Can the GOP win back the House in 2010?

posted at 3:05 pm on August 31, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Maybe the question isn’t so much whether the GOP can win back control of the house, but how quickly that possibility has arisen since Democrats took full control of the Beltway.  Only seven months after securing all of the electoral levers of power, Democrats have plunged themselves into hot water with voters, rapidly losing support for an increasingly radical agenda.  As their $787,000,000,000 economic fix continues to flop and they propose ever-higher levels of spending and government control, the question doesn’t become if, but when and how badly:

After an August recess marked by raucous town halls, troubling polling data and widespread anecdotal evidence of a volatile electorate, the small universe of political analysts who closely follow House races is predicting moderate to heavy Democratic losses in 2010.

Some of the most prominent and respected handicappers can now envision an election in which Democrats suffer double-digit losses in the House — not enough to provide the 40 seats necessary to return the GOP to power but enough to put them within striking distance. …

Historic trends point to Republican House gains in the midterm election, particularly after facing two brutal election cycles where the party lost seats in every region and even in some of the most conservative states in the nation. Over the last five decades, the party out of power has picked up seats in 10 of the 12 midterm elections.

Turnout levels may also work in the GOP’s favor: House Democrats who narrowly won election in 2008 on the strength of high turnout among African-Americans and young voters probably won’t be able to count on that same level of enthusiasm next year in a nonpresidential election.

No, but they can count on a great deal of enthusiasm among their opponents.  Grassroots activists have driven hundreds and thousands of vocal opponents to the Democratic agenda, especially on health care, to normally sleepy off-year August town halls across the nation.  The effort to get union activists as a means of shouting down voters has created even more anger and bitterness.  The older voters, much more reliable in midterm elections, have become thoroughly alienated, as have independents.

Republicans would have to win 40 seats in order to take control of the House, a daunting number, but it’s within reach, Nate Silver argues.  He warned the Netroots Nation that the GOP had between a 25% and 33% chance of pulling it off in 2010, and as the polling continues to slide for Barack Obama and the Democrats, those odds will get better for Republicans.  The analog would be the 1994 elections, which also hinged on overreaching Democratic health care “reform”, and the Republicans won 54 seats to claim the majority and end over 40 years of Democratic domination.

Can they do it again?  The GOP has a much stronger wind at its back than they did in 1994 with the rapid decline of Democratic support, but they need to organize effectively to take advantage of it.  The NRCC needs to build a foundation that will attract the conservative base and independent voters alike.  Their best bet is to focus on economic freedom, fiscal responsibility, less government control, and free-market reforms that make sense.  Republicans have to have a positive message for voters, not just a gainsay of Obamanomics.  They have two easy targets with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to paint Congress as aggressively radical, but that has to be paired with an agenda that wins hearts and minds across a broad spectrum.

If the GOP can do that, they have a good chance of retiring Pelosi from the speaker’s chair, and to reduce Reid’s votes in the Senate (and perhaps to bounce Reid himself out of it).

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