The mainstream medias group think talking point that the congressional elections almost always go against the party which controls the White House is another example of the beltway fighting the last war. While I’m glad to see that conventional wisdom has taken a “yes, but” attitude toward Republicans regaining the majority in the Senate, they continue to insist that the House majority, or even net gains are unlikely if not impossible for the Democrats to obtain in the next few cycles.
I believe this to be a false premise. In fact, I think the 2014 congressional elections set up nicely for the Democrats to gain seats against all historical precedent. In the coming months, and with input from any who offer it, I hope to develop a thesis that looks at why, under certain circumstances, this is possible. Some areas I plan on highlighting as evidence are:
•Republicans are few places to play offense: One side effect of the previous two congressional elections and the latest round of redistricting is that the Democrats occupy 201 seats that are, for the most part, political aligned. Mitt Romney won only 8 districts* that Democrats presently sit in. By that metric there aren’t many places for them to start with, even if they throw a lot of money in the district fronted by a good candidate.
•Democrats have more places to play offense in: One thing that’s become clear as the congressional level numbers come in, is that there are a number of seats, at the moment 16, which are held by Republicans but voted for President Obama. Those 16 are the starting point for any gain in 2014. With the right candidate, and plenty of well-placed resources, not to mention the President being the Campaigner-in-Chief, we could find some nice opportunities to flip red to blue.
•Leftward drift of social issues: With the Iraq war over, and the financial recession receding before us (Yes, I intended the pun, and yes, I do know that a recession induced by the sequester and a slowing global economy are possible.) the rise of gun control, immigration and softening on Gay marriage, mean Democrats can highlight issues that Republicans, for many reasons, are unable to effectively win on. Leveraged the right way, by the right candidate, and in the right area (Suburbs…..), this may help motivate some voters to go blue when the issue of jobs or taxes are canceled out.
• Demographic changes: While acknowledging that numbers such as the ones we saw in 2008 or 2012, will probably not happen, the continuing changes to this country’s ethnic makeup, the shift in those growing groups toward Democrats, coupled with the likelihood that the 2010 atmosphere was an outlier, can give us some margin of comfort (think generic ballot) as opposed to the “traditional” midterm composition (But really has there ever been a “traditional second midterm election for a sitting Democratic President?).
OF course, the usual caveats apply that things will change and there’s no certainty that it’s going to be sunshine and rainbows for us 22 months. What I’ve outlined above is putting on paper some intuitive thoughts I’ve developed over the years as I’ve watched, participated and thought about political elections. But I remain optimistic that we have the opportunity to confound the professionals and surpass expectations.