The Ripon Forum

Volume 44, No. 4

Fall 2010 Issue

“What Do We Do Now?”

By on October 21, 2014

“Be Brave.”

by CHRISTINE MATTHEWS

Angry voters have stormed the gates and demanded change. The message: the economy is in bad shape, we’re hurting, government isn’t working, President Obama’s policies aren’t helping, and Congress is inept. Oh, and did we mention that we’re very mad at you?

Despite President Obama’s warnings that they would drive into the ditch, Republicans were given the keys to the car. Voters did not send crystal clear policy directions, but they did provide some important clues on where to head. Here is a roadmap:

They’re just not that into you
Voters broke up with the Democrats, but they’re only asking Republicans on a date, not contemplating marriage. They dislike both parties equally. One in four who expressed a dislike for Republicans on Election Day voted for them anyway because they weren’t the Democrats in charge. Independent voters who supported Democrats by a 57%-39% margin in 2006 shifted this year to Republicans by a nearly identical margin, but they’re fickle. Republicans have an opportunity to make a good impression, but they don’t have an invitation to the family reunion.

Shrink government

While the Obama-Pelosi agenda for the past two years has significantly expanded the role of government, the majority (56%) of Election Day voters believe government is doing too much, while only 38% think government should do more, a significant shift since 2008 when 51% of Election Day voters favored a more activist government. The devil, of course, is in the details of how and where to shrink government.

Voters broke up with the Democrats, but they’re only asking Republicans on a date, not contemplating marriage. They dislike both parties equally.

A number of Republican candidates believe they were elected to Congress on their pledge to repeal Obamacare. Realistically, repeal is unlikely, and in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll only Republican voters rate it the highest priority for Congress. The GOP base will expect a vote, but keep in mind that many of the provisions, such as coverage of pre-existing conditions and drug benefits, remain popular.

Turn the economy around
President Obama said the election results showed that he failed to communicate. Voters think he failed to listen. Loud and clear, election results demonstrated that people are suffering in this economy and they want it back on track. For the first time since exit polling asked voters their most important issue, those citing the economy (62%) chose Republicans over Democrats.

A tale of two Virginians

In 2009, two conservative men were elected to statewide office in Virginia. One took his resounding win as governor as a mandate to manage well. Governor Bob McDonnell has avoided contentious, highly polarizing issues and focused on the economy, turning a deficit into a surplus and keeping Virginia’s unemployment rate around 6%, well below the national average. His job approval rating is in the mid-60s.

The other man, Ken Cuccinelli, has spent his time as Attorney General telling state universities to roll back anti-discrimination policies against gays and issuing subpoenas to a University of Virginia scientist and climate researcher in an attempt to prove fraud.

Choose the McDonnell path.

Be brave
A plurality of Election Day voters believe life will be worse for the next generation and these voters broke two to one in favor of Republican candidates. If Republicans are to be serious about reducing the deficit and staving off a decline in America’s stature and way of life, provide some cover for incoming House Budget Chair Rep. Paul Ryan. He has dared say what few will: entitlements must be reformed.

A recent Bloomberg national poll suggests the Tea Party will have your backs on this: a majority support raising the age for Social Security and Medicare benefits. Republicans have the opportunity to do what the Democrats will never do.RF

Christine Matthews is the Founder and President of Bellwether Research and Consulting. Her clients include Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

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