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:

  1. Incumbency. People hate Congress but love their Congressman and the Republicans have more incumbents.
  2. Gerrymandering. The GOP has been very successful at the local level in recent years and got to draw the Congressional District maps.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. All the polls will no doubt be used on November 8 as prima facie evidence of Karl Rove’s successful vote suppression efforts if the Democrats do not win.

  2. McGehee says:

    “how Democrats can possibly fail in their efforts to take both the House and the Senate”

    They’ll find a way. It’s what they’ve been best at for years.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    The thought of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader should be enough for any American who has the right to vote to vote Republican. The thought of either of those two things happening scare the hell out of me.

  4. Bithead says:

    No, not all the polls Charles.

    Perhaps you guys didn’t see “fox news Sunday” last week, where Billy Kristol pointed up the polls that were taken right smack dab in the middle of the leading wave of the fully mass did not show any substantial change from the week previous in terms of patterns among likely voters.

    I suspect and suggest that what is going to happen here is that the democrats will start losing even larger than they have been when the voters figure out that this entire Foley mess was altogether being blown out of the legal proportions that rightfully occupies. True, his actions, are bad enough. but it’s beginning to appear as though they do not rise to the level of crime.

    Let’s look at what we have here.

    In this particular scandal, we have a Congress critter sending messages back and forth with what we are told is a young page. Turns out, the kids eighteen. That’s legal age. Strike one against a democrat charges.

    (Never mind, that the democrats said not word one about Gerry Studds and his sixteen or seventeen year old boyfriend when they went to the Bahamas years ago. )

    We have a group of Democrats who after years of telling us about Studds and Barney Frank Were being persecuted because of their homosexuality, because we are all homophobes. Now we see Democrats working the same territory that they charged Republicans with working not so long ago.

    (Never mind that Gerry Studds and Barney Frank were actually involved with criminal activity; a question which cannot be a firm and if we answered with any assurity in senator Foley’s case.)

    We have Democrats… including some from the Clinton white house, warning those currently in power not to overplay their hand on this one, because it looks awfully shaky. Yet those who stand the most to lose if the democrats lose Congress yet again, are ignoring this sage advice.

    And further, we now see Nacy Pelosi Stonewalling the investigation of how much she knew going into this matter.

    The Hill, notes just the other day that:

    North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry called on Democratic leaders yesterday to testify under oath about when they knew of former Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) Internet communications with a House page.

    Writing to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), McHenry questioned whether Democrats had a role in publicizing the e-mails, which broke in the middle of the fall election season creating a furor rarely seen in congressional politics.

    “Is the American public to believe that neither of you nor your staffs nor anyone associated with your staffs had prior knowledge or involvement with the release of Foley’s e-mails and/or explicit instant messages? Is the American public to believe that ABC News stumbled haphazardly on this story without Democratic assistance?” wrote McHenry, a freshman Republican who has emerged as an attack dog for the GOP.

    He asked that Pelosi and Emanuel offer a “yes or no” answer as to whether they would go under oath “to assure the American people that neither you nor your staffs had prior knowledge or involvement — at the strategic or tactical levels — with the release of Foley’s e-mails and/or instant messages.”

    Of course, Pelosi’s mouthpeice objects:

    “Republicans just don’t get it; every mother in America is asking how Republican’s could choose partisan politics over protecting kids, and the Republicans are asking who could have blown their cover-up,” said Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. “If we had seen Mark Foley’s horrific e-mails or instant messages, we would have immediately acted to protect these kids.”

    But where was the call to act “For the Children” (Gee, where have we heard THAT before) when Gary Studds was traipsing off to the Bahamas with a seventeen year old male lover, so that he couldn’t be charged with a crime?

    And again, and for the record, the young man involved in the communications with Foley was of age, unlike the case of Studds.

    What ultimately is going to happen here, is that the American voter is going to look at the double standard being applied here by the Democrats, and will vote accordingly… AGAINST Democrats.

