“Amnesty” In Jeopardy?

Even though Press Secretary Josh Earnest swears the plan is still on, Yglesias expects the GOP wave to scuttle Obama’s promise to take executive action on immigration reform by the end of the year:

To see why, just think about the speech that the president would have given had he announced this initiative back in June. He would have said that immigration reform was a pressing problem. He would have praised the Senate for passing a bipartisan reform bill with an overwhelming majority behind it. He would have noted that the House of Representatives had refused to bring any kind of immigration legislation to the floor. He would have argued that the public was behind him, and made the humanitarian case for action, and flagged the business community’s desire for reform. He would have bemoaned Republican obstructionism. And he would have plowed ahead with a controversial expansion of executive authority.

His argument, in other words, would have been that House Republicans were obstructing something the public, the business community, and even a bipartisan majority of the Senate wanted. But can you really cry obstruction right after losing an election? Republicans are now able to claim not just that Obama was stretching his authority in a novel way, but doing so specifically to overturn an adverse result in the midterms.

With nothing left to lose, though, Allahpundit fears he’ll go all-in:

Obama has nothing to fear from voters anymore. Even in a worst-case scenario, where he issues the order and there’s a public backlash, Hillary and the rest of the 2016 crop are free to condemn him for it. “I support the president’s noble goal of bringing the undocumented out of the shadows,” she’ll say, in perfect left-speak, “but we need to let the people’s representatives work this out in Congress.” That’s a win/win answer, pandering to the Latino voters she needs in 2016 while distancing herself from O for the benefit of independents. And of course, amnesty fans who are grateful to Obama will end up expressing it by voting for her, notwithstanding her (tepid, phony) opposition to it.

Meanwhile, issuing the order would have some nice political benefits for Obama. It’d be his way of showing his deeply demoralized base that he’s not giving up on progressivism entirely, even if he ends up making a deal or two with the evil GOP. And it’d be a clever way to throw the new Republican Congress off-balance, putting Boehner and McConnell in the agonizing position of deciding whether to pander to their base by fiercely opposing the order or to pander to Latinos they’re wooing for 2016 by going easy on Obama over it.

Obama had delayed his promised executive action out of fear of making even more trouble for Democrats in the midterms, but Esther Yu-Hsi Lee observes that the delay might actually have hurt some candidates:

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) vacated his Senate seat for Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Tuesday night, setting off speculation that low Latino turnout was the cause. Advocacy groups like Presente and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) have actively called on Latinos, who were a decisive force in the 2012 election, to resist voting for Democrats out of anger that the President hadn’t acted on promised action. Despite Udall’s loss, a Latino Decisions poll found that Latino voters in Colorado still strongly favored him over Gardner by a 71 percent to 23 percent margin. On the campaign trial, Democratic House members like Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) were confronted by Latino voters who demanded to know why the party — including Obama — had done nothing on immigration reform. Garcia lost his race on Tuesday to Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

Adrian Carrasquillo takes a closer look at Colorado, where new polling data “supports advocates’ contention that Udall’s defeat may have had something to do with immigration”:

According to a Latino Decisions election poll that connected with 400 Latino voters in Colorado in English and Spanish, on cell phones and on landlines, voters were not well-informed on the distinctions on immigration stances between the two candidates. A Colorado advocate with knowledge of the poll set to be released Wednesday said only 46% of Latino voters said they knew Udall’s stance on immigration and beliefs on Gardner’s stance were all over the place, with 21% saying he supported a path to citizenship, 38% saying he opposed “comprehensive immigration reform,” and 20% saying they didn’t know his stance.

And while Latino voters did turn out for Udall — in slightly higher aggregate numbers, according to early figures, than they voted four years ago — their share of the vote didn’t rise as fast as some expected. (Latinos make up more than 20% of the population of Colorado, according to federal figures.) So while Udall won 71% of the Latino vote, according to Latino Decisions, he fell short of Obama’s 87% showing in 2012 and Michael Bennet’s 81% in 2010, with the lack of clear distinctions on immigration as part of the reason why.

Will The GOP Take An Axe To The ACA?

