Resurgent Republicans won control of the U.S. Senate, capturing seats from Democrats in elections Tuesday shaped by deep voter discontent with President Barack Obama.
With Republicans strengthening their majority in the House of Representatives, Obama will spend his final two years as president contending with a Congress fully controlled by opponents who have been determined to block his policies.
Republicans won at least seven seats now held by Democrats, while Democrats failed to pick up a single Republican seat. That assures the Republicans of at least 52 votes in the 100-member chamber.
They were also on track to expand their majority in the House of Representatives to near-historic levels. And they won two high-profile gubernatorial races, in Florida and Wisconsin, where Democrats thought they had a good shot at defeating the incumbents.
Among the Republicans re-elected Tuesday was the man who would likely become majority leader if the party captures the Senate: Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Democrats once had high hopes of defeating him, but he pulled away in the final weeks.
Voters are “hungry for new leadership. They want a reason to be hopeful,” McConnell said.
Said outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, ” The message from voters is clear: They want us to work together.”
The shift in control of the Senate will likely result in a strong Republican assault on budget deficits, additional pressure on Democrats to accept sweeping changes to the health care law that stands as Obama’s signal domestic accomplishment and a bid to reduce federal regulations.
Obama’s ability to win confirmation for lifetime Supreme Court and other judicial appointments could also suffer.
Republicans were more fired up in this election, united in opposition to a president they see as pushing the government too deeply into American lives. But dissatisfaction went beyond the party. Americans tend to be disgruntled these days, seeing the economy as stagnating or growing worse and besieged by troubling news, such as the beheading of Americans by Islamic extremists and worries about Ebola. While exit polls show voters dissatisfied with Republican leaders, it’s the president who gets the brunt of the blame.
Opinion polls show Obama’s popularity falling and, though he wasn’t on the ballot, Republicans made him the focus of their campaigns.
“I’m just waiting for him to be gone,” said Kristi Johnson, a 36-year-old pharmacist from North Carolina.
It was bound to be a difficult election for Democrats. Governing parties historically lose seats in midterm votes and a number of Democrats were defending seats in states that lean Republican. Some were first elected to six-year terms in 2008, riding the wave of excitement over Obama’s initial candidacy.
By contrast, Democratic candidates in this year’s most competitive Senate races did whatever they could to distance themselves from the president. Obama largely limited his campaigning to candidates in solidly Democratic territory. In a sign of the grim outlook for Democrats, the party had to scramble in the final days to help incumbents who suddenly found themselves in danger.
Overall, at stake Tuesday were 36 of the 100 Senate seats, all 435 House districts and 36 of 50 governors’ seats. The spending was unprecedented for a non-presidential year. Congressional races alone cost an estimated $4 billion.
Republicans needed a pickup of six seats to take control of the Senate. Three were almost assured — West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota — after long-time Democratic incumbents retired. They also defeated Democratic incumbents in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina and won a Democratic-held seat in Iowa left open by a retirement.
Republican gains could continue. Several races are undecided and one, Louisiana, is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff after no candidate won a majority.
Democrats had braced for a tough night, but hoped that gubernatorial races might be a bright spot. But they had setbacks in two races with implications for the 2016 presidential race.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott defeated Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist. The vote was closely watched to see how White House contenders might vie for the largest battleground state in 2016.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker turned back a strong challenge from Democrat Mary Burke. Walker’s victory boosts his prospects as a potential presidential candidate.
Republicans also won governorships in several reliably Democratic states, including Massachusetts and Maryland.
In the House, only a few dozen races were truly competitive. The dominant parties in state legislatures tend to carve out congressional districts to maximize the number of seats their parties can win, a process known as gerrymandering.
With dozens of House races uncalled, Republicans had picked up 11 seats in Democratic hands, and given up only one.
A net pickup of 13 would give them more seats in the House than at any time since 1946.
Speaker John Boehner, in line for a third term as head of the House, said the new Republican-controlled Congress would vote soon in the new year on the “many common-sense jobs and energy bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support but were never even brought to a vote by the outgoing Senate majority.”
The victory in the Senate means McConnell will likely fulfill his longtime dream of becoming majority leader, one of the most powerful positions in Washington. McConnell is a conservative with little charisma, but sharp political skills. He’s opposed Obama on health care reform and other issues, but also helped broker bipartisan deals that ended last year’s government shutdown and averted a 2011 federal default.
Obama was at the White House as voters remade Congress for the final two years of his tenure — not to his liking. With lawmakers set to convene next week for a postelection session, he invited the congressional leadership to a meeting on Friday.
Republicans will face challenges of their own as they take over the Senate. They won’t have the 60-vote supermajority that’s needed to pass major legislation. And they will face a tougher Senate election in 2016, when Republicans elected in the anti-Obama wave of 2010 will be defending seats in states that lean Democratic.
Also, Republicans could feel pressure to show more leadership, beyond standing in opposition to Obama. That’s especially critical as attention shifts to the 2016 president race. Republicans have a wide field of possible candidates, with no clear front-runner. Among the Democrats, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is the clear favorite, though she has not said if she will run.
Story by Associated Press.
