In July 1994, Michael Barone raised the possibility that the Republicans might capture the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Sixteen years later, Barone is revisiting his methodology and seeing what it may portend for November 2, 2010. As you probably already know, things do not look good for the Democrats.
In July 1994, Barone noticed that five incumbent House Democrats were behind Republican challengers. (All five lost.) In July 2010, NRO blogger Jim Geraghty noticed that at least 13 House Democrats are running behind Republican challengers. And according to polling I saw today, some other Republican challengers -- including Bobby Schilling, who is challenging incumbent Phil Hare in Illinois 17 -- may be closing in. The Hotline reports that 24 incumbent House Democrats commissioned polls in the last quarter but did not release them. Why? Most likely, because the polls were terrible.
During campaign 1994, Republicans led in the congressional generic ballot. But, on Election Day, their margin of victory in the national House vote turned out to be several points higher than what the polling suggested. During campaign 2010, Republicans have been leading the congressional generic ballot by a historically significant margin that foreshadows major gains in November. Will they once again outperform that lead on Election Day?
Barone, moreover, points to a natural GOP advantage in the House. Obama's approval rating continues to sink. Democrats are demoralized. Conservatives and Republicans are wildly enthusiastic. Here's RCP's Sean Trende:
The President's disapproval numbers have spiked again, and his approvals have fallen. There is now a near-majority of voters disapproving of him, the highest number in the history of the RCP Average. This also means that there are probably around 100 House Democrats running for re-election in districts where the President's approval rating is upside-down. If this trend continues, it could be potentially catastrophic for Democrats, driving their generic numbers down even further.
Using Cook's transformation from registered voters to likely voters, Gallup is presently pointing to losses for Democrats much greater than the 40-seat loss that most prognosticators seem willing to discuss. A lot of the conversation in Washington over the last few weeks has been "can the Democrats lose the House?" Much of this is written and discussed as if losing the House and 40-50 seats is the worst case scenario for Democrats. It is not.
Predictably, conservatives and Republicans have concluded that the coming storm will reflect the public's rejection of Obama, of big government liberalism, and of the Democratic party. And surely they are right -- to a point. Liberals and Democrats, meanwhile, by placing blame entirely on the economy, have preemptively insulated themselves from the charge that they got Obama into this mess. And they too are probably right -- to a point.
So, a mix of bad policy and bad economics is likely to sweep dozens of Republicans into federal office come November 2. But have conservatives and Republicans given serious thought to what they are going to do the day after November 2? And are conservatives and Republicans ready to accept responsibility for an economy and society that are only beginning to work their way out of a massive credit crisis?
De-funding Obamacare is worth a shot because Obamacare is bad policy. But de-funding may not work. And once that question is decided either way, the public will expect a Republican Congress to do something - anything - related to unemployment.
Now would be a good time, for example, for Republicans to embrace a major tax reform that would broaden the base while lowering rates. Or a permanent cut in the payroll tax. Or a Henry Clay Infrastructure Bank for Internal Improvements. Or an energy bill that would open up new areas for drilling and exploration while ending subsidies for pie-in-the-sky alternative energy. Or a major overhaul of the American welfare state that puts it on a sustainable footing while preserving benefits for everyone 55-and-over and ensuring that assistance is provided to those who need it the most.
Let me know when you see the GOP rallying behind any of this. Until then, all I'll be able to think about is that Fortune Cookie cliché, Be careful what you wish for -- because you might just get it.