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James Slotnick, Head of Government Relations at Sun Life, discusses the preliminary outcomes of the 2022 midterms in the U.S.
Steve Peacher: Hi everybody. So thanks for dialing into this episode of “Three in Five.” This is Steve Peacher at SLC Management. And again I’m with James Slotnick, who's head of Government Relations in the U.S for Sun Life. James, thanks for taking a moment, second time in a week.
James Slotnick: Happy to be here.
Steve Peacher: So we spoke to you before the elections. You know the elections happened yesterday, so it's Wednesday, late Wednesday afternoon. We don't have everything in yet, but we've learned a lot. So I think it's really interesting to get your take on what you saw. So let me start with this question. There were some, certainly some surprises last night depending on, you know, somebody's expectations. What's the biggest surprise that you see, that may not be getting the headlines right now?
James Slotnick: Well, one thing that is always a sad surprise to me is I’m a much better lobbyist than a election prognosticator, and that was proved to true once again. But I think you know for me that, you know clearly there's some big takeaways. The number of split tickets and the re-emergence of that, I think is going to be talked about a little bit more. I'm not sure what it means, but there's really two races that underscore it perfectly. In Kansas, you have Senator Moran easily win, you know get 60% of the vote. And the incumbent governor there, Governor Kelly is a Democrat, and she also wins. She wins with about 49% of the vote. And so what you see there is you have a Republican Senator outperforming the Republican nominee for Governor by almost 13 points. So there were Moran Kelly, a fair number of Moran Kelly voters in Kansas, so Republican on the Senate side, Democrats on the Governor's side. And then you actually saw the exact opposite of that New Hampshire, where Governor Sununu cruises to an easy victory, and Senator Hassan, who folks even myself, I, the last few weeks on those polls did not look good for her. She cruises to a victory and there you have this same phenomenon of about 13% difference between what Governor Sununu got, a Republican versus what General Bolduc got, the Republican nominee for Senate. So again, you had these people willing to vote for Republican for Governor, and in this case, then a Democrat for Senate. So true split tickets to emerge. Some other, there's some other examples of that, in Ohio you saw a discrepancy between what Governor DeWine won with, and what J.D. Vance or the Senator like J.D. Vance one with. So just split tickets, you know we don't hear too much about them these days. But there are a couple of examples in this election that the people much smarter than me in politics will be analyzing over the next few years.
Steve Peacher: Maybe, I’ll take a good sign from that, where people aren't just voting a straight ticket by definition, when they put their tickets, so they're actually willing to think more about the individual candidate, maybe the issues they represent as opposed to saying, ‘I’m going to go up and down and vote for one party the other.’ I think, I personally think that would be, that's a positive development if that's what we're seeing, and maybe things become more about the people and the issues as opposed to the party. Also just as a as an observation that I see is, you see, much more diversity of candidates as I was watching the results last night, you know we're seeing elections involve in an interesting way. Let me ask you a separate question. There’s always a question about the impact of President Trump. What do you think about the narrative that the Trump candidates failed. Is that the right assessment?
James Slotnick: Yea I was flipping back, like you know many people. MSNBC Fox, CNN, Newsmax. I did them all, you know, just to try to get, you know, see where things were. And that, you hearing that commentary, you know that was for sure was coming out, particularly after Florida was so strong for the Republicans, and then that wave didn't emerge from there. It’s hard, former President Trump, he endorses a lot of candidates, you know, and I think he's already out on was it Truth Social or whatever his social media platform is touting how many candidates that he backed won. You know the fact of the matter is though there's some high-profile Trump candidate losses. Dr. Oz, Blake Masters right now in Arizona is behind. We'll see what happens with that. Adam Laxalt. It's going to be difficult for Herschel Walker to win in that runoff in Georgia without Governor Kemp also being on that ticket. So I think there is something to that narrative, I think you know, supporters of foreign President Trump would certainly be able to, you know, point to many of the endorsements that that worked, but particularly on the Senate side a high number of unfortunate failures of candidates that he did endorse.
