By Christine Lee
If the midterm elections are any indicator, President Obama could be on the November 2016 ballot. At least it would seem that way. Republican candidates across the nation are bashing the president as a means of attacking Democratic rivals. It’s a prelude to what strategies and policy points are being emphasized ahead of the presidential election season.
Obama and the Affordable Care Act
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s reelection campaign has replaced its usual upbeat messaging in favor of statewide television ads that accuse his Democratic opponent, Gordon Ball, of being “just one more vote for Barack Obama” as an image of the president ominously lingers behind Ball’s profile.
In two hotly contested Senate races, Arkansas Republican Representative Tom Cotton is attempting to unseat two-term Democratic Senator Mark Pryor by making Obama a centerpiece of his campaign. Challengers to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu have taken to linking the incumbent Democrat to the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. While Landrieu did vote for the federal health care law, she has distanced herself from the president.
Foreign policy and national security
But Democrats are managing to get support from both political parties and the American public from decisions to arm and train Syrian rebels, increase assistance to the Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq and launch drone strikes against Sunni militants in both countries. A September Gallup poll suggested that 60 percent of Americans approved of U.S. military actions against Islamic militants in this region, also known as ISIS.
Hillary Clinton is the Democratic favorite to run for president and has been emphasizing her experience and hard line stance on foreign policy as a way to distance herself from Obama. In her summer-released memoir Hard Choices, the former Secretary of State says she and the president had different approaches to Syria. Clinton aides tell The Hill that she would have “taken a more aggressive approach” than a “passive” Obama.
Though few midterm races are addressing national security as a central talking point, GOP challenger Thom Tillis has been accusing North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan of missing hearings on the Armed Services Committee and letting ISIS “grow.”
While the outcome of the midterm elections is unlikely to increase legislative productivity or resolve gridlock in Congress, it has the potential to shuffle leadership on congressional committees and impact industries. If Sen. Mary Landrieu isn’t re-elected, her chairmanship over the Senate Energy Committee could fall to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) who Democratic colleagues call very left leaning. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is vying for chairmanship over the Senate Banking Committee after current chair Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) retires at the end of the year. Brown has already filed legislation to hold banks more accountable and cut down on risky practices.
The congressional committee agendas will impact how industries are questioned, criticized and regulated, which could set the tone for the presidential elections in terms of whether they will drive markets up or down.
While no clear Republican presidential candidate has emerged, popular names that have been circulating include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).