Building on Friday night’s message of optimism and looking to the future, the morning panel featuring Michael Barone, Guy Benson, and Mary Katherine Ham handicapped the next few election cycles, including important gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia in 2013, as well as the 2014 midterm elections.
Benson opened the discussion noting the possible bellwether battle for governor in Virginia featuring conservative Ken Cuccinelli and his formidable foe, Terry McAuliffe. He contrasted that with New Jersey’s own race where incumbent Republican governor Chris Christie currently holds a sizable lead in his race.
Benson stressed the importance of Colorado’s September recall elections, and pointed to the strength of Republicans in the House midterm elections as positive points moving forward in the next eighteen months.
Ham pivoted to communication challenges with so-called millenials–the under-30 crowd–and the importance of acknowledging social issues, but in a constructive and meaningful way.
Ham noted the divergent views held by young people, who are moving increasingly toward support for same-sex marriage, but who are now supporting bans on late-term abortion in larger numbers. Technology plays a large part in those trends, she said.
“Thinking about which issues work for them and which do not, and the ones that do not we need to not make a barrier to joining us on other issues,” Ham said.
The “giant machinery” of government impedes the ability of government to work well, Ham said, and bridging the gap between younger voters’ expectations of government services with the reality of those services delivered on the ground, might prove a successful avenue of messaging for this important demographic.
Ham described this as “a simpler and more refined government [that] can do the things it promises it is going to do.”
Barone took a different tack, and pushed back against the notion of ownership of the future.
“No one owns the future, you get a chance to rent it,” Barone said, arguing that opportunities for conservatives still exist.
Barone pointed to pundits who have declared a permanent majority for Democrats following the 2012 elections, just eight years after pundits said that Republican successes in 2004 meant control for the GOP for the foreseeable future.
Some of those conclusions, Barone said, have come from demographic numbers that give mixed signals at best, or have been interpreted to suit one’s own conclusions.
Past voting performance was no guarantee of future voting behavior, Barone said, citing the shift of Baby Boomers’ support for George McGovern in 1972 to support for Mitt Romney 40 years later.
“I don’t think that there is anything inevitable,” Barone said. “There are challenges for Republicans but there are also challenges for Democrats.”
For Barone, opportunities could lie in the increasing libertarianism of younger voters on issues like gun rights.
Republican efforts to make college more affordable, said Ham, also makes sense in light of concerns over greater student debt due to spiraling college costs.
Ham, who is expecting her first child in August, joined the panel via Skype.