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We're a little more than three weeks out from the midterm elections, and a sense of pessimism can be sensed from the Right. It's expressed best, although briefly, by Power Line, which takes a look at the polling reports at Real Clear Politics and sees a "sea of blue". Dafydd at Big Lizards sees most of the races that give Power Line the blues as too close to call. Hugh Hewitt remains as optimistic as ever, but Hugh is an undying font of optimism anyway.
I'm inclined to lean towards Dafydd's analysis, which you should read in full. The GOP will no doubt lose seats in the midterms, but I'm not sure that the Democrats have enough momentum to wrest control of either chamber. The Senate races are more of a national campaign, but the Democrats have to pick up six seats -- and they're likely going to lose New Jersey, which makes that difficult. They could lose Maryland as well; Steele's close to Cardin and the GOTV efforts there will make the difference. Mike DeWine has rebounded against Sherrod Brown in Ohio, but that's a day-to-day thing at best.
In the House, the effort seems even more difficult. RCP identifies the most likely districts for Republican losses, but after the first seven, it seems the rest are within the margin of error in the polling. House races are fought on a more local basis than national, and the Democrats really haven't defined a national electoral strategy in any case. On a district-by-district basis, it's hard to read a massive tide of blue into the numbers that RCP has in contested House races.
I do expect this midterm to provide the first Republican setback in four elections, a not-uncommon dynamic in the sixth year of a modern Presidency. The numbers do not support the rout of "astonishing proportions" that Power Line predicts, but they do show the urgency of focusing on the winning messages and policies that won three straight elections for the Republicans in the final three weeks of this campaign. The GOP should start with the economy and press home the pocketbook advantage.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds does not work in the long form often enough, and proves what we're missing with his well-written analysis of the woes facing the Republicans in this election. It's well-written but not entirely convincing. He argues that five major errors in the last session of Congress have doomed the Republicans:
1. Terri Schiavo
2. Harriet Miers
3. Dubai port-security scandal
5. William Jefferson and Denny Hastert's unexpected defense of him
I see these as overblown issues for the most part, and only with immigration does Glenn get to the point. The Republicans in Congress have damaged the enthusiasm of their base because they have dropped the issues that mattered most to it. Immigration is definitely one of these issues. They wound up doing what the base wanted -- passing a border-barrier bill -- but it took them far too long to get it done. After 9/11, and especially after the 9/11 Commission report, the Republicans had the opportunity to push through the border-security solution that Congress ignored in the 1986 amnesty.
But it's more than just immigration. Republicans built their majority on the promise of smaller, more efficient, and less intrusive government. During the Clinton administration, they stuck to the program. When Bush took office, the base expected the GOP to take off the shackles and really begin to reduce the federal government in significant ways. Their voters also expected the Republicans to reform the pork-barrel politics that they had decried during the last days of the Democratic majority.
That did not happen. The size of the federal government has grown significantly and steadily over the last six years, even in discretionary spending. They have done little to rein in entitlement spending. The GOP gets high marks for the courage to debate Social Security, but lose all of them for their addition of the new prescription-medication entitlement. They have also proven themselves just as likely as their Democratic colleagues to feed at the pork trough.
It's this relentless sameness that has damaged the Republicans among their base and killed their enthusiasm. The GOP has proven themselves to be not much different than the Democrats, and the argument that Democratic control would be worse is not ever going to generate much enthusiasm.
I don't believe we're seeing a blue tidal wave. However, the Republican Party's midterm woes come from Republican failures to match their actions to their rhetoric.
One final note: some of Glenn's readers take him to task for presenting analysis rather than cheerleading. That's hardly fair to Glenn and to any of us who believe that telling the truth is the only way we'll ever see any improvement.
UPDATE II: Bruce Kesler disagrees and thinks the House Republicans have earned a return to the majority.Sphere It View blog reactions
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