GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

Listening to some of the Beltway pundits as of late -- particularly those aligned with the Republican Party -- one might come away with the impression that the GOP is almost immune from major losses this fall on account of the fact that they see the political tidal wave coming and thus have ample time to react to it. This line of thinking holds that such a realization, which Democrats never had in 1994, will lead endangered Republicans to work that much harder and generally improve the party's chances come November.

While it was perhaps true that hubris got the better of the Democrats in 1994 -- there is no question that some incumbents that year (Dan Rostenkowski, who was indicted during the campaign season before being defeated in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, comes to mind) did not treat the Republicans' challenge with sufficient respect -- the main problem facing the Democrats was not their delusions about the political climate but rather voters' unhappiness with the policies they enacted. The same fact seems to be the number one issue for Republicans this fall, and it's one that a little self-realization isn't going to help.

Incumbent Republicans seem to be doing a fairly impressive job of bringing in cash this cycle, and with the exception of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is getting trounced by its Democratic counterpart, the Republican Party has put in place much of the infrastructure necessary to weather most political storms. What's more, they are taking seriously the challenge from their Democratic challengers, ignoring when possible and engaging when necessary. Simply put, the Republicans are running a fairly tight ship that in most years would help put the party in reach of victory.

But this is not most years. Judging by the most recent Pew survey, voters already have strong feelings about this Republican Congress, feelings that bode very poorly for the party in power. From one issue to another, voters see Congressional Republicans as ill-equipped to deal with the most pressing issues. Perhaps most ominously for the Republican Party, Pew also finds that the GOP's prospects

are being undermined by the fairly common view that the 109th Congress has achieved little to date. Fully 41% of voters say the current Congress has accomplished less than its recent predecessors, 47% say its accomplishments are the same, and just 7% think it has accomplished more. That is by far the most negative evaluation of Congress's record in polls since 1997. Independents, along with Democrats, are much more critical of the record compiled by Congress than in the two previous off-year elections.

It's not only that the American voter sees a Do Nothing Republican Congress and does not want to see it reelected (53 percent "would like to see most members of Congress defeated in November"). On a range of issues that will be key to November's midterms, the public favors the Democrats by a healthy margin, whether it's immigration (Dems lead on the issue 43%-27%) or ability to reform government (voters favor the Dems by a 44%-28% margin).

With numbers like these, Republican self-realization just isn't going to cut it. No, the public in general seems convinced that the Republican Party is simply unable to get things done in Washington, and raising big campaign dollars doesn't turn into a budget (remember, the GOP Congress is nowhere near passing one), nor do stump speeches improve the immigration bill's chances of passage. Unless Congressional Republicans are able to reform themselves in an immediate way, somehow passing not only a budget and immigration reform but also a number of sweeping measures including the Social Security reform promised by the President last year, the GOP is on an inextricable path to defeat this fall no matter how good their campaigns are.

Tags: Do Nothing Republicans, House 2006, Republicans (all tags)

Comments

18 Comments

Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

Republicans can minimize damage by running on effective wedge issues (immigration, gay adoption, being a good Christian, stealth race issues, pornography (you wil hear more about this) and a number of other scare tactics) and the fact they know Democrats aren't going to do much.  The numbers are more volatile are they not- in terms of generic re-elect a Republican Congress under certain polls than others? In other words, an election is about 2 choices- Republicans versus who else? They can win, as they have in the past, by making the other choice just as unsavory- ie, the mainstream media's coverage of corruption in Washington about which you can't expect the public to know the deeper details.

by bruh21 2006-04-21 04:14AM | 0 recs
Good point

Unless the Dems come across as politicians with character and run a hard hitting campaign for change, this Nov will be another disappointment for the Dems.

With these expectations for a Dem win and the Repubs wind up continuing to hold majorities in the house and senate, Bush and Cheney will be so emboldened that we have not seen how crazy it will get.

by ab initio 2006-04-21 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

Yes, now it seems grim, that is true.

But you know sure as hell, and as John Dean points out in a recent column, that the Repubs are going to pull an October surprise. My bet is it'll be related to Iran.

So the real question is: given that there will be some fear mongering event by Bush in a desperate attempt to get a "rally around the flag" effect, what do the numbers look like in that scenario?

And more to the point: What is the Democratic strategy for this inevitable step by an increasingly desperate GOP?

by upstate guy 2006-04-21 04:33AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

I worry like hell that the Dems will get overconfident.

But I was curious about your Social Security reform comment. I would think Bush's plan would sink the GOP totally....I mean, nobody liked it.

I don't see how passing it would help the GOP. And, even a rational SS reform plan is going to alienate some voters.

No, I think the GOP are smart for ditching it, and Dems should use it as a wedge issue--"If you keep the GOP in power, they're going to gut SS as soon as the election is over."

