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Monday, September 28, 2009

Another Republican Revolution?

Republicans are going to take over. It's inevitable. People aren't happy with congress and this means that, since Democrats are in control of both chambers, we're in for a big, big change. It's a lead pipe cinch. A sure bet. No contest. The republican base is excited, the Democratic base is disappointed. The pendulum has begun to swing.

At least, that seems to be what a lot of people think. Democrats better watch out, a lot of pundits are saying, because 2010 could be 1994 all over again. You wait and see. Republicans, with their tea bags and Hitler mustaches are on the march!

Of course, you know what I think of the analytic and prognosticative powers of the punditry -- for the most part, they don't exist. Still, you get stories like this, from Reuters:

When Republicans see signs that Americans are having doubts about President Barack Obama's healthcare proposals and economic policies, they see opportunity as they plot strategy for 2010 elections.

Cuffed around in the 2006 and 2008 elections by Obama's Democrats, the Republican Party is looking for a way out of the political wilderness and many in the party think Obama himself may hold the key.

While Obama is not up for re-election until 2012, the congressional elections in November 2010 are likely to be seen as a referendum on his leadership.

Some Republicans even feel safe saying things that are demonstrably untrue. "We're a party that doesn't believe in spending money we don't have," says former Massachusetts Governor and 2008 also-ran Mitt Romney. "And Republicans that can show that they have been fiscally conservative will stand in stark contrast to the extraordinary deficits and forecasts of even greater deficits that are coming from the Democrats."

I guess we're supposed to forget that those "extraordinary deficits" come from George W. Bush and that these "fiscally conservative" Republicans were all for spending money hand over fist just months ago. This proves only one thing; Republicans have a very low opinion of your intelligence.

But how true is this "coming GOP storm" story? Not very. People point to the drop in Obama's poll numbers as proof that everything's going south for dems, but the truth is that the President's numbers have only fallen to the point they were in November -- when he won handily -- and seem to have either leveled off there or are improving slightly. So we can write that argument off.

And, as Obama's numbers fell, we didn't see Republican numbers rise. In fact, as congress' numbers fell, so did congressional Republicans. Gallup polling shows that at no point this year have Republican approval numbers been as high as Democrats. As of September 17th, Democrats scored a lousy 36% approval, while Republicans got a lousier 27%.

And, even among self-identified Republican voters, the party is unpopular:

Gallup graph
Click for fullsized graph

67% of Democratic voters approve of Democratic congress critters. Only 39% of Republicans have that kind of love for their congressional party members. If you think that's bad, let me confirm it for you; that's bad. That motivated base? They aren't so motivated right now. "[T]o all of my fellow politicos who claim that Dems are in for historic defeats next year," writes Justin Gardner of the centrist blog Donklephant, "you might want to pay less attention to the Tea Partiers and more attention to the swing voters."

One person who has personal experience with Republican takeovers has come to the same conclusion. On NBC's Meet The Press this weekend, Bill Clinton was asked if a second Republican Revolution was coming.

"There’s no way they can make it that bad," he said. "No. 1, the country is more diverse and more interested in positive action. No. 2, they’ve [the American public] seen this movie before, because they had eight years under President [George W.] Bush when the Republicans finally had the whole government, and they know the results were bad. And -- No. 3 -- the Democrats haven’t taken on the gun lobby like I did, and they took 15 of our members out. So I don’t think -- it’ll be, whatever happens, it’ll be manageable for the president."

Still, things could always turn around for the GOP. But at this point in time, there's no reason to believe things will -- the evidence just isn't there. What they've got is speculation, which isn't worth squat. As Democratic numbers go down, so do Republican numbers. And, if the healthcare debate is resolved before November of 2010 -- no matter how good or bad the final bill is -- Obama and Democrats will probably get a substantial bump. Meanwhile, Republicans will be dealt a substantial defeat.

Unless Republicans can come up with something to stand for within the next thirteen or fourteen months, they're going to have themselves a little trouble going anywhere. Right now, they don't stand for anything at all, other than the idea that Democrats are always wrong. They say they want to lead us, but they're a little sketchy on where they want to go. The "Party of No" label is both factual and earned.

While it's conceivable -- at least for those with a lot of imagination -- that Republicans could take back the Senate, there's no way they're getting the House of Representatives. And even the Senate is probably a bit of a stretch; the most realistic (not to mention likely) hope is that they can break the Democrat's theoretically "filibuster-proof" 60-seat majority. Given how well that magic number of 60 is working for Democrats now, I'd call that a mostly symbolic victory.

The way things stand right now, I don't see any Republican takeover in the next election. In fact, I don't see Democrats as being in any real trouble at all. As long as the national mood is "Democrats suck, but Republicans suck more," it's Republicans who are in trouble here. And that's where they've been stuck for the last two election cycles.

I don't see that changing in any substantial way.


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