Why the Republicans shouldn't start counting their seats before they're won - Macleans.ca

Why the Republicans shouldn’t start counting their seats before they’re won

They are not leading in policy ideas or even in the area of governing credibility


We are about 100 days from the mid-term elections. Conventional wisdom dictates that we will see a change in the political landscape, with the Democrats seriously in danger of losing the House of Representatives, some Senate seats (but not enough to lose control of the Senate), and a number of governorships. If you listen carefully, you can hear some champagne corks already popping in many conservative think tanks in Washington.

Many pundits are talking about a wave similar to 1994 or 2006, when Clinton and Bush lost control of Congress. Historically, the average mid-term loss has been about 28 seats for the party in the White House. Many Republican operatives, pointing to a sluggish economic recovery and a revived party base (courtesy of the Tea Party), are openly predicting a takeover of the House and praying for a long-shot seizing of the Senate. Meantime, some key Democrats, including Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, acknowledge they are in for a significant drubbing and it may range from 35 to 45 seats. Only the optimistic Vice-President Joe Biden seems to believe the Democrats will fool the pundits.

Democrats certainly seem to be suffering from an enthusiasm gap in their base, unlike their counterparts in the GOP. Liberals, or the more progressive elements of the party, have grown impatient with Obama’s style of governing. Any bounce he could have had from the stimulus package, healthcare reform, or financial regulation reform is often met by a sense that Obama has not gone far enough. Republicans have only needed to say no, and accuse the Obama White House of having a ‘creeping socialist agenda’ to excite their base.

It’s true there is a strong anti-incumbency mood coursing through the country that is being fed by high unemployment figures and the sense that Obama’s policies have not provided the necessary solutions. And while the president’s numbers are better than Reagan’s or Clinton’s at mid-term, this will not have any coattail effect in time for November. Still, these are no guarantee of a Republican wave.

It’s important to keep in mind a wave election is rarely felt three months in advance. That’s especially true if the alternative party, in this case the Republicans, are not leading in policy ideas or even in the area of governing credibility. (Voters still remember Bush!)

The Democrats are hoping for a better economic climate come November. This is highly unlikely, even if leading indicators show a real recovery is under way. Slow growth in employment will keep dampening the belief the worst days of the recession are behind us. The true ray of hope rests with a strategy targeting close races to avoid a debacle and crafting a political message that contrasts Democratic policies and legislation with the absence of a clear alternative on the other side.

Some important GOP thinkers have already pointed out that, unlike Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America of 1994, the Republicans often appear unclear about what changes they would bring. Incumbent Republicans are losing primaries to Tea Party-backed opponents; RNC chairman Michael Steele is being asked to resign by prominent Republicans like William Kristol; and the establishment by Representative Michelle Bachman of a Tea Party caucus among House Republicans seems to be chafing some key GOP congressional leaders. It all adds up to a perception there is disarray within the ranks. The Republicans may have succeeded in bringing down Obama’s approval numbers, but they do not appear united on bringing forward solutions to offset his policies or legislative achievements.

It is conceivable that Democrats, sensing the wave coming, will respond accordingly and show more discipline in an electoral campaign than they have in government. Minorities, especially Latino voters, have reason to be motivated. According to some Democratic operatives, the despictable Sherrod incident and the Arizona immigration law will go a long way to entice minority voters to vote. At this stage, it is a safe bet to predict Democratic losses in the fall. But Republicans should be careful not to count their seats before they’re won. Three months in politics is a long time, and the only bully pulpit in America remains in the hands of a Democrat.


Why the Republicans shouldn’t start counting their seats before they’re won

  1. If you listen carefully, you can hear some champagne corks already popping in many conservative think tanks in Washington.

    If YOU had been listening to those think tanks carefully, you would hear the lament that the state of their great nation and its governance has gone from bad (before Nov 2008) to much, much worse (since Jan 2009).

