Republicans Could Be Weakening Their Party’s Future

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: U.S. Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) returns to his office after he spoke in the Senate Chamber October 7, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Democrats and Republicans are still at a stalemate on funding for the federal government as the partial shutdown goes into its seventh day. 
National Journal
Charlie Cook
Oct. 7, 2013, 5:45 p.m.

There is no ques­tion that the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s brand is ex­per­i­en­cing griev­ous dam­age. In fact, you would be quite be­liev­able if you were to sug­gest that the GOP has been mak­ing an act­ive, mas­ochist­ic ef­fort to isol­ate it­self from mod­er­ate, in­de­pend­ent, and swing voters, fur­ther ex­acer­bat­ing all the prob­lems with tar­get con­stitu­en­cies that cost Mitt Rom­ney the pres­id­ency and the GOP a na­tion­al pop­u­lar House vote vic­tory.

Of course, there have been wave elec­tions in the past, where large num­bers of seats swung from one party to the oth­er. Demo­crats be­nefited from such elec­tions in 1958, 1964, 1974, 1982, 2006, and 2008, just as Re­pub­lic­ans came out the big win­ners in 1966, 1980, 1994, and 2010. But his­tory doesn’t ar­gue for a re­peat this time. Sev­en of these 10 wave elec­tions were midterms, as 2014 will be. In every one of the sev­en, the party in the White House, not the op­pos­i­tion party, suffered.

There is reas­on to look at 2014 as unique. Demo­crats picked up net gains of 31 seats in 2006 and 21 seats in 2008. Between these two elec­tions, they man­aged to pluck all but a few hardy Re­pub­lic­ans from com­pet­it­ive dis­tricts. In 2010, Re­pub­lic­ans re­turned the fa­vor, with a net gain of 63 seats. In those three elec­tions, each side pretty much re­moved the low-hanging fruit, leav­ing very few Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans in po­ten­tially mar­gin­al dis­tricts; neither party is in a po­s­i­tion to eas­ily gain many seats.

At The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port, we have al­ways said, giv­en their struc­tur­al ad­vant­ages, House Re­pub­lic­ans would pretty much need to self-de­struct to lose con­trol of the cham­ber. Today, they seem to be flirt­ing with just that pos­sib­il­ity, but the elec­tion is still more than a year away, and it is far too early to say that the House ma­jor­ity is at risk. Min­im­al net party change is still the most likely out­come, but we no longer fore­cast a GOP gain of two to sev­en seats; that swing could now just as plaus­ibly go in Demo­crats’ dir­ec­tion.

If you take a look at any of the three ma­jor in­de­pend­ent polit­ic­al ana­lysts who look at in­di­vidu­al races — Stu­art Rothen­berg’s Rothen­berg Polit­ic­al Re­port, Larry Sabato’s Crys­tal Ball, pro­duced by the Uni­versity of Vir­gin­ia Cen­ter for Polit­ics, and The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port — you will find ana­lyses ex­plain­ing why it’s pos­sible, but very un­likely, that the House will flip. Giv­en cur­rent dis­trict lines, and the geo­graph­ic­al “sort­ing out” that has taken place over the past three elec­tion cycles (Demo­crats tend to live in highly con­cen­trated urb­an areas, “wast­ing” a lot of votes; Re­pub­lic­an voters tend to be more broadly geo­graph­ic­ally dis­trib­uted and thus more ef­fi­ciently al­loc­ated), no one is very con­fid­ent that a turnover will oc­cur, al­though it could.

