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I agree with E.J. Dionne that winning control of the House of Representatives is very important to Obama's ability to govern in a second term.  While I fear that President Obama's lead in the polls now may be exaggerated, I am working on a diary to explain why, if Obama does win a solid victory as indicated by the present polls, there is a good chance that the the Democrats will also win the House.

Comparing the number of House seats gained when a President is re-elected demonstrates how difficult this is going to be.  In the recent past, even Presidents who have won re-election by margins larger then what Obama is likely to receive did not have coattails long enough to bring in the 25 seats the Democrats need to regain control of the House.  For example, in 1996, when Bill Clinton was re-elected by about 8.5 points, the Democrats only gained two seats.  Even the Reagan and Nixon results only lead to the pick up of 16 and 12 seats respectively.  So, what basis is there for saying that if Obama wins the type of victory that the polls now indicate, the Democrats have a good chance of winning a majority of seats in the House of Representatives?  Follow me beyond the orange cloud to find out.

The main reason I like the Democrats' chances of winning a majority in the House is a very interesting poll result by Gallup shows that the number of voters who want one party to control the government is at an all time high.  Currently, 38% of all voters want this, versus 23 percent who want a divided government.  The number of voters who want one party rule seems to be rising rapidly.  Since, according to the Washington Post almost 60% of the public believe Obama is going to win (I have seen higher numbers too), versus 34% who think Romney will win, this bodes very well for a Democratic House majority.

This polling result suggests that President Obama and the Democratic Party should emphasize the advantages of the same party controlling Congress and the Presidency for the remainder of the campaign.  My guess is that Democrats have not done this very much outside of the Convention because blaming the Republicans for obstructionism must not poll well.  Yet, there must be some way to encourage the growing tendency among voters to want a unified government.

I think there is one additional, more subjective, factor that also points to the Democrats taking control of the House: the progressive-populist theme of the Obama campaign.  Since last September, the Obama campaign has established a narrative of a party and ideology that favors the middle class and up from the bottom economic growth versus a party and ideology that favors the wealthy and top down economic growth.  Obviously, having Romney as the opposing candidate greatly facilitates this message.  The fact that Obama has framed the election around a difference in mind-set and policies, assists a victory for all who share his frame.  This, by the way, differs from the campaigns of Reagan and Clinton.  While Reagan did criticize Mondale over taxes, the main thrust of his campaign was a generic, non-ideological "Morning in America" these.  And while Clinton did attack the Republicans over Medicare cuts, he had spent the two years before the election triangulating away from the Democratic Party.  I believe the type of campaigns run by Reagan and Clinton, as well as a greater preference at the time for a divided government, explain why neither Reagan nor Clinton elected a large number of new members of their party when they were re-elected.

While this second factor is subjective, there is some objective support in polling.  As has been discussed often on this site, there has been a rise in polling results for several Senate candidates that correspond to Obama's post-convention rise.  I believe this correlation is due to the nature of the campaign Obama is running, as well as the public's growing desire for unified government.

All this analysis is predicated on Obama winning the solid victory that the polls now indicate.  If the President's margin of victory is reduced to a Bush like 2% or lower, then I dont think the Democrats regain control of the House.  However, if Obama wins by the 5-6% that the polls now show, then I think there is an excellent opportunity for the Democrats to re-elect Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, particularly if Obama and the Democratic Party act to drive up the number of voters who want a one party government.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This election is nothing like 1996 (14+ / 0-)

    The country was very happy with the state of things, in particular the economy, so there was no particular reason in the minds of many to vote out their Republican Congresspersons.  As you note, many thought that divided government was one of the reasons things were going so well.

    2012 is completely different.  People understand that Obama has done a great job under difficult circumstances and that he could have done even more, and will do more, if he isn't blocked by a do-nothing Republican Congress whose only goal is to make him look bad, even at the expense of the well-being of the American people.

    •  The 1996 election was unusual .... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MKSinSA, Andy Katz

      due to the relatively small number of Republican members who retired that year.  Of the 34 members who retired in 1996, 62% (or 21 of them) were Democrats and only 38% (or 13) were Republicans.   I would assume the reason behind this was the motivation of being newly in the majority after 40 years of minority status and the corresponding demotivation among the Democrats.

