(CCU Student) It’s November 7. The final ballots are being counted, and toss–up races are concluding in each of the states. Republicans have picked up sixty–one seats in the House of Representatives, regaining the majority that their Democratic counterparts have controlled since 2006. They captured another six seats in the Senate, conceiving a thorough enough presence of Republicans to prevent cloture. Conservatives nationwide should be delighted at the prospect of these events transpiring on election night; yet, the satisfaction that many Republicans such as myself sustain is severely fragmented. With an enthusiasm gap that favored the GOP from as many as fifteen percentage points, there was no reason to believe that the Republican Wave wouldn’t capture upwards sixty–five seats in the House and majority control of the Senate.
Though the likelihood of this emergence was nominal at best, all optimism of a GOP landslide was curtailed when the poll results hit Colorado heading westward. An ‘invisible wall’, as I refer to it as, halted GOP success from the Rocky Mountains West bound. Democratic Senators Michael Bennet, Barbara Boxer, and Patti Murray all prevailed in races that showed a GOP toss–up or lean. In a similar fashion, House GOP hopefuls Ryan Frazier (CO–7), Ruth McClung (AZ–7), David Hammer (CA–11), and John Koster (WA–2) each fell short in races that showed a slight Republican advantage. With an ad blitz that established the West as the ‘battleground’ of this years midterm election, there was no doubt that excruciatingly vital races were going to be close. But what exactly attributed to such a Democratic overhaul of the western House, Senate, and Gubernatorial seats?
In the West, voter turnout certainly was not an ally of the GOP on election night. I’m not referring to a low turnout by the Republicans, but rather, the surprisingly exceptional turnout by Democrats. It is well established that Democrats undoubtedly have substantial voter registration advantages in western states, but the momentum, concurrent with GOP enthusiasm, had appeared to outweigh this facet. While Republicans had employed an exceedingly outward Get Out the Vote notion, Democrats respectively garnered support with seemingly passive campaigning. Appearing quiescent for the past few months, the left was assumed to have been playing dead; however, the prevalence of Democrats in the voting booths proved all theories of the left sustaining a dormant attitude thoroughly incoherent with the message that western voters expressed on November 2.
A second critical facet of the West’s GOP downfall is attributed to its impervious reflection of support for the Tea Party candidates. With the exception of Ken Buck and Sharron Angle (whom ultimately, lost their races), a strong resistance to Tea Party candidates and an inability for the Tea Party supporters to back the party establishment candidates amounted to a disaster for Republicans on election night. For Tea Party favorites Ken Buck and Sharron Angle, many independents, as well as traditional GOP voters, found their policies too extreme, as portrayed heavily by their democratic opponents. Dating back to the primaries, the principles adopted by Tea Party candidates were never able to sink in or resonate with Western voters. In Washington State, Palin backed candidate Clint Didier was defeated handily by Dino Rossi. In California, conservative Chuck Devore was defeated soundly by businesswoman Carly Fiorina, in addition to Tea Party endorsed Steve Poizner losing his Gubernatorial bid against Meg Whitman. Considering countless examples of such occurrences, the Republican party placed many establishment candidates on the front line that were unable to win over independent voters in traditionally blue states. And with a heavy toll taken within the Republican Party due to fiercely fought primaries, many conservatives were turned off to voting for the GOP backed candidate. These factors spelt disaster for Republican hopefuls, because while Democrats presented viable candidates who faced little to no opposition early on, Republican candidates in some cases were still fighting to gain the support of voters within their own party from brutal primary skirmishes.
A third factor that immensely shaped the electorate shift to the left in western states was the advocacy of immigration. While support for immigration reform bolstered candidates throughout most the nation on election night, any endorsement of serious overhaul on immigration in the West completely backfired. According to National Journal, 64% of Hispanic voters backed Jerry Brown, 65% backed Barbara Boxer, 57% backed McCain opponent Rodney Glassman, and 71% opposed Jan Brewer’s reelection bid. In addition, staunch immigration restrictionist Tom Tancredo was defeated decisively by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. The bottom line is that Hispanic voters turned out in an astonishing manner and voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. This was not so much a vote for Democrats, however, as it was a vote against Republicans and the hard stances taken by the GOP against illegal immigration.
If Republicans maintain any aspirations of taking back critical western Congressional and Senatorial battleground states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona, it is essential for the GOP take a profound look within its values and beliefs system. In addition, it will become vital for Republicans to establish a universal set of principles and ideology that conservatives and independents can unite around in 2012. While 2010 was wildly successful for Republicans, 2012 will be a test of unification and cohesiveness within a party that is seeking an identity that this time around can inspire and captivate the West.