Congress can't do any less than it did in 2013

Look for another underperforming Congress, sharpened focus on women and minorities, and data continuing to be a hot commodity.

Acrimony and another do-little Congress
Less than two years ago, I predicted that self-interest would drive the two parties toward compromise and legislative achievement. I won't get fooled again. Optimists believe the political cost to Republicans of the government shutdown will lead to a new era of compromise. They also predicted a Super Bowl run by the Redskins. Senators and representatives worried only about primary challenges; a vocal Republican minority that abhors compromise; and a president needing to rally the Democratic base as his popularity sags will set the stage for continued paralysis and acrimony. That said, 2013 productivity in Congress was so low, it can only go up. Expect a modest uptick in issues campaigns as the centers of the two parties search for a few yards of common ground. 

A heightened focus on women and minorities
As the mid-terms approach, the right will be intent on winning back some women and minority votes – electorates that skewed heavily toward President Barack Obama and Democratic candidates in 2012. Republicans are trying to cool incendiary rhetoric that has alienated women, and a lot of men. And it will be interesting how the party deals with reproductive rights legislation and immigration reform. Maybe they can learn from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who garnered 51% of the Hispanic vote and 56% of women in largely blue New Jersey in his 2013 re-election.    

A resolve by both parties to use data to gain electoral advantage
With the country split so evenly between the two political camps, presidential and state campaigns will be won or lost based on who has the best information about the electorate, who targets the most effectively, and who uses data to adapt quickly to shifts in the environment. Former Obama campaign data geeks will continue to be in hot demand.

Building of grassroots armies by companies and trade associations
Gone are the days when lobbyists could get the job done alone. Social media and data mining are redefining grassroots advocacy as companies and trade associations build sophisticated networks of engaged employees and members to advocate for, and influence, policy. 

Continued shrinking of the federal government
Less spending by the feds means companies and industries have to make the “value” case for their products and services, particularly around innovation, to secure federal contracts or continued reimbursement. And smaller government doesn't mean less regulation. Indeed, gridlock on the Hill means more pages in the Federal Register as the administration aggressively pursues the political, economic, and social agenda that Congress won't pass. 

Pam Jenkins is president of Powell Tate.

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