GOP's Electoral Outlook Grim
by Jonathan Singer, Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 02:56:11 AM EDT
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.