February 4, 2009

GOP 2010: The Journey back - Part 2

Previously I looked at the GOP chances in the Senate 2010 and it didn't look too promising out of the gate. But there are some mitigating circumstances that help the GOP. Before moving on to some of those factors, let's take a look at Congress. All 435 seats are of course up for election. Currently the Democrats hold a 257-178 advantage.

That translates to a 79 seat advantage meaning that Republicans would need to make up 40 seats to overtake the Democrats. That has occurred only 2 times in the last 60 years, and is far greater than the changes over the last two election. Most races are in strongholds and not likely to change but many liberals are salivating at further gains in 2010, pushing the Democrats passed the 2/3 majority point in Congress. In fact in recent polling the Democrats in Congress are outperforming their Republican counterparts. This early on, even in a tiny two year election cycle, that's not too meaningful. Still, it's better to be on the plus side of that polling than the minus, even though it doesn't count until November 2010.

What are the seat specific pick-up opportunities and loss threats? It's too early and too hard to tell at this point. But for both the House and Senate, there's an ace up the sleeve of Republicans that has yet to be factored into the comeback road and that is redistricting. True, it's longer term than 2010, but 2010 still factors into it;
The 2010 census could add multiple House seats to red-leaning states — as many as four districts to Texas and two each to Arizona and Florida. And it could subtract seats from blue-trending states like Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 
Most of the states slated to gain seats in reapportionment next cycle feature Republican-controlled state legislatures and governor’s mansions — the powerhouses that decide how to allocate congressional districts.

So while there is no immediate impact in redistricting in 2010 it does help for 2012. But there are other factors at play that will impact 2010. The current economic crisis, if not solved by the summer of 2010 will definitely cause voters to sour on the Democrats. Another factor is that the youth turnout, so crucial to Obama's win, is not likely to be as much a critical block in a non-Presidential cycle. The mainstream media, caught in the hype of 2008, may have soured a bit on Obama by 2010, but even if they haven't and even if they are as fervent about 2010 as they were about 2008, they won't be able to generate the hype amongst the electorate - particularly if the downturn turns out to be very significant in the interim.

Conversely the Republican base will be re-energized by the battering they took in 2008 and the chance to make back some ground. And the conservative base will be even more engaged if the current rate of scandals holds up. Party identification, having shifted towards Democrats is likely to drift back towards the norm, albeit not back to the best levels the GOP has ever seen.

Taking some positives from the Gregg situation, there are possibilities for further retirements in the GOP in both the House and Senate and while pollsters might look at it as giving up an incumbency advantage, there is a flip side to that coin; new nominees could be more in line with real conservative values and thereby energize the base. As much as it is a threat it's an opportunity. Coupled with Michael Steele's GOPAC connections - there's a strong chance the party gets better talent for it's nominees. Not to mention potentially better fundraising, better message communication and better outreach opportunities than under Bush's handpicked RNC Chair, Mike Duncan. Just the way '94 ushered in a new flock of idealistic Republicans, 2010 offers at least a starting point to do the same.

The field in 2010, while still tilted against the GOP, offers ample opportunity in Congress to see substantial gains and in the Senate, which takes longer to change, at least no more losses and potentially a modest gain.

And then there's the possibility of in-fighting amongst Democrats adding to the chaos of the next two years. How that image plays out remains to be seen, but an article in RealClearPolitics indicates that the in-fighting is not Republican wishful thinking. It also presents an opportunity to the GOP to point out how the committee process has been stripped and that power are being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Those who worried about a Bush fascist state should be if not up in arms over this, at least visibly nervous about the possible ramifications of an Obama, Pelosi, Reid triumvirate of power, locking out not only the remainder of the 535 Congressmen and Senators, but all 300 million other Americans.

If things keep up like this, you will start to see shrill conservatives screaming about a socialist dictatorship and the same silliness as the Bushitler meme from the left but this against Obama, Pelosi and Reid. It's not merited because for conservatives the focus should be simply on two things that do not include name calling - obstructing any agenda that makes America more socialist and winning back its lost seats in 2010.

With all this background I'm going to make a ridiculously early prediction about the Senate and Congress in 2010. Don't hold me to it because at this point I'm trying to temper my optimism with the reality of so many unknowns this far out.

Senate - Republicans +2. Congress - Republicans +15.

But I'm not signing any contract on that.

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