While total repeal of healthcare reform isn’t in the cards as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House, Brett LoGiurato predicts that “the overall GOP strategy will likely be to chip away at parts of the law in bills that could make it to the president’s desk”:

A full-repeal bill would certainly prompt a presidential veto. One item Republican House and Senate aides think is likely to make it to Obama’s desk, and potentially get his signature, is a bill to repeal Obamacare’s tax on medical devices. A similar amendment, championed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is in line to become the next chair of the Senate Finance Committee, passed by a 79-20 vote in 2013. “I think the med-device tax and some other little areas would be the best place to start, because that is the ‘possible,'” a senior GOP aide on the Senate Finance Committee told Business Insider of Republicans’ pursuit of Obamacare-related legislation in the next session of Congress. Republicans could also take aim at so-called risk corridors in the health law, a potential fight that some Republican senators have already begun discussing as part of a shutdown battle.

Cohn wonders whether the new Senate will try to kill the individual mandate:

Of all the proposals Republicans might pass, this is the one that would probably threaten to wreak the most havoc.

Economists say that the requirement to get health insurance (or pay a fine) entices lots of people, particularly young and healthy ones, to buy insuranceand, in so doing, keeps premiums for everybody else lower. If their projections are right, then taking away the mandate would mean more people without insurance, and higher premiums for those who hold onto it. Obama, a skeptic of the individual mandate during his presidential campaign, eventually decided the economists were right. He’s fought to keep the mandate ever since and there’s no reason to think he’d back off that position now. But the provision is unpopular with the public and Republicans might be able to pick up enough Democratic votes to pass a bill, just to force a very public veto.

The GOP’s statehouse victories are also bad news for Obamacare, as the newly elected or re-elected Republican governors aren’t likely to move forward on expanding Medicaid and might well tinker with or scale back existing expansions:

In Arkansas, where Democratic Governor Mike Beebe pioneered a way to use Medicaid expansion funds to subsidize private coverage, the future of that program is in doubt under the incoming Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson. Republican leaders in moderate states have expanded Medicaid, including Rick Snyder in Michigan (who won last night) and Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania (who lost). Republicans taking over in blue states, including Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts, may seek permission from Washington to revamp those Medicaid programs to make them look more like the privatized versions in Arkansas, Indiana, and a handful of other places.

Overall, Gerard Magliocca concludes that the ACA “is still not settled law”:

While Congress cannot repeal the Act over the President’s veto, the issue will remain a live one through 2016.  More important, the election results may influence the Court’s thinking on whether to take the cert. petition in King.  Court watchers noted the other day that the petition was relisted, which is often (though not always) a prelude to a grant.  The timing of the relist to correspond with the midterm election may be a coincidence, but in any event the election result may embolden the Justices who dissented in NFIB to take a statutory crack at the Act.

Meanwhile, Igor Volsky glosses over the GOP’s other likely legislative targets:

Republicans promised to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — a project 16 senate Democrats endorsed when the body voted on a non-biding resolution in March of 2013 — and have pledged to pass a budget in both chambers. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — the likely chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — has promised to tackle tax reform (a project he told Bloomberg on Tuesday night would ideally attract 60 votes in the Senate) and insisted that Republicans still plan to advance immigration reform — on a step-by-step basis that begins with border security. Obama endorsed such a process last year. Other issues with bipartisan support include an insistence that the administration submit any deal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear program to Congress and approving fast-track authority for trade deals with the European Union and nations in Asia.

Correction from a reader:

One of the quotes on your recent post on the ACA at the state level said the following: “Republican leaders in moderate states have expanded Medicaid, including Rick Snyder in Michigan (who won last night) and Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania (who lost).” Former Governor Corbett did not actually expand Medicaid. He submitted his own privatization plan to the federal government, but it was never approved or enacted.

How Off Were The Polls?

Wang does some calculations:

In close Senate races, Republicans outperformed polls by an average of 5.3 percentage points. Prime examples of that effect could be seen with Republican wins in Kansas and North Carolina, two races that went against pre-election polls.

In gubernatorial races, Republicans outperformed polls nearly 2 percentage points on average. This was enough to put Paul LePage of Maine (tied), Rick Scott of Florida (tied), and Bruce Rauner of Illinois (Quinn +2.0%) over the top.

