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Analyst predicts ‘a long slog’ in Congress over next four years

In summing up the nation’s political climate over the coming four years, Stuart Rothenberg told about 500 Virginia farmers to “prepare for a long, hard fight. … We are a roughly evenly divided country here, and it’s going to be a long slog. Just get used to it.”

Rothenberg is editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, a semi-monthly newsletter that provides reporting and analysis of American elections and their political ramifications. He delivered the Nov. 27 keynote address, “Election 2012: What Now?” at the 2012 Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Chantilly.

On the surface, he said, it might look as if “nothing happened” to the federal government and the balance of political power after November’s election. The country still has the same Democratic president, as well as a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House. At the same time, however, he described the outcome of November’s races as “a wet dishrag across the face” for conservatives.

Essentially, he said, “you have a country that decided it didn’t want to go back to the Bush years,” given current economic and other conditions.

The changes are evident in the election statistics, Rothenberg said. Young voters, expected to turn out in smaller numbers than they did in 2008, made up one percentage point more of the electorate than they did that year. And more than half of them were Obama supporters. The percentage of white voters dropped from 74 percent of the electorate to 72 percent, marking the second presidential election in which white voters did not make up at least three-quarters of Americans who cast a ballot. The number of black voters remained steady, while more Americans of Asian and Latino descent voted.

He attributed the outcome of federal elections in part to the fact that “stuff happens” that is not specifically generated by campaigns and parties but still influences voters—President Obama’s performance in the first debate, Mitt Romney’s taped “47 percent” remark and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Rothenberg also told his audience not to expect an improved spirit of cooperation in Congress. In January, there will be fewer moderates and pragmatists from either party in office, which could hinder compromises.

One issue on which the 2012 elections are likely to have a dramatic impact is immigration, he said. He cited a speech earlier this year by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in which Rubio said the nation in general and conservatives specifically, “need to stop talking about illegal immigration and start talking about legal immigration.”

Turning to the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, Rothenberg said state politics also are influenced by factors other than the candidates.

He said presumed Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe could benefit from the fact that “Northern Virginia has suddenly become the dominant force in Virginia politics.” On the other hand, Virginians historically have elected consecutive governors from the same party in twos and threes. That might or might not enhance the chances of a Republican candidate, Rothenberg said, “but it’s going to be quite a race, and it’s going to draw a lot of national attention.”

With nearly 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. View more convention news as it becomes available at ConventionNewsroom.aspx.

Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-241-4633.


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