In the Sen­ate, while the cur­rent stan­doff isn’t likely to help the GOP score a net gain of six Sen­ate seats and win a ma­jor­ity in 2014, the six seats that will most prob­ably de­term­ine wheth­er the GOP suc­ceeds are all in states Rom­ney car­ried. Whatever the back­lash in those states over the cur­rent shut­down and loom­ing fisc­al battles, it is more likely to be more muted than else­where in the coun­try. Rom­ney won big in the three states with the most-vul­ner­able Demo­crat­ic open Sen­ate seats: West Vir­gin­ia by 27 points, South Dakota by 18 points, and Montana by 14 points. Like­wise, the seats held by the four most vul­ner­able Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors all went to Rom­ney: Mark Pry­or’s Arkan­sas by 24 points, Mary Landrieu’s Louisi­ana by 17 points, and Mark Be­gich’s Alaska by 14 points. Only in Kay Hagan’s state of North Car­o­lina — Rom­ney pre­vailed by 2 points in 2012 and Pres­id­ent Obama nar­rowly won in 2008 — could a plaus­ible ar­gu­ment be made that a back­lash against the GOP could make a real dif­fer­ence. At least in West Vir­gin­ia, South Dakota, and Montana, the out­come is not likely to be de­term­ined by any par­tic­u­lar pro-Demo­crat­ic or anti-Re­pub­lic­an tide.

The two Re­pub­lic­an-held seats in real danger at this point are Mitch Mc­Con­nell’s in Ken­tucky and the open seat in Geor­gia. In Ken­tucky, where Rom­ney won by 23 points, Mc­Con­nell is more en­dangered by voters fed up with all of Wash­ing­ton than by any anti-GOP sen­ti­ment. The open seat in Geor­gia, where Rom­ney won by only 8 points, could be where na­tion­al factors have the po­ten­tial to kick in; however, it seems that the most im­port­ant factor for Re­pub­lic­ans’ chances in the gen­er­al elec­tion there is wheth­er they choose a Ted Cruz-lite nom­in­ee.

With the elec­tion over a year away, most cam­paign poll­sters are hold­ing off un­til the dust settles. In a dis­cus­sion among a group of poll­sters Monday morn­ing, all took a “wait-and-see” ap­proach. One prom­in­ent Re­pub­lic­an poll­ster put it in an emailed re­sponse: “I don’t think we’re go­ing to lose any Re­pub­lic­ans on [the shut­down]. I don’t think the Demo­crats will lose any Demo­crats on it. I think in­de­pend­ents dis­like Obama­care but don’t want to use de­fund­ing, let alone a shut­down. So it hurts in the cen­ter. In the cen­ter, the primary re­ac­tion will be: a pox on all their houses; the sec­ond­ary [re­ac­tion] will be R’s more to blame than D’s. But I think that is a dis­tant second.”

The dam­age to the Re­pub­lic­an Party ap­pears to be more struc­tur­al than im­me­di­ate. The GOP is ad­mit­tedly weak­er but seems un­likely to crumble im­me­di­ately. Re­pub­lic­ans should worry about what is hap­pen­ing to their brand: what im­pres­sions they are build­ing among new voters, what mod­er­ate and in­de­pend­ent voters are tak­ing away from this fight, and the long-term ef­fects of these im­pres­sions in 2016 and 2020 — and on the over­all health of the party.

What We're Following See More »
FRENCH IS A LAWYER, VETERAN
Kristol Recruiting National Review’s David French for Third-Party Run
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children."

Source:
CALIFORNIA VOTES IN A WEEK
Jerry Brown Backs Clinton
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Hillary Clinton today, calling her "the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump." While praising Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, Brown said "Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee. ... This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun."

Source:
GLASS CEILING STILL HARD TO CRACK
Clinton Says Voters Still Hung Up on Gender
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a New York Magazine profile, Hillary Clinton said she still encounters misogyny at her own events: “‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”

Source:
CHANGE WE CAN’T BELIEVE IN
Trump Vows Not to Change
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
Source:
FILING DEADLINE IS JUNE 24
McConnell Urging Rubio to Run for Reelection
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "One of the things that I’m hoping, I and my colleagues have been trying to convince Senator Marco Rubio to run again in Florida. He had indicated he was not going to, but we’re all hoping that he’ll reconsider, because poll data indicates that he is the one who can win for us. He would not only save a terrific senator for the Senate, but help save the majority. ... Well, I hope so. We’re all lobbying hard for him to run again."

Source:
×