Monday, January 13, 2014

A House Divided: Boiling Tensions


The United States had officially ended the War on Terror on October 20, 2014. Much fanfare surrounded the last few soldiers to return home from Afghanistan, which President Obama visited at Arlington, Virginia. It seemed like an era had ended, for many in the younger generation never knew a time without war. High school seniors, even, could hardly recall the events that devastated New York City and sparked a conflict which lasted for more than a decade. With these soldiers and their families flanking him, President Obama addressed the nation.

It was a moment of relief and reflection for the nation. The president and his party gained a boost in the polls, which was critical ahead of the midterm elections. However, the work of the United States in trying to prop up new, democratic systems in the Middle East was already showing signs of failure. The city of Fallujah, Iraq, the sight of a major battle that killed a number of Americans who fought to gain the city, was taken back by Al-Qaeda in late 2013. Continuing into 2014, Al-Qaeda saw more advances in Iraq as Sunni Arabs and Kurds continued to oppose the Shia government in Baghdad. The city of Mosul, in the Kurdish northern area of Iraq, became the sight of a massive protest staged by Kurds, who maintained that the government in Baghdad did not represent their interests and was content with abandoning them to incursions by Al-Qaeda. The month of January 2015 saw massive government crackdown on these protests, which prompted a nationwide surge in sectarian violence.

At this period in time, Syria had been, for years, wracked by the horrors of civil war. President Assad had refused to step down, and managed to maintain some of his power. A number of different rebel groups were fighting to overtake him, with some periodically fighting against each other. The international community came close to intervention in 2013, with the unveil of evidence that claimed Assad had used chemical weapons. President Obama claimed that this was a major “red line,” but when the UK Parliament made a surprising motion by voting against intervention, Obama threw the question to Congress who also voted down intervention. By 2014’s close, things were looking up for the rebels: Assad’s forces had diminished significantly, and the various rebel groups had mostly stopped fighting. When it became clear that Assad had unleashed a final round of chemical weapons around various rebel held cities, which forced many refugees north into Turkey. The Turkish government was scrambling to provide resources for all of these refugees, but it simply was not enough. To make matters worse, they were experiencing an influx of Kurdish refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq, which prompted greater tensions with the minorities in the majority Kurdish portion of Turkey.

The Turkish government knew that this had to be the final straw, and they spoke as a member of NATO to get all aligned countries to push Assad out of power once and for all. Again, NATO was very reluctant to get involved, but Turkey knew something had to be done regardless of what their decision. On January 15, 2015, a squadron from the Turkish Air Force flew bombing runs over Assad targets in the north of Syria after an announcement from PM Erdogan that the recent actions by Assad were “unacceptable” and that they would be met with “significant force.” Assad fully mobilized whatever forces he had left, but with the Turkish Air Force attacking from the skies and an embattled but furious rebel group storming the main Assad compound. The international community was taken aback by sudden action on the part of Turkey, and many people were concerned that personal desires for Erdogan were being placed ahead of the interests of the Syrian people. Few can deny, however, that the Turkish intervention was the last nail in the coffin for the conflict. The Second Battle of Damascus lasted for a week, and at its conclusion, the vast majority of Assad's troops had defected or fled, but Assad himself had fled Damascus. It was decided that a UN transitional government was going to be established for at least 6 months so that the Second Republic of Syria could be set up and free elections held. Just as Syria was overcoming its chronic pains, Iraq was experiencing a severe bout of its own.

President Murkowski made it clear in her campaign for president that she did not want to become entangled in another Middle Eastern conflict unless it had a direct affect on the US’ national security. With the US mostly withdrawn from the conflicts in the region, they felt that there was going to be little to worry about. After seeing the deteriorating situation in Iraq, a growing contingent of Americans began to call the War on Terror a failure and one that should have not been started. They were content to let it be, but that was not to be.

