Robert “Bob” M. Shrum, a political science professor at the University of Southern California, and Michael Ellis “Mike” Murphy, both highly regarded political consultants to the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, are no strangers to the tactics used by politicians today.
Both discussed their predictions for the upcoming midterm election at the fourth annual Dreier Roundtable luncheon held at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College Oct. 4. CMC professor of government Zachary Courser moderated the roundtable.
Historically, the party controlling the executive branch has lost seats in the midterm election. This election will be no different, according to Shrum and Murphy.
“There is a lot of water coming [the Republicans] way,” Murphy said. The consensus between the two was that Democrats will most likely secure the House of Representatives and may have a slim possibility of securing the Senate as well. Shrum estimated about a 25-30 percent chance of the Democrats taking over the Senate.
The two most important factors regarding election outcome, Shrum said, are suburban women moving away from the Republican party and President Donald Trump’s policies, disposition, and character.
“The driving decisive force of this election will be women,” he said, adding that this may be the “second year of the woman.”
Murphy mentioned the economy and the popularity of the president as the most important factors influencing the midterm elections.
“[Trump’s] always playing Republican primary politics,” Murphy said.
Both predicted increased Democratic voter turnout because of the current president.
“He fills up all the space; he takes up all the oxygen,” Shrum said.
Important Senate seats were also a major topic of discussion. Texas, Nevada, Tennessee, Arizona, and Florida were noted as crucial swing states.
The Texas Senate race in particular was discussed. A victory for Rep. Beto O’Rourke in his Senate race against Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) would signal an extremely high probability of a blue majority in other districts and states, agreed Shrum and Murphy.
Murphy predicted that Democrats will perform well in Texas if Latino voters vote.
“That could be enough for Beto [to win],” he said. However, both Shrum and Murphy noted that Democrats have generally done a bad job of turning out in midterms in the past.
Both also praised O’Rourke’s use of social media.
“He’s turned retail politics into media politics,” Shrum said. In traditional retail politics, candidates attends local events and focuses on reaching as many individual voters as possible.
Though this year is predicted to be successful for the Democratic party, both noted that the real challenge for the Democrats will come in 2020.
“There will be a large fight in the Democratic Party,” Shrum said.
Murphy said that Democrats are “ready to erupt” and added that social media will especially supplement this explosion.
In reference to the long-term plan for both parties, Murphy predicted they will be engaged in long internal civil wars between the more moderate and extreme sides of their respective bases. 2018 will provide a preview, but 2020 will be the true battle, the consultants concluded.
Memo Santos CM ’22, who has a background in intern work with the O’Rourke campaign, thought the talk was insightful and provided a good variety of viewpoints.
“Coming from Texas, it is very interesting to see different perspectives on [the midterm elections],” he said.
Santos felt strongly about the race that is happening in his home state.
“I just think that if this message gets across in a state like Texas where it hasn’t been seriously contested by any Democratic party in over three decades, that one single member can do this with a successful grassroots campaign … I think it’s an example that other states can follow,” Santos said.
The 2018 general election is Nov. 6. Voter registration is open in California until Oct. 22.