Presidential race

Empire State Building turns blue. Obama wins.

Empire State Building turns blue. Obama wins. (Photo credit: Lisa Bettany {Mostly Lisa})

Barack Obama rolled to a fairly comfortable win on Tuesday night, winning in excess of 300 electoral votes.  Florida is still undecided, but leaning slightly to Obama.  If he wins that state, he’ll end up with 332 electoral votes.  Obama dominated the battleground states, with his win in Ohio punctuating the victory.

The base of the Democratic party, the states which Democratic candidates have won in each of the last six elections, now accounts for 242 electoral votes.  In essence, this means that the 2016 Democratic candidate starts with 242 electoral votes in his/her pocket and need to only capture 28 more from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Currently, the Republicans win amongst white males and get beaten by Democrats in most other demographic groups.  If the Republican platform remain the same, this could create a problem, as the racial/ethnic makeup of the country is changing, with Caucasians becoming a smaller percentage of the population every year.  The Republicans must make more of an effort to the issues that are important to women and racial and ethnic minorities.


The new Senate will consist of 54 Democrats (this includes Bernie Sanders), 45 Republicans, and one Independent.  Former Maine governor Angus “Burger” King won the Senate race.  While he has not disclosed which party he will caucus with, most insiders feel he will side with Democrats.  The Democratic party actually gave no support to the actual Democrat in the race, fearing a splintered vote would allow the Republican to win.  Two of the higher profile losses were Akin and Mourdock gaffe-ing their way to defeat in races where they had a good chance to win.

The Republicans will maintain their majority in the House, with numbers approaching their current strength of 240 members.

Speaker of the House John Boehner was quick to say “The American people also made clear there’s no mandate for raising tax rates.”  That’s true, speaker Boehner, but tax rates WILL increase at the end of the year unless congress and the president agree on a solution.  The Bush-era tax cuts and the FICA reduction will be expiring. 

While there have been rhetoric about bi-partisanship this morning, there will surely be a tense battle as we approach the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.  Buckle your seat belts.

Meanwhile, in Iowa

Iowa’s representation in the House dropped from five to four.  This meant that Republican incumbent Tom Latham and Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell went head-to-head in a new district.  Latham won, and overall the voters elected two Democrats and two Republicans.  Iowa’s Senators – who were not up for re-election and long-term members Chuck Grassley (Republican) and Tom Harkin (Democrat).  The governor is Republican, the state legislature has one house controlled by each party, and Obama won the presidential vote.  Iowa is purple.

In 2009, Iowa’s Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage, declaring it unconstitutional.  All seven members of the court joined the unanimous decision.

Iowa’s Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor (from a pool nominated by commission).  They are on the ballot for retention after one year on the job, and then again every eight years.  In 2010, it happened that three of those justices were up for retention.  A well-funded effort to have them removed from office narrowly won.

The same group tried again this year, running ads against Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.  This time around, voters chose to retain Wiggins.  I think 2010 was a serious wake-up call to a lot of voters, making them aware of the dangers of politicizing the judicial process.  If a political group could make judges fear for their jobs – and kicking 43% of the court out in one election could definitely instill such fear – then might the judges be fearful of making unpopular decisions, even if they were the legally correct decisions?  Let our judges be just, even when their decisions are not popular.

For the moment, the attempt to replace the justices and replace them with ones who might over the decision seems dead.

There’s a second way to negate the decision, and that would be to amend the state constitution.  However, that’s a pretty cumbersome process.  It involves passage of both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions.  A session is two years.  With the Democrats appearing to be in control of the state senate, the issue seems to be off the table until at least the 2015-2016 session.  This means that the very earliest it could reach the voters is 2017.  Barring a change in the makeup of the legislature (members leaving to to death, illness, scandal, etc) or a reversal by the supreme court, it seems that gay marriage will be legal in Iowa for a number of years.

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