On March 28, 2017, a small contingent of Kurds were staging a protest in the city of Kirkuk, asking the government to stop neglecting their needs and to protect them from the recent ambushes by Al-Qaeda in that region. It was merely a peaceful protest, and more Kurds started to gather as the day went on. This was accompanied by more Iraqi military showing up in the city, and keeping a close eye on the protests. An unknown protester exclaimed "the government does not care about protecting peaceful people from violence, but it will protect violence from peaceful people!" The military personnel surrounding the protesters were clearly perturbed by the statement. More angry chants came out of the marching crowd until another shouted "down with the Iraqi government, we must make it anew!" A disgruntled army official fired at the man, which prompted some in the peaceful crowd to panic and flee, and others to grow angry. In a scene reminiscent of the Boston Massacre, stones and other objects were thrown at the troops as they began to fire wholesale at the crowd. Even more people began to flee, and the military pursued the quickly dispersing crowd. For the next two hours chaos reigned as civilians and militants fell in what became known as the Kirkuk Massacre.

The international community quickly condemned the acts of the Iraqi military. President Murkowski stated that "the militant attitude that the government has towards some of its constituents is disheartening, and it is an act which will have consequences if it is to continue." When asked if a second Iraq war was possible, she merely responded by stating "war will be avoided unless there is a direct impact on our national security." In response to this strong disapproval, the Iraqi government officials responded by stating that they "will not let the interests of others impact their national security." More troops were dispatched to the north of Iraq in order to keep the peace, which made some of the international outcry stronger.

Many proposed that Iraq needs to implement a system of representation like Syria, where each sect of the population has a fixed number of seats in the legislature proportional to their population. Exacerbating the situation was talks between the Syrian and Turkish government to put pressure on Iraq to change, which many people presumed dangerous with Erdogan still at the wheel in Turkey. Within a week Iraq was fully mobilized, bracing itself for an invasion from the two. Alarming was the fact that a number of small isolated communities fell under the guidance and support of Al-Qaeda in order to defend themselves from a possible invasion. It seemed as if the whole of relative peace in the Middle East was going to come crashing down.

On the request of President Murkowski, Secretary of State Huntsman flew to Jordan and arranged for a meeting between government officials to diffuse the tension. Huntsman was able to get Syria and Turkey to call off their alliance in agreement that Iraq would pull its forces off of the border between the two countries. The dignitaries left the meeting knowing that there would be peace, but many people were angry that Huntsman did not make a solution that was beneficial to the Kurds and to reform the Iraqi government. It was clear that the policy of the Murkowski administration was to keep the peace, even if it did not solve some of the critical issues. Many people labeled it as a political move to maintain support among severely war weary Americans, and that she was going to end up making the situation in the Middle East worse. No matter the opinion, it was clear that the relationship between America and the Middle East was never going to be the same.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A House Divided: First Steps


President Murkowski said that she was "ready to get some real work done" just after her inauguration, and she would assuredly hold true to her word. It was not long after the shuffle of Obama moving out and Murkowski moving into the White House that she became very eager to get her hands dirty by cleaning up Congress' act. Many meetings with world leaders were on the agenda, such as Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Ed Milliband of the UK. Many political analysts found it interesting how many other countries traded their conservative governments for liberal ones in 2015 and the US proceeded to go the other direction. Talks with Canada would be especially important, concerning that Canada was involved in a lot of energy production in North America and building the Keystone Pipeline. First on the president's agenda was getting Cabinet picks approved, but in order for that to occur in earnest, leadership elections for both houses of Congress had to be held, and it was going to be contentious.

First up was the Senate, who began deliberations on January 29. Both parties were going to decide leaders, with the Democrats deciding on a whip. The Republican Minority Leader John Cornyn was facing a challenge from a fellow Texan senator Ted Cruz, who wanted Senate Republicans to embrace a more conservative direction. President Murkowksi had made it known that she was in strong support of Senator Cornyn, and that she was concerned that leadership from Cruz could lead to more obstructionism. It was decided on the first ballot that Cornyn would retain his position, with 32 Senate Republicans voting for Cornyn and 13 voting for Cruz. The Senators who chose to support Cruz were all ones who sat in what were considered safe seats in conservative states in the Plains and the Deep South.

