Ohio Wesleyan has a strong politics and government department, but they added to it with a pre-election analysis from George Washington Univ. professor and Washington Post contributor John Sides.
Like the discussion with columnist Connie Schultz, Sides’ presentation was open to the public and had a strong following from Delaware residents. Sides, like many analysts, expects the Republican Party will win the Senate majority by a narrow margin; he explained why and what impact that could have.
Sides’ cooperative forecast for the Washington Post, based on scientific analysis of polling data, gives the Republican Party 52 seats and Democrats 48, with a 67 percent probability. It involved historical data on midterm declines for the President’s party, the President’s popularity, the party base of seats in question and the candidates selected.
After a lengthy explanation, Sides took numerous questions from the audience, starting with OWU politics professor Jenny Holland on how public dissatisfaction with the government would affect voter turnout. Sides responded that turnout is hard to predict, but dissatisfaction may be counteracted by competitive races, which Americans tend to enjoy.
Sean Kay, director of OWU’s Arneson Institute for Practical Politics, raised the question of several races expected to go Republican but are very close currently. Sides acknowledged this but said the Republicans will still likely win, but only narrowly.
History professor Michael Flamm raised a question about the influence of outside money in political races as a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and others; Sides said that it’s hard to tell what role this plays when a candidate wins or loses.
In the 2012 presidential election, the Obama campaign raised $1.1 billion, including $300 million from outside left-wing groups. Romney’s campaign raised $1.2 billion, around half of which was outside money as Sides put it.
“Outside money helped Romney keep pace, because he himself was not raising as much as Obama himself was raising,” Sides said.
On foreign policy, Sides predicted that President Obama would take more unilateral action should the GOP win the Senate.
“Then the question is, what’s he going to do?” Sides said. “And that’s where I don’t know the answer. I think the Middle East peace process is once again non-existent, you’re going to have this limited war in Syria and Iraq that he’s already announced.”
When asked about the effects of gridlock on the 2016 election, Sides pointed out that the leading predictions put the Republicans short of the 60 votes needed for a supermajority, which affects many areas except federal appointments and the budget.
Congress and the White House may compromise, he said, or the President could be sent laws that he would certainly veto on political grounds, causing more gridlock.
“That’s the same old political game, nothing’s happening,” said Sides.
Since the 2010 midterms, the House has largely acted in opposition to the Democratic agenda, he pointed out, but they may pursue passing policy when they have more power.