  5. Michael says:

    Everyone seems to be wondering if more people will vote Democrat because of this, and I think most people are correct to think that they will not. However, to go on and assume that this means the outcome of the election won’t change would require dismissing another important question, will more Democrats vote because of this? And, inversely, will fewer Republicans vote because of this?

    Probably the most important part of Jame’s entire post was this line:

    Even as a longtime Republican who will unenthusiastically vote GOP again come November 2

    How many Republicans are looking forward to Nov? How many Republicans will wake up on election day excited about going out to vote? How many Democrats will?
    How many Republicans would rather skip lunch, or leave home early, to vote for someone they think is corrupt, or inept, or part of a failed policy? How many Democrats would skip lunch or leave home early to vote against them?

    Think about it, the average Democrat, who doesn’t care about politics 90% of the time, is more excited about going out to vote than James, someone who is deeply engaged in politics. That is the real impact of this scandal.

  6. The Heretik says:

    But our president are articulate. Him’s bility to state the premise as the proof are logic like. His subject verb agreement and his need for subject agreement from all citizens can not be objected to, not too much.

    Sorry english, sorry american. Just sorry. Oy.

  7. Len says:

    Similarly, George W. Bush and the Congressional Republicans have been blessed by the likes of Howard Dean, Nanci Pelosi, the Kos Kids, Michael Moore, et. al. being the primary messengers of opposition.

    Looks like a good list of messengers to me. And Ms. Pelosi spells here name with a y… Nancy… or if you prefer, you can call her Madame Speaker. (You may as well start practicing now.) 😉

  8. windupcanary says:

    I think that the five points mentioned here will probably all make a significant impact on the elections, but I also think two were missed; money (the RNC does after all have 2-3 times the cash of that rich elitist DNC) and the last-minute get-out-the-vote campaign.

    Also, could somebody justify the gerrymandering to me? I’m not at all for Democratic gerrymandering, but what I’ve studied shows Republicans taking district maps already in their favor by Dem-made race-isolation, and making them aggregiously one-sided. There are so many districts across the country that are a few acres here, another few fifty miles away, a long strip over there; how is doing that good democracy, if it has the sole purpose of overrepresenting Republicans?

    Finally, I think the DNC should have done a better job with the Stubbs scandal. Nonetheless, all but 3 House Democrats censured him, and stripped him of his only leadership position. But that was 23 years ago, and Congress has changed dramatically. Republicans cry foul when Iran-Contra or Watergate is brought up against them now; can’t we stick to recent history in our accusations of hypocrisy? Goodness knows there’s enough of it in recent years.

  9. James Joyner says:

    and Ms. Pelosi spells here name with a y

    So she does. That’s by far the most common spelling but, for some reason, I thought she spelled it the other way.

  10. RJN says:

    Won’t the Foley thing become – what it always has been – a gay thing before the election? I don’t think there is anything there that will work against the Republicans.

    All Bush has to do is make a strong case for staged withdrawal from Iraq within two weeks of the election and Iraq will diminish as a negative.

  11. While “inarticular” is amusingly apt, I am assuming you meant “inarticulate”.

    And your analysis is spot-on.

  12. Nathan Tabor says:

    Your analysis appears right on, and you mention the inaction on immigration reform. I believe the refusal to deal with border security and illegal aliens IS the downfall of the GOP. Apparently, GOP politicians and their advisers are oblivious to to what’s being said on the Internet. These people are angry over watching their citizenship privileges dissolve and the birthright of their children squandered by so-called conservatives.

    Conservatives won’t vote for the Stalinist Democrats, but they probably won’t vote for the Republicans either. They will vote for third-party candidates or they will stay home and watch Judge Judy.

    I did see an article in the LA about a GOP candidate in Iowa who’s saying the right things and airing TV ads that reminds folks of Ronald Reagan. John Cox is the first Republican to actually declare his candidacy. His TV spots are online on his website

    Never too early to shop around for a new president.