Steve Peacher: I think you could look at this election and say, you know, both the Republicans and Democrats both won some things and lost some things, you know. It was kind of a mixed bag for both. Where do you think it leaves both of the parties looking into 2024?
James Slotnick: Democrats are facing a brutal map in 2024, and it's just you know, it's just the way every two years you have another third of the senate up and their 2024 map has them defending If Senator Manchin up in West Virginia, you know, President Trump won that by 40 points. Senator Tester’s up in Montana, that's a plus 17 for Trump place. Ohio, J.D Vance wins, Governor DeWine is re-elected. Senator Brown is up, is up for re-election, so you know, just those three places are tough. And then Democrats also have Senator Sinema for election Arizona, which is, you know, tight as always. And Nevada or Nevada. well, uh Senator Rosen will also be up for re-election. So it's a really tough map from a Senate standpoint for Democrats, you know the. Trump to say on the Republican side, it's less about the Senate, more about who that nominee is going to be, and you could, no one woke up happier today than Governor DeSantis, you know. That is for sure, you know over performed what anyone thought he would be able to do. I mean the being able to turn southern Florida, you know, really red from blue Miami Dade County in particular. That that certainly is gonna on the national scale wake up a lot of folks. I did see yesterday on Fox, Governor Youngkin for Virginia. He looked like a presidential candidate in the interview I saw. He was on there, and he was saying all the right things. So I think you know, from the Democratic standpoint, if I’m President Biden, he probably feels better this morning than he did yesterday. You know it’s so hard to tell what's going to happen with him. But the Democrats are probably most concerned about what that Senate map looks like, and how that's going to be very difficult, but even if they have a 51 seat majority, very hard to hold that and Republicans are going to have certainly a number of options going into the 2024 Presidential election, the Republican National Committee is going to have some tough decisions to make.
Steve Peacher: So there's still results to come in, and we don't have all the questions answered. It looks like where we sit tonight that the Republicans will have a slim majority in the House, and the Senate's up for grabs. But even if the Republicans win the Senate, you still have divided government because you have a Democrat in the White House. So given that we're likely to have gridlock, a split government, what is the importance of the Democrats or the Republicans getting a majority in the Senate, you know, so for the Democrats at least having 50, and then the Vice President puts them over the top, or the Republicans getting 51 votes. What is the importance of that? Given that we're going to have a divided government no matter what.
James Slotnick: So if you think back to the 2018 Midterms Republicans held the Senate, you know, barely and they lost the house. Leader McConnell until really, we went through Covid in 2020, his number one focus was getting judges appointed. And remember for the judicial process or judicial nominee process, the House doesn't matter. It's all about the Senate. So if Democrats are able to hold the Senate even at 50/50, Leader Schumer probably takes a page out of Leader McConnell's playbook and focuses on nominating as many judges, appellate judges. It's not just the Supreme Court. It's all those lower, the lower courts as well. Nominating as many judges as possible. The House is going to be, it's a slim majority for Republicans more likely than not. They're going to be able to pass whatever they want, but it's they're not going to go anywhere. Any made, to your point, Steve, there's not going to be material legislation that moves. There'll be spending bills. It's gonna be a debt ceiling vote eventually in 2023, that's if that's for a different podcast. But the main thing is, if Republicans are able to win the Senate that puts a major check on the Biden Administration's ability to appoint the judges that they want. If Democrats take that, judicial nominees will be the, will be their main focus.
Steve Peacher: Well, it's fascinating stuff. I was thinking last night, you know how many countries are there out there where you get to watch this this drama, you know, play out in so much detail in real time. So it's fascinating to watch. It's fascinating to talk about. Love to hear your insight. So thank you for taking a few moments James, and thanks everybody to listening to this episode of “Three in Five.”
James Slotnick: Thanks Steve.
Election result data sourced from CNN.com
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