Here is scenario #1 for the midterm elections--when I raise this, my friends and family call me Mr. Chicken Little, the sky is falling pundit.
Big losses all across the board from the senate, to governorships, to Congress, to state legislatures, with a message of “we’re mad as Hell and we’re not going to take it any more.”
History is pretty clear on just how tough off-year elections can be for the party in power. Average loses in the House are in the mid-20s and wild swings during tough economic times are commonplace, particularly after one party has gained seats in districts that are traditionally difficult.
This year resembles 1980 to me--a very tough political and economic environment that led to the GOP pick up of 12 Democratic seats, my boss Sen. Frank Church among them.
As political tsunamis go, that was a whooper. We are now confronting an electorate that has been beaten up by job losses, plummeting housing prices, foreclosures, and savings and retirement funds evaporating. You name it and many Americans have experienced it. Those who are angry, scared, and want change are motivated, just as they were in 2008.
Most waves in politics build the final two weeks before the election. Events play into the final votes but often the die is cast. The announcement of no COLA for Social Security recipients and the scandal around foreclosures these past few days clearly are not good for the Democrats. Recent polls that indicate younger voters and women are not supporting the Democrats in nearly the numbers they have been is another ominous sign. Projections of the “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans does not bode well that we will see many of the 15 million new voters from 2008 back at the polls this year.
Thus, scenario #1 clearly points to a potential tsunami that would allow for more than just a nominal takeover of the House and possible takeover of the Senate. Many believe it could be over 60 House seats, 10 or 11 Senate seats, nine or 10 governors, and over 500 legislative seats. This would be the Republicans’ dream of course.
So, let’s look at scenario #2.
Despite the economic problems, and the recovery not being as rapid as anyone would like, the voters have a real sense that they have seen the worst and the future will get better. They buy into the Bill Clinton argument that it took the Republicans eight years to create this mess and Obama and the Democrats have had only a year and half to pull us out of the ditch.
We have had private sector growth for nine months, the stock market is back up, our world financial system has stabilized, and consumers have begun to strike a balance between spending and saving. The lead domestic manufacturing base--the car companies--are stronger and it is due to the tough decisions that the Obama administration made.
More important, Republicans have stood with Wall Street against the Democrats’ efforts to rein them in, they have taken tens of millions in secret money from these precise special interests and flooded the airwaves with negative ads, and they have failed to offer a reasonable, positive program to get us out of the ditch.
At the end of the day, they have nominated horrendous candidates in many races, bowing to the extremists and proving that they support candidates who can run their mouths, but can’t run much else.
Democrats were definitely not asleep at the switch (thank Scott Brown for that) and they raised the funds, engaged their opponents early, and took nothing for granted, no matter what the early polls showed. They had strong leadership at the party committees who ran solid operations and paid attention to Senate and House races, as well as those for governor.
And, finally, the projections for terrible turnout on the part of the Democrats are wrong and voters are seriously engaged on the Democratic side. The close races will tilt toward the Democrats and the losses will be nowhere near what some are predicting.
With this scenario, the Democrats narrowly escape losing the House (or just lose it by a handful of races), lose just a few Senate seats and don’t get clobbered in the state houses.