This election season has displayed all that is wrong with politics. It’s been like watching a boxing match, with each candidate throwing ever-harder punches in the hopes of knocking the other out. But here we are, twelve rounds later, and both candidates are still standing, still fighting despite being thoroughly beaten, bruised, and bloodied. Sure, there will be a “winner,” but it will have come at great cost.
That’s not the election season that Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hoped to have.
“We are offering a better way. Because we believe by engaging with our fellow citizens on these solutions and ideas, we can have the kind of inclusive, aspirational discussion we need to have in this country to earn ourselves a mandate to put these solutions in place and fix our country’s pressing problems,” Ryan said in a recent speech. “That is why we are here, and that is why we are offering a better way.”
Sadly, the policy discussion that Ryan and McConnell hoped for in this election never came to fruition at the presidential level. Instead, it was sidetracked by ongoing scandal and ceaseless innuendo. The result is that most voters aren’t choosing between two sets of ideas on how to govern so much as they are picking the candidate they’re less frightened by.
That’s sad, because at the core of this election lies a fundamental choice: Between a paternalistic government that grows more powerful at the expense of our liberty, or a government of the people that focuses its strength on reigniting the American Dream. As Paul Ryan wrote in a recent CNN op-ed, it’s a choice “between staying on the current path of decline, or taking a better way that offers more freedom for every single American.”
Fortunately, there is still a chance; an opportunity for a better way. And it runs through the U.S. Senate.
All of the pundits have pointed out the significant structural factors working against Republicans in this election. And it’s true that it’s difficult to play defense in 24 of the 34 seats that are up for reelection in 2016, especially when nine of the 24 are states that President Obama won in 2008 or 2012. But, this crop of Republican incumbents and challengers is the best in recent memory. They are deeply talented policy thinkers with the heart of public servants and the savvy of private businesspeople.
In a political season filled with angst and worry, these are the throwback citizen-legislators who keep Washington in line, and aligned with their constituents. Fortunately, voters seem to be taking notice. Here are four Senate races that are trending the GOP’s way that, if they came to fruition, could help Ryan and McConnell guide America toward “a better way”:
- Wisconsin: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who trailed Democrat Russ Feingold by double digits throughout the summer, has engineered a massive comeback. The state’s preeminent poll, conducted by Marquette University Law School put Johnson down just 1 point in its final survey before Election Day. Johnson’s superior ground game, coupled with Feingold’s inability to answer for his questionable PAC activities, could lead to a huge upset.
- Pennsylvania: Democrat challenger Katie McGinty, who was hand selected by uber-insider Sen. Chuck Schumer, barely eked out a primary victory over Rep. Joe Sestak, but has been regularly polling ahead of Republican Pat Toomey. Until, that is, this week when two new polls showed Sen. Toomey ahead by 1-percentage point and tied, respectively. This one is coming down to the wire, and “whichever party wins this race will have the edge to win the majority,” writes the Washington Post.
- New Hampshire: This perpetual swing state has one of the largest percentages of independent voters in the nation, so it always serves as a gauge for a party’s hopes on Election Day. In August, Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan was polling well ahead of GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, but Ayotte has been able to build a small, but durable lead in the most recent set of polls. Unlike some of the other toss-up races this year, Hillary Clinton’s coattails are almost non-existent in the Granite State, and anything could still happen given that there is no early voting in the state.
- Indiana: From the moment Democrat Evan Bayh jumped in the race he became the immediate favorite to win over incumbent Sen. Todd Young (R). Bayh’s $10 million warchest and name recognition advantage, largely built off his father’s legacy as a long-serving U.S. senator, appeared to be enough to overcome the negative association with his recent lobbying career and status as a Washington D.C. resident. But Bayh’s polling lead has evaporated over the past few months and the most recent poll of the race has Young up by 5 points. Bayh is still within striking distance, but the fresh-faced Young is closing strong against the consummate insider.
Each of these four candidates is offering voters the chance for a better way. What path will you choose tomorrow?