(As an aside: I think Reagan was damn smart to stick it in the hands of a bipartisan commission. If Bush was smart and really concerned about SS, he would have done the same thing. But, as we know, he's not smart and he was just using the issue to reward his donors in the financial services industry and destroy a Democratic program for good.)

by Bush Bites 2006-04-21 04:44AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

PRIDE GOETH BEFORE THE FALL.

The outlook looked bad for W, too; he was begging to be beaten, with the imcompetence, corruption, lies and death he fomented during his first term. He won in 2004, too, didn't he?

You know when I will believe how bad things are for the GOP?  On the day after the election.

Democrats in positions of influence have a way of stroking themselves.

Yes, I will work, and I will donate, but I will not stroke myself to think that the GOP is NECESSARILY going to go down in flames this year.

Please dont use your position of influence, on a widely read blog, to lull other Democrats, and to lull independents, into thinking that this is going to be all Democrats, all year long.  

Work needs to be done.  Lots of work.

by jfrankesq 2006-04-21 04:50AM | 0 recs
GOP just loves to be the underdog

My theory: the GOP, with those sixty years of opposition in the Congress up to 1994, still have an opposition mindset.

They love the idea that they're the ordinary guys, the outsiders, in a constant battle with the elites; that's their story arc. (Delusional, of course; but it's what juices their political action.)

Coming from behind off really terrible polling works for them either way: they keep control in 06, fine: they've surmounted incredible odds, bloody but unbowed, John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart, all that crap.

If they lose, they get two years of relentless guerilla war training for the next go-round in 08.

And, in 08, they have two years of a shambolic Dem Do Nothing Congress to stump on.

That's their story: what's the Dems'?

by skeptic06 2006-04-21 05:09AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP just loves to be the underdog

Now, now, you're being corrupted by powerlessness again....

by redstar66 2006-04-21 07:04AM | 0 recs
I wish I could believe you

I think we overestimate the rationality of the typical voter. Earlier this week I spent some time with the mother of a kid in my son's pre-school class. This woman voted for Bush both times (the second time, she claims, she spent 20 minutes in the voting booth trying to decide--she just didn't like Kerry). She doesn't like Bush now.

This woman is ostensibly outraged about the war in Iraq--
"nothing makes me madder" than Iraq, she told me.

But who do you think her favorite Democrat is? Lieberman. She used to work for Chuck Hagel, and he always said Lieberman was really smart. She thought it was outrageous that Gore turned his back on Lieberman and supported Dean. I tried to explain that Gore turned away from Lieberman in part because Lieberman is the biggest Democratic supporter of the war in Iraq.

Who do you think she would support in 2008? McCain. I mentioned that McCain wants us to stay in Iraq indefinitely. She said something like well, I think a lot of people are worried that if we leave now it will all have been for nothing.

If this woman responded to a pollster, it would be nothing but good news for Democrats: she hates Bush, she hates the war in Iraq. But is she going to pull the lever for a Democrat this year or in 2008? Somehow, I doubt it. Although she claims to be against the war, she loves the Democrat and Republican who want to stay the course in Iraq.

She did mention that her husband, a longtime Republican, now "is totally for the Democrats," but I didn't talk to him directly.

by desmoinesdem 2006-04-21 05:36AM | 0 recs
Definitely a big assumption!

Didn't our economist friends once have a theoretical construct called Economic Man who rigidly acted in his own best economic interests, and thus made all their beautiful mathematical theories pan out.

(Because, unless we were all Economic Men, their subject failed to be susceptible to elegant math, and the economists lost their chance of a Nobel Prize.)

I think the same goes for voters. The assumption is, I think, this: as individuals, voters are ill-informed about political matters, lack the expertise to analyze what little information they have, and the intelligence to evaluate such analysis in deciding for which candidate to cast their ballot; but, in the aggregate, their decisions somehow are mystically imbued with the knowledge and rationality which, individually, they do not possess.

(Something of the same thought underlies the jury system.)

It's complete bollocks, of course. At the same time (roughly) as one great nation was voting into office a broadly sensible guy to save them from the effects of the Great Depression, another great nation was voting in a megalomaniac whose insanity would lead to megadeaths among his own people.

Where's a polisci prof when you need him? I'm absolutely damned sure that this issue has been worked to death in Academe. I'd be fascinated to know folks have proposed to resolve it.

by skeptic06 2006-04-21 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

Good points, bruh1 and upstateguy - wedge issues and Iran will certainly come into play.  And please, everyone, remember this: they will cheat.  Phone jamming, vote-next-day leafleting, increasingly easier electronic monkeying, and good old-fashioned ballot stuffing, overlooked if not overseen by a crop of Republican Secretaries of State.  

