Morning After: Rutgers Eagleton analyzes midterm election results, discusses implications
With Tuesday's midterm election results still settling in, panelists gathered at the Eagleton Institute of Politics yesterday morning to discuss the results and their potential impact.
The event, called, "The Morning After," included panelists who work professionally for political campaigns and as political journalists.
For panelists, the Democratic Party regaining majority in the United States House of Representatives was the big takeaway of the night.
Michael Hill, a correspondent for NJTV, said he was surprised at the difference two years makes. During the 2016 election, he felt people at his station felt dejected over the results, whereas people this time seemed enthusiastic to vote.
Michael DuHaime, a Republican strategist and partner at Mercury Public Affairs, said this was not the political drubbing previous presidents experienced for their first midterm. The amount of seats the Democrats picked up across the country does not compare to the seats Republicans picked up under former President Bill Clinton in 1994 or former President Barack Obama in 2010.
He said if results ultimately hold the way they seem now, New Jersey will have one Republican representative in Congress. In 2016, before that year’s election, Republicans had six Congressional representatives for the state.
Hill said this was at least partly because the of the current president — President Donald J. Trump knows what buttons to push to rally his base, and pushes them with success.
“He still is a formidable campaigner,” he said. “He has formidable power, and I don’t think there is anybody that, especially the Democratic Party, should discount the power this man has outside of the strong blue areas like New York and New Jersey, and things like that.”
Debbie Walsh, director for the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, said that as a result of the election, there will be more women in elected office at a national level. In the House, the percentage of congresswoman went from 19.3 percent to 23 percent. In the Senate, the number of women senators remained steady, with two women losing and two more winning for the first time.
She said this election cycle should not be called the year of the woman, as elections should never be called that, as the problems for women entering politics will not be resolved in a year and the goal should to have women in politics become normalized.
Herb Jackson, a journalist for The Record and USA Today Network New Jersey, said the power of the political outsider was important in this year’s election. If a candidate had a record to hit at, they were more vulnerable than a new candidate whose private life does not resonate as much with voters.
Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist and President of Optimus Communications, said she was despondent when looking at the number nationwide and seeing the divisions in the country.
“It is just such a bifurcation between what we on the coasts feel and what people in the middle of the country feel ... ” she said. “I am 45 years old and I have never seen the country so divided. It seems to me we’re not even debating the same issues anymore, we’re not even talking the same language.”
Congress and the president’s relationship can go 1 of 2 ways for 2019 and 2020, DuHaime said. One is like Obama and the Republicans in 2010, when Speaker of the House John Boehner showed no interest in working with the president. Or, it can be like 1994, under Clinton, when Speaker Newt Gingrich collaborated with the president to pass welfare reform and infrastructure legislation.
He said if anything gets done this time around, it would be an infrastructure bill. Which Trump and Democrats have expressed interest in accomplishing in the past.
Hill said it is ultimately the act of governing that is important.
“Politicians tend not to put politics aside, but I hope they pay attention to what the people want and I hope the people pay attention to the politicians because there is a lot at stake in this country, and people get caught up in politics, partisan politics and party politics instead of what is best for the country, the congressional district and population, and that is the most important thing.”