Experts have estimated that the GOP is poised to take the Senate in this election. Republicans are believed to hold the upper hand in Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Colorado, and Arkansas. While the Senate elections have engaged Republican political strategists, the only uncertainty surrounding the House elections is how many seats Republicans will add to their majority.
Republicans candidates have worked to take full advantage of national dissatisfaction with President Obama. There are many theories on why the public turned against Obama, such as slow economic growth, Obamacare implementation, and foreign affairs. Democratic candidates find themselves dragging the president’s reputation like an anchor behind them. Many of them are distancing themselves from the president’s actions and avoiding any mention of his name on the campaign trail. Democratic candidates are finding it difficult to remove themselves from the president, as Republicans have made dissatisfaction with Obama their primary campaign message. As a result, the GOP has neglected to put forth any positive agenda or communicate to voters a plan for how it would govern with Obama still in the White House. If Republicans succeed in winning the Senate, as they are expected to do, a large portion of their success will be a result of public dissatisfaction with President Obama.
Despite the current favorable position of the Republican Party it may not be sunshine and lollipops on the horizon. If Republicans win the necessary states and take control of the Senate, it may only be a result of low midterm turnout among Democratic-leaning young and nonwhite voters. Such supporters, who formed a significant Democratic voting bloc during Obama’s reelection, have historically low turnouts during midterm years. Further curbing Republican optimism, polls suggest that the GOP is not faring as well among young or Hispanic voters as in years past. This implies that GOP Senate candidates did not win over many voters who supported Obama in 2012. The inability of Republicans to secure additional support within a period of dissatisfaction with the head of the Democratic Party is a telling indicator of how hardened political sentiments are in the post-Bush, late Obama era.
The upcoming presidential election in 2016 will pose a greater challenge to the GOP, regardless of a Senate victory on Tuesday. It will be difficult for Republicans to overcome the demographic and generational changes that have marginalized their traditional coalition in presidential elections without changing their stances on contentious issues to broaden their national appeal. Fortunately for Republicans, with Obama’s approval rating hovering around the low forties and high thirties during a decisive election year, Republicans may be able to push their advantage, assuming they use their control over Congress effectively over the next two years. Knowing that their majority may only last two years, Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, affirmed the necessity “to prove in two years the Republican Congress can govern.” The party will need to show that it can once again legislate and lead successfully after years of lobbing political bombs at Obama and Senate Democrats.