The Democratic elections were far more contentious. The final list of challengers were Senators Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand, Alison Grimes, Elizabeth Warren, and Richard Durbin. On the first ballot, Senator Bennet won the slim plurality of votes at 16, with most Senators from purple states voting for him, and the vote being fairly equally divided among the rest. Surprisingly, Senator Durbin chose to drop out after the first ballot, stating that he wanted to see unity in the party by endorsing Bennet, and that he was going to run to maintain his position as whip. Senator Grimes, who recieved the least amount of votes, also chose to drop out after the first ballot and endorsed Gillibrand.

On ballot two, it was down to three. Bennet maintained a slim lead with 20 votes, while Gillibrand recieved 19 and Warren 14. Warren dropped out after ballot two, endorsing Gillibrand, and with ballot three, Gillibrand clinched a majority at 29 votes to Bennet's 24. The election for whip was 53 unanimous votes to keep Senator Durbin in his position. Grimes later stated that she considered a challenge, but declined out of respect and unity. The newly christened Majority Leader Kirsten Gillibrand, in her address to Senate Democrats, stated that she is excited to "continue the legacies of President Obama and former Senator Reid, and will promote the ideals the Democratic Party stands for with the utmost passion and vigor." She also emphasized that she will be happy to work with President Murkowski whenever the occasion necessitates itself, and that she will be willing to work towards compromise in most circumstances.

The House also had its own round of issues. The Democratic Party had been gaining seats in 2014 and 2016, slowly getting closer in number to the Republicans. Speaker Eric Cantor, although he was the first Jewish Speaker, was known for being a fairly strong conservative. Majority Leader Paul Ryan had already confirmed that he will not be challenging and that he supports keeping Cantor in his position. Some in the party believed that he is too conservative, and will keep the Democrats gaining seats in the House. He faced challenges from Representatives Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both young and very influential in the moderate wing of their party. They both expressed concerns that having a conservative Speaker opposed to a more moderate President would excabarate the issues between the wings of the party. Speaker Cantor responded to these comments by stating that he would be in support of the president's plans as long as they did not compromise the core values of the Republican Party. House Republicans voted on January 31 on the position, and a slight majority voted to reelect Speaker Cantor at 121. Now that Congress ironed out some of their issues, it was time for them to approve the President's Cabinet choices.

President Murkowksi made a number of new choices for her cabinet. Her Cabinet was fairly bipartisan, with some notable Democratic figures like Brian Schweitzer becoming Secretary of Agriculture and but most of the major positions were filled by Republicans. Former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman was nominated to the position of Secretary of State, which the president later stated was "the only clear choice to fill the role." Some Republicans were disillusioned with his connection to the Obama administration, and opposed him because of that, but many agreed with her choice. Some interesting choices were to nominate former New York City Mayor Rudy Giulani to become Secretary of Homeland Security, and the nomination of state senator from Maryland, Greg Randall, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Deeveloment. He grew up in and around Baltimore and has become well known in the Republican Party after his stirring speech at the 2016 RNC.

Secretary of State: Jon Huntsman
Secretary of Treasury: Meg Whitman
Secretary of Defense: Paul Wolfowitz
Attorney General: Jay Nixon
Secretary of the Interior: Brian Schweitzer
Secretary of Agriculture: Kristi Noem
Secretary of Commerce: Kenneth Frazier
Secretary of Labor: Jennifer Granholm
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Mark McClellan
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Greg Randall
Secretary of Education: Arne Duncan
Secretary of Energy: James Connaughton
Secretary of Transportation: Anthony Foxx
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Duncan Hunter
Secretary of Homeland Security: Rudy Giuliani

