There is a time every summer when the day is bright and hot, but there is a crystalline quality to the air that lets you know this is it, the end of summer has arrived and the fall is going to start. The Dog has been having a similar kind of feeling about the GOP and the coming mid-term elections.
The Dog is a big believer in the underlying structure of elections as a major predictor of the outcome on Election Day. This cycle things tilt heavily towards the Republicans. There are 50% more Democratic Senators running for elections and the 2010 gerrymandering of Congressional seats have produced many districts designed to be safe for Republican.
Additionally there is the fact that mid-term voters tend to be older, whiter and more conservative. This is especially true for the dreaded “Year 6” midterms. As a rule (with only a couple of exceptions) the party that controls the White House in mid-term elections of its second term loses seats in both the House and Senate.
All in all it should be a pretty good year for Republican electoral ambitions. Or should it?
You see, structure helps, but it is not the whole ballgame. Basing electoral predictions on the underlying fundamentals assumes that everything else is equal from election to election. In this cycle the Dog is starting to see things that suggest that everything is not really equal.
Let’s break this down step by step, shall we? In the Senate it is true the Dems have to defend more seats, and they have had some retirements that make it more likely that Republicans can pick up those seats. Still the modern Republican party is still hunting for the “more perfect conservative” for every seat. You only have to look at the fact that their Minority Leader, the man who would be Majority Leader if they take the Senate back has drawn a Teahadist challenger.
Sure Sen. McConnell (Bystander – KY) has a huge election war chest and is not above rolling around in the mud to win if that’s what it takes. Yet there are members of his own party that think he is a squishy and suspect RINO (Republican In Name Only). Being hit from the left and right by challengers for his seat means there is a possibility (small but not insignificant) that he may not actually see the start of the 114Th Congress in 2015.
Given that kind of challenge to a sitting leader of the Republicans, is there any chance that the GOP in the various states which have Senatorial elections this year will not nominate candidates of the caliber of Sharron “2nd Amendment Remedy” Angle, Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin and Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell? The Dog thinks not. These folks and the things they say are what the Rabid Right of the Republican party (better known as their base) really wants in a candidate. While it does not make everything peaches and cream for Democrats is does mean that some of the structural disadvantage is moderated.
Then there is the House of Representatives. While the drawing of districts looks like a loser for Democrats until the next census, that is not always going to be the case. There are going to be Democratic challengers for most House seats and there are certainly some Democratic voters even in the redist of districts.
The forces that have been driving the Republican party to the right at warp speed are at their highest in the House. The Tea Party Caucus has shown time and again that they don’t care about elections, they have drunk the Kool-Aid and truly believe in the Far Right ideas like shutting down the government in an attempt to get a sitting president to overturn his signature legislative accomplishment.
But for all that they mostly come from safe districts, the way that they have been acting as a whole over the last four years has really turned people off. Most of the people they have annoyed are younger voters, immigrant voters and, of course, folks with a more liberal outlook on government. These are all structural problems for the future and not super likely to affect a mid-term voting population.
There is one group though that they must have for the all-things-being-equal equation to work, that is older voters. Elected Republicans should be nervous about polling that is showing older voters are starting to turn away from them. Admittedly the polling was done by Democracy Corps, which, unsurprisingly, leans towards the Democrats, but when a demographic group drops from voting 59% for Republicans to 46% planning to vote Republican, that is a huge shift, no matter who does the poling
Those kinds of numbers give Democrats a window to make the case they will get things done instead of being the Party of No. This combined with the likelihood of the failure of comprehensive immigration reform and a possible government shut down or, worse, a debt default mean that nationwide the voters are not particularly happy with the Congress they chose in 2012.
It is, of course, a long way before Election Day and many events might change this calculus. However, the trends seem to be pointing away from a Republican mid-term romp and closer to an even playing field. If Republicans, as they seem to be doing, continue to ignore the fact that most of the country does not favor any of their major policy issues, and keep being bat-shit crazy as a group, then maybe, just maybe there is a chance for Democrats to make this cycle one where they break the Republican grip on the House.
The Dog said at the beginning of this that it was a feeling, but like that day in August where the light just looks different heralds the fall, then maybe this feeling is the herald of a very bad cycle for Republicans. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of bigots, climate change deniers and craven politicians who put their corporate owners interests ahead of what is best for the nation.
The floor is yours.