A Democratic Blowout?
Stuart Rothenberg is going further than most respected analysts, wondering “how Democrats can possibly fail in their efforts to take both the House and the Senate” and thinking the atmosphere is right for “a blowout of cosmic proportions next month.”
He emphasizes that this is “not a prediction,” merely analysis. Still, has reasoning is hard to dismiss. In addition to the continued long, hard slog in Iraq:
Republicans failed to produce anything meaningful over the past couple of years on the president’s top priorities, Social Security reform and immigration. And now in the wake of the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), the House leadership looks like the Keystone Cops.
Even as a longtime Republican who will unenthusiastically vote GOP again come November 2, that much is inarguable. I continue to hope that Denny Hastert will step aside or that the caucus will dump him but it’s probably too late for that to do any good at this point.
James L. at Swing State Project notes, too, Congressional Quarterly, ” the most risk-averse of all the major prognosticators, making changes to their House and Senate race ratings only when they’re absolutely sure that conditions have changed significantly in each particular constituency,” has downgraded the prospects of the Republican candidate is more than a dozen Congressional Districts.
Regular commenter Anderson frequently notes that columns such as Rothenberg’s elevate expectations unreasonably, making all but a clean sweep by the Democrats seem like a failure. That’s probably true. Frankly, though, it ought to be viewed as a failure at this point.
The Republicans are saddled with an inarticular [er, inarticulate], unpopular president leading an unpopular war effort. The Congressional wing of the party has been embroiled in numerous scandals. The economy, while strong by any reasonable standard, is nonetheless viewed as tepid and has been for years. They managed to retain the White House, House, and Senate by slim margins two years ago almost exclusively by convincing the public that turning the fight against terrorists over to the Democrats would be a disaster. That’s going to be a hard sell this time.
So, how could the GOP possibly hold on? Well, they’ve got some significant structural advantages:
- Incumbency. People hate Congress but love their Congressman and the Republicans have more incumbents.
- Gerrymandering. The GOP has been very successful at the local level in recent years and got to draw the Congressional District maps.
- Red State Migration. For a variety of reasons, people have been leaving the Rust Belt and other “Blue” regions for years for jobs in warmer, “Redder” climates. While the result has been to make a few solid Red states (notably North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia) more purple, overall this has meant more seats for Republicans to Gerrymander.
- Terrorism. While rightly diminished, the Republican Party still has a natural advantage when national security is a major voting issue. Despite numerous failings on the part of GOP leadership, the Democrats have failed to capitalize.
- Good Enemies. It was said that Bill Clinton was very fortunate to have good enemies. Despite his failings, Newt Gingrich and company were positively hamhanded in their efforts to bring him down. Similarly, George W. Bush and the Congressional Republicans have been blessed by the likes of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, the Kos Kids, Michael Moore, et. al. being the primary messengers of opposition.
Before the Foley scandal, I thought those factors would be enough for the GOP to eek out another two year shot. Now, I think the Dems pull out wins. The question over the next four weeks is which set of incompetent leaders do the most damage. Do Dean and company so overplay their hand as to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Or do Hastert and company continue to mishandle the Foley mess in such a way as to make a blowout possible?