Politics is rather quiet on the home front. But in Washington, D.C., political intrigue is thick. Here are some of the issues.
The Republican Party, in general, isn’t well liked nationally. And yet Republicans are poised to pick up U.S. House and Senate seats all over the country. Why?
Pignanelli: "Many think of the GOP as the party of business. ... However, Republicans failed to do the one thing that any businessman knows is key — connect with the target market." — Cristina Costantini Republicans are suffering from a form of battered victim syndrome. A majority of the governor mansions and statehouses are in GOP hands. The Democratic president they despise, and his signature programs, are unpopular. Further, most election experts are predicting GOP control of the House and the Senate next year. Everything is trending their way. Yet, when asked about the incoming tidal wave of victory, the usual Republican response is a shrug and a mumble "Only if we don't mess it up again."
Historically, the second term of a President — even a popular one (i.e. Ronald Reagan) — delivers midterm gains to the opposition party. (I am living proof!) The exception is when the opposition overreaches — as Republicans did with the impeachment proceedings against Pres. Bill Clinton. So the question is begged: Will 2014 be a repeat of 2006 (when control of the Senate flipped) or 1998 (when Democrats bucked history)? To prevail in November, all the GOP has to do is to keep hurling rocks at Democrats; AND not say anything stupid about women, minorities, the poor or same-sex marriage. So far, mainstream Republicans have muzzled their crazies. But Election Day is six months away, and ...
Webb: By shutting down the government and taking other far-right stands, the GOP has tarnished its brand. Still, America is a center-right country and the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are out-of-touch with mainstream voters. They badly overreached with Obamacare and may do so again with climate change regulations. If Democrats increase the cost of energy and force lifestyle changes to appease the global warming doomsayers, citizens will rebel and Democrats will endure even bigger losses.
Republicans can still goof this up by being too right-wing and scary. But if they keep defeating Tea Party candidates and propose mainstream solutions to the nation’s problems (immigration, tax reform, deficit reduction, entitlement reform), then 2014 is going to be a big Republican year.
If Republicans do well, what opportunities and challenges await Utah’s congressional delegation?
Pignanelli: In a Republican U.S. Senate, Orrin Hatch will be chairman of the Finance Committee. This is a big, big deal. Utah's senior senator will have extraordinary influence on national policies. Further, Hatch's well-known bipartisan manner will allow him to craft practical solutions (i.e. tax reform) that appeals to a wide base. Others in the Utah delegation will likely secure committee chairmanships — so again our state will be punching above its weight class.
Webb: Lots of opportunities await. Republicans have done well as critics. Eventually they must demonstrate they can lead. It would be terrific if Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz, Chris Stewart and (probably) Mia Love showed leadership by putting forth mainstream, balanced, conservative solutions on issues like federalism, immigration, public lands management, environmental regulatory reform, energy, transportation and health care. It really is possible to take forward-looking, practical, conservative positions on all of those issues without scaring people. That would help them deal with Obama for his last two years and set them up nicely for 2016.
Is President Obama doomed to be an ineffective lame duck for the rest of his presidency?
Pignanelli: A continuation of the status quo dooms the Obama legacy in the final years. But there is a growing school of thought if the Republicans rule the Senate, the biggest winner will be Obama. To be competitive in the 2016 elections, a revitalized GOP must demonstrate effectiveness when controlling both houses of Congress. Thus, they should deliver a host of legislative items to the president for his signature, including immigration and tax reform, and a legitimate substitute for Obamacare (if it exists). This makes the president relevant in the twilight years.
Webb: The modern presidency eats up anyone because so much power and high expectations have been concentrated at the federal level. The president is expected to solve every problem and take care of everyone from cradle to grave. He can’t do it. The job has become impossible, so he is bound to disappoint.
Obama has a poor record on both domestic policy and foreign policy. Whether they signed up for Obamacare or not, most Americans don’t like the federal government forcing them into a health care system, and they don’t think it’s going to be successful.
In foreign affairs, Obama can’t win. Most Americans don’t want entanglement in foreign wars, but they also don’t like Obama’s weak posture in all the messes around the world. Obama seems immobilized as U.S. influence wanes and despots flex their muscles.
The grandiose visions of the Obama presidency have collided with reality and Obama faces some tough final years.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: email@example.com