Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Schaper's Reflections: US Senate Elections 2014

Wow. Like -- Wow!

I was gladly wrong about Republican chances.

Like the pollsters on the ground, and the pundits on TV, we all underestimated the anti-Obama momentum in 2014.

North Carolina

Thom Tillis

With the tight polling out of North Carolina, I had predicted the worse: Hagan back in Washington for six more years. Indeed, the polling was close until the end, and Tillis won by only two points.

But he won! The sins of Raleigh were not as bad as the sin of Obama and his liberal-progressive agenda in Washington. North Carolina has reaffirmed its conservative roots. Clay Aiken got whacked against Renee Elmers. The now-retired conservative Democrat Mike McIntyre's seat is safe in Republican hands, and Democratic attempts to Outfraud the Vote failed miserably.


US Senator Pat Roberts

Then there was Kansas. From the anti-Brownback groundswells to the rumblings from Republican state lawmakers for Democrat Paul David, I feared the worse in this race. The Democratic Party candidate would have a better chance of climbing a hill in Topeka than winning the senate seat in the Sunflower State. Washington operatives convinced the Dem to drop out, and the Kansas Secretary of State ordered his name removed from the ballot. With Roberts against a secretive independent, Greg Orman, Republican chances looked dim.

Orman refused to call which side he would vote with if elected. The anti-incumbent air, plus the Tea Party battle in the GOP primary, put Roberts on the defense and left the National GOP scrambling.

 With this race, I decided to play cynic instead of optimistic. Just after my prediction, Larry Sabato switched his rating from toss-up to leans GOP.  The race fell to Pat Roberts once again. So glad I was wrong. Welcome back, Senator Roberts!

New Hampshire

Now, on a sad note, the Republican conference is stronger in New England, but not as much as I had  hoped for. With US Senator Scott Brown's polling getting better from week to week, I had predicted an unlikely upset in the Granite State.

Brown was so close, yet a few gaffes along the way might explain his failure to capitalize on the national momentum. Running in a tight primary, Brown was the unavoidable carpet-bagger. His prior voting record in the US Senate positioned him in the center. New Hampshire conservatives were turned off slightly to his support for an assault weapons ban and his votes for Dodd-Frank, a bank-crushing law which has allowed the Big Banks to get bigger.

Brown did win the primary, and he hit Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen hard on the amnesty issue. However, he also called himself pro-choice, even though he had declared himself personally pro-life during his 2010 Massachusetts run. Strange turn of events here: pro-life Senate candidates did extremely well across the country, but the pro-choice man lost. Note to establishment: wedge issues give Republicans the edge every time. Do not run from conservative principles on life and family.


Mark Warner v. Ed Gillespie
The biggest surprise in the US Senate races? Virginia.

Who would have thought that the Old Dominion, dominated by Democratic wins in 2008, then 2012 and 2013, would turn into a nail-biter between statewide political dynasty Mark Warner and former National Republican Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie? For months, the Republican trailed by double-digits. Republican leaders dismissed this race, and Democrats fretted over other swing states.

Like many races, the gap narrowed between the two candidates up to election day, and Warner hovered ahead of Warner for a few hours. Currently, less than one percentage point separates the two candidates, and Gillespie has refused to concede. This outcome puts Virginia back into play, and lays out a strong ground game for 2016. National Republican groups will not let this state slip out of their hands again, and with a weakened Democratic Presidential cadre hurting Virginia prospects, Republicans can restore their prominence in the conservative Southern state once again.

How did Gillespie (almost) do it? He had a specific plan for replacing Obamacare. He refused political correctness, defended the Washington Redskins. As a former National Committee man, he had strong contacts with lawmakers and politicians in the state. Even though Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the governorship in 2013, his unprecedented liberalism has achieved no staying power. Virginia Republican lawmakers worked out a backroom deal, and now they control both chambers of the state legislature once again. Medicaid expansion has failed, and McAuliffe's push to repeal right-to-work as disappeared, too.

The US Senate races delivered more than expected to Americans seeking strong representation and resistance against President Obama.

To say the least, I am pleasantly surprised and excited about the 2014 US Senate outcomes, and looking forward to 2016.

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