Don't fool yourselves; This isn't about a fair fight.  The other side knows no rules.

by carlmanaster 2006-04-21 05:45AM | 0 recs
how come

How come the Dems don't seem to target Sec of State races as being vital?  Seems rather obvious from where I sit, but I don't ever seem to hear about the Dems trying to win Sec of State offices.  I mean I know they run candidates, and wage usually ok statewide campaigns in the states I've lived in.  But I never see this mentioned nationally as a vital goal the Dems really need to go try to accomplish.  I'd think after Harris in FLA and Blackwell in OH, the Dems would be thinking that its vital to them as a party to try to win every Sec of State race possible.

by COBear 2006-04-21 09:15AM | 0 recs
What's the alternative?

I'm comming to the conclusion that the Dem's won't profit much from the GOP's woes -

There are gonna be lots of Dems wondering what happened next Nov.  Until we/they provide a real and clear alternative to the Publicans folks won't bother to vote.  

by mwfolsom 2006-04-21 06:09AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim
Nine comments on this post, all of them negative. Yep, typcial bloggers.
Why is it that when somebody tires to inject at least a little cautious optimism, you people gang up on them?
I wish I could quit these sites.
by spirowasright 2006-04-21 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

spirowasright, I thought this was a site that focused on political strategy.

Wishful thinking and ignoring reality isn't a political strategy.

I do think that Jonathan is making a great point, and the GOP certainly is incredibly vulnerable.

But pointing out that the Democrats need to be ever vigilant, to expect an October surprise, and to hope that they are thinking about pro-active strategies, is not "negative." It's called strategic thinking...

by upstate guy 2006-04-21 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim

The first signs look good.  A lot of things are evident.  Look at the money.  The GOPers are funding their first and second tier candidates but going to sleep as you get down the bench.  Take Florida.  Clay Shaw has $2 million in the bank but Jeff Miller (FL-1) has $150,000.  In Texas, 13 GOP incumbents have less than $500 K in the bank.  In CA, the number is 11.  Both of these states have lots of unopposed Dems in the House meaning we are free to start making waves.
More than 40% of GOP incumbents have less than $500 K in the bank.

But the signs are subject to change.  At this point in time, Newt was making a lot of noise in 94.  Push it.  Don't worry about being what the opposition is supposed to be: in opposition.  If the election were held now, we'd have the House (not by a lot) and narrow the gap in the Senate.Fortune favors the bold and those that work  Time to put up, not to shut up, friends.

by David Kowalski 2006-04-21 08:34AM | 0 recs
Congressional Dems don't *do* opposition!

Like asking Queen Victoria to meet her Golden Jubilee crowds without wearing a corset!

There's the odd spasm, of course - like Reid's Rule 21 stunt over intel last year. But -

Quick question - whatever happened to Boxer? Darling of the left, begetter of the Ohio stunt at the top of the 109th, and then - nada.

I don't even know whether she's running again in 2010 - if not, all the more reason she should be loosening her own corset and letting rip with some heavy-duty insurgency, surely?

The shock-horror reaction of his colleagues to Feingold's perfectly senatorial-looking censure stunt bespeaks a common fear among the caucus of saying boo to a goose, let alone being the bold that fortune favors!

by skeptic06 2006-04-21 09:14AM | 0 recs
beaten spouse

After the 2004 election, I remember reading a good piece that compared the Democrats in general to spouse who'd been the victims of long-term abuse.

The analogy I remember is to a wife who walks on absolute eggshells around an abusive husband afraid that almost anything she might say or do might trigger another round of abuse.  

The Dems seem to act like that.  Like they've been beaten on by the Republican bullies so often that now they are scared to say or do anything.  And with the mistaken thought that says that if we are really nice and don't do anything to set off the Republicans again, then maybe they won't beat on us tonight.

Of course, that doesn't work in either case.  

by COBear 2006-04-21 09:19AM | 0 recs
Money

Well, what those GOP dollars will translate to is a flood of very negative ads in the peak of the election season.

The goal wil be to muddy the waters and to lay down a smoke screen.  They'll use big $$ to try to change the topic of discussion in most races.  Instead of debating Bush' incompetence, they'll try to use a negative ad campaign to shift the debate to whether the Democratic candidate was 2 days late filing for a new driver's license in 1974.

And since they'll have a lot of help in the lap-dog corporate media, there's a decent chance that at some level this combination of big negative ad campaigns and a lap-dog media will be able to change the terms of debate.

To me, the key for Dem candidates is to try to innoculate themselves against this earlier in the campaign.  The reaction you'd want is that when the Republicans start doing this, voters look at it and say "that isn't important to me ... what are the Republicans trying to do by bringing this up?"

Which means Dems need to be talking forcefully on important issues long before the end of the campaign.  They need to be talking about Iraq.  They need to be talking about what's happening to good jobs for Americans.  If the Dems are trying to be quiet and just coast to a win, they'll get clobbered by the $$$ and the negative ads and the lap-dog corporate media at the end of the campaign.

We need the race to be over in most voters minds before that even happens.

by COBear 2006-04-21 09:07AM | 0 recs

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