How the GOP Can Make 2012 a 2010 Rerun

The latest Gallup poll is bleak for Congress, but Republicans can still prove they deserve to be in charge in 2012.

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The latest Gallup Poll suggests that Congress is in for quite a surprise next November if it doesn't get its act together and start addressing the concerns of the American people. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed—76 percent—said most members of Congress don't deserve re-election next year, the highest percentage ever registered in the 19 years the venerable polling firm has asked the question.

The news should set alarm bells off on both sides of the U.S. Capitol, stampeding members of both parties into an orgy of cooperation climaxing with a Kumbaya sing-along broadcast to the nation on Christmas eve over all three C-SPAN channels.

[Read Peter Roff on how Obama's payroll tax Grinch act could backfire.]

Except that it's not really as bad as all that. The voters are, as is usually the case, mad at Congress but still approving of their own representatives. Gallup reported,

As has historically been the case, voters are much more positive about the U.S. representative from their own congressional district than they are about 'most members of Congress,' with 53 percent saying their representative deserves to be re-elected, while 39 percent hold the opposite view.

These numbers too are at or near historic lows, but they don't mean an anti-incumbent tsunami is already forming in the waters off Washington, D.C.  As Gallup reminds,

Americans were not as negative last October, before the 2010 midterm elections, yet voters flipped 63 seats from Democratic to Republican control and gave the House to the GOP in the process.

[See a slide show of 14 establishment candidates who lost to insurgents.]

The 2010 election was an anti-Obama, anti-Democrat election. The 2012 election may be shaping up in the same way, despite the record amount of money the president's team intends to spend pursuing his re-election. The voters' negative reaction is based on the perception that Congress isn't doing anything—which is only partly true. The Republicans in the House have passed bill after bill after bill addressing job creation, the uncertainty in the economy, the spending deficit and have forced some real reforms on an unwilling and unhappy White House. Much of what it has passed, however, has died over in the Senate—where Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid ruthlessly controls the floor, making it difficult if not impossible for Republicans to even offer amendments, let alone legislation. It's called, in Washington parlance, "filling the tree" and Reid is the master of it.

If, and it's a pretty big if, the Republicans are able over the next year to demonstrate to the country that they not only have ideas to fix our current problems but that they have been pushing them aggressively only to see the Democrats derail them—with the result that absolutely nothing gets to the president's desk and nothing gets done—then expect 2012 to be a repeat of 2010.

  • See the GOP's top Senate targets for 2012.
  • Read about how Charlie Cook sees GOP winning big in 2012.
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