  13. It is unreal that so much effort is put into the sex life of a politican, and very little thought goes into how much this is a smoke-screen for the real nonsense that goes on. Didn’t we learn anything from the Clinton’s??? It wasn’t about sex; it was all the other issues listed in the book “Sellout.”
    Here’s my take on the coming November elections, and there are NO ads here.

  14. McGehee says:

    How many Republicans would rather skip lunch, or leave home early, to vote for someone they think is corrupt, or inept, or part of a failed policy?

    Follow that another step, Michael: how many Republicans or Democrats truly believe their congressman “is corrupt, or inept, or part of a failed policy?”

    There’s an oft-stated reason for why 99% of incumbents seeking re-election traditionally win re-election.

    I just don’t see the Democrats closing the sale on this when it comes time for people to cast their ballots. The only people inclined to think their congressman is tainted by the Foley scandal are those in Foley’s district — who may already know that voting for Foley doesn’t mean re-electing Foley.

  15. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    The last time I paid any attention to the polls was when the exist polls had Kerry winning over Bush by a landslide.

  16. vnjagvet says:

    I still suspect that most mature voters (forty plus) will still vote for their respective Republican incumbents. Generally these voters vote in every election, without goading or being carried to the polls. In addition, they are less volatile.

    They are aware enough to know that a shift to a Pelosi-led House would not be constructive for the following issues:

    Taxes; national security; war on terror; general national stability.

    I do not think the polls accurately measure that kind of consistency.

  17. Carter says:

    I predict the Republicans will win the midterms because most Americans do not want Nancy Pelosi to become the speaker of the house. Although I think Hasteret is not a good leader, he is much better than the alternative.

  18. LJP says:

    Let me be direct with all of you. The proverbial sh—t has hit the fan. The American public could give a two whistles about the way your measures operate in Congress. Most politicians have not respect from the public they are voted to serve.

    It is painfully obvious that the situation with Foley and Reynolds is a cover-up for disgusting behavior. That behavior has nothing to do with sexuality, it has to do with corruption. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next few weeks. Stop hiding behind sexuality and politics. A lie is a lie, and corruption is corruption. I deeply applaud the FBI, and I cannot wait for the truth to be revealed and justice served. What in the hell is the matter with most of you people defending horrible behavior. This has nothing to do with a 16 year old. This has to do with corrupt real estate dealings in NY and Florida amongst a few things.

    I

  19. Michael says:

    McGehee,

    Follow that another step, Michael: how many Republicans or Democrats truly believe their congressman “is corrupt, or inept, or part of a failed policy?”

    I just don’t see the Democrats closing the sale on this when it comes time for people to cast their ballots.

    You seem to have missed my point. It’s not who people will be voting for, it’s who will be voting. If I believe my party is failing me, even if I don’t blame my local congressman, I’m still less likely to go vote. High turnout is generally good for an incumbent, but disillusionment in the GOP may cause lower than usual turnout in their base, and larger than usual turnout in their opposition. This game isn’t about selling the ideas, it’s about motivating people to cast a vote in the first place.

  20. Michael says:

    he thought of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader should be enough for any American who has the right to vote to vote Republican.

    They are aware enough to know that a shift to a Pelosi-led House would not be constructive

    most Americans do not want Nancy Pelosi to become the speaker of the house.

    I’m curious as to when Pelosi became the new GOP boogieman. Seriously, do you have anything you can cite to backup this common knowledge that American’s are afraid of Pelosi becoming Speaker of the House? I would hazard to say that the number of people who can name the House Minority Leader are only slightly less than can name the current Speaker of the House (at least before the Foley that is, now more people know the current Speaker). Is this something you guys actually believe, or is it just pre-emptive fearmongering?

  21. McGehee says:

    You seem to have missed my point. It’s not who people will be voting for, it’s who will be voting.

    Exactly.