President Barack Obama's 5th State of the Union address Tuesday night was many things to many people, from a declaration of independence from Congressional gridlock to proof he's abandoned the Constitution.
But for many, especially partisan candidates who are running this fall to either retain or acquire a seat in Washington, it was the starting pistol for the 2014 midterm elections.
Democrats hope to hold on to the Senate, but accepted conventional wisdom nine months away from elections in November suggest Republicans can retake the upper chamber, where winning six seats net returns them to the majority.
In the House, where Republican dominance has declined from its apogee in 2011, when Republicans shellacked Democrats following a summer of unrest over the Affordable Care Act propelled by Tea Party inspired anger, the accepted wisdom is that Republicans may lose seats but not the 17 net seats Democrats need to return Ohio Congressman and House Speaker John Boehner to the minority.
Among seats Democrats think they finally have a chance to win this year is Ohio's 14th Congressional District. Won in 2012 by Dave Joyce, a Republican, Democrats are fielding Michael Wager, an accomplished fundraiser and former Chairman of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.
Two years ago, Congressman Joyce, a Clevelander who turns 57 in March, beat his Democratic challenger David Blanchard by 54-39 percent or about 52,000 voters district wide.
This year, Wager hopes to tie Joyce and his Congressional record to the Tea Party, its agenda and candidates, which reliable polling from Gallup and others show have declined from low levels to even lower levels among American voters.
The clash of contrasts in their responses to the SOTU Tuesday, delivered as always before a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives, draw distinctions each candidate and their seconds will hope to capitalize on or shield from view, depending on the twists and turns that are sure to play a big role in the 2014 midterm elections, a cycle where history shows the party of the incumbent president doesn't fare as well as in presidential election years when more voters turn out.
"Last night we heard the President’s State of the Union address and his compelling plan for real progress in America," Wager wrote. "His vision for the next year is one of growth and lasting solutions to our most fixable problems."
Wager said he shared the president's vision for prosperity through job creation and pragmatic initiatives to sustain growth. "By working to help people, and not political careers, there is no limit to what we can achieve," he said.
Themes and issues raised by in the SOTU, including raising the minimum wage, restoring unemployment insurance benefits, reforming an antiquated immigration laws and restructuring the tax code, are issues both sides of the aisle should agree on, Wager said.
"Unfortunately, ideological extremist – particularly in the US. House - fail to address these issues, and ignore the voices of countless hardworking Americans, including thousands here in Ohio," his statement concluded without actually naming Joyce.
A spokesman for Congressman Joyce sent a statement to CGE expressing Joyce's reaction to the SOTU. "When I was first elected, I was stunned to hear that 3 million jobs go unfilled every month. So I’m glad the President mentioned manufacturing, job-training, and education which will help us fill those jobs with American workers," Joyce said. "But the difference between my vision for the country and the President’s is that I think the American people can, and should, lead our economic recovery - not politicians."
According to Joyce staffer Christyn Keyes, the Congressman, a former Geauga County prosecutor, "found it very troubling the President indicated that if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll simply bypass Congress." In the same spirit of cooperation, Joyce said Washington should work together to find common ground on the issues, and continue to make job-creation our number one priority.
"What Ohio families want to see is less Washington interference and more job-creation and economic growth," Joyce said, adding, "At the end of the day, nothing can replace what a good-paying job means for Ohio families. When the American people are free to succeed, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish."
Based on a new Gallup poll that plumbs which issues Americans want their leaders in Washington to focus on, Joyce and Wager have one thing right: The economy out ranks all other issues in the survey.
Supporters of both parties agree that the economy should be a top priority, Gallup results show, with 91 percent of Democrats and 88 percent of Republicans saying it is extremely or very important that the president and Congress deal with that issue this year.
But that's where agreement between the two major political parties ends. Democrats overall assign a significantly higher priority than do Republicans to nine of the 19 issues measured—Environment, Wealth Distribution, Poverty and Homelessness, Education, Gun Policy, Race Relations, Gay and Lesbian Policy, Energy, Social Security & Medicare, Crime, Healthcare, Economy, World Affairs, Abortion, Immigration, Government Surveillance of Citizens, Terrorism, Taxes, Military & National Defense.
This likely reflects differences in underlying partisan views of how involved the government should be in fixing societal problems, with Democrats significantly more likely than Republicans to say government should be used to fix problems.
"I don't want to come out and say that I'm a tea party ... they may not want me ... but I think what I've tried to say is as a whole, if they watch my voting record, they'll see that I believe in the same things. . ." Joyce said to a Columbus news group.
Wager said his campaign stands for "the proposition that the voters of the 14th District deserve to know what their representative believes - without vagueness, ambiguity, deception or hypocrisy."
Joyce, a freshman who won the 14th District two years ago when the former long-time holder of it, Steve LaTourette, vacated it after he announced his retirement from Congress out of frustration with partisan gridlock, filed his campaign finance report last week. As of Dec. 32, Congressman Joyce had banked $1,141,354 at the end of 2013. He also filed his reelection campaign paperwork last week, but one report indicates the freshman could be primaried if rumors pan out that at other GOP contenders may challenge him.
Wager, no stranger to fundraising, banked $347,646 on Dec. 31.
The Lake County Board of Elections, where filings take place for the 14th, says only Joyce and Wager so far have filed petitions for this race.
Recognized political prognosticators of worth, like Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, rank the 14th District race among Ohio's most competitive. The results from the 2012 contest are reason enough to believe Cook has it right when he gives the advantage to the Republican candidate.
Democratic strategists say their previous candidates haven't been as competitive as they should have been, but given that recognition, Democrats hope with Wager to win a race they have come within striking distance over the last ten years but have failed to win.
Joyce was selected from a pool of applicants by GOP county chairman to replace Congressman LaTourette in 2012, when the longtime congressman announced his retirement after Ohio's primary filing deadline. LaTourette's daughter, Sarah, has been mentioned as a contender along with Ohio House Member Matt Lynch.
The news article Obama SOTU reaction clarifies contrast between GOP's Joyce, Dem's Michael Wager appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.
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