Democrats Poised to Take House?
Al Hunt reports that smart observers of both parties believe the Democrats will retake the House and quite possibly the Senate.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Charles Rangel and Chairman — again — John Dingell. Those titles will soon sound familiar. Barring an unexpected and big event, Democrats will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November and conceivably the Senate, too. Whether it’s a tsunami or just a powerful wave, the political dynamics are moving in that direction, or more accurately, against the Republicans and President George W. Bush.
Democratic insiders, who months ago thought their chances of winning a majority in the House were no better than even, and that the Senate was a lost cause, have become far more optimistic. Now, they say, winning the House is a lock, and the Senate is within reach. “We have to go back to 1974 (during Watergate) to find such a favorable environment,” says James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. “If we can’t win in this environment, we have to question the whole premise of the party.”
More telling is that the smartest Republican political minds agree. “The issue matrix and political dynamics are not good for us,” says Representative Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican. “Only some big national or international event before the election can change that.”
Bill McInturff[*], the pre-eminent Republican pollster who sees survey data from all over the country, isn’t any more sanguine. “The national mood is like that of sweep elections,” he says. “People are angry about Iraq, about gas prices, about health care.”
Privately, Republican congressional leaders are bracing to lose 20 to 30 House seats — more than the net 15 gain that Democrats need to take control of that chamber — and to barely hold on to their Senate majority.
Chris Bowers has released the “MyDD House Forecast 2006” and projects “Democrats to take 15-25 seats, which would give them a narrow majority of between 218-228 seats.” The Rothenberg Political Report [via Taegan Goddard] has the Democrats taking 15-20 seats.
Strategy One’s Rob Moran, a Republican pollster for the past 11 years, agrees: “Everything I see suggests to me that we will be graced with Speaker Pelosi in the next Congress.” He does see a silver lining, though, in what that means for 2008.
One of the few dissenters from this view is Michael Barone, who sees a “change in the political winds” stemming from last month’s foiled London terror plot.
Polls since the London arrests suggest what has been happening. Bush’s job approval was up significantly in the Gallup Poll, usually the most volatile of national polls, and the Democratic margin in the generic question (Which party’s candidate for the House would you vote for?) was sharply reduced. There was a similar trend in generic vote in the Rasmussen poll, which is ordinarily much less volatile than Gallup.
Glenn Greenwald disagrees with this sentiment, though. He contends that the pundit class seems to think that, “No matter what the controversy is — even if it arises from the President’s getting caught breaking the law — the more it’s talked about, the more political benefits will accrue to the Republicans, because most Americans are on their side.” He sees no evidence of a terrorism bounce for the GOP. I tend to agree with Greenwald in this, although Barone’s conclusion strikes me as right:
Earlier this summer, I thought that voters had decided that the Republicans deserved to lose but were not sure that the Democrats deserved to win, and that they were going to wait, as they did in the 1980 presidential and the 1994 congressional elections, to see if the opposition was an acceptable alternative. Events seem to have made that a harder sell for Democrats.
While it’s clear that the public is tired of the Republicans and there are enough Republican incumbents in trouble that a turnover is quite possible, there may be just enough doubt as to whether the Democrats can handle the fight against terrorism to stave off defeat.
Given that gas prices are already going down and will certainly go down much further after Labor Day, that could bode well for the Republicans. That would be ironic indeed, as the president has virtually no effect on gas prices. But that’s politics.
*Disclosure: Bill McInturff is a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, which employs my wife as VP and Director of Operations.