Point­ing the way for­ward to 2016

A pos­i­tive Repub­li­can mes­sage pays big div­i­dends in the 50 states

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Frank Donatelli

The big news in the midterm elec­tions Tues­day fo­cused on the Repub­li­can takeover of the Se­nate and the un­ex­pect­edly large gains in the House. The num­bers en­sure that Se­nate Majority Leader Mitch McCon­nell and House Speaker John A. Boehner should be able to fash­ion leg­isla­tive ma­jori­ties to move im­por­tant bills deal­ing with health care, taxes and en­ergy se­cu­rity. This could be a pro­duc­tive leg­isla­tive ses­sion if the pres­i­dent de­cides to co­op­er­ate with, not im­pede, the new con­gres­sional lead­er­ship.

The other story of 2014 is the val­i­da­tion of the ag­gres­sive ac­tions of Repub­li­can gover­nors and Repub­li­can state legislator­s, who have been work­ing since 2010 to mod­ern­ize state gov­ern­ments by de­liv­er­ing state ser­vices more ef­fi­ciently with­out rais­ing taxes. Repub­li­can re­form gover­nors such as Scott Walker of Wis­con­sin, Rick Sny­der of Michi­gan, Rick Scott of Florida, and John Ka­sich of Ohio were all re-elected.

In ad­di­tion, many solidly blue states, see­ing what th­ese re­form­ers have ac­com­plished, also elected Repub­li­cans to help straighten out state fi­nances and keep taxes down in Illi­nois, Mas­sachusetts and Maryland.

The Repub­li­can tide con­tin­ued in the state leg­is­la­tures. Gover­nors can’t ac­com­plish their re­form goals with­out leg­isla­tive ma­jori­ties, and the re­sults of Nov. 4 brought Repub­li­can con­trol to 67 of 99 par­ti­san state cham­bers, the high­est to­tals ever for the GOP. Repub­li­can con­trol at the state level is broad and di­verse and not limited to any sin­gle re­gion of the coun­try. Con­sider th­ese facts:

First, the GOP now has leg­isla­tive ma­jori­ties in ev­ery cham­ber of all 13 states of the old Con­fed­er­acy, plus Ok­la­homa.

Sec­ond, Repub­li­cans held their ma­jori­ties in states in their an­ces­tral Mid­west home, in­clud­ing Ohio, Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin.

Third, Repub­li­cans won the House in New Mex­ico, the Colorado Se­nate and both houses in Ne­vada, fast-grow­ing states with large His­panic pop­u­la­tions.

Fourth, for the first time ever, the GOP now con­trols the West Vir­ginia House and Se­nate.

Con­trol of state leg­is­la­tures is crit­i­cal to the fu­ture of the party in sev­eral re­spects. First, a num­ber of can­di­dates elected to Congress this year ac­quired their cam­paign and pol­icy skills by serv­ing in state leg­is­la­tures. As a re­sult, the GOP fielded strong can­di­dates that won key races in Colorado (Cory Gard­ner), Iowa (Joni Ernst), North Carolina (Thom Til­lis), West Vir­ginia (Shel­ley Moore Capito), as well as newly elected House mem­bers Bar­bara Com­stock (Vir­ginia) and Barry Lou­d­er­milk (Ge­or­gia), among many oth­ers. Repub­li­cans did not kick away seats this year be­cause of bad can­di­dates.

Sec­ond, state leg­is­la­tures work­ing with re­form Repub­li­can gover­nors are de­vis­ing in­no­va­tive pol­icy so­lu­tions to the prob­lems that con­cern Americans to­day. Un­like states dom­i­nated by “pro­gres­sive” Democrats, Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tures are deal­ing with bud­get prob­lems by elim­i­nat­ing un­nec­es­sary spend­ing, re­form­ing needed pro­grams and restor­ing fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity with­out rais­ing taxes.

Repub­li­can states are lead­ing the way in re­form­ing state bu­reau­cra­cies and ra­tio­nal­iz­ing state-em­ployee com­pen­sa­tion, en­hanc­ing state com­pet­i­tive­ness by re­form­ing la­bor laws, and fun­da­men­tally chang­ing the way states de­liver vi­tal ser­vices, such as ed­u­ca­tion and health care. Th­ese pol­icy ini­tia­tives will be crit­i­cal as Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties in Congress seek new ideas to bring mas­sive fed­eral bu­reau­cra­cies un­der con­trol. Gover­nors and state leg­isla­tive lead­ers can pro­vide a wealth of in­for­ma­tion to fed­eral pol­i­cy­mak­ers who are grap­pling with fed­eral over­spend­ing and waste­ful reg­u­la­tions.

If vot­ers were vot­ing against Pres­i­dent Obama’s poli­cies at the fed­eral level, this was not the dy­namic with the state vot­ing. Repub­li­cans were de­fend­ing the vast majority of gover­nors and leg­is­la­tures, yet not only were most re­elected, but ad­di­tional gover­nors and cham­bers were won in blue and pur­ple states. This was an af­fir­ma­tive en­dorse­ment of the Repub­li­can strat­egy of pur­su­ing poli­cies of re­newal and re­form at the state level. The vot­ers re­warded Repub­li­cans who dealt with dif­fi­cult prob­lems rather than kick­ing them down the road.

Such a re­form, fu­ture-ori­ented strat­egy points the way for GOP suc­cess in 2016. Frank Donatelli is for­mer as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Rea­gan for po­lit­i­cal and in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs and now serves as chair­man of GOPAC.


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