      However, of the 21 members who were defeated, only 14% (or 3 members) were Democrats.
       
      This year, the retirees are much more evenly split: 52% (or 21 members) for the Democrats vs. 48% (or 19 members) for the Republicans. And I expect we will see an even more lopsided effect among those Republican members who will be defeated this year.  

      I think 2012 House elections will be have a much different result than 1996 one did.

      "But all in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me." - bush summing up his first year in office, 3 months after 9/11, Washington, D.C., Dec. 20, 2001

      by rmx2630 on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 11:28:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I saw an ONN post the other day that said Obama (19+ / 0-)

    is gonna call out the GOP Obstruction. That he will ask for something akin to a mandate, namely a Dem Congress.

    I think it's vitally important that he do that.  Our country cannot thrive when one Party is putting it's own interests over the people, and leaders are supposed to point that out.

  •  Clinton repeatedly shot himself in the foot... (15+ / 0-)

    during his first term in office, and intentionally threw Democrats in Congress to the wolves with things like NAFTA, welfare 'reform', and his secretive approach to crafting health care legislation.

    And Reagan's first term was really pretty bad. His economic/tax policies had exploded the deficit, and his foreign policy moves (think Marine Beirut barracks fiasco) were also mostly disasters. Reagan's halo of success is almost entirely due to Republican myth-making, a brief period of faux-prosperity due to low oil prices that were mostly the result of Carter's policies, and the collapse of the Soviet Union which (once again) had at least as much to do with Jimmy Carter's work as anything Reagan ever did.

    I think you're on the right track with the idea that voters are appalled by the do-nothing, gridlocked Congress. And Republicans today are so bat-shit insane that they are poisoning their own brand.

    •  Good summary on Reagan (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kestrel9000, Lujane

      It's difficult at this distance to cut through the GOP hagiography about Reagan's actual policies. His first term included the 81-82 recession, which also didn't win him any love at the time (there was a brief period there when it seemed certain to me that he would be a one-termer), but the recovery from which probably springboarded him in his re-election as well as nailing down the false but persistent "Republicans-better-at-business" meme. Of course, candidates do make a difference, and the blood-red map that Mondale's disastrous campaign helped produce is as much responsible for Reagan's sainthood status as anything else.

    •  Yes, I do not think Reagan was a good President (7+ / 0-)

      Charles Pierce said the same thing the other day. That Republicans want to build him up is understandable. But far too many Democrats (including the Prez) seem willing to go along with this.

      "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

      by Demi Moaned on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 06:27:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Winning the House (14+ / 0-)

    I think the chances are fair of a Democratic takeover of the House for two reasons:

    1. Tea Party Republicans.  Many of the current GOP seats are held by wacko Tea Party amateurs who rode a wave of disillusionment with government into their positions.  Two years later, that honeymoon is long over and most Americans want grown-ups back in charge.

    2. Medicare.  Romney's embrace of Paul Ryan and His Plan will be deadly across the spectrum.  If seniors turn on the GOP the way they have been in recent polling, the down-ballot effects could be huge.

    •  I think you nailed it (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BasharH, Lujane, llywrch

      Many Republicans swept in with a high tide in 2010 will have a much tougher time in a higher (bluer) turnout 2012, although many have been shored up by redistricting.

      But much of the fuel for the 2010 tide was the senior vote, and those seniors are not going to provide the same margin for Teabaggers in 2012 now that they have seen their true agenda via the Ryan plan.

      NC-4 (soon to be NC-6) Obama/Biden 2012

      by bear83 on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 06:38:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Winning the House is definitely (8+ / 0-)

    the brass ring.

    The question I have is: Is it all or nothing for us?

    That is to say, if we don't win a majority large enough to counteract the effect of the blue dogs (I heard Nancy Pelosi say her real desire is to win 35 seats—technically not impossible with a very optimistic reading of current polling, but very rare—as the diarist points out—and highly unlikely), can we cut down the Republican majority enough to peel off their "moderates" and actually pass legislation?

    Or has the Tea Party so "purified" the Republicans so that they will vote in lockstep, as they are wont to do? In which case we have no wiggle room.

