proposed by Republicans in the name of government action.

In the first scenario, Obama would certainly be criticized for hypocrisy due to his consistent claim that partisanship is both harmful and contrary to the administration’s ideology. But if he does sign legislation proposed by Republicans, then it is quite possible he will face ardent opposition from within his own party. This is especially true considering his status as a lame duck, a president in the last two years of his second term. Not that the president will be the only one tested.

The Tea Party is largely responsible for the GOP’s gains in the House of Representatives, and has been primarily blamed for gridlock by the current administration. As such, they face their own test if the Republicans gain control of Congress. Members of Congress affiliated with the Tea Party will face pressure from both Senate and House Republicans who want to keep the status quo. Faced with this pressure, the question is whether they will compromise in the name of the party or continue to stall the government in the name of their constituents.

Ultimately, the Republican Party will be forced to deal with the party’s internal problems immediately. Either the GOP creates legislation that can gain public support and then shame the president into signing it, or the party appears completely incompetent due to insurmountable differences among Republicans. Problems will be brought to bear the issues that have bubbled underneath the surface of the Republican Party, and the way in which the GOP handles these problems will determine their leverage.

While Massachusetts has carefully deliberated over the quite nuanced difference between Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley, Florida has been subjected to an election which can be best described as venomous.

Partisanship was the least of this election’s problems. After countless attack ads between former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), Scott won out in a despicably hateful election.

Crist – a Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat – has been unafraid to point out Scott’s various indictments and depositions. Scott has been portrayed as a corrupt, unabashed liar who seeks to profit from his political power and run the state according to corporate interests. Unfortunately, Crist didn’t have to look hard to find evidence to support this claim, leaving Republicans with what I feel to be a fairly weak candidate.

For Florida voters, however, Scott’s run-ins with the law pale in comparison to Crist’s transgression, having no ideology to speak of. Crist’s bound and leap to the left was easy for interest groups to attack, and sound clips of Crist denouncing Obama were played over a literal embrace between the two men.

While it was a close race, there is no doubt in my mind that Scott won because the pool of candidates was of such a low caliber that Floridians chose the devil they knew. Crist, it seems, could not win the support of Floridians regardless of the party he represented.

Julian del Prado is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].