    • No, it's just a lot of time had to be wasted cleaning up the conservative mess.

    • Here is where the credibility is lost when madeyoulook (just like the angry Dennis F.in a previous blog )says things are worse since January 2009. The econmic figures demonstrate the opposite. Jobs are now being created now and the financial meltdown is over . The two wars are now counted in the budget operations . Bush did tax cuts that added to the deficit and did a medical prescription drug program that was unfunded.Bush and Cheney lied about the war in Iraq .Now both wars are being lost. Thanks Bush !! But these were the good days -Sep 15 , 2008 . Hey madeyoulook !
      Go sit with Dennis F.And invent some more .

        • Your link isn't particularly relevant to the previous post.

          Here, look at chart 2: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

          US job losses in the current recession were as low as 800,000 per month before Obama took office. Losses started to decline in April 2009 and job gains started to arrive early 2010.

          And if you think the deficit indicates worsening leadership in the US, take a look at the contributors to the deficit: http://www.cbpp.org/images/cms//12-16-09bud-rev6-… and tell me whose presidency is having the largest impact.

    • It takes an extreme case of selecting unrelated facts to come even close ot making this kind of statement. Your subsequent comments supposedly in support of this statement are examples.

  2. The Republicans may have succeeded in bringing down Obama's approval numbers…

    You give the GOP too much credit. The Dems and the President have managed that feat all by themselves.

    • Govt by weekly polls is no way to run a country. It's not American Idol you know.

      • It isn't the view either.

  3. Actually you're correct that it won't be like '94. It'll be much, much worse.

    American is a fundamentally right of center country, and the Dems will be punished for the far left agenda driven down the American's throats.

    And the indicators (with the RNC leading the congressional ballot average of RCP by a staggering 3 points at this stage spells doom for the Dems.

    They'll loose both houses, in the house by a wide margin.

    • There's that odd concern for 'throats' again. All Cons, either country, use that phrase. Weird.

      Dems aren't 'far left' btw. In fact Harper is to the left of Dems.

    • I think the Dems problems are even more basic than "far left agenda".

      America has roughly 10% unemployment which is unlikely to improve before the mid-terms. Moreover, nationwide, 23% of home mortgages are underwater. Of the 10 states with more than 20% of there mortgages underwater, 8 were blue states in '08 including CA, FL, and OH.

      Just imagine the political firestorm if we had those sorts of stats in Canada. Unless Obama can literally pull off an economic miracle, the Dems are going to get slaughtered.

      • Yes, it's jobs that are the problem…but no leader, any party, is going to solve that one.

        • It doesn't matter. In America, when the economy has fallen thru the toilet and into the sewer, the incumbent pays. Dearly.

        • it's jobs that are the problem…but no leader, any party, is going to solve that one

          Then why is he pissing away tr — yes, that's T-R with a truh — TRillions in future wealth in a pathetic, vain and damaging attempt to do just that?

          • Why did our Mr. Harper effectively do the same darn thing and go an a mad spending spree?

          • Why did our Mr. Harper do the same darn thing and go on a mad spending spree?

            If Obama's healthcare reforms succeed (and I'll admit that's a big if), some 30-40 million Americans will get coverage they otherwise would not have had. Here, we stand to get little or nothing of lasting value for our billions.

          • You'll have to ask him. I had been cheering for that F-You Fiscal Update that went nowhere. I've been PO'd at him ever since he went all drunken-sailor on us.

            And he CERTAINLY paid no attention to the draft address to the nation I offered up a while back:

          • Missed that one.

            Which riding are you running in? How do I donate to your campaign? Are you planning to keep Harper in your Cabinet or toss him.?

          • Alas. Read the top of the comment linked above: From the this-is-why-I-will-never-be-PM department…

          • Glad you enjoyed it. I get a little sad when I recall (or tonight, re-read) that draft, since all it shows me is the opportunity Canada missed.

