All about that base
By Seymour Klierly
Midterm elections typically have a lower vote tally for both political parties than a presidential campaign year, so instead of trying to engage new voters, the 2014 election has been largely about turning out their base. Nationally, Republicans have worked for a wave election to win control of the United States Senate, keep control of the House of Representatives and start the next cycle on better footing. Democrats have pushed their voters, largely identified through President Barack Obama’s campaigns, to keep control of the Senate and help Obama.
Apologies to the pop star Meghan Trainor for coopting her hit single “All About That Bass,” but this election is all trouble for swing voters. Across the country and in the most contested races, Republicans have made the push for a GOP controlled Senate and to “take America back” from Obama. While few Democrats have ran shoulder to shoulder with Obama, the man in the White House had another opinion. During a speech in October, Obama said, “I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
Very few candidates have attempted to show any enthusiasm for working across the aisle—instead focusing on the most partisan issues of healthcare, immigration and even the president’s handling of foreign policy. For 2014, the strategies of challengers have clearly been to call out incumbents for being beholden to their party and tie them to Obama or Republican obstructionists. Voters in the middle or anyone that is upset with both parties have very few alternatives they can trust.
For everyone who wants a breather between elections, the 2016 cycle practically starts Nov. 5. While it may seem far off in the future, for the candidates teetering on the edge of their seats, the race will be here before they know it. A full slate of well-known politicians has already tested the waters in key battle grounds states. Will a Clinton or Bush want to throw their names in the ring early and keep their parties momentum moving forward? Both Hillary and Jeb certainly seem prepared to enter the race.
The work for party leaders leading up to the next election will be much more about growing their party instead of turning out the already faithful. The overarching tones may become softer albeit more ambiguous, as offending folks will be the worst case scenario. The struggle, especially for Republicans, will be keeping an active political base happy while extending olive branches. After two years of crushing partisanship, it will be hard to tone down the rhetoric during Obama’s last two years of service.
While we wait on the final results in the run off races, the 2014 midterms have already shown candidates have worked hard to fire up their bases. Calming the waters and growing the tent will be tough moving forward, but whoever wants to win will make it their biggest priority.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.