This piece was co-authored by Austen Edwards and Joe Fleming. So, Republicans have taken control of the Senate and Thom Tillis is North Carolina’s newest senator. What does it mean for the state and the nation as a whole? We’ve spoken with professors within the Sanford School, getting their reactions to the election, its implications, and what it means moving forward.
Senator Kay Hagan’s loss may come as a surprise given the historically high levels of spending and favorable media predictions, most of which had her tied or edging by as voters went to the polls. Assistant Professor of Public Policy Nick Carnes weighed in on the variation between what pundits predicted and how the race played out.
“One idea that’s out there is that recent legislation making it harder for people to vote may have discouraged people who may have otherwise voted in a congressional midterm,” Carnes said. “Lots of democrats who pollsters thought were going to the polls didn’t end up going. [Pollsters] wrongly assumed that voting patterns were going to be like they were in 2010.”
Carnes added that the closeness of the race shouldn’t have surprised those in the know, as good forecasters and pollsters knew months ago that it was going to be tight. Polls and talking points can swing wildly in the final days of a campaign but other, larger factors (like the national sentiment towards Washington Democrats) haven’t changed since the race began.
According to the Charlotte Observer, exit polls showed that Hagan had a strong push to get-out-the-vote from core Democratic groups like women and the college-age voters. Likewise, Tillis was more successful among white, male Republicans. Perhaps most importantly, the two split the votes of self-described moderates and the how those voters broke in the closing days helped Tillis carry the day.
However, just because Republicans were the big winners on Tuesday night doesn’t mean they should feel comfortable resting on their laurels.
“Clearly anger towards Obama and the Democrats in Washington came out in the federal elections,” said Mac McCorkle, Director of Graduate Studies in the Master of Public Policy Program. “But if I were Governor [Pat] McCrory, I would not be resting easy.”
Discontent with Raleigh Republicans (like that on display in last year’s Moral Mondays movement) kept the Hagan campaign competitive; while she couldn’t make it over the threshold to win, McCrory still faces a tense atmosphere under the dome.
Kristen Goss, Associate Professor of Public Policy, also cautions against reading too far into the indictment against the left in Tuesday’s election outcomes.
“Voters in many states rejected progressive politicians, but the citizenry also voted to enact progressive public policies,” Goss said. “No doubt the election results turned on many factors, but it’s tempting to conclude that the results were more about personnel than about policy.”
Following Republicans newly gained control of the Senate, Mitch McConnell has promised to put an end to Washington gridlock. Time will tell if there's weight behind his words, or if it's just empty rhetoric.