Lessons from Last Two Presidential Second-Term, Midterm Elections are Keys for GOP Success in 2014 February 13, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 5 10:13 am If you win your base, but lose the middle, you lose the war This is the midterm election year of President Obama’s second term, which by all accounts should be
Lessons from Last Two Presidential Second-Term, Midterm Elections are Keys for GOP Success in 2014
February 13, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 5 10:13 am
If you win your base, but lose the middle, you lose the war
This is the midterm election year of President Obama’s second term, which by all accounts should be a favorable year for North Carolina Republicans. After all, the party in the White House has lost an average of 30 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and four seats in the U.S. Senate since the Woodrow Wilson administration early in the 20th century.
But not so fast.
If you take a look at the midterm elections during the second term of the last two presidents you will discover that they were not very favorable for North Carolina Republicans. Those two election years, 1998 and 2006, were years in which the GOP learned the hard way that you can’t win just by exploiting the misfortunes of Democrats. That strategic misjudgment could easily by repeated in 2014 if the GOP spends the year attacking Democrats on ObamaCare.
In 1998, the second term midterm elections of sex scandal-plagued Democratic President Bill Clinton, the state GOP suffered the loss of the majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives and lost Lauch Faircloth's U.S. Senate seat to upstart John Edwards. At the federal level, Democrats actually gained five U.S. House seats and did not lose any Senate seats.
How could the GOP possibly lose in 1998?
In the fall of 1998, Republicans here in North Carolina and around the country decided to bring down Democrats by reminding voters of the affair between President Clinton and a 21-year-old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. GOP political strategists assumed in 1998 that the American people could be duped into believing that Republicans had greater personal character qualities than Democrats. They piled on the attack ads. It backfired.
On December 19, 1998, after a year of Congressional investigations and testimony riddled with salacious detail, the Republican-controlled U.S. House voted to impeach President Clinton. The next day, December 20, 1998, Clinton’s approval rating jumped ten points to 73%, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, an all-time high for the embattled president.
The day after the Republican-controlled U.S. House voted to impeach President Clinton, his approval rating jumped higher than President Ronald Reagan’s highest rating. At the same time, the number of Americans with a favorable view of the Republican Party fell 10 points.
After the dust settled in November 1998, Democrats had won an upset comeback victory by not losing what they had and by making surprise gains. For the first time since 1934, the party in the White House picked up Congressional seats during a mid-term election year.
Again, here in North Carolina, U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth, R-Sampson County, lost to political novice John Edwards, D-Moore/Wake County, and the GOP lost the majority party advantage in the North Carolina House, giving the Democrats all of the power over the state budget.
Important: Republicans won their base by beating Clinton down, but they lost the middle American voter. If you win your base, but lose the middle, you lose the war.
If you win the middle voters, but lose your base voter, you lose the war
Fast forward to 2006, the midterm elections during Republican President George Bush's second term. Same disastrous results for the GOP for the same reason. All year the Democratic Speaker of the North Carolina House, Jim Black from Matthews, had been embroiled in scandalous allegations of bribery schemes, public corruption, buying votes with $50,000 cash exchanged in a bathroom at the IHOP in Salisbury.
Slam dunk, right?
Well, at the same time North Carolina Republicans were tying Democrats to Speaker Black, the party of family values and fiscal integrity in Washington, DC was embroiled in fraud and sex scandals of their own. And, they were on a liberal spending binge.
- In years 2005 and 2006, the GOP-led Congress approved 23,960 earmarks costing $56.3 billion, and ran up a $371 billion budget deficit.
- Republicans brought down by fraud or inappropriate sexual behavior during this time include Rep. Tom Delay, Rep. Tom Foley, Sen. Larry Craig, Sen. David Vitter, Rep. “Duke” Cunningham, Sen. Ted Stevens, “Scooter” Libby and Jack Abramoff.
In 2006, Republicans lost the majority in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, the majority of the governors and the majority of state legislatures in great part due to a scandal-plagued Republican Congress that broke all records for pork barrel spending.
Here in North Carolina, Republicans lost six-term U.S. Congressman Charles Taylor from Transylvania County, contributing to the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House.
At the state level, Republicans lost three out of four North Carolina Supreme Court races in 2006 (Democrats Sarah Parker, Patricia Timmons-Goodson and Robin Hudson won), and lost ground in both the state House and Senate despite the year-long scandal involving Speaker Black.
Important: Congressional Republicans humored the middle with liberal spending but lost their base voter. If you win the middle voters, but lose your base voter, you lose the war.
You have to win both your base and the middle to win the war
State Republicans should have no problem holding their base in 2014. After all, they can boast a long list of conservative accomplishments: personal and corporate tax cuts, regulatory reform, unemployment insurance rate cuts, managing a $3.5 billion unemployment debt crisis without raising taxes, cutting down on frivolous lawsuits, the most significant tax reform in 80 years, cutting the unemployment rate to under 7%, and elections reform like the photo ID law.
With their record of accomplishments, North Carolina Republicans have all of the advantages for winning elections in 2014 … except one: the middle voters. You reach the middle voters by touting your accomplishments and by offering solutions to problems of the day.
Gallup’s most recent national survey (Jan 5-8, 2014) on the “Most Important Problem Facing the U.S.” shows that the #1 concern of American voters is “Dissatisfaction with government/poor leadership.” The other top problems are “Economy in general,” “Unemployment/Jobs,” and “High cost of healthcare.”
You can satisfy the #1 concern of voters (Government leadership) by offering solutions to their concerns about jobs and the economy; unemployment, healthcare … and in North Carolina, education.
The lessons from the last two presidential second-term, midterm elections are the keys for GOP success in 2014. If you win your base, but lose the middle, you lose the war. If you win the middle voters, but lose your base voter, you lose the war.
You have to win both your base and the middle to win the war.
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Thank You for Reading the John Davis Political Report John N. Davis, Editor