Silver ponders these polling misses:

Poll BiasInterestingly, this year’s polls were not especially inaccurate. Between gubernatorial and Senate races, the average poll missed the final result by an average of about 5 percentage points — well in line with the recent average. The problem is that almost all of the misses were in the same direction. That reduces the benefit of aggregating or averaging different polls together. It’s crucially important for psephologists to recognize that the error in polls is often correlated. It’s correlated both within states (literally every nonpartisan poll called the Maryland governor’s race wrong, for example) and amongst them (misses often do come in the same direction in most or all close races across the country).

This is something we’ve studied a lot in constructing the FiveThirtyEight model, and it’s something we’ll take another look at before 2016. It may be that pollster “herding” — the tendency of polls to mirror one another’s results rather than being independent — has become a more pronounced problem. Polling aggregators, including FiveThirtyEight, may be contributing to it. A fly-by-night pollster using a dubious methodology can look up the FiveThirtyEight or Upshot or HuffPost Pollster or Real Clear Politics polling consensus and tweak their assumptions so as to match it — but sometimes the polling consensus is wrong.

Joshua Tucker speculates about why the polls were wrong:

We are living in an era where poll response rates are dropping precipitously, at least for traditional phone-based surveys. This point was dramatically illustrated in a recent Pew Report showing that response rates had fallen from 36 percent in 1997 to 9 percent in 2012.

… [T]here are good reasons to think it is harder to reach young people today using telephone surveys. But of course pollsters know this, and so adjust the weights of their surveys accordingly. But with fewer young people in their surveys — combined with the possibility that the young people you can reach by phone are not representative of young people generally — the work that has to be done by these weights grows. Now, not wanting to get a mistaken estimate because of this bias, I wonder if the polling overcompensated in terms of weights in this regard because of the voting patterns observed in the 2012 presidential elections.

Wang identifies a different culprit:

Recently it’s been suggested that the polling industry has struggled lately to reach a representative swath of voters. Low response rate, increasing use of mobile phones, and hard-to-reach demographics have all been cited as possible biases. However, those difficulties would tend to undersample Democratic voters, which was not the problem this year. Instead, inaccuracy may have come from what David Wasserman at The Cook Political Report called “epic turnout collapse” in 2014. And estimating the precise effects of turnout is an older, unsolved problem that looms large for pollsters in every midterm election.

A Reid Swayed By The Wind?

Ed Morrissey doesn’t see any reason for Senate Democrats to keep Harry Reid as their leader after last night’s defeat:

[T]wo members of Reid’s caucus already have reasons to switch sides, and keeping Reid around will almost guarantee that Republicans will pressure Mitch McConnell to make the Democratic wilderness as miserable as Reid made the Republican wilderness. If that happens, both Angus King and Joe Manchin will certainly bolt, and Democrats may face another round of key retirements in the next two years, which will eat into their ability to regain the majority in 2016. McConnell doesn’t have any incentive to make that situation on Reid any easier, and plenty of incentive to force Reid out. McConnell may want to return to normal order, but not with Reid across the table from him. If McConnell wants to play hardball, all he needs to do is insist that Democrats shun Reid entirely — no leadership position, no ranking-member position on committees — for the next two years, in exchange for returning to the pre-Reid Senate environment.

But Susan Ferrechio gets the sense that none of Reid’s colleagues are prepared to challenge him:

If Senate Democrats move to oust Reid, the likely successor would come from the lower ranks of the leadership. Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer of New York and Conference Secretary Patty Murray of Washington are among the Democrats who might vie for the post. But those who know Reid best say there probably won’t be a challenge, because Reid, a former boxer who rose to power from a small town in the Nevada desert, would be too tough to beat. “If a Democrat wants to take him on, then they should know they are in for a no-holds-barred fight,” Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, told the Examiner.

In any case, Roger Pilon bets Reid is wishing he hadn’t “gone nuclear” right about now:

And where will those remaining Democratic senators who voted for Harry Reid’s nuclear option be sitting? Why on the minority side, watching Republicans enjoy their newly acquired power to block controversial Democratic nominees by the vote of a mere majority—all because of Harry’s hubris. But it wasn’t Harry’s alone. As the Wall Street Journal editorializes this morning, after his victory speech following his 2012 re-election, President Obama walked off the stage and made separate calls to Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic campaign chairman Steve Israel, telling them “he would spend the next two years helping Democrats retake the House in 2014.” In politics as in life, hubris has its price. We will now have a proper vetting of the president’s nominees, and that is good.

