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.”