1994 All Over Again?
Steven Taylor considers whether 2010 will be a repeat of 1994, where Republicans took control of Congress. He finds it unlikely.
On balance I think that trying to make 2010 into a repeat of 1994 is largely Republicans engaging in wishful thinking. Yes, there are several variable that are similar (Democratic President, Democratic Congress, major health care proposal), but there are also any number of variables that are different. For one: Obama came to office under very different circumstances than did Clinton (one key difference: Clinton only won a plurality of the popular vote, as 1992 was the three-way Clinton-Bush-Perot race, while Obama came in with a solid majority). For another: Clinton struggled through several major legislative fights apart from the health care debate (e.g., gays in the military and over his first budget) while Obama has largely been successful legislatively. That is not to say there haven’t been fights or controversy, but the fights for Obama have been with the opposition, while a number of the fights for Clinton were within his own party—for example, it came down to a handful of votes (and much deal-brokering from the White House) to get the first budget passed in the House and Vice President Gore had to break a tie to pass the budget in the Senate.
I agree with this analysis, and I think that there are other factors in play working against the Republicans here. For one thing, self-identification as “Republican” is trending downward, and there’s a healthy 11 point gap between self-identified Democrats and self-identified Republicans. Independent affiliation is trending up, but independents tend to turnout less during mid-term elections, so the swing factor becomes less decisive.
Now, let’s get into some more specifics–as it stands right now, the Democrats would have to lose 11 Senate seats in order to lose the Senate. Right now, that ain’t in the cards. The Democrats don’t have 11 vulnerable seats. (They might lose Harry Reid, though, which would actually probably be a boon for Democrats.)
On the House side, in order for the Republicans to take the House, they need to win an additional 40 seats. Surveying the landscape, I don’t see 40 seats that the Republicans can win. I do think that they can make some big gains, but as the AP reports, the polling shows that Democrats only have 38 vulnerable seats. So not only do the Republicans have to win all 38 vulnerable seats, they have to win two more besides. Right now I don’t see it–especially because in some of the battleground states such as Florida and Nevada, the Latino vote has swung away from Democrats, and I don’t think that Republican opposition to Sotomayor and renewed calls for crackdowns on immigrants are going to help the Republicans here.
Frankly, from a pure political perspective, I think Obama is at his weakest point than he is going to be for the remainder of the mid-term. Now consider this–his favorables are spiking back up, and after a solid month of conservative protest against health care reform, even Rasmussen puts support for reform at 51% and trending up. And while right now the Republicans are winning the generic House ballot, it’s by a pretty slim margin. I think this is the telling point for the 2010 elections–August was bad, really bad, for the President. But Republicans haven’t moved their agenda forward, and there hasn’t been a signficant shift in opinion against the Democrats. At least, not significant enough to cause a sea change like 1994 or 2006.
Now, there are a number of factors that might change things between now and November 2010–the economy, the wars, a natural disaster, etc. But as things stand right now, and as the trends appear to be moving today, a Republican re-taking of the House doesn’t seem to be in the cards.