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3Qs: Election results set the stage for 2016

hedlundIf the electoral process were a fine-dining experience, then Tuesday’s off-year elections would be the amuse-bouche—a first taste of presidential politics that whets the appetite for the 2016 race to the White House. Here, Ronald Hedlund, a public policy expert and a professor of political science in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, sheds insight on the national implications of the elections results, several of which could play a major role in shaping the nation’s political landscape over the next three years.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey won his gubernatorial re-election bid in a landslide, setting the stage for a 2016 White House run. Where does Christie rank among the most electable of potential GOP White House hopefuls?

In addition to his impressive re-election in New Jersey, Gov. Christie has shown considerable strength in the “horse race” trial public opinion polls with various Democratic candidates. I think all of these successes make him a formidable potential Republican presidential candidate for 2016. However, that is not the most critical issue he faces in a presidential bid. First, he must win the Republican nomination in a field that will be far to his right and more “in tune” with the very conservative base in the party. Will he move to the right in his positions to be more competitive in the Republican primaries? Will the Republican rank-and-file accept a northern, East Coast moderate under any condition? Does his strength among the electorate matter in the coming Republican nomination process?

New York City’s new mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to raise taxes on those earning more than $500,000 in order to pay for universal prekindergarten. What role did the city’s current economic climate play in his victory, the first for a Democratic candidate since 1989?

While the economy still has more room for improvement, the recovery we have seen has moderated some of the gloom over funding government programs. Undoubtedly that had some effect in the New York mayor’s race, but de Blasio ran on a series of quite liberal programs including more than increased funding for education.

Colorado voters approved a tax on the sale of recreational marijuana, a move that will bring in some $70 million a year. Why have other states been reluctant to legalize marijuana, especially in light of its reported potential to save the U.S. more than $13 billion a year?

I think many issues regarding marijuana use are still in the evolutionary phase. While public opinion views on legalizing marijuana use are much more pro, I think many related issues are still being sorted out and coming to public attention. Recreational use is one issue that must be “sorted out” and accepted into practice before serious discussions about taxing its use can take place. The speed with which opinion has changed on its use suggests that public opinion is shifting and serious discussions about many issues like taxation can now take place.

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