With Tuesday’s election widely predicted to bring a near-historic shake-up of the political establishment, here are some things we can say for certain even before the first results are tallied:
- This election will be a win for economic conservatives, not social conservatives. Not surprisingly given the economic climate, economic issues dominated the campaign, with social issues barely registering. This was particularly helpful for Republicans, since economically conservative, socially moderate suburban voters, who backed Democrats in 2006 and 2008, switched to Republicans this year. There is a lesson here for Republicans in the future.
- In the months leading up to the election, we have heard a great deal about the so-called “civil war” in the Republican Party. As it turns out, there wasn’t one. Despite some spirited, even bitter, primary fights, Republicans of all stripes were able to unify around a common opposition to the Obama agenda. But having achieved electoral success, Republicans will now be forced to confront the serious divisions in their party: tea partiers vs. the GOP establishment; economic conservatives vs. social conservatives; budget hawks vs. neoconservatives. The “civil war” will be back with a vengeance.
- Voters will choose Republicans in this election because they aren’t Democrats. It doesn’t mean that voters have fallen in love with the Republican party. In fact, polls show that Republicans remain only slightly more popular than used car salesmen—or Democrats. At best, voters are willing to give Republicans one last chance. If they don’t deliver, it will be a long, long time before they get another one.
- No issue hurt Democrats as much as the health care bill. It wasn’t just that voters hate the bill—they do—but that it crystallized the average American’s antipathy to a government that was too big, too costly and too out of touch. Voters will declare that they don’t want government running health care…and come to think of it, they don’t want government running much else either.