Politics 2012: Overreaching bites back

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International  |  Nov. 13, 2011 at 4:00 AM
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Memo to political candidates, ballot issue backers and others involved in the 2012 U.S. general election: Don't mistake overreaching for a political mandate. Those voters will get ya every time.

The hard-line Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, a Republican, fell to a recall given impetus by his fervent position against illegal immigration and his sponsorship of the state's tough immigration law, parts of which were stayed as challenges move through the courts.

Trying to capitalize on the legislative antipathy toward collective bargaining for public employees, Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich saw his bill that severely restricted collective bargaining repealed by voters.

Just as Colorado voters in 2010 defeated a constitutional amendment that would have defined "personhood" as beginning at fertilization and would have banned all abortions, even those to save the mother's life, voters rejected a "personhood" amendment in Mississippi.

A referendum in Maine that would have restricted voter registration laws also got the thumbs-down.

"One lesson from [Tuesday] night is that Republicans must not overreach in trying to appease the more extreme elements in their political base," said political commentator Steven Schier, political science professor at Carleton College in Minnesota.

The reach of Ohio's law restricting collective bargaining by public employees extended to local police and firefighters.

"That broad scope helped to ensure its repeal," Schier said.

Arizona Senate leader Pearce took a militant stand on illegal immigration and "was defeated in a recall election," he said.

The "personhood" amendment in Mississippi sought "to roll back abortion rights and was defeated in a popular referendum," Schier said.

"The message from Mississippi is clear," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. "An amendment that allows politicians to further interfere in our personal, private medical decisions, including a woman's right to choose safe, legal abortion, is unacceptable."

Taken together, Tuesday's results could inject new life into President Obama's re-election bid a year from now, The New York Times said.

But Democrats can't claim wholesale victory. Even as Ohioans rejected Kasich's attempt to constrict collective bargaining for public employees, they approved a symbolic measure that exempts state residents from the individual mandate required in Obama's healthcare law.

And while voters in Mississippi voted down the measure that would have criminalized all abortions and many forms of contraception, Mississippi tightened its voting laws to require some form of government-approved identification. (Democrats opposed the requirement, saying it was a veiled attempt to intimidate voters of color.)

Democrat Steve Beshear won re-election as Kentucky's governor while Phil Bryant was elected to succeed Gov. Haley Barbour, keeping the governor's office in the GOP fold.

When two Democratic incumbent senators conceded Thursday, Republicans picked up a 20-20 party split and effectively gained control of the Virginia Senate, to add to their control of the House of Delegates and governor's office, The Roanoke Times reported. Bill Bolling, the Republican lieutenant-governor, casts tie-breaking votes in the upper chamber.

The mixed bag of result also could reflect an electorate that lacks any clear preference -- or enthusiasm -- for either major party right now, StateLine.org reported. When considering President Obama's approval rating has been below 50 percent for months and voters disapproval of both parties in Congress, it's not too surprising they didn't give either party clear victories.

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