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 »
STAFF PICKS
After Wikileaks Hack, DNC Staffers Stared Using ‘Snowden-Approved’ App
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Signal app is fast becoming the new favorite among those who are obsessed with the security and untraceabilty of their messaging. Just ask the Democratic National Committee. Or Edward Snowden. As Vanity Fair reports, before news ever broke that the DNC's servers had been hacked, word went out among the organization that the word "Trump" should never be used in their emails, lest it attract hackers' attention. Not long after, all Trump-related messages, especially disparaging ones, would need to be encrypted via the Snowden-approved Signal.

Source:
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
4 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
6 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
6 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
×