But Danny Vinik encourages Reid to play some hardball of his own and filibuster the shit out of everything, to give the Republicans a taste of their own medicine:

Reid has a history of supporting the filibuster when in the minority and criticizing it when in the majority. There’s no reason to expect that to change with McConnell as majority leader. And that’s a good thing. If Republicans are going to reap the political benefits of indiscriminant filibustering, then Democrats should do so as well.

The advantage of filibustering is that it allows a party to block progress without taking all of the blame for it, for the simple reason that most of the publicand, surprisingly, most of the mediadon’t realize that filibusters are basically thwarting majority rule. Presidential vetoes, on the other hand, are easy for the public and media to understand and easy to appropriate blame. If Democrats relinquished the tool now, they’d give up a chance to make the same sort of gains. It’d be the equivalent of unilateral disarmament.

A Bad Night For Personhood

Fetal personhood ballot measures were defeated by solid margins yesterday in two states:

In Colorado, Amendment 67 — which sought to update the state’s criminal code to define fetuses as children — failed by a large 64 percent to 36 percent margin. It marks the third time that Colorado voters have rejected personhood. Meanwhile, in North Dakota, an effort to overhaul the state’s constitution to protect “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development” looked like it was poised to pass. Personhood proponents were hopeful that the conservative state would hand them their first major victory, galvanizing the push for similarly restrictive laws in other states. But Amendment 1 was defeated by similarly wide margins as the initiative in Colorado.

Noting that voters have turned down personhood in five separate ballot initiatives since 2008, Kliff reminds us that nobody is really sure what effects these laws would have:

Because no state has ever granted personhood rights to unborn fetuses, it’s really unclear how any specific amendment would work in practice. This was especially true with the North Dakota amendment, which didn’t give any particular rights to fetuses but instead required “the right to life of every human being at any stage” to be “recognized and protected.”

Supporters of both the Colorado and North Dakota initiatives argued that existing protections would still allow for legal abortion. Roe v. Wade, for example, protects legal, elective abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. Choose Life North Dakota said that protection supersedes any state laws. But opponents argued that the amendment was written too broadly and that personhood laws would make abortion illegal. The director of North Dakota’s only in vitro fertilization clinic said that he would close his practice if Measure 1 passed. Embryos are sometimes discarded in treatment, and his lawyer warned that the practice could put workers at risk of legal action.

Even major pro-life advocates are wary of such laws:

Large pro-life groups like Americans United for Life and the National Right to Life Committee have not endorsed personhood ballot initiatives. Part of this is politics: some worried that the amendments (which opponents call draconian abortion bans) will fail so badly they’re not worth the effort, and that they will only prove an embarrassment. And there are also some policy disagreements about what it would actually mean to give personhood rights to fetuses and whether that could have unintended consequences, such as disallowing certain types of birth control. This was what Colorado’s new senator, Cory Gardner, a Republican, was getting at in March when he withdrew his support for Amendment 67.

Marcotte is particularly relieved that Coloradans shot theirs down:

Since the law would have made it a matter of homicide to cause a miscarriage, it could have been used to prosecute women who had miscarriages by accusing them of somehow failing to do more to care for their fertilized egg babies. “If you get a prosecutor who wants to make a statement about unborn life,” Aya Gruber, a law professor at the University of Colorado told Politico, “Absolutely, you could have prosecutions for miscarriages. This law allows it. It allows it!”

At the same time, 53 percent of Tennesseean voters approved an amendment to their state constitution that will make it easier for lawmakers to place restrictions on abortion. Amelia Thompson-Deveaux calls the amendment “the culmination of 14 years of work” by pro-life advocates:

They began organizing in 2000 when the Tennessee Supreme Court struck down several abortion restrictions on the grounds that they violated women’s right to privacy. That decision has until now kept Tennessee from passing anti-abortion laws like the ones that have closed abortion clinics in neighboring states. It’s been an expensive fight — in the last three weeks of October alone, the amendment’s opponents spent more than $3.4 million. Now the protections that have shielded the state’s seven abortion clinics will disappear.