          • Not true. Harper's stimulus was far more targeted and exponentially more limited.

            It's like comparing a grain of sand to Mt. Everest. In short, it's dishonest.

          • US Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009: total value US$790B of which $290B are tax cuts. Spending plan is thus ~US$500M. Harper 2-year stimulus plan C$47B. Very roughly 10:1 US:Canada.

            Grain of sand to Everest, eh.

            "…exponentially more limited.". Ummm, not so much. Do you know what a mathematical exponent is? Hint: it's not the opposite of a "proponent".

            Harper's stimulus "…far more targeted…". Sure. Please provide the Harper government equivalent of Recovery.gov to support your position.

            I'm happy to have an open discussion, but when you start suggesting people are dishonest, I'd recommend counting to 10 before you type. You can count to 10, can't you?

        • Too funny. You're just saying that because Obama has failed so badly. He deserves blame. A hamster could do better.

  4. And what the media will never show is a chart of the US decit since the Dems took the house – that is the body that is in charge of the purse strings.

    "Bush's deficit" (absolutely dwarfed by Obama's) is an indictment of his failure to veto enough of the rediculously high spending bills by his tax and spend counterparts in the house.

    That chart is staggering. The more the Dems control the government, the higher the deficit.

    And now, after taking control of the house, senate and the presidency the deficit is greater than its been since WWII, and by everyone's estimation, beyond sustainable levels.

    • 2 wars of course have nothing to do with it. Just health and education, and trying to rescue the economy.

      • No, go back to the 90's until now.

        Do you think the dems took congress last year?

        I've characterized it accurately, you're simply mistaken.

  5. The approval rate for Congress right now sits at 11%. Nancy Pelosi is in single digit approval. That is lower than even Bush's worst numbers. The new HoR is going to look vastly different from what is there today.

  6. This could work out quite well for the US. The best government they had was when Democrat Bill Clinton was in the White House and both houses of Congress were filled with Republicans. As was the case for the last 6 of 8 years of Clinton's presidency.

    It seems as long as there is a Republican president, the House & Senate Republicans lose their fiscal conscience and approve spending for every wing nut idea the White House can come up with. When faced with a Democrat president, they're more than happy to deny him funding. The battles between Clinton and Gingrich were legendary. Each year around budget time, the US civil service would actually shut down for a few days because they couldn't agree on a budget. They axed thousands of federal programs over that six year span – over 500 programs in the 1995 budget alone – the first budget passed by the new Republican majority. The deficit disappeared and massive surpluses were run. Some of Clinton's earlier tax increases were reversed. They could use a similar house cleaning now.

    • I'm with Raging Ranter. The combination of a Democratic President (Clinton) and Reublican majorites in the House and Senate produced some of the best government in the USA for some time.

      • Agreed – with Dems in charge of the White House and both houses of Congress, the Republicans are motivated to prevent anything from happening. They've filibustered damn near everything since they lost control.

        If they have to share power, hopefully they will be motivated to get some things done.

  7. Some important GOP thinkers have already pointed out that, unlike Newt Gingrich's Contract with America of 1994, the Republicans often appear unclear about what changes they would bring

    Nope. They have Paul Ryan's roadmap for America's future.

    • LOL the one that goes off a cliff.

    • Which few Republicans support . The Republicans are so hypocritical and exploit fear and racism . Under Reagan and W,htey accumulated the biggest deficits in history,deregulated the economy into the ground,got US into " wars and one by a lie and for Cheney`s friends. Ryan wants to cut Medicare and Social Security which Americans support. That is why he is NOT! supoorted.
      They use Breibart and the Arizona law to divide Americans. Obama has ben the most significant President in decades. Courageous and fearless . Already has made history .He is opposed by right wing kooks because he took on s_c_f `s friends. Heartless, mean spirited and hypocritical friends of the Republicans . I challenge s_c_f to name the prominent Republicans who support Ryan in Congress on his roadmap

