Republicans sweep nation in election


The subdued atmosphere of the CPP’s Election Night Extravaganza at GFC on Tuesday held a sense of foreboding that morphed to disappointment as Pennsylvania’s election results came in, showing a Republican takeover of the state’s Governorship, U.S. Senate seat and the third district’s U.S. Representative position.

All but seven of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties went to Republicans, reflecting a trend across the nation that shifted control of the House to Republicans and narrowed Democratic control of the Senate to only 51 seats, down from 59.  Derek Dye, ‘11, President of the College Republicans, attributed this shift to discontent with the Obama administration.

“It really is a referendum on the Obama agenda,” he said. “I think that turnouts in places where people turned out for him in the past, they just didn’t have it yesterday.  That’s because, frankly, he [Obama] hasn’t delivered.”

Dye, along with two other members of the College Republicans, spent the evening at U.S. Representative winner Mike Kelly’s election night event.  Though the event took place in Butler, Pennsylvanians from as far as Erie came out to support the candidate that would ultimately take the seat.

“The atmosphere in the room for people who weren’t political wonks—it was really cool to see all of them react,” Dye, a self-proclaimed “political wonk,” said. He described a ballroom full of Kelly supporters chanting “We like Mike” as the returns came in.

The scene in Butler offered a stark contrast to that in GFC, as many of the College Democrats had already left by the time the results from Pennsylvania’s third district came in.

“There were a lot of emotions,” said Steven Jones, ’12, President of the College Democrats. “Not a lot of people were really happy.”

Few College Republicans showed up to the CPP event, which Dye attributed to a sense amongst the members of the group that victory was imminent.

“Frankly we just knew it was going to be a good night for the Republicans,” he said, “and we didn’t want the typical environment that exists on our campus to put a damper on that experience.”

It was indeed a good night for the Republicans, who earned 60 seats in the House and countless others in state legislature throughout the nation.  Kelly pulled ahead of Dahlkemper with a 56 percent lead to her 46 percent, about the same lead he had in the most recent polls.  The vast shift of power towards Republican candidates across the nation is, according to Political Science professor and CPP director Dan Shea, somewhat of an anomaly.

“Radical swings like that are fairly rare,” he said. “At the same time, we all expected it given the polling data from the past two months.”

Shea, Jones and Dye all gave differing views on what caused this shift, ranging from mild ambivalence towards the party in power to Dahlkemper’s inability to shape the debate.

“Turnout is a measure of preference,” Shea said. “If you’re not excited about your party, you’re less likely to turn out, so we saw that for the Democrats.”

Turnout was, in fact, lower in Meadville than in the entire third district, with only about 36 percent of registered voters coming to the polls in Meadville, as opposed to 42 percent turnout across Crawford county. As there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in Meadville, it seems that Shea’s assertion held true.

Jones cited the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. FEC, which removed limits on corporate contributions to campaigns and led to a flood of outside money supporting each candidate.

“There’s a lot of outside money that was being funneled in, either to Kelly or just to independent ads that really just distorted facts,” he said. “We weren’t able to control the story in the third district, and unfortunately voters voted that way, rather than really understanding Kathy.”

With the elections over, the Democrats will focus on increased activism, Jones said, to counteract the increased influence of Republicans in Congress. He cited healthcare as one issue where the group will exert pressure on legislators, to prevent its repeal.

“If [Republicans] are going to go forward with [the repeal of healthcare], there’s going to be a lot of clash on campus, especially with Kathy’s initiative,” he said, citing the provision added to the healthcare reform legislation that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26.

Dye hopes to work with the CPP to bring Kelly to campus in the same way they’ve brought Dahlkemper in the past, and he cited curbing spending as something he wants Kelly to focus on during the upcoming session.

“I hope he’ll stand up to the establishment,” he said, “and cut wasteful spending that isn’t really doing much good for anyone at this point in time.”

Neither Dye nor Jones said they had experienced any hostility from partisans on campus, and Dye expressed interest in eventually planning social and community service events to unite the political groups on campus.

“The intersection between service and political participation is something that I find particularly important,” Dye said,” and a direction that I plan to take the club.”

Though the battle at the polls is over, there is yet another political battle taking place on campus on Monday: The College Democrats and College Republicans are holding a debate in the Campus Center lobby. One party may have won the district, but each will hold onto and defend their beliefs regardless of election results.