Utmost priority for the Murkowski administration was getting the economy and government spending in order. She made it clear that she wants Congress to reduce spending, mostly by cutting extra pork, and that some discretionary spending areas such as education that were "critical to this country's future" would not be acceptable. She also wanted an across the board tax cut, which includes lowering tax rates on the upper bracket from President Obama's raise back to regular levels, but not as low as those from the Bush tax cuts. The House, in their new bill which began on February 13, took cuts to all discretionary spending, with the exclusion being education and defense. Minority Leader Schultz wanted there to be cuts to defense spending and matching increases to education, but Republican leadership stated that a cut in defense would be unacceptable. The bill narrowly passed the Senate, but many Democrats expressed concern about cuts in funding for scientific research and important tourist and preservation sites like national parks and monuments would end up being detrimental. When this bill reached the president's desk, she eagerly signed it, calling it a "revitalization for the American economy."

President Murkowski had a big boost in popularity from her first major passage of legislation, but she soon faced a big issue regarding LGBT rights. She publicly stated her support for gay marriage quite a while ago, and she was expected to be a fairly strong ally as president. However, many in the community were angry when she stated, when asked about gay marriage, that "it will assuredly be legalized when America is ready, and all we can do for now is push states to accept it." Recently, a number of states have moved from having civil unions to gay marriage: Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, and Wisconsin. Michigan has also voted to legalize it via referendum in the 2016 election, while Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida have come closer to legalizing it with newly elected state legislatures taking up the issue with a refreshed attitude. President Murkowski had the unfortunate circumstance of towing the line between sticking with her values and keeping the Republican Party together, for many Tea Party members would be calling for primary challenges and work towards undermining the president if she moved to push for nationwide legalization.

The first month for the Murkowski administration went well in the eyes of most Americans, as she maintained a 59% approval rating. She could surely get bills through Congress, but the true trials of her leadership were about to come shortly.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A House Divided: The Inauguration


The inauguration of President Lisa Murkowski and Vice President Kelly Ayotte came amid much pomp and expectation. It would be the first woman to hold either position, although it would be a conservative from Alaska as opposed to a liberal from Arkansas, and many Republicans were very excited to see one of their own back in the White House. There was also an enormous amount of expectations for her, with what it seemed like the future of the flailing Republican Party in the hands of whether or not she had a successful administration. The more conservative members of her party wanted to see her stick with more conservative values, even though she as well as they knew the chance of that happening was slim to none. Above all, she wanted both parties to work together and stop roadblock.

 As usual, the inauguration starts with the carriage ride between the incumbent President and the President-Elect. Often, when members of a different party or somebody who defeated the incumbent ride together, the situation has been characterized as heavily awkward. Based, on statements by President Murkowski, her ride with President Obama was very welcoming, and that they carried on a significant conversation about what the Presidency was truly going to entail. She has since said that she developed a much deeper respect for and saw a different side of the president, the likes of which she had not seen before. It gave her hope that, perhaps, the duopoly truly could compromise.

In notable attendance at the Inauguration was President George W. Bush along with his wife and former First Lady Laura Bush, making one of their few major public appearance since he left office in 2009. President Bush’s image has improved significantly since he left office, handing off a costly war and an economy sliding into recession to President Obama. Chief Justice John Roberts stood at the ready with a Bible, in order to swear in Vice President Kelly Ayotte. She gave a short address, which consisted of the idea that she will help get common sense back in government and that they will encourage progress.

Next up was the big event, the public swearing in of President Murkowski. She laid her hand on the Bible, and repeated the perfectly executed oath, which redeemed Justice Roberts from his misstep in 2012. Perhaps one of the most inspiring parts of the speech was one that advocated compromise:

“I want every American to think about their priorities. No matter whether we are an Democrat, Republican, or independent, above all we are Americans. This Federal government has had a far too partisan character as of late.

Under my administration, you will not see shutdowns!

Under my administration, you will see a return to the ideals of compromise that were so key in the foundation of our country, and our Constitution!

We have lost touch with so many ideals that our country has been founded on, and this is why we have been choked with deadlock. I want all of you to think about compromise, and do what is best for all Americans, and to move this country forward.”