Landrieu The Longshot

Residents of Louisiana can expect another month of nonstop political ads:

Landrieu officials say they believe she can win given her history of consolidating support and beating her opponents in runoffs — in 1996 she was down by 11 points in the general election and went on to win by 1 point. In 2002, she was down by three points in the general election and won the runoff by 3 points. But the national political headwinds in this election could hurt her. President Barack Obama and his signature health care law remain largely highly in the state. Landrieu will have to bridge the racial divide to gin up support among whites, who have been unenthusiastic about her reelection bid, and rally a significant number of black voters to win.

Republican operatives have long thought their best chance at ousting Landrieu was through a runoff. A recent NBC/Marist poll showed that in a head-to-head match up Cassidy would get 50 percent of the vote while Landrieu is expected to draw just 45 to 46 percent.

Harry Enten doesn’t like Landrieu’s chances:

The problem for Landrieu is that Louisiana’s political environment in 2014 doesn’t look at all like it did in 2002. The state was only about 8 percentage points more Republican than the country in the 2000 presidential election. In the 2012 presidential election, it was about 21 percentage points more Republican than the nation. Moreover, the combined Democratic candidates’ vote in the 2002 Senate election in Louisiana was 47.9 percent versus 50.6 percent for the Republicans. In other words, it was a much closer primary than what occurred on Tuesday. If Landrieu is able to gain 3.8 percentage points in December, like she did in 2002, she’d still only take 47.3 percent of the vote in the runoff.

No matter how you look at it, Landrieu is in deep trouble in a month.

Nicholas Lemann notes that after yesterday’s elections, Landrieu is the only Democratic senator remaining in the Deep South. He mulls over this state of affairs:

To attract white votes, which winning statewide office necessarily entailed, a Democrat required either Olympic-level political skill (think of Bill Clinton in Arkansas) or the trust that comes from bearing a famous political-family name (think of Al Gore in Tennessee, or, almost, Michelle Nunn in Georgia, or, for that matter, Landrieu) or a powerful orientation toward delivering for the folks back home mixed with a partial disavowal of the national Democratic Party. Landrieu had all three in some measure, and still perceived every campaign as a political near-death experience.

Political realities can and do change. Formerly Confederate states such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida are regularly capable of casting their electoral votes for Democratic Presidential nominees, and it’s not impossible that Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia might, as well. Even Louisiana went Democratic in the 1996 Presidential election. Those who care about how this goes in coming years should take note, though: if there is a future for Southern Democrats running statewide, it will belong to people who don’t get angry on television and who don’t yell at Republican Presidents or applaud Democratic ones. Republican candidates can get away with all of that; Democrats can’t.

A Victory For What?

That’s my question after this relentlessly negative and vacuous campaign. And the striking thing about it is that it’s hard to detect an issue or platform around which the GOP constructed a victory. I watched Kevin McCarthy on Fox last night attempt to describe what his party now wants to do with its majority in both House and Senate – and it was so pathetic even the Fox News crowd could barely hide their dismay. He said he wanted to kickstart the economy. No serious ideas as to how, except  the same tired 1980s boilerplate. Tax reform? I’m all for it – but we shouldn’t kid ourselves it was an issue of even faint relevance in this campaign. Immigration? Again, it’s much much easier to say what they don’t want to do, rather than what they do.

Foreign policy? It will be fascinating to see if the Republican party really wants to fight another Iraq War – and what would happen to its unity if it tried. On Iran, they simply want to scupper the only conceivable way forward absent another war. Obamacare? McConnell seems to be arguing against an attempt at repeal – merely a series of nitpicks to try and unravel it. If I could see any constructive policy agenda, I could have a serious opinion about it. But I don’t. I see pure negativity and bile against the president. And it seems to me that that is not a strategy to win over a majority for the presidency in 2016.

