It could all have been so different. The electoral college tally provides a misleading picture: in terms of the popular vote President Obama only just squeaked this election. In other words, the Republicans could have won. It is that narrow failure that should concentrate the minds of Republican strategists as they consider taking back the Whitehouse in 2016. It might help concentrate their minds on the task ahead if they consider not just the national result, or even the results in the so-called “swing states”, but at the Senate results, and three in particular.
In Missouri and Indiana, Republican candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock paid the electoral price for their controversial views on abortion – views endorsed by the GOP’s very own Militant Tendency, the Tea Party. (Mourdock had stated that a pregnancy resulting from rape was something that “God intended”; presumably God also intended him to lose a seat his party never seriously considered under threat until he made his remarks). And in Wisconsin the country’s first ever openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin was elected.
Taken alongside state-wide ballots that legalised gay marriage and drug decriminalisation, these results reveal a nation radically changed since the Reagan era back to which many Republicans still hark. The challenge for the Republicans in the next four years is how – or even if – they will embrace that change. If the Tea Party is allowed to have its way, the GOP in 2016 will choose the ideal candidate to win… the 1988 campaign. More sensible heads must prevail. A Republican nominee who can boldly intrude onto traditional liberal territory is one that the Democrat candidate – whoever she is – will find difficult to beat.
Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register.