Analysing elections on both sides of the pond

George Bush has admitted that the Republicans received a “thumping” in the mid-term elections and many are starting to think that the Democrats
could take the Presidency in two years time. If it were Hillary, the presidential roll call would be: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. But before we get carried away with this we could analyse the figures and analysis I have just picked up from a seminar with a “Senior Administration Official.”

First, such mid-term losses are the norm, are known as the 6 year itch and have caused problems for most Presidents.

The Senior Administration Official says that the Conservative base was as reliable as the Democrats’ base in turning out but that the battles were lost with the independents. He maintains that 16 of the congressional losses for the republicans were because ten of them were tainted by corruption – what he admitted was a discipline issue – and that the other six were insufficiently engaged in getting out the vote.

The margins were also pretty narrow. In 23 congressional races there were less than 5,000 votes in it and 77,000 out of 71 million voters altered the result. He is clearly keen to argue from this that the Republicans can retrieve their voters.

He noted that the fastest growing section of the population is Hispanic and that the Republicans have to win them over. He also maintains that the elephant in the room – Iraq – is an asset if it seen as a part of the General War on Terror but if it is seen as self-standing it benefits the Democrats. Naturally, he then argues that the vagueness of the Democrats’ policy platform and the divisions between the older generation (like several senators with 200 years service between them) and the “netroots” Democrats (like Howard Dean) will be their come-uppance. We will see.

He also conceded that an incumbent is saddled with a “sensationalist” 24/7 media which promotes moral relativism.

It was a useful if partisan analysis. I would only add that it is a shame, as Martin Kettle recently pointed out in the Guardian, that most analysts are more au fait with the American political scene than say that of France. He wrote: “…the political class devoured every available detail about the American elections. Results from across the Atlantic were reported and analysed with barely less attention than our own general elections. Thousands of words were expended examining the implications for the 2008 presidential race and on assessing the impact on British interests.

As a participant, I have absolutely no problem with that. Yet, for all its power, America remains in many respects a faraway country of which we know less than we think. France, by contrast, remains a potent nearby country of which we know more than we imagine. And unless we can muster something approaching the same degree of serious attention to the hugely significant French presidential contest of 2007, all that coverage from Missouri and Montana is going to look politically escapist and even somewhat delusional.”

But I note that one Labour MP Sharon Hodgson has tabled a Commons motion which “warmly congratulates Segolene Royal on being decisively elected by party members as the first mainstream, and first ever French Socialist, female party candidate for the French Presidency; believes that her victory is an important sign of positive change in both her party and French society which only gave women the vote in 1944; and notes that if she wins the presidency she will be the first female ruler of France since Catherine de Medici.”