National Review today actually urges the GOP majority to do nothing for the next two years but prep for 2016. I kid you not. They worry about the “governing trap.” Here you see the cynicism that has pulsed through the right for the last six years, in which everything is about politics and nothing is about governance:

A prove-you-can-govern strategy will inevitably divide the party on the same tea-party-vs.-establishment lines that Republicans have just succeeded in overcoming. The media will in particular take any refusal to pass a foolish immigration bill that immediately legalizes millions of illegal immigrants as a failure to “govern.”

Fourth: Even if Republicans passed this foolish test, it would do little for them. If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?

And that would be just terrible, wouldn’t it?

In some ways, this election also strikes me as a vote by the elderly almost entirely against the Obama coalition and what it represents for America, rather than for anything. You can see it in this screenshot from NBC News:


That’s a staggeringly high percentage of the vote for the over-60s. If anyone doubts the potency of Fox News’ relentless campaign to remind anyone over 50 that the world is coming undone and Obama is entirely the reason, then those numbers should be definitive. So what this represents is a backlash against a change that is coming anyway – a vote by the older generation against the America that the younger generation seems to represent and want. Or a rising up of white America against the browns and blacks. This is too crude, of course. But it captures something important about this moment of vacuous retrenchment.

Sane conservative pundits remind us that 2016 will be different. And it will. The Clintons remain the favorites to recapture the White House next time around, with a coalition that was still in place this year but representing a much smaller a slice of the electorate. But this only means that the polarized paralysis of the last four years is likely to become a durable fixture of our politics for quite some time. The GOP’s dominance in the House means any Democratic president will be constrained and harassed and pilloried. And I don’t see any Republican candidate on the horizon capable of putting together the kind of triumph that Obama secured in 2008.

So this is a victory in favor of more governing paralysis. Most voters don’t really want that; but their actions belie it. History twists and turns, of course, and any number of events or surprises could upend our expectations for the better. But yesterday, it seems to me, was the definitive moment when Obama’s promise to forge a pragmatic purple center ceded to the grim, polarized reality of a deeply and evenly divided country. This was the GOP’s strategy from the start; but it leaves them with a strangely ill-defined, if emphatic, victory.

Southern Democrats: An Endangered Species

Southern Democrats

Nate Cohn spotlights the Dems’ huge problem in the South:

The inability of Southern Democrats to run well ahead of a deeply unpopular Mr. Obama raises questions about how an increasingly urban and culturally liberal national Democratic Party can compete in the staunchly conservative South. It raises serious doubts about whether a future Democratic presidential candidate, like Hillary Clinton, can count on faring better among Southern white voters than President Obama, as many political analysts have assumed she might.

The Democrats running in the South on Tuesday night were not weak candidates. They had distinguished surnames, the benefits of incumbency, the occasional conservative position and in some cases flawed opponents. They were often running in the states where Southern Democrats had the best records of outperforming the national party. Black turnout was not low, either, nearly reaching the same proportion of the electorate in North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia as in 2012.

Joel Kotkin examines the demographics of last night’s electorate:

The Republicans actually won among white voters under 30, 53% to 44%, even as they lost 30- to 44-year-olds, 58 to 40. If these trends hold, the generation gap that many Democrats saw as their long-term political meal ticket may prove somewhat less compelling.

If they are losing the middle and working classes, and even some millennials, what are the Democrats left with? They did best in states like California and New York, where there is a high concentration of progressive post-graduates and non-whites, and where many of the sectors benefiting most from the recovery have thrived, notably tech, financial services, and high-end real estate.

Yet these areas of strength could also prove a problem for the Democrats. A party increasingly dominated by progressives in New York, Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Seattle may embrace the liberal social and environmental agenda that captivates party’s loyalists but is less appealing to the middle class. Unless the Democrats develop a compelling economic policy that promises better things for the majority, they may find their core constituencies too narrow to prevent the Republicans from enjoying an unexpected, albeit largely undeserved, resurgence.

(Screenshot from the Upshot’s detailed maps of yesterday’s results)

The Rise Of The “Cruz Wing”

Sahil Kapur heralds it:

Cruz telegraphed his strategy in a post-election interview Tuesday night on Fox News, calling on Republicans to do whatever it takes to repeal Obamacare and and prevent Obama’s upcoming executive actions on immigration. “The two biggest issues nationwide were, number one, stopping the train wreck that is Obamacare; number two, stopping the president from illegally granting amnesty,” Cruz said. He also appeared on CNN and declined to voice support for McConnell as majority leader, calling that “a decision for the conference to answer next week.”

