The congressional elections are finally over – Now what?
Telephone robo-calls have stopped interrupting dinner, many lawn signs that once peppered highway medians have been removed, and television attack ads have been silenced: Midterm election season is officially over.
Two years ago, no one predicted the watershed election that has left both the House and the Senate in Democratic hands. What exactly happened, and where is the country headed from here?
Michael G. Hagen, professor of political science and director of Temple’s Institute for Public Affairs, says details from the Temple/Inquirer Poll indicate that one issue was foremost on Pennsylvanians’ minds.
“There’s been a steady erosion over time among Pennsylvanians — just as in the national electorate — in appraisals of the situation in Iraq. People have gotten more discouraged, and as a consequence have gotten more dissatisfied with the president’s handling of the war; that, more than anything else, is what’s responsible for the shift in control of Congress,” Hagen said.
Hagen expects the 110th Congress to pass a minimum wage raise, as well as a bill that would allow the government to negotiate with drug companies to lower Medicare prescription costs.
“I think the president is going to have to show some willingness to work with Democrats, and I think he is unlikely to veto a minimum wage bill,” he said, noting that the Democrats were also likely to restore the investigative powers of congressional committees charged with policing ethics issues and will convene more hearings on the Iraq war.
Hagen added that although he believes there will be movement toward compromise, the recent “genuflection in the direction of bipartisanship is mainly symbolic.” He also said that the president, who has only exercised the veto once, will be likely to use that tool much more frequently, especially when it comes to Democratic plans to repeal tax cuts.
Just two days after the midterm election, and before the Virginia Senate race had been called, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced his intention to run for president in 2008, a not-so-subtle reminder that voters will receive little respite from campaigning.
“I think the race for the 2008 presidential nominations is going to be a free-for-all for a while,” said Hagen, adding that while he thinks Sen. McCain seems the likely Republican candidate, he is far less certain that Sen. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.
One thing, says Hagen, is more clear: The “distinct blue tinge” that colored Pennsylvania during this election — when four House seats and one Senate seat flipped Democratic — is more an aberration than a trend, indicating that the state will again be a battleground in 2008.
“Pennsylvania will be one of the three or four states that get the most attention from the candidates as well as the national press. And those four new Democrats in the House will be hard-pressed to hang on to their seats.”
The Temple/Inquirer Poll, a collaboration with the Philadelphia Inquirer directed by Michael G. Hagen, has been cited in local and national media, including CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, and The Harrisburg Patriot-News.
— Alix Gerz