This week’s election brought a new sheen of red to the Great Lakes states: with the Republican party seizing control of governorship and state houses across the region. In many cases, it was the first time the GOP has taken control since 2003. Here’s what this political reinvention could mean for the region.
CHICAGO – The economy was a familiar theme on Election Night, invoked by every new Republican governor in the region: Ohio’s John Kasich; Michigan’s Rick Synder and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.
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Walker said he would began his first day by declaring an “economic state of emergency”. Kasich pledged to privatize Ohio’s job creation.incoming governors of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.
But in the early days after the election, political analysts are being more cautious. University of Illinois’ Brian Gaines said while the economy is the one reason everyone gave for the election, that can mean one thing for voters and another for politicians.
“Some people are thinking about foreclosures, some people are thinking about unemployment. These states – particularly Illinois – have very serious fiscal problems, so all of those can be thought of as the economy,” said Gaines, a political scientist at the University of Illinois-Urbana.
Research shows people tend to consider Republicans better at solving economic problems, Gaines said: That’s why they won back control – in many Great Lakes states – not just of the executive branch– but also many statehouses.
He added he thinks claims Midwestern states have always been blue or Democratic are an exaggeration. But he says seeing the region now as entirely Republican is just as simplistic.
“One of the ways people routinely over interpret elections is to just paint the map in red or blue and say look at all the shades of red instead of painting it in shades of pink or purple and say if they did win, it wasn’t by much,” he said.
Two governor’s races – in Minnesota and Illinois – were still too close to call on Nov. 3, but they’re tilting Democratic.
Alan Gitelson is a political science professor at Loyola University in Chicago. He said Nov. 3 sent a “very mixed message” to the Rustbelt region, adding the area’s issues are far too complex to be solved simply by a change in political leadership.
“We have tremendous competition from our borders outside the United States in terms of manufacturing industry production – those problems are not going to go away,” he said.
Republicans may be in control at the state level, but Gitelson thinks improving the local economy depends more on national and international issues like the value of the dollar and the ability of the United States to send its products overseas.
“The Midwest is very dependent on exports, in many different areas from farm machinery to agricultural exports,” he pointed out.
These are issues that are bigger than just the Great Lakes region. And they’re problems that will have to be addressed by Congress – which is now divided between red and blue.