Molly Ball is unsure who will join Cruz’s ranks:

The new Republican senators are quite conservative, perhaps more so than any previous class, but they are capable of sounding reasonable and staying focused on issues voters care about. The question yet to be answered is one of tactics: When these new players come to Washington, will they seek pragmatic accommodation? Or will they team up with the likes of Cruz, putting new faces on the same old gridlock?

John Aravosis sees Cruz’s increased power as a gift to Hillary:

Cruz, as you’ll recall, was the architect of the very-unpopular Republican shutdown of the federal government. Cruz was able to whip the House Tea Party contingent into a furor, and effectively overrule House Speaker John Boehner. Cruz did all that in the minority. Imagine the damage he can do in the majority.

And that helps Hillary, and hurts the GOP overall. Hillary now has someone to run against: The GOP Congress. Up until now, Hillary Clinton had to figure out how to distance herself from a somewhat unpopular president, while having spent the last many years working for him. Now, instead, she can focus her attention, and divert ours, towards all the bad things the Republicans are going to cook up over the next two years.

The Return Of The Hawks, Ctd

Following the victories of pro-war candidates like Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst, Rosie Gray looks ahead to how the Republican Senate is likely to muck up Obama’s foreign policy agenda:

Most immediately and maybe most importantly, Republicans will try to nix any Iran deal that they deem unsatisfactory — and on this, they have the support of plenty of Democrats. The deadline for the nuclear talks is Nov. 24. The new Senate will have the will and the manpower to push through new sanctions legislation if it chooses, and the fight over Iran policy could prove to be one of the defining battles of the waning Obama presidency.

It’s unclear where exactly the new Republican conference will be when it comes to foreign policy, but Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst, the new senators from Arkansas and Iowa, have seemed to exhibit a fairly hawkish foreign policy instinct. Foreign policy isn’t the top issue voters care about, but their election could represent a cooling of enthusiasm for the anti-interventionist policies of libertarian Republicans that have garnered much attention in the past few years.

Fairly hawkish? Cotton’s view is that the Iraq War was a fantastic moral cause and we should be on the look out for more opportunitiees to spread “democracy” at the barrel of a gun. Juan Cole braces for the worst:

Barack Obama was convinced or bamboozled by the Pentagon to do the Afghanistan troop escalation in 2009, and he has conducted drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and some other countries. The GOP may see him as not ultimately committed to keeping US troops out of Iraq and Syria, and will almost certainly attempt to force him to put more boots on the ground (John McCain will be chairman of the Armed Services Committee). If the GOP Senate objected to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, it could refuse to fund it (getting out will be expensive). And, if Obama manages a breakthrough in negotiations with Iran that requires a reduction in US economic sanctions, the Republican House might be able to find ways to block that reduction, so as to go back on a war footing with Iran (war is good for the arms industry, which funds a lot of congressional campaigns).

Karlyn Bowman observes what the exit polls showed about foreign policy-minded voters:

55% of voters who chose foreign policy as the most important issue facing the country voted for Republican candidates: about 4 in 10 of them voted for Democrats. The issue ranked behind the economy and health care as the top issue and tied with immigration. 58% of voters in House races approved of the US military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In another question, seven in ten said they were very worried about another major terrorist attack in the US, including 28% who were very worried.

But Larison notes that the voters who elected the hawks aren’t necessarily hawks themselves:

[Cory] Gardner won 52% among those that disapproved of the military action despite launching the most shamelessly demagogic attacks on his opponent on this very issue. This pattern was repeated nationwide: opponents of the war against ISIS tended to vote for Republican House candidates (55-43%), most of whom have been reliably in favor of the intervention, and a slim majority of supporters of the war (51%) voted for Democratic candidates. It is no wonder that the more hawkish candidates prevail when relatively dovish voters back them regardless of their positions. Nonetheless, this also gives us another reason to be skeptical when hawks claim that these election results are proof that aggressive foreign policy is a political winner.