This was a clear tone setter for the rest of the Murkowski administration: she was not going to be completely Republican party line, but she would do whatever was needed to get things done to move America forward. Clear parts of her agenda that she pronounced in her inaugural address were repealing Obamacare, moving away from foreign oil by investing in a balance of  domestic oil and other renewable energies, and reinforcing basic rights by scaling back the NSA and some parts of the Patriot Act that provide for “giving the government far too much ability to stomp on basic rights.” President Murkowski began office with a 67% approval rating, and there were a number of lofty expectations people on both sides of the aisle to follow.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A House Divided: Midnight Appointments


The United States welcomed their President-Elect Lisa Murkowski with deafening cheers as she came upon the state to deliver her acceptance speech to the crowd gathered in Anchorage, Alaska.

"I admire all of you that braved the chilly winds of an Alaskan winter to wait for this announcement. Minutes ago, Governor O'Malley called me to congratulate me for my victory, and he gives me his best wishes in taking up the leadership of this nation.  I want to thank him for being an admirable competitor, and I couldn't have asked for anybody better to compete against to win over the American public. I also want to thank Senator Ayotte for being my running mate, and being an invaluable asset to the campaign.

I am here to tell you that I am very excited to announce the victory of myself and and Vice President-Elect Ayotte tonight, and that the winter of American partisanship and deadlock is over!"

The crowd was excited, and moment the moment that ended the election eerily mirrored the one which started it back in October in Milwaukee. One thing that was clear is that Murkowski wanted to foster compromise and avoid deadlocks and shutdowns that had happened all too frequently in the Obama administration. She made it clear that the "cogs of government would grind once again."

A part of getting the cogs grinding again was getting some fresh faces in Congress. With the Senate Democrats having been beheaded by the defeat of Majority Leader Reid in the election, they were out in force and ready to pounce to take up the position. The Majority Leader would practically become the most powerful and influential Democrat in the country, with the Speakership and Presidency being controlled by the Republican Party. They wanted to have somebody who was charismatic and passionate about policies that they supported and would keep the agenda of the center-left in our Federal government.

The first choice that came up, and a fairly obvious one, was current Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois. He announced his intent to fill the position on November 11, and wanted to emphasize carrying on Reid's legacy in the Senate by doing whatever was necessary to stop obstructionism in the Senate. However, a number of Senators rose to the occasion to challenge him: Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Alison Grimes of Kentucky, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Notably, all of these people except Bennet were considered to be liberal lions of a sort, almost like how Ted Kennedy was looked up to as a part of the Democratic Party. There were hopes that the new Majority Leader and President Murkowski could work together as well as Kennedy and President Bush did.

On the Republican side of things, the moderate versus conservative division made itself painfully evident. Senator Ted Cruz made it clear that he was challenging current Minority Leader John Cornyn for his position, stating that he has been far too willing to accommodate the interests of liberals and has not stuck up for conservative values on a number of occasions. In the House, some moderates were considering challenging Speaker Eric Cantor, who has been a fairly strong conservative during the duration of his time as Majority Leader and as Speaker for nearly two years after replacing Speaker John Boehner in January of 2015.

Another important question at this time was about outgoing President Obama's legacy. He broke glass celings, as an African-American raised by a single mom in a middle class family. Although it may never be known how the race factor truly played in electing him, he defeated Senator McCain by a significant margin in 2008 and was reelected by a lesser margin in 2012 over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Many political analysts looked at the results of the 2015 election with the lens of approval of President Obama's job, and based on that view, he was not approved of by a majority. One of his biggest legislative accomplishments are also one of his most controversial: the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It was tough to pass in his first term, and had an infamously rocky implementation late 2013. As 2014 progressed, many of the major kinks were worked out, and results started to show. One of the major outcomes for the ACA was in late 2014, when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that a requirement for employers to pay for birth control was constitutional on the basis of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment: they stated that recognizing employers exempt from providing birth control due to religious reasons was akin to respecting an establishment of religion.