As Americans go to the polls on Tuesday to choose their representatives in the U.S. Congress, perhaps no contest is more important than the race to represent Kentucky in the Senate. Top Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is up for re-election. Democrats say he’s made a name for himself as the chief obstructionist against the policies of U.S. President Barack Obama. CCTV America’s Jessica Stone reported this story.
Kentucky voters realize how important this election is for the direction of American politics. If the Republicans pick up six more senate seats, it would make Mitch McConnell the most powerful Republican politician in the U.S. Congress and take back power from President Obama’s party.
A loss for McConnell could be viewed as sign voters blame him for Washington gridlock. One anti-McConnell advertisement read: “Mitch McConnell is the heart of everything that’s wrong with Washington.”
Meanwhile, a pro-McConnell radio advertisement said: “Mitch McConnell has been the leader in fighting back for our coal families and our jobs.”
At “Country Boy”, a microbrewery in central Kentucky, some voters said they are ready for a change.
“We’ve seen Mitch McConnell for years, 30 years or whatever it is, and you can look at what he’s done for the state, and it kind of seems small compared to what could have been done,” said Nick Edwards, a university student. “This is a big race. I mean, every Kentucky citizen knows that.”
The Center for Responsive Politics includes the Kentucky Senate race among the most expensive races in the midterms. McConnell and his opponent, Democrat Alison Grimes, have both raised a total of $78 million.
Harck Pickett, an information technology engineer said he wants to see more legislation moving through congress.
“We’re kind of at a gridlock or stalemate in Congress, and it would be nice to have that broken up,” he said.
McConnell’s opponent Grimes has visited Eastern Kentucky’s coal country and has reassured coal miners that she’ll protect their jobs. In the past year, the coal industry has lost more than 15 percent of its jobs almost all of them in this region.
McConnell blames President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations for the job losses and has tried to tie Grimes to that policy. Grimes has meanwhile tried to put distance between her views on coal and the president’s.
Coal miners can earn $60 an hour. But the mine has hit hard times.
Veteran coal miner Bubby Bevins had to lay off about 30 employees, including his own son, because customers can’t meet new environmental regulations if they buy the mine’s high-sulfur coal.
“One whole section, 3 shifts, we had to lay off,” Bevins said. “We’ll bring them back little by little.”
Today coal employs less than one percent of Kentucky workers, but the politics of coal, still run deep. With coal taxes funding everyday services for Kentucky residents and even the roads they drive on, many votes in this senate race still revolve around Kentucky coal.
The midterm elections are on course to be the most costly in history. Thanks to a crucial legal reform four years ago; money is pouring into special groups who don’t have to declare their donors or how much they received, raising concerns about transparency. CCTV America’s Owen Fairclough reported this story.
The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that out of $3.6 billion spent by Democrats and Republicans at least $154 million is undisclosed.
Millions have been spent on advertisements aimed at destroying opponents of candidates, but many of the organizations paying for them are accused of not being transparent. This is due to a landmark 2010 case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where the U.S Supreme Court found that anonymous donors could channel unlimited amounts of money into special social welfare groups that don’t have to play by the same accounting rules as other political organizations such as super Political Action committees or Super PACS.
Advertisements by these groups aren’t supposed to encourage viewers to vote for a candidate or specific policy so each piece is very carefully worded.
With the upcoming 2016 presidential election, campaign spending is expected to rise to even greater levels.
One of the key questions is who puts up this kind of money often millions of dollars to finance these campaigns. CCTV America interviewed Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, which works for more transparency in politics.
The language of U.S. politics can get a little confusing. To explain what independent campaign expenditures are or what role the House Majority Whip plays, CCTV America interviewed Eleanor Clift, a contributor to Newsweek magazine and the online news site The Daily Beast.
Asian Americans are expected to play a larger role in the elections than ever before, especially at the grass-roots level. But activists said more work needs to be done to increase the influence on a national level. CCTV America’s Mark Niu reports
Don Sun is running for city council in the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino. He has previously served as city planning commission chairman and been active in several community organizations. In all of Northern Calfiornia, he’s just one of handful of candidates that were born on the Chinese Mainland.
“There’s no one elected from Mainland China so far as I know, so I want to set some example for the people. We need to love this country and do something for the community,” Sun said.
Strides are being made at local city councils and at the state legislature level too, where 159 Asian American Pacific Islanders are running in the midterm elections.
Some progress is being made on the national level too. This year, 22 Asian American Pacific Islanders are running for congress, compared to 13 candidates four years ago. Five of this year’s candidate’s have Chinese ancestry.
“The history of every immigrant group to participate in politics in the United States begins with local representation and organization. Particularly when a second generation comes, that more native born, that’s when real consolidation takes place, and that’s when you see people growing up in American politics in the American party system and then being viable candidates for national office,” said Simon Jackman, a political science professor from Stanford University.
But Jackman said Asian Americans voters historically have a low turnout, below their 5 percent of the U.S. population.
Sun brought his son Christopher to vote today for the very first time.
“We don’t want our kids to just have academic excellence, but also community-wise. They can take care of others, especially neighbors and just share the same compassion to human beings,” Sun said.
However while voters of Chinese descent make up 40 percent of the Cupertino’s population, only 20 percent of them are even registered to vote.