| 12.9°C Dublin

Scent of blood as sights set on White House battle

Close

Pro-life Republican Elise Stefanik (30) addresses her supporters after she became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. Photo credit: AP Photo/The Post-Star, Steve Jacobs

Pro-life Republican Elise Stefanik (30) addresses her supporters after she became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. Photo credit: AP Photo/The Post-Star, Steve Jacobs

AP

Will a full turn-out electorate swap their disappointment in Mr Obama for renewed hope in Hillary Clinton. Photo credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Will a full turn-out electorate swap their disappointment in Mr Obama for renewed hope in Hillary Clinton. Photo credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS

/

Pro-life Republican Elise Stefanik (30) addresses her supporters after she became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. Photo credit: AP Photo/The Post-Star, Steve Jacobs

An emphatic repudiation of both Barack Obama's style of governing and Washington's enduring political gridlock leaves Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, and the president deeply isolated in the White House.

The question for Republicans now is what they do with this new-found power? Do they spend the next two years dancing self-indulgently on Mr Obama's political grave, or do they spend them digging the foundations of a credible challenge for the White House?

Beating Mr Obama and the Democrats this time around was easy - second-term presidents almost always fare badly in midterms, and with the economic recovery not delivering to the middle classes and foreign policy in a mess, Republicans were pushing at an open door.

There were plenty of real signs of encouragement for 2016, most notably handsome victories in Iowa and Colorado - both swing states that Mr Obama won in 2008 and 2012 - but the road to the White House still remains tough for Republicans given America's new demographic realities.

Many of the key 2014 senate battles occurred in states that naturally favoured Republicans - the worst map "since Dwight Eisenhower", Mr Obama lamented - so when the victory celebration hangovers clear, Republicans should be clear-sighted about the future.

In two years' time the boot will be on the other foot: the Senate races will overwhelmingly favour Democrats. So will a full turn-out electorate, particularly if women, minorities and young people swap their disappointment in Mr Obama for renewed hope in Hillary Clinton.

To have a chance, Republicans must use the next two years to show they are a party of government, not obstruction and ideology, and that their low-tax, low regulation, pro-business agenda really can deliver a new sense of opportunity for America's beleaguered middle classes.

The answers may well lie outside Washington where can-do Republican governors can claim a track record of delivering the goods and out-performed on Tuesday night under the leadership of Chris Christie, the over-sized New Jersey governor whose own 2016 ambitions were enhanced by the night.

None of this will be easy. Compromise is, by nature, a two-way street and Mitch McConnell, the new Republican leader of the Senate, will have to contend both with hardliners in his own party, and Congressional Democrats who will not want to hand Republicans any obvious victories ahead of 2016.

But the joker in the pack is Mr Obama, who badly needs to chalk up some achievements before leaving office and may yet prove more willing to cut deals in the name of legacy-building than many of the more left-leaning Senators in his own party.

Already Republicans like Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who forced the 2013 government shutdown, and his fellow 'no-compromise' conservatives in the House have signalled they intended to hit Mr Obama with as much base-pleasing partisan legislation as they can.

"We will send the President bill after bill, until he wearies of it," exulted Senator Rand Paul, another Tea Party darling and 2016 prospect, who called the election "a repudiation of President Obama's policies".

It was, but more accurately the result was actually a collective shrug of disappointment from a divided electorate who dislike Congress and Republicans as much as they do Mr Obama and the Democrats and who feel - by a two-to-one majority - that America is on the wrong track.

Mr McConnell and his fellow Republican leaders know this, which is why it was shrewd policy to immediately take the high ground and, despite all the bitterness and rancour of the last six years, invite Mr Obama to work with them to get things done.

"Just because we have a two-party system doesn't mean we have to be in perpetual conflict," said Mr McConnell, as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, "I think I've shown that three or four times in the past. I hope the President gives me a chance to show it again."

It is a game, to be sure, but a game on whose outcome Republican chances of winning the White House in 2016 now depend. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent