Republicans are not necessarily here forever, but their majority in the House isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Despite what the latest polls might tell us.
Right now we are a poll-driven country. That’s a good thing if you need to write a news story or lead a TV newscast. Poll numbers put a razor’s edge on an otherwise tedious headline. “69% of the American people hate Republicans” sure gets more attention than generic musings about public dissatisfaction with one party or another. The numbers make it sharper. But, really, what do they mean?
Take the latest CNN Poll. It’s been cited a lot lately. Conducted in the immediate aftermath of the idiotic government shutdown, it found that a lot of folks would like to kick the bums out. Fair enough. Do 69% of Americans disapprove of the performance of House Republicans (and Republicans in general)?
Sure, why not.
But when the poll suggests that not only do 69% of Americans dislike Republicans now – but have disliked them for a long time – it’s time to scratch one’s head. This is not to say that the poll is inaccurate. But it does make one wonder who they are talking to. The facts on the ground don’t seem to back the numbers.
Certainly this has been a giddy few weeks for folks who believe that this whole Tea Party business is a nefarious plot inflicted on unsuspecting voters. Some now brandish the results of polls like CNN’s as proof we’re headed for a “wave” election in 2014. The Neanderthals of the Right will be vanquished. Right and reason under Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be restored on Capitol Hill.
After a bit of quiet time, and possibly a stiff drink or two, they take a another look at the numbers. And reality begins to sink in – the Republicans aren’t going anywhere. Visions of fat cats and smoke-filled rooms fill their heads. Gerrymandering by Republican extremists has perverted the system. The American People will be robbed again. (Truth be told, both parties are pretty good at creating safe seats. In fact, Democrats have two more of them than Republicans 192-190.)
Gerrymandering actually had little to do with the current make-up of the House. At least that’s what The New Republic, hardly a conservative publication, reports. Back in 2012, Republicans won seats in 17 districts carried by President Obama. (A net gain of 17 seats would give Democrats control of the House.) As of this writing, the Cook Political Report rates only one of those seats a “toss-up”. The rest are considered leaning Republican, likely Republican or no contest at all.
In another 17 districts, where Mitt Romney won by five percent or less, the Cook Political Report does not rate a single race as a toss-up.
The CNN Poll focused on House Republicans, but it also included negative feelings about “Congressional Republicans – which would seem to include the Senate. So how is dislike of the GOP manifesting itself on the other side of the Capitol? Interestingly, Republicans might have taken control of the Senate already, had they not nominated unsuitable or inappropriate candidates in races that otherwise should have been slam dunks.
Today it is still easier to draw a Republican path to control of the Senate than to find a Democratic road to victory in the House. There are 35 Senate seats in play in 2014. Of the 14 Republicans seats on the line, all but one (Maine) are in fairly conservative states. Democrats, meanwhile, will be defending 21 seats, many in red or swing states. To win control, Republicans need a net gain of six seats. They should pick up three in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota, where Democrat incumbents are retiring. Democrat incumbents in four other red states – Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina and Alaska – are universally believed to be facing difficult races. It’s not time for Republicans to break out the champagne. There is still plenty of time for GOP primary voters to select another slate of unelectable candidates.
Still, we could well find ourselves with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress in January 2015. We could just as easily elect President Hillary Clinton in 2016.
That would make perfect sense. We are an ideologically divided country – not by accident or by deception, but because people disagree about the best way forward on many issues. And because the folks they send to Washington talk at each other, not with each other. Too many members of both parties live in separate bubbles, talking only among themselves and pointing to polls that bolster their positions. At some point they might want to spend a little more time looking for common ground … before a new party does it for them. Because there’s every likelihood that the Republican majority in the House is just not going anywhere anytime soon.
An editorial by Mike Clancy