Op-Ed: The November midterm elections may be about more than Obamacare

Posted Mar 24, 2014 by Michael Krebs
The November midterm elections are shaping up to be a referendum on Obamacare in the congressional races — however, in the gubernatorial and state legislature contests, the election may be about something else entirely.
The sun sets on the US Capitol on March 22  2019 in Washington  DC.
The sun sets on the US Capitol on March 22, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski, AFP
Coming off of last week's surprise special election loss in Florida, Democratic strategists are becoming concerned about the possibility of losing the Senate in the upcoming midterm elections this November.
There are 36 Senate seats up for election in 2014: 15 are currently held by Republicans and 21 are held by Democrats, as the Senate Conservatives Fund outlines on its web site. And while this may seem like a tilt in the favor of the Democratic candidates, Florida's special election demonstrated that the Republican strategy of hammering home the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act and attaching the Democratic contender to President Barack Obama's signature legislation appears to be a viable approach to voter bases that clearly are not looking favorably upon the White House (as the president's 40-43 percent approval rating underscores).
But the Obamacare discussion is a national matter, and it resonates well in House and Senate congressional races.
However, the midterm elections are as much about local gubernatorial contests and state legislator races as they are about policy matters that reverberate at the national level.
Given this, Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, arguably the most important unelected individual operating in Washington DC circles currently, believes that Republican candidates that are competing for more local-oriented offices should focus on public labor unions and the impact of their collective retirement packages on the fiscal health of specific communities.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Norquist highlighted this strategy further.
"Conservatives for a number of years now have not talked about organized labor in the way they talk about taxes and trial lawyers and regulations," Norquist said. "And the reason is that they looked at the charts and they said 35 percent of the workforce used to be unionized in the 50s. It's now down in the private sector to 7 percent. They're on their way out. Inertia will have them just disappear. Why sweat?"
Norquist then outlined that public sector unions have forever been untouchable. Until now. Republicans, he notes, have control of state legislatures - and this control can allow for the dissolution of public unions, the removal of which he projects would save $3B.
So, the midterm elections could then have two narratives for Republicans: Obamacare in the congressional contests nationally and the community costs associated with public labor unions at the local level.