It is somewhat assured that Obama will be remembered fairly fondly among many liberals. He helped push for LGBT rights throughout his terms, seeing the Supreme Court overrule DOMA and Proposition 8. It is also assured that conservative's will continue to attach a negative stigma to his name. Notable was the fact that at that point he had filled four seats on the Supreme Court, which was an unprecedented number. The President had one last major chance to leave a legacy through his fifth, and final Supreme Court appointment due to the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, allowing him to become the first President to appoint a majority of seats on the Supreme Court since Washington in the Constitution's inception.

Many people saw the retirement of Justice Breyer as politically motivated: being over 80 years old meant that there was a chance that he could be forced to retire soon, and he found it better to let President Obama replace him with a like minded liberal rather than let President Murkowksi replace him with a conservative. President Obama chose former California Attorney General Kamala Harris to fill his position on the court, calling her the best person to execute the legacy of Justice Breyer. The Roberts Court was now being satirically referred to as the Obama Court.

President Obama wasn't the only one in the spotlight anymore: President-Elect Murkowski's statements and choices were viewed as equally important. After all, she did have the responsibility of coming up with Cabinet appointees. In fulfilling her last month in her role as Senator, she urged Senate Republicans not to filibuster Harris' nomination in order to move past an era of obstructionism and also due to the fact that it would not fundamentally change the Court balance. Harris was approved to the Supreme Court by a party line 52-48 majority just before Congress went on its holiday break.

Another issue at hand was the two vacancies that the President and Vice President-Elect would leave in the Senate. Alaska Governor Anna Fairclough nominated Mead Treadwell, who was defeated by incumbent Senator Begich in a close match in 2014 to replace Murkowski, and in a more controversial decision, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan nominated Ayotte’s challenger in this election, Carol Shea-Porter, to fill Ayotte’s seat. Come January, this would give the Democrats a 53 seat majority, a 55 seat if you count the two caucusing independents, which was looking like it would be a wrench in the Murkowski administration’s legislative plans.

Heading into the New Year, one thing was certain: President Murkowski would simply not do business as usual.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A House Divded: Election Night in America (2016) - Conclusion

10:35 PM EST

With 96% of the votes reporting, the state of Colorado and its nine electoral votes can finally be called for Murkowski. This is a narrow margin of victory, at just over 2%, and an enormous victory for the Murkowski campaign. She managed to have a fairly strong showing in the Denver suburbs, especially the southern ones surrounding Centennial, and a slightly better than expected performance among Hispanics in areas Denver and north up to Longmont and Fort Collins are very likely the big factors that flipped the state. Now only Iowa remains, it will end up deciding who is the next President of the United States.

12:07 AM EST

With almost all votes reporting, we feel comfortable calling, based on current data, the state of Iowa and its 6 electoral votes, thereby making Senator Lisa Murkowski the projected President-Elect. She will win the state by an extremely narrow margin of victory at less than one percent and less than 80,000 votes. The same types of things which have secured her victory in states like Ohio and Colorado are looking to be in play here as well. There will be an automatic recount tomorrow morning based on how close this victory was, but we still feel comfortable with the current data provided to make a projection.

Along with out big projection of Murkowski as President-Elect, we are ready to finalize some Senate results, and we can conclude that the Democratic Party has a net gain of two seats. A big call, and one that was only finalized minutes ago, is that former Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada has defeated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. It was looking like Reid was going to be fairly safe, but Sandoval had a strong base in support in Nevada that he was able to revitalize. He capitalized on support in the Hispanic community, and attempted to paint Reid as being outdated with Nevada's interests. Another important help was surrogate campaigning for Murkowski, and even though she did not win Nevada, her support of the ticket was important.

