Karl Rove: Democrats Are Facing a 1994 Rerun

Dems learning nothing fails like hubris.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

If there is any one conclusion that can be reached based on the conservatives at the 2010 CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, it is that the political environment in the United States is dramatically different that it was just one year ago.

Back then, riding high atop an almost unprecedented series of electoral victories, President Barack Obama and the Democrats mounted a campaign that was significantly more radical than what they had talked about in either 2006 or 2008. As a result they overreached--losing the backing of the American people they gained thanks to a series of Republican missteps over the last half of the Bush administration.

Then, the nation’s political writers were writing the GOP’s obituary. Now, most political forecasters at least concede the possibility that the 2010 elections could produce Republican majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate.

In politics, if nothing succeeds like success, then nothing fails quite as dramatically as hubris.

According to Karl Rove, the political consultant who masterminded George W. Bush’s election and re-election as president, the most important political benchmarks all show conditions comparable to what they were in 1994, when the Republicans won control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

“Just as in 1994,” Rove said in a recent polling notes memo, “less than one-quarter of Americans are satisfied with the direction things are headed in the country, and congressional job approval is lower today.”

He’s being charitable. Under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, congressional approval is at historic lows. Only 34 percent of those queried in one recent CNN poll thought that members of the House and Senate should be re-elected, versus 63 percent who said they should be replaced.  That’s just a few points difference, Rove said, from where things were in 1994.

Other key indicators drawing Rove’s attention include the right direction number, which Pew Research had at just 23 percent in February 1994 and is now at 23 percent; the presidential job approval number, which Gallup had at 52 percent in February 1994 and 52 percent now; and that fact that the GOP is in a better position today on the question of which party is better trusted to solve the nation’s problems then it was at the same time 16 years ago.

Independent analysis confirms many of Rove’s points. The Washington Post, in one of its own recent polls, found that America now splits evenly--46 percent to 46 percent--on the subject of which party they will vote for in the upcoming House elections. “As recently as four months ago, Democrats held a 51 to 39 percent advantage on this question,” the Post reported, “When compared with the early months of Obama’s presidency, the GOP’s overall gains are striking.”

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