There is no question that Tuesday was a big night for the Republican Party, which seized upon President Obama’s low approval rating to make historic gains. Exit polling shows 33% of voters cast their ballot to express opposition to the President, compared to 19% expressing support.
Such a dynamic is regularly at play during a “six-year itch” election in which the President’s party tends to lose a large number of seats in both the U.S. Senate and House. This election cycle was no different.
The same exit polling shows that while this election was largely a referendum on the President, it was hardly a glowing endorsement for the Republican Party, which is still suffering low approval ratings and a damaged brand. Both parties will have to address their weaknesses and pivot almost immediately as the 2016 Presidential sweepstakes heat up. In the meantime, Republicans will use their majorities in both chambers to pass legislation and exert pressure upon the President to either sign legislation into law or use the veto pen.
In the House, Republicans gained approximately 15 seats to earn their largest majority since 1928. Redistricting following the 2010 election shored up most seats in Congress on both sides of the aisle and political pundits agreed only about three dozen seats were actually competitive heading into Tuesday night. Republicans made significant gains in those races, many of which will be competitive again in two years.
In the Senate, the GOP gained nearly as many seats as in the House, taking over Democratic held seats in Alaska (not yet officially called), Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. The Senate race in Louisiana is headed to a Dec. 6 runoff with the Republican candidate having an advantage. In addition to these gains, Republicans defended their own competitive seats in Georgia, Kansas and Kentucky. When the dust settles, the Republican Party will control the Senate with a three- or four-seat majority.
In this election, InsurPac supported more Senate and House campaigns than ever before and distributed a record amount of money along the way: $1,836,169 to a total of 292 federal campaigns, winning 272 of them for an amazing 93% victory rate. In disbursing this money, InsurPac did not look at party affiliation, instead giving money to representatives, senators and candidates for federal office who have been advocates for the independent agency system.
Each election, several independent agents run for federal office. With the goal of electing more insurance agents to Congress, the Big “I” established an independent expenditure unit that ran commercials and advertisements on their behalf. Those ads helped elect Big “I” member Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) to the U.S. Senate—the first independent agent to serve in the upper chamber since the late 1990s.
InsurPac’s financial support in these races was critical, but equally important were the grassroots efforts demonstrated by independent agents. Numerous individuals volunteered their time, organized fundraisers, attended campaign events and, most importantly, cast their ballots. The Big “I” has always prided itself on representing individuals who understand and appreciate their civic duties and responsibilities.
As with every election, independent agents suffered some congressional losses. While disappointing, these are an equally important reminder that the association cannot take its friends in Congress for granted. These leaders must have the necessary financial resources to win re-election each cycle—making it critically important to have a strong PAC to support and defend its champions.
Nathan Riedel is Big “I” vice president of political affairs.