This is it. It’s the Republicans’ last chance to show America they can win majorities and are capable of winning the White House from the Democrats.
They head into the mid-term elections with a strong lead in the polls, but anything short of taking the Senate will be a heavy blow to the “establishment” G.O.P. More to the point, a failure to take the Senate will hand over control of the Party back to the right wing.
The 2014 mid-terms election will settle which wing of the Republican Party will win and lead the Party in its campaign to take the White House in 2016. And, most agree that if it is the Tea-Party wing, the Party will be marginalised for several cycles.
In 2010, a boost from the Tea-Party gave Republicans a win of 63 seats in the House of Representatives, their biggest gain since 1946 and an unbeatable majority. They won six seats in the Senate bringing them closer to majority at 47 of 100 seats.
Yet, by 2012, another Obama victory and the policies, candidates and internecine attacks from Tea-Party sympathisers saw the Republican old-guard wrong-footed as incumbents lost to insurgents in the primaries and set the party up to lose eight seats in the House and two seats in the Senate.
The Tea Party-led Republicans alienated Hispanics and women. The Hispanic vote has historically been Democratic, although George Bush won about 40 per cent of that vote in 2004. By 2012, 70 per cent of Hispanics supported President Obama. In 2010, the Republicans won a majority of the female vote, but by 2012 female support swung 55 per cent for the Democrats.
Given that Hispanics comprise 10 per cent of the national electorate and women of course make up half, the Republicans must improve their appeal. So far, Hispanic support for the Democrats has dropped from 70 per cent to 63 per cent, but the Republicans have not made gains, still retaining support from just 10 per cent of the Hispanic vote.
Well aware of this challenge, this election cycle the Republican “establishment” took a chainsaw to the 2012 playbook. As Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (TX) told Politico, the Party’s problems in 2012 were because “that small sliver of the party insisted on nominating people who could win the primary but couldn’t win the general…I promise you it’s a lesson we will not forget.”
This has resulted in central Party and Political Action Committee (PAC) support for the traditional Republican candidates as opposed to Tea-Party inspired insurgents.
The Kentucky Senate race is a good example of the establishment winning against Tea Party inspired insurgents. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is fighting for the chance to lead a majority in the Senate and benefitted from $25mn support from external PACs. He handily beat off a weak but distracting Republican primary challenge from Matt Bevin and is now trying to broaden his appeal to women and working class voters. He is favoured to beat Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes by five points with 48 per cent of the vote.
Republicans have made gains against incumbent Democrat Senators in Arkansas and Louisiana and are pushing the swing their way in Iowa and Colorado.
Despite the momentum, the Republicans cannot afford to be complacent. Various polls put the Republicans’ chances of taking over the Senate at anywhere from 72 – 96 per cent, but both sides are ready for delayed results with run-offs and recounts probable in at least Georgia and Louisiana, and Kansas and North Carolina remain too close to call.
Tomorrow may not yield the full results, but Republicans will hope the rosy polling will bring in decisive wins to put them in control of the Senate. If not, expect an energised Tea Party fight back by Christmas.
Measurement and evaluation