Although the Republicans made a big victory in beheading the Senate Democrats for the time being, they had a net loss by losing three other seats. Senator Johnson in Wisconsin lost to Ron Kind, Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania lost to Kathleen Kane, and Senator Grassley of Iowa lost to Chet Culver. The Iowa Senate result is especially interesting regarding the narrow victory of the Republicans in the Iowa presidential race. However, Senator Kirk of Illinois will very narrowly be reelected over challenger Lisa Madigan. Now the battle will begin for who will lead the Democratic Party in the Senate, as the Senate is the only portion of the federal government which remain in Democratic control.


We can now officially wrap up Election Night in America. After tonight, we are going to start seeing major changes in our Federal government. We will have a Republican in the White House, not to mention the fact that this will be the first time a woman will be President and Vice President. There is also  a very competitive decision for Senate Majority Leader that will dictate much of what President-Elect Murkowski can accomplish with congressional Democrats. We would like to thank everybody who has watched this unfold with us tonight, and we hope that you will stay with us to watch the transition of power that will take place over the next few months.

A House Divided: Election Night in America (2016) - 10:00 PM

It is now 10:00 PM on the East Coast, and we are about ready to start declaring where the major swing states are going to fall and who will become the next President of the United States. Right now, we have some major projections to make.

The state of Wisconsin will cast its 10 electoral votes for O’Malley. This is not too much of a surprise, as Wisconsin has historically been a Democratic lean, but Murkowski put this state into play. Any state is big at this point in the game.

The state of Ohio can now be called for Murkowski. She will win by a fairly slim margin in the state, and it is looking like the things that pushed her over the top are slightly better performances than Romney in 2012 with women and Hispanics, as well as in suburban areas. No Republican has won the White House without a victory in Ohio, so this is a huge victory for Murkowski.

Virginia can now be called for O’Malley. It will be by a slightly smaller margin than Obama in 2012, however, and not as big of a margin of victory that was expected. Virginia is generally considered critical in a Republican victory, so this is a huge gain for O’Malley. However, this is not the only possible path to victory she has tonight.

Another state that will fall for O’Malley is Pennsylvania. This is not too big of a surprise, as the state has pronounced Democratic leans, but Murkowski was unusually competitive. It is of significant concern to the Democratic party that this state took so long to call, and Pennsylvania could end up being a state that is just as heavily contested as Ohio.

The final state which we feel comfortable calling at this time is Florida, which will vote narrowly to award its big prize of 29 electoral votes to Murkowski. The fact that Florida is not the last state to be called is a surprise on its own. Murkowski was able to wrap up this state by a much better performance than Romney had in the Tampa Bay area, as well having slightly better numbers among women and Hispanics.

With a number of critical states called at this point, the last two states remaining up for grabs and the ones that will end up deciding the election are Iowa and Colorado. Both of these states have been usual swing states, and both of these states gave Obama around a 5% margin of victory in 2008 and 2012, but Murkowski has kept neck and neck with O'Malley in both of these states all night long. Last time that Iowa and Colorado voted Republican was for Preisdent Bush's reelection in 2004 against then Senator Kerry. Luckily, a tie in the Electoral College is out of the question, so whoever wins in these states will win the White House.

Coons: This is shaping up to be seriously close. I can't even make a solid prediction as of yet. I think that Murkowski has had a lot stronger connection with rural and Midwestern voters than O'Malley has, which is hopefully a benefit to her. If you think back to the primary season, O'Malley found himself weak in the Midwest and plains regions, where Klobuchar dominated.

Jones: You make a good point about where O'Malley's strengths do and do not lie, but the state of Colorado has a growing urban and suburban population, with a significant portion of this being Hispanic. You simply cannot rely on a more rural Western character to win over states like Colorado anymore: this is what the GOP has been interpreting wrongly and I think it is one of the main reasons why they have been losing elections. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A House Divided: Election Night in America (2016) - 9:00 PM

It is now 9:00, and the last polls have closed on the West Coast. We are also prepared to call some states that were previously too close to call. We also have some announcements to make regarding the Senate and House of Representatives. Without further ado, let us continue our coverage.

