‘Change election’ will leave many uncertainties, business leaders told

While the electoral wind favoring Republican candidates this midterm election will change the political landscape, it won’t provide quick economic fixes and may deliver a strain of isolationism that business and government leaders will have to contend with, two national political observers told a group of business and political leaders in St. Paul Tuesday.

“The good news for.. those of you who are Republicans in the business community — you won’t have to worry about some of the worst-case scenarios of the Obama administration,” Stuart Rothenberg,  editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, said to several hundred at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and issues conference.

Describing the political mood as driven more by anger at incumbents than love for insurgents, both speakers said that the upcoming midterm election is expected to deliver significant Democratic losses but carries some challenges for the Republican establishment as well.

Rothenberg pointed out that many of the likely new Republican members of Congress next year did not come up through the party system and will “cause a giant headache for the Republican leadership.”

“Some of these new Republicans do want to really shrink government… They are going to come in with great hopes and ambitions… and they’ve created all this anticipation and urgency… [But] the system doesn’t allow change to occur that quickly,” he said. “After the election, we’re going to grapple with these same problems… I think we’re in for an extended period of hand-to-hand combat.”

Turning to Minnesota’s governor’s race, Rothenberg admitted candidly “I don’t know what the hell’s happening here… These three-way races are very hard to figure out.” Nevertheless, Rothenberg suggested that Minnesotan’s will face continued uncertainty. “I think you’re headed for one of these elections where … at the end of the day the message isn’t really clear… nobody’s really happy with anybody.”

Joining Rothenberg at the podium was ABC News political director Amy Walter, who cited a variety of polls describing the mood of the electorate. Of particular interest to the business audience, she pointed to a recent Allstate Insurance/National Journal poll which found several signs that Americans are turning inward. “There is a real threat out there of isolationism… That isolationism can be very tricky” for both business and government leaders, she said.

Shifting operations from overseas to the United States came up as the most popular move business could take to restore the economy, according to the poll. Pursuing tariffs, penalizing companies for outsourcing jobs and limiting the investment of U.S. dollars outside the United States were cited as the most popular moves government could take.

Referring to the congressional elections since 2006, she said “it’s very rare in politics” to get three change elections in a row. “2010 looks very familiar. It’s just that everywhere you had a ‘D’ [Democrat] in 2006 or 2008 just substitute ‘R’ [Republican]… It’s the same energy, same enthusiasm, same frustration. It just happens to be aimed at the party that’s in power now,  which is Democrats.”

About 100 seats currently held by Democrats are considered competitive races, against only 18 Republican seats, putting control of the House of Representatives in play, she said. In addition to anti-incumbent fervor, Walter said that Democrats “picked up too many seats in ‘06 and ‘08. They were never going to be able to hang onto all those seats.” While the Senate is also potentially up for grabs, Walter said that the recent upset win in Delaware by Tea Party-backed Christine O’Donnell against the Republican establishment candidate may throw that seat back into the Democratic column.

Saying that Americans don’t hate government, “just incompetent government,” Walter also cited poll data showing Americans’ frustration and anti-establishment mood also extends to other major institutions including sports figures and major corporations. “This makes for a very unstable environment politically,” she added. “Republicans have a lot to prove if they do take over [Congress]. Voters are in no mood… for partisan finger pointing or games. They want action [and] results.”

After the election, Rothenberg advised the audience, “to suck in it and go on… Somehow over the next two years and four years we all figure this out as a state and as a nation.”

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/22/2010 - 06:57 pm.

    I have heard that one of the main reasons why business is so reluctant to hire workers is that it has so little confidence in the president. This seems unsupportable and if there were a survey saying it were true, I wouldn’t trust the survey.

    But this president has always seemed a little too willing when the opportunity arises to score easy points off the forehead of an unloved minority, such as businesspeople and bankers. In that sense, he’s something of a Sensenbrennerian. Just as Hispanics are turning against the GOP, it seems fair enough that commerce and industry turns against Obama.

    It’s funny, now that I think about this in relation to the now-President’s campaign promises to renegotiate NAFTA. The GOP torches Mexicans while Obama burnt Mexico.

  2. Submitted by Tom Degan on 09/23/2010 - 08:14 am.

    I get the feeling (call it a silly hunch on my part) that the American people don’t fully appreciate the implications behind the prospect of the GOP taking back the House and the Senate in January. I know what you’re thinking and I agree. The Democrats are beyond worthless. Let’s face some serious facts here: Any party with a pathetic and befuddled old Andy Gump like Harry Reid as their leader is going to have – “issues” shall we say? But the thing that has to be remembered about our elected Democratic representatives in Washington is the fact that – for the most part – their hearts are in the right place. The same cannot be said for the Republicans, They long ago ceased being a political party. They are now an organized criminal enterprise. If that sounds to you like the extreme ramblings of an embittered Lefty, that’s fine. But I am convinced that within a decade, 20/20 historical hindsight will prove me correct. Call me in ten years and we’ll compare notes.


    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  3. Submitted by Rod Loper on 09/23/2010 - 08:46 am.

    The republican line is always that business are
    sitting on the sidelines because of uncertaincy
    and afraid to hire. If they win the house, uncertaincy will triple.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/23/2010 - 08:49 am.

    What’s holding the economy back is uncertainty.

    Businesses are reluctant to hire or to spend money until they know:

    1. What the tax rates are going to be.
    2. What Obamacare is going to cost them in terms of insurance premiums and new government regulations.
    3. What energy costs are going to be because of cap and trade or other new environmental regulations.

    The democrats have controlled congress for four years and the White House for almost two. The uncertainty that has caused the private sector to sit on their money is based on their inability to govern.

    Republicans taking over one of more houses of congress will remove some of the uncertainty because they will control the purse strings and they will simply defund the democrats’ plans. The actual reversal of the plans, thereby restoring confidence again to the business community won’t happen until Obama is gone.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/23/2010 - 09:23 am.

    Now on the other hand. Who could possibly accuse the president of not being a friend of business? He has exposed the average taxpayer to trillions of dollars in potential debt so that banks can hoard cash and pay bonuses with nothing more than wink-wink accountability.

    He’s helped Wells Fargo and Berkshire Hathaway acquire major investments for pennies on the dollar. He’s bailed out ailing car makers, which are now expanding. (Bush did same for airlines post-9/11 with nary a word spoken against.) He stood aside as major corporations laid off millions and have returned to record profitability. (No vote on union card check.) He has subsidized auto purchases He has allowed Fannie and Freddie to inject trillions into the housing market to buy time for builders and realtors to unwind their investments.

    Anyone who’s managed their stock portfolio with an ounce of common sense could have regained all of their losses with investments in tech stocks alone.

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