1. All Politics Are Local
Not only did the Republicans post large gains in the U.S. House and Senate, they won at the state level as well, with a number of traditional “blue” governor seats going red, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and even the President’s home state of Illinois. In addition, the Republicans held onto a number of contested governor races in Wisconsin, Florida, and Georgia. Republicans will now hold the governor seat in 31 states to 18 for Democrats, with only one race still too close to call in Alaska where Independent Bill Walker is currently leading as ballot counting is still being finalized.
2. “Our” Guys Win Again
Our two emergency physicians in the House won again. Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) crushed his opponent by a 61–37 percent margin, despite the fact that his race was still in the toss-up column only about a month ago. In California, Rep. Raul Ruiz (D) won by a nice six-point margin against a strong opponent. Kudos to Joe and Raul for their hard work on behalf of the people of their districts and emergency physicians everywhere. NEMPAC directly contributed the maximum allowable amount of $10,000 to Joe and Raul, as well as paid for independent expenditure ads totaling nearly another $175,000. I talked with Joe and Raul both before and after the elections, and you should know that your contributions were appreciated by both.
3. What Was the Message?
The big question asked the morning after the election: was the Republican tidal wave just a referendum on the President and voters’ dissatisfaction with him, or was it a repudiation of the Democratic Party and its platform? The answer to this question may not come until 2016, but every potential candidate for 2016 needs to answer this now because their strategy will depend on on it. Republicans will say that it was both and will try to tie the next Democratic nominee (Hillary, Biden, Warren?) to the President and the platform of the party, stating it will be a “third term for Obama.” Republicans, on the other hand, are going to need to demonstrate that they can lead the country and not assert their Second Amendment right to bear arms and shoot themselves in the foot. Whether the Republicans can develop a platform and find a candidate who reaches out to young people, minorities, and women remains to be seen. It is already clear that Chris Christie and Rand Paul are positioning themselves to be the Republican candidate for president, while Jeb Bush works quietly in the background. (See sidebar for a full list of rumored presidential candidates.)
4. 764 Days and Beyond
The 2016 election cycle officially began the morning after the elections, but in reality, it had begun about six months ago as potential presidential candidates went on the campaign trail to stump for candidates at the state and national level. Given the huge Republican wins, Republicans, especially Chris Christie (who chairs the National Governors Association), will have built up a war chest of political chits that they can use to springboard a campaign. While the Republicans took control of the Senate, it was an “easy” election for them with 21 Democratic Senate seats and only 15 Republican seats up for election. It gets harder in 2016 as the Republicans will have to defend 24 of the 34 seats up for election in a presidential election year. On the House side, the majority that the Republicans now hold (with more moderates and fewer Tea Party affiliates) will be difficult to overcome until 2020 after the next U.S. Census. That’s because the House district lines were redrawn after the 2010 census, making “red” districts even more red and more difficult for a Democrat or other challenger to take the seat.