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Political Editor David Chalian Answers Your Questions


Eric Likness: I know Blanche Lincoln lost, but how many other Blue Dog Dems lost seats in addition to her? How much of a difference will that make in the Senate, where the Dems still have a majority?

David Chalian: The Blue Dog Coalition is an official caucus on the House side. (The Senate side of the Capitol tends to shy away from all the slicing and dicing of their members into various special interest caucuses.) The Blue Dogs claimed 54 members in the 111th Congress. A handful of them announced their retirements (Gordon, Tanner, Moore) this year, or unsuccessfully sought higher office (Ellsworth, Melancon). Of the remaining Blue Dogs, nearly half of them – 23 – lost their seats on Tuesday. And the counting in a couple of House races where incumbent Blue Dogs were running is not yet complete.

Among the Blue Dog losers on Tuesday were two leaders of the Blue Dog Coalition, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., and Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind.

The shrunken Democratic caucus in the House will most certainly be a more homogeneously liberal one in the 112th Congress than it was in the 111th.

(From Reddit): Which congressional initiatives are likely to be imperiled, and which are likely to gain support, after the non-incumbent challengers are sworn in?

David Chalian: We’ll have to see what the congressional initiatives are from the new House Republican majority, but certainly any Obama administration initiatives that are big programs with a hefty price tag are likely not going anywhere fast in the new Congress. You heard President Obama in his Wednesday news conference declare dead the Cap and Trade energy legislation passed by the House in June 2009.

You will most likely see some compromise agreement worked out on the Bush-era tax cuts, a scaled back energy bill, and some education reforms as policy areas that are likely to gain bipartisan support going forward.

Cmonzella Do you think that with a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate, can we expect any real cooperation and compromise anytime soon? Or are we in for gridlock in Congress for at least the next two years?

David Chalian: I hate to be a cynic on this one, but I am not at all hopeful that we will see real cooperation and compromise. As I mentioned above, I think there are a few issue areas where President Obama and Speaker Boehner and a bipartisan group of 60 senators can come together and get some smaller things done. But I think with 10 Republicans about to start making weekly trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, the next election cycle is upon and that will put some pressure on congressional Republicans to not cooperate too much with the Obama administration. The president and the Speaker will likely look for some quick victories they can take to the American people, but then I think we will see the parties retreat back to their political bunkers and plot the political war strategies for 2012 — and that bodes for more gridlock.

(From Reddit): If Sarah Palin decides to run for the GOP nomination, how likely is it she will win it?

David Chalian: There is certainly a path for the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate to win the nomination. She clearly has won over the hearts and minds of a segment of the Republican base, and it is an activist segment that can have a big impact in the early nominating states, specifically inside the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary. If she can ride conservative support to victories in two of the three early states, she will have taken a giant leap toward the nomination.

That being said, she still does not have majority support inside her own party, so she is certainly no lock on the nomination. Whether or not her potential Republican opponents next year can successfully make the case to Republican primary voters that she may not be a viable general election candidate remains to be seen. The “electability” argument has a mixed record in presidential primary politics.

FVSchuster: I’d like YOUR opinion regarding the election results as they relate to reports of “voter discontent”. Specifically –
1) Voters in general want to throw out incumbents, yet John Boehner (possibly the next Speaker of the House) has been in Congress for 20 years. Is he not an incumbent? Have the “discontented voters” forgotten this fact?

David Chalian: Our system being as it is, voters – discontented or any other kind – don’t get to vote for Speaker. John Boehner was reelected in his safe Cincinnati area district and it is his Republican colleagues in the House who will get to vote for him as Speaker. Some Republicans are concerned that he does not best reflect this wave of change since he has been the face of the establishment, but there is no real threat to his becoming Speaker that can be seen right now inside the Republican conference.

FVSchuster: 2) Voters are angry about taxpayer bailouts to banks and Wall Street, yet the Republicans under George Bush enacted the TARP program that provided these bailouts. Have the “discontented voters” forgotten this fact?

David Chalian: Exit polls did show that voters still put more blame on George W. Bush than they do on Barack Obama for the economic state of affairs, but voters tend to be extraordinarily forward-looking people. The fact that TARP was passed under President Bush didn’t seem to be a pertinent part of the campaign discussion, which largely focused on “what are you doing for me now and for my family in the future?” economic question from the voters.

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