Michael Barone is one of America's best-known political commentators. He is the principal author of the Almanac of American Politics, a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a regular columnist at the Washington Examiner.
ConservativeHome's Ryan Streeter asked him 5 questions to get his take on the recent elections.
RS: What must Republicans do to demonstrate they are acting on behalf of the voters who just made them the majority in the House, and what does history teach us about their prospects if they fail on this front?
Barone: I think they have to present and advance serious proposals to reduce the size and scope of government and to repeal and replace Obamacare. I think voters will understand that they will have hard time overriding Obama vetoes, but they will expect serious proposals. Republicans in 2010 were given control of one house of the legislative branch. In 2012 they will be asking for majorities in both houses and control of the executive branch as well--a harder sell. To gain that they must show that they have serious policy alternatives.
RS: You’re an astute observer of British politics as well as American politics. The Conservatives experienced quite a surge, albeit short of a governing majority, in the British elections last May. How would you compare or contrast the British Conservatives’ electoral success with that of Republicans on Nov. 2?
Barone: One similarity is that both British Conservatives and American Republicans failed to make the gains some of their leaders expected and hoped for among the very high education demographic--"people we knew at school." Republicans made greater gains than Conservatives in culturally conservative and white working class areas--the former, because America has many more of them; the latter, because the Democratic party has probably never had, and if it did once have it lost long ago, the strong bond with white working class voters that the Labour party has had in Britain.
RS: What do we know about the broad middle of the electorate that swung back so decisively to the Republicans on Nov. 2?
Barone: I'm still crunching the numbers, trying to learn more. My initial take is that Republicans did especially well among white ethnics (recapture of the House seat that includes Staten Island, the one part of New York City where you have a hard time finding a New York Times) and among Hispanics in at least some states (AZ,, NM, FL, TX). Also perhaps among Asians: I need more data on this.
RS: You’ve pointed out in a recent column that the GOP didn’t do as well in the West as it did in the East. Is that a fluke, or is there some underlying trend at work here?
One reason is that Hispanic voters broke heavily for Democrats in CA and NV, at least at the top of the ticket. Also apparently CO, where Republicans effectively forfeited the governor race, with a small but probably decisive negative effect on the race for senator. The casino industry worked NV very, very hard for Harry Reid; given the unlikelihood of John Ensign's being reelected in 2012, they faced the possibility of NV having two freshman senators if Reid lost. They very much did not want this to happen.
RS: You’re one of America’s leading demographers and readers of trends. What trends do you see in the electorate on which the GOP should reflect?