Poli-sci professors weigh in on election results

Political junkies and freeloaders alike joined together Tuesday to enjoy some Mexican food while the election results trickled in on the cable news channels. More than 100 students and faculty attended the midterm election viewing party in the Todd Wehr Chemistry building, which allowed attendees to choose from a Fox News, CNN or MSNBC room to watch and discuss the results.

And, of course, there was a fair amount of political fighting going on.

“What’s up, people-who-think-they’re-moderates room?” one student jeered as he passed the CNN folks.

“Oh, they can’t get Fox to work, but MSNBC is working just fine? Typical,” another said in reference to MSNBC being the only channel that worked at the time.

Unlike the rest of the cable news universe, where Fox News is the 700-pound gorilla in terms of ratings, last night it was MSNBC that had by far the most students in its room. Meanwhile, Fox News had less than a dozen students in its room for much of the night.

A big part of the night was predictions. There was a contest to see who could guess the correct makeup of the new Congress, with prizes awarded to the winners.

The predictions didn’t stop after the party, however.

The Tribune conducted a survey featuring the predictions of five assistant political science professors — Julia Azari, Lowell Barrington, Stephen Engel, John McAdams and McGee Young — about what the new Congress will accomplish, and who will most likely be President Barack Obama’s 2012 challenger.

What is one significant piece of legislation House Republicans will pass, if any?

Young: The House will probably pass lots of legislation, just like it does every year. It doesn’t matter (though) because unless the Senate and President go along, it won’t become law. Look for the debt ceiling to become a major flash point early next year.

Azari: If the experience after 1994 is any indication, the House Repubs will be quite busy passing measures to cut taxes, infrastructure and social spending. But many of them will not pass the Senate.

How will the Senate change in terms of filibusters and major legislation with the new makeup of Congress?

Engel: I do not foresee a large shift, as the Republicans were able to filibuster prior to the new makeup of the Senate after last night. On the other hand, we may see the rare use of the filibuster with a Supreme Court nominee, and we may see more games of “chicken” with the possibility of government shutdown, much like the situation in the mid-1990s.

Barrington: Rather than Republicans in the Senate blocking major initiatives from the House, it will be Democrats in the Senate doing this over the next two years. Our system is not designed for candidates pledging revolutionary changes to pull off their promises.

What is one promise to voters the House Republicans will not keep?

McAdams: To reduce spending. What they will do is radically limit any new increases in
 spending. Talk of yet another stimulus, which some Democrats were 
engaged in, is not dead.

Barrington: I see almost no chance for the House Republicans to propose anything close to a balanced budget in response to the President’s next proposed budget.

Who do you believe will be the 2012 Republican nominee for president?

Young: Sarah Palin is still the biggest star, but John Thune is a good possibility.

Engel: Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi.

Barrinton: I would think (Mitt) Romney is the front-runner at the moment. If you want a wild-card name, I believe that last night did more to elevate prospects that Jeb Bush will run than it did for Sarah Palin’s prospects of winning the nomination.

Azari: Newt Gingrich.  I also think that if his health permits, Dick Cheney may try to run.  I doubt he would win many primaries, but he could find himself at the bottom of the ticket again.

McAdams: I wouldn’t dare make a prediction. You might as well consult a ouija board at this point in time.