Trumka: Voters Stressed Jobs, Dems Didn’t

WASHINGTON (PAI)–Mid-term election voters, like other Americans, stressed jobs and the economy in casting ballots on November 4, and the Democrats didn’t.  And that’s why they lost the 2014 mid-term election, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says.


And he adds that labor’s exit polls show that economic and jobs emphasis and that the GOP, which now will rule both houses of Congress, must pay attention and really work at it, or voters will turn on them in two years.  Will it do so?  He doubts that.


“The Democrats took a licking, but the workers’ agenda didn’t,” Trumka contended, citing the AFL-CIO-commissioned poll by Peter Hart Research.


Trumka’s post-election analysis on November 5 came after worker allies, in both U.S. Senate seats and in governors’ races, suffered a raft of defeats in states ranging from Maine to Maryland to Massachusetts to Florida to Kentucky to Illinois, and more.


The few exceptions included Govs. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., John Kitzhaber, D-Ore., and Mark Dayton, DFL-Minn.  But Dayton lost his House majority.


That left Trumka pointing out that three Democratic winners in what were originally forecast as close U.S. Senate races  sent a loud and clear economic message that resonated with workers.  They were Rep. Gary Peters in Michigan and Sens. Jeff Merkley in Oregon and Al Franken in Minnesota.              The rest of the Democratic hopefuls whom unions by and large supported didn’t do that, he added.


In some cases, their message got drowned out by GOP ad spending, but in others – he cited the Wisconsin governor’s race – “it wasn’t as clear as it should have been.”


The poll showed high support in the Senate battleground states for issues ranging from raising the minimum wage (62 percent-34 percent overall; 69-28 among unionists) to higher taxes on overseas corporate profits (73-21 overall; 81-14 union).  And voters in four red states approved raising their state minimum wages, by huge margins, Trumka noted.


Conversely, respondents dislike the GOP agenda, including raising the Social Security retirement age (27 percent for-66 percent against overall; 17-78 unionists).  “Voters want an economy that works for them and their families,” Trumka repeated, over and over.  “On issue after issue, they wanted a choice, but many got a false choice.”


The GOP got its economic message out, Trumka admitted.  The poll showed that, too: Voters in Senate battleground states went for GOP candidates 49 percent-47 percent, despite a 61-35 Democratic edge among union voters in those states.  AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer estimated unionists and union families were 17 percent of all voters, the same percentage as in 2010 and 2012.


“All voters have an economic agenda that we have been advocating, that they care about and that we hope will be heard in the coming Congress,” added federation Political Director Michael Podhorzer.  That includes measures to raise incomes, to create jobs, to build infrastructure and to protect retirement security, he said.


“They rejected the Republican agenda, and our agenda is more important than ever,” Trumka declared. “We’ll make sure that every candidate out there understands what the voters want.”


Heavy campaign spending helped the GOP get its economic message out, even if its goals are not those the voters cited in the AFL-CIO poll, Trumka admitted.  Independent estimates put campaign spending during this election cycle at $3.7 billion nationwide, with the heavy edge going to the GOP and pro-GOP independent spenders and groups.


The North Carolina U.S. Senate race alone cost more than $100 million, a new record.  Most of it came from outside groups, and GOP state House Speaker Thom Tillis edged Sen. Kay Hagan (D).   “The Supreme Court legalized that you can buy elections, and in some cases, they did,” Trumka said.  “And we got outspent 16-and-a-quarter to 1.”