Eight reasons why Dems will lose the House in 2010
posted at 2:55 pm on December 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Or come pretty darned close to doing so, at least, argues James Pethokoukis for Reuters. The problem facing Democrats is not just the normal midterm correction, although that’s part of it. It’s not just ObamaCare, although that’s a large part of it, too. There are a number of problems that Democrats simply have not done anything to address, and they’re rapidly running out of time to do so:
The trend is not the Democrats’ friend. At least not in 2010. The party of the sitting president almost always suffers losses in midterm congressional elections. To that time-tested dynamic now add voter angst about high unemployment, big deficits and controversial legislation. Expect Senate majority leader Harry Reid to lose his effective 60-seat supermajority and Nancy Pelosi to hand the House back to the Republicans. Here’s why 2010 is looking like 1994 all over again …
3. Mean Reversion. Democrats have a wide field to defend after huge victories in 2006 and 2008. Particularly in the House, there are lots of Democrats in places with a proven willingness to vote Republican. Currently 47 of them are in districts won by both John McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004. And voters in those districts may be especially unhappy with a Democratic legislative agenda that causes many Americans mixed feelings.
4. Obama-Reid-Pelosi Agenda. A RealClearPolitics aggregation of polling data shows Americans disapprove of healthcare reform by a 51-38 margin. And only a little more than a third think the $787 billion stimulus plan has done much good, according to pollster Rasmussen. There’s also plenty of worry among the electorate that Washington spending is creating a dangerous level of government debt. …
6. Unemployment. Underlying voter unease with Capitol Hill is deep concern about unemployment. And that leads to a simple equation: Joblessness drives presidential approval ratings, and it’s those ratings that drive midterm congressional results. Despite a landslide win in 1980, for instance, unemployment approaching 11 percent drove Ronald Reagan’s approval ratings down to the low 40s in November 1982 when Republicans lost 26 House seats. (And only five narrow GOP victories by fewer than 50,000 votes kept the Senate even.)
As unemployment has risen this year, Obama’s approval has steadily eroded to around 50 percent currently. The White House says it doesn’t expect employment growth until the spring. And if even the economy begins to create jobs, the actual unemployment rate could still rise as the long-term unemployed begin to actively seek jobs again and thus start being counted by the Labor Department. It would take a year of 4 percent growth generating 200,000 to 250,000 jobs a month to bring the rate down to 9 percent. And even that would be twice as high as what Americans have been used to during the past two decades.
I’d put a couple of big caveats on this. First, in order for Pelosi to lose the House, Democrats have to lose 40 seats next November. That’s certainly not out of range, but it’s not an easy task. Normally one sees that kind of realignment only once in a generation, and sometimes not that many times. We have already had two in 12 years (1994 and 2006). We usually see incumbents holding onto their seats much more than losing them, and Democratic incumbents will still have the technical advantages in 2010.
Granted, the radical nature of the Democratic agenda makes the electorate more amenable to a big shift. However, in both 1994 and 2006, the opposition party ran a coordinated national campaign to effect that kind of turnover. The RNC and the NRCC need to have a grand thematic approach that will resonate across the country to overcome incumbency advantages. To get that, they will have to gain the energy from the Tea Party movement and put it into a simple and consistent message of smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and accountability. That depends on the competency of the RNC and the NRCC, which has not yet been tested.
If Democrats manage to hang onto a slim majority, the big question will be whether Pelosi hangs onto the gavel. She more than anyone else has authored the radical push from Democrats and the go-it-alone attitude that has marginalized them and angered the moderates. I’d bet that if Democrats wind up with a majority of five seats or less, Pelosi gets canned in favor of Steny Hoyer and a more open model of working with Republicans to spread the responsibility in the 112th Congress. It would be better to have a Republican in that position instead, of course.
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