  8. This isn't a prediction, exactly, but it may be an important factor that there have been/are a lot of very divisive Republican primaries this year. I don't know what effect that will or won't have on the general election, but if these anti-establishment Tea Partiers remember that Republicans are an entrenched part of the establishment, they may be inclined to stay home on election day; likewise, where Tea Partiers have won primary races, more moderate Republicans may not be inclined to go out and vote for them, or in some cases may even choose a moderate Democrat (especially over some of the, uh, less mainstream Tea Partiers, like that guy who ran an ad openly calling for armed overthrow of the US government). And if enough of the losers of these divisive primaries decide to run as independents, that could make a huge difference in the Democrats' favour.

    Of course, there's also a good chance that that doesn't happen, the Republicans take both houses easily, and nothing happens legislatively in the US for two years. That could be fun, of a sort.

  9. Why does government need ideas? All government needs to do is get smaller and out of the way.

  10. I clicked on the title thinking "yep, Parisella is exactly right – the Republicans are foolish to be measuring the drapes in Congress right now." Then I read the column. Not one of Parisella's better columns, in my opinion.

    "Republicans have only needed to say no, and accuse the Obama White House of having a ‘creeping socialist agenda' to excite their base."

    That's a gross mischaracterization of what Republicans have done. From Ryan's budget recommendations to eliminate the deficit, to Republican suggestions concerning Healthcare reform (e.g. eliminating restrictions across state lines to bring down price) the Republicans have been doing a lot more than just saying "no". Unfortunately, the response from the Democrats has been to shut the Republicans out of the process completely, or in Obama's words when Republicans complained about it: "I won."

    "The Republicans may have succeeded in bringing down Obama's approval numbers, but they do not appear united on bringing forward solutions to offset his policies or legislative achievements."

    As others have pointed out, the Republicans have been largely silenced in Congress. They can't block legislation, they've been excluded from almost every policy decision, and they didn't even have the numbers to fillibuster in Congress until the Massachusetts special election gained them Kennedy's Senate seat. Obama's approval number problem is entirely of his own making.

    The second sentence in that paragraph, however, is entirely true. The Republicans do not have a clear leader, and consequently the solutions and suggestions they bring forward do not come from a united front or a coherent platform. This is a real problem, and means that if Republicans do well in November (and I don't think they'll do as well as they think they will) it will be largely because of the mess the Dems are making, not because of a Contract with America kind of political win.

    • Gaunilon. I do not agree. I think this is one of the best blog ever posted by Parisella. Balanced. Fair. Well thought.

      • I think The Boxer may be onto something. The Republicans just obstruct , pander to Tea Party types , pay lip service to being against racism . The dems in Congress are often embarassing but the Republicans are just hypocritical and literally lie about their record .

  11. To suggest the Republicans have no ideas is media manipulation of the worst sort.

    They have ideas that simply aren't being reported by a press doing its best to slavage the horrific mess of its team.

    Paul Ryan's is notable, but there are many others. Many Republican legislative ammendments just died without being considered by the Dems, and the media, falsely, reported as if they never existed.

    To many who weren't aware of this, you can be excused. The left leaning media in the US isn't in the business of informing. In the world of politics their role is strictly to advocate. That they do so under the guise of impartial reporting is what's so despicable.

    • Bullchet !!!Or bullcr..! Same thing . They said NO from the beginning . No way they were going to let him do something historic.
      Tell me the many others . No one takes Goody Two Shoes Plain seriously , Romney seems made out of wax and can`t explain that Obama stole his healthcare plan , Gingrich is a liabilty but the smartest, Jeb Bush is the best but he called BUSH,and everyone runs away from Ryan.
      Hear this Chet :It is the party of NO!!!!!!!!Obstruction and NOT construction !!!!!!Tax cutsto build deficits (reagan and Bush).
      Now tell me another Bullchet story.