  •  Didn't we have the house after (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kestrel9000, Lujane

    Obama won in 2008?  I can remember being extremely frustrated that nothing got done.  I hope if we win back the house that our representatives actually move on a more liberal agenda.

    •  There were more blue dog Democrats, (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WheninRome, JL, kestrel9000, BasharH, Lujane

      and the senate majority was a little squishy too.



      Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

      by Wee Mama on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 06:20:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The House wasn't the problem (6+ / 0-)

      The problem was in the Senate. We had 60 votes, for only a very brief window before Ted Kennedy was unable to perform his duties for obvious reasons. Even with 60 votes, we really only had 53-4 reliable votes that could always be counted on for liberal initiatives.

    •  Why Control of the House is Important (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kvetchnrelease, BasharH, Lujane

      I do not think we will have a liberal congress by any means, even if the Democrats control both Houses.  Yet, I think such control is vital for two, related, reasons.  First, there will be no "austerity as a result of Republican hostage taking" if the Democrats control the House of Representatives every time they vote on extending the debt limit.  Similarly, I think even a narrow Democratic majority is likely to support Obama's jobs program.  I dont have a link, but I remember reading several times that if enacted, such program would add 2% growth to the GDP and create something like 1,000,000 new jobs.

    •  Senate Republicans filibustered everything (4+ / 0-)

      meaning Senate Democrats needed 60 votes. Al Franken was not sworn in until 7/7/09, giving Dems 60 votes, but Sen. Kennedy was sick and died Aug 25th. Paul Kirk served as Kennedy's replacement 9/24/09-2/4/2010.

      In reality, Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate for less than 6 months. With united Republican opposition, that left the deciding 60th vote on every issue in the hands of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh. Once Scott Brown was sworn in, vote 60 had to come from him or Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins - no liberals there.

      The House passed a ton of good legislation in  2009-2010, and the Senate let much of it die thanks to Republican obstruction.

      NC-4 (soon to be NC-6) Obama/Biden 2012

      by bear83 on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 06:34:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Disaster=Lose Senate/House, win WH by <2%. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andy Katz, llywrch

    If the President wins with anything less than 320 electoral votes and we fail to regain the House and keep Senate, there will be no holding back the obstructerism of the GOP. This next term will be a critical legislative moment and barring a second recession, I just don't see how the two sides can come together without some sort of Dem mandate. Of greater concern is how much will the President cave to Republican demands.

    "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." Winston Churchill

    by Kvetchnrelease on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 06:32:00 AM PDT

    •  Well, the President would be hostage (0+ / 0-)

      to the republicans. They would attach all sorts of horrible amendments to the budget. They would extort horrible concessions in exchange of raising the debt ceiling. The President would not "cave"; he would be FORCED to accept republican demands, forced by the REALITY of the constitutional power of Congress.

      With all due respect I would like people to realize that in domestic politics the President's power is very limited.

      Can we PLEASE tear down the myth of the omnipotent presidency ? Can we PLEASE recognize the fact that of the three branches of government, in REALITY Congress is the more powerful one ?

      The founding fathers worked very hard on this check and balances thing. Divided government is kind of ok when the two parties are not very far from one another. But it's a total disaster when one party becomes extreme, is backed by tremendous power and money, and is helped by a media environment that makes it very difficult for facts and truth to get trough.

      I refuse to believe that republicans could get complete control of Congress. Too scary.

      Fortunately, the polls are reassuring at this moment.

  •  Voters who like divided government (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch

    usually want a counterweight, to bring MODERATION.

    The problem is the GOP isn't into moderating. They are into shutting the government down, and sitting on their hands.

    Oh, look.....I get a tagline. I better not waste it. I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

    by sd4david on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 08:21:40 AM PDT

  •  Obama Win may not ranslate to House Control (0+ / 0-)

    If you haven't noticed, the Super-Pac money that Rove, et. al. control hasn't been parceled out for Romney so much as it has gone to state and local elections...Th repubs know that they need to control the state houses and legislatures to truly control what happens in Congress.  That is the primary goal, NOT who the President is.  "All Politics is Local" is the saying and it is true.  Until the Democrats internalize this and attack the Repub stranglehold on local and state level, they will not succeed in regaining the House

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