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Impatience with Washington drove off-year electorate

House Speaker John Boehner said that his job is to listen to the priorities of the American people. The GOP leadership outlined their new agenda, including authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline and revising the Affordable Care Act. Gwen Ifill talks to David Winston of the Winston Group and Frederick Yang of Hart Research Associates about the numbers and motivations behind who voted in 2014.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The political earthquake from Tuesday’s elections continues to reverberate. Today, it made its way to Capitol Hill, where there were new questions about whether the president and the soon to be Republican Congress can really get anything done.

  • REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House:

    My job is not to get along with the president just to get along with him, although we actually have a nice relationship. The fact is, my job is to listen to my members and listen to the American people and make their priorities our priorities.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    A day after the post-election promises of cooperation, signs of sharper edges were beginning to show.

    Writing in The Wall Street Journal, House Speaker John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the next Senate majority leader, outlined their objectives for the new Congress, among them, authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, overhaul the tax code, revise or repeal the Affordable Care Act, and rein in the federal debt.

    There was no mention of immigration reform, even though President Obama threatened yesterday to act on his own by year’s end.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    If they want to get a bill done, whether it’s during the lame-duck or next year, I’m eager to see what they have to offer. But what I’m not going to do is just wait.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    McConnell had warned that’s like waving a red flag at a bull. Boehner chose his own metaphors today to make the same point.

  • REP. JOHN BOEHNER:

    I believe that if the president continues to act on his own, he is going to poison the well. When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    As for Keystone, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president will consider any bill Congress sends him, pending a court ruling.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    That’s a process that currently is winding its ways through the State Department and one that right now is at least going to be influenced by the decision from a Nebraska judge about the proper route for that pipeline through that state.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The president has called congressional leaders to the White House tomorrow to discuss those issues and others directly.

    As the White House and congressional leaders retreat to their corners, we thought it might be worth taking one more look at who voted, what they thought they were voting for and whether the politicians heard.

    David Winston is president of The Winston Group, a Republican polling firm. Over the years, he has advised Republican congressional leadership. Fred Yang is a partner at the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, a Democratic polling firm.

    Examine for us, gentlemen, the 2014 electorate, and tell me what stands out for you.

  • DAVID WINSTON, The Winston Group:

    Well, I mean, first off, it was a very traditional off-year electorate.

    And what that means is younger voters didn’t participate in the same level that they normally do in presidential years. And there wasn’t actually that much of a drop-off in terms of minority vote that was expected. African-Americans dropped off by one from an on-year to an off-year. And Hispanics dropped off by two.

    But this was actually in many ways a very typical off-year electorate.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    An anti-Democratic one or an anti-Washington outcome?

  • FRED YANG, Hart Research Associates:

    I think more — well, first of all, it’s hard to argue that, given what happened on Tuesday, there wasn’t some anti-Democrat voting.

    No, I think it was ultimately anti-Washington, and an electorate that had run out of patience with what they perceive as the status quo. And since the Democrats have the White House, we were the status quo.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    This was an older — everybody agrees, an older, whiter, more male electorate, and that at least the Republican electorate was.

    And we have three examples to show you that would demonstrate that. One is nationally. Nationally, we discovered that white male Republicans are up — were up in 2012 to 64 percent from 62 percent, not a big number. But then look at the state of Georgia, where David Perdue, the senator-elect, is — got 79 percent of the white male vote, Republican there. And in Michigan, white male Republicans had grown five points since 2012 from 58 percent to 63 percent.

    So does that mean that the — we talked a lot on election night about the death of the Obama coalition. Does that mean that there should be more focus on wooing back white males?

  • DAVID WINSTON:

    I think the challenge to Democrats at this point, after seeing their coalition fall apart, is not necessarily to start going cherry-picking groups. It’s thinking through the process of, what does a new majority coalition look like, if the Democrats are going to try to achieve it?

    I think, on the Republican side, we got there. We were certainly able to expand in terms of Hispanic vote, where we went from 29 percent to 36 percent. We did better with women this time. We did better — slightly better with younger voters as well, so we were able to grow that coalition.

    I think the challenge to Democrats, at least at this point, is think through, what does that new coalition look like? And it may include that demographic or it may not, but I think that’s the challenge.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    That’s what the Republican tells a Democrat. So you get to get give him advice as well.

  • FRED YANG:

    I’m — I’m taking notes, because…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • FRED YANG:

    No.

    Look, I think the — there is an Obama coalition. It appears — and that’s — in some respects, also, David, it is a presidential turnout coalition.

  • DAVID WINSTON:

    Yes, agreed.

  • FRED YANG:

    And the challenge for Democrats, not just based on Tuesday, but, in 2016, President Obama won’t be on the ballot. And sort of, can we build on the Obama coalition? Can we make sure unmarried women, single women, minorities, young voters — one of the interesting statistics from the exit polls was, in presidential elections, under age 30 voters are a bigger share than over age 65 — on Tuesday night, 2-1 aged 65 over younger voters.

    So can we sustain our momentum with younger voters? But, look, ultimately, the Democrats, like the Republicans, are a national party. And I think that, as part of the post-election debriefing, I think we as a party need have, obviously, messages and priorities that resonate with the entire electorate, including white voters.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You’re talking about priorities.

    Both the president and Mitch McConnell and to some extent John Boehner today all said, you know, America wants us to get stuff done. Those were the president’s words. What stuff? Does it matter what stuff or just getting something done, anything?

  • DAVID WINSTON:

    No, it matters what stuff.

    But, again, understand that the electorate here wasn’t saying, here are the 17 things we want done.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Right.

  • DAVID WINSTON:

    To a large degree, what they’re saying is, they just ran out of patience with the president and they turned to Republicans and saying, you guys. We’re going to give you the chance to govern. This is your opportunity to do it.

    And the one thing they want done is economy and jobs. And so this is not a situation where there are seven things that are going to occur. They want kind of a reset. And that means, by the way, the president’s got to reset as well. And I think you heard, reading the piece that McConnell and Boehner did in The Wall Street Journal, they’re resetting as well.

    You’re right. They just want stuff done.

  • FRED YANG:

    And I think that it would be a mistake for the Republicans to read Tuesday night as a mandate as some kind of economic agenda.

    I do agree with David that it was a mandate for impatience, that we sort of need to get things moving. I think the one opportunity, among many, for Democrats is, I don’t think the Republican Party articulated a positive agenda on Tuesday. It was anti-Obama, anti-this. And I do think there’s a chance for Democrats to seize on an economic narrative.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But are we now a center-right country, pretty much, based on those results, or is that just where we are today?

  • DAVID WINSTON:

    No, we have been a center-right country for a while.

    And, again, the way I get to that, if you look at the exit polls, moderates are always the largest group, and then there are just more conservatives than liberals, so it’s center-right. But understand that where that center goes, both political and ideological, sets up the frame for how you build your majority coalition.

  • FRED YANG:

    I agree with that.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You agree with that? You agree with him?

  • FRED YANG:

    Look, people expect pollsters from different parties to disagree, but the numbers are the numbers.

    And, look, I think, on Tuesday night, the country might have shifted center-right. I think 2016 is a whole new ball game with a different electorate.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK. Well, 2016 is going to be right on our heels any moment now.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    We will be back to talk to you about that as well.

    Fred Yang, David Winston, thank you both very much.

  • DAVID WINSTON:

    Pleasure.

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