NPR's Liasson shares insights on 2014 midterm election

With leftover questions about what happened just a week and a half earlier in the 2014 midterm election, some 650 Iowa State students and community members filled the Memorial Union’s Sun Room to hear answers.

National Public Radio’s national political correspondent and FOX News contributor Mara Liasson analyzed what she called “a typical six-year-itch election” on Thursday, Nov. 13. She was the fall 2014 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics.

Her focus was on what happened to lead to the results of the 2014 election and their significance for the upcoming 2016 elections. With thoroughness and understanding, Liasson’s dissection of the 2014 election covered what she called the Democrats’ autopsy report, what the Republicans did right and what is now at stake for both parties.

Why did this happen? Liasson asked.

“Because it always does,” she answered herself.

An unpopular president, an overuse of the war on women rhetoric and an overemphasis on get-out-the-vote operations were some of the factors that contributed to the decimation of the Democratic bench, Liasson said.

“President Obama is very unpopular, and he was a real drag on his party,” she said.

Meanwhile, according to Liasson, Republicans recruited better candidates and avoided alienating minority-male voters.

“The Republicans diagnosed some of their problems, and they corrected them,” Liasson said.

She said the Republicans’ campaign could be narrowed down to: “Obama bad, Ebola and ISIS.”

The outcome of the 2014 election puts Republicans in a position in which they are forced to show they can govern, Liasson added. That, among other reasons, is why the results of the elections set the stage for 2016.

“2016 looks very, very different than 2014,” she said.

Both parties will have decisions to make.

On the left, Democrats will have to decide the distance they want between themselves and Obama.

If she decides to run, Liasson said former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has almost a clear path to the nomination. Regardless, Liasson predicted it would still be a difficult race because Clinton would follow an eight-year president from her own party, a hard act to follow with American voters.

On the right, Republicans will have to continue to identify issues within their own party. Can Republicans be competitive with women voters, unmarried voters and Hispanic voters? Liasson said Republicans are behind the curve demographically.

“The Republican brand is still underwater,” she said. “The Democratic Party is still more popular.”

Despite what happens in the 2016 election, Republicans and Democrats continue to become more polarized, leaving little overlap between the parties.

Liasson said the center is getting lonelier and lonelier and lonelier.

Following the lecture, Liasson addressed questions from the audience. She was introduced by Legacy of Heroines scholar and former Catt Center intern Kate Tindall, senior in journalism and political science.