The state of Hawaii can be called for O'Malley. It will vote for him by over a 70% margin of victory, the second greatest behind District of Columbia.

Utah can be called fairly easily for Murkowski. It has consistently been the strongest Republican state in the country for the past few elections and tonight will be no exception.

California can be called for O'Malley. This is a huge gain at 55 electoral votes, but it is a fairly expected one.

The state of Alaska can fairly easily be called for resident Murkowski. She will win the state with over 60% of the vote, the biggest margin of victory for a Republican since 2004.

Idaho can be called for Murkowksi. This is another strongly Republican state.

Washington can now be called for O'Malley. This is a fairly easy call, as Washington is fairly strongly Democratic.

Washington's neighbor, Oregon, can now be called for O'Malley. Murkowski was speculated early on as being competitive in Oregon, but it was not to be the case.

Nevada can also be called for O'Malley. It was considered competitive early on, but it shifted towards O'Malley towards the end of the season.

The state of Arizona can now be called for Murkowski. It will remain in the GOP column as expected, but the state is becoming closer and closer each election cycle and it is going to become critical come next decade.

The state of North Carolina can now be called for Murkowski. It had shown some Republican leans, but the state remains very competitive for both parties. Murkowksi's margin of victory in the state is greater than Romney's by just under a percent. This is likely a very good sign for her greater election chances.

New Hampshire, which was also too close to call, can now be called for Murkowksi. This state had shown some Republican leans, but it remained competitive. The choice of Senator Ayotte as running mate likely wrapped up this state, much like Klobuchar did for O'Malley. This puts Murkowski at a greater number of electoral votes than Romney earned in 2012, which was a result predicted by many.

Maine can now be called, with O'Malley earning the two At-Large electoral votes, but losing the 2nd congressional district to Murkowski. Historically, Maine has been more of a Democratic state, but President Bush came close to winning the 2nd district in 2000. Murkowski has had a decent amount of popularity in New England, more so than the last few Republican candidates. This will be the first time that Maine splits its electoral votes by district. This is one of the first big swing states to really fall, and we are approaching the time where the decision is made.

Now all polls have closed, and O'Malley has a slim lead of 10 electoral vote, but has ended up slightly behind Murkowski in the popular vote. The result of this election will fall in the hands of Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. Since no candidate currently shares a lead in both popular and electoral votes, this election is very likely going to come down to the wire.

Coons: The fact that Maine’s 2nd fell red and that North Carolina will go for Murkowski by a greater margin than it did for Romney are both signs that I think point towards a Republican victory. It is going to be close either way, but it just looks like the Republicans can pull it out this time. She has the rural appeal that I think can wrap up Iowa and Colorado, and Florida and Ohio will naturally swing.

Jones: Of course this is going to be a close election, but O’Malley can still pull this out. He does not need to win as many of the states still up for grabs as Murkowski does. Still of issue is the popular vote, however. We could end up with the Electoral College electing somebody who does not reflect the popular vote, which I would think is going to spell bad things for whoever ends up in the White House come January.


At this time, we can make a couple important projections:

As of poll closings on the West Coast, the Democratic Party has reached a majority of 50 seats in the Senate, with a number of seats still up for grabs. Senators Ayotte and Murkowski will retain their senate seats, but it is yet to be seen what will happen with those pending results of the presidential election. Senators Portman of Ohio and Isakson of Georgia have defeated their Democratic challengers, but democratic challenger Ron Kind defeated incumbent Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, a big pickup for the Democrats. Still vulnerable are Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Senator Kirk of Illinois, Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Senator Grassley of Iowa. Also notable is that Representative David Schweikert will fill the seat of retiring Senator McCain in Arizona.

It is looking like if Senator Reid is defeated, then there will be a significant fight for the position of senate leader. An obvious choice would be Senator Durbin, the current Majority Whip, but Senators Gillibrand, Warner, and Bennet have expressed interest in filling the position of Majority Leader. Whoever fills this seat will be extremely important for whichever administration takes office in January.