“There’s a hurricane coming! A category five and its coming straight at us. The question is if it will be a low five or a high five!”
No, AGA is not reporting the weather. Rather, this was legendary Democratic operative James Carvel’s analysis of the impending 2010 midterm elections as recounted by Charlie Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report and political analyst for the National Journal Group.
Today, in the shadow of the Capitol dome, AGA hosted its post-midterm election briefing for energy and business trade association representatives. Cook, along with Bernadette Budde, senior vice-president of the Business Industry Political Action Committee, gave the audience an entertaining and informative blow-by-blow analysis of the politics of this historic election.
Both Cook and Budde agreed that when a whopping 40% of Americans identify themselves as Independents, and the Republicans are able to regain the House in such a landslide, voters are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. According to Cook, President Obama’s promise to focus on the economy “like a laser beam” never really came to pass and he instead pushed forward with an unpopular healthcare reform agenda. Under ideal economic conditions, it might have been better received. But with unemployment and debt weighing down the economy and the electorate, voters handed the Democrats their heads on a platter. This misguided agenda had voters “seeing red, and Democrats singing the blues,” said Cook.
Budde likened an election cycle to the seemingly unpredictable recruiting approach of her favorite basketball team, the Washington Wizards. Key players on the court who seemed to be doing their job get traded overnight and elected officials delivering the goods for their districts get the axe. This time around the anti-incumbant sentiment was palpable and virtually no one was safe. “As American voters, we are as fickle as Washington Wizard fans,” Budde said.
As the discussion wrapped up, both Budde and Cook insisted that although dramatic and truly seismic, the results of this election remain fluid. Analysis of Democratic and Republican districts shows that while Republicans are clearly in the Congressional driver’s seat at the moment, those held by Democrats show greater long-term strength.
The Democrat’s “shellacking” in this election was due in no small part to President Obama’s lack of wisdom in approaching his agenda, said Cook. He stressed the difference between “wisdom” and “intelligence” and emphasized the fact that Obama’s youth may be hindering him from seeing the larger strategy: “Experience is not an end, it is a means to wisdom,” he said.