It’s rare that I read an analysis of House races where I don’t find some really fatuous reasoning. But Ed Kilgore has done a piece I agree with, word for word. All talk of a major Republican victory in the 2010 midterms is based on faulty parallels and wishful thinking. Whatever surface similarities appear to exist with the 1994 elections are nothing more than a mirage. And Kilgore hits almost all of the reasons that things are different. What he misses, Bill Clinton noted on yesterday’s Meet the Press (empahsis mine):
“Number one, the country is more diverse and more interested in positive action. Number two, they’ve seen this movie before, because they had eight years under President Bush when the Republicans finally had the whole government, and they know the results were bad. And number three, the Democrats haven’t taken on the gun lobby like I did, and they took 15 of our members out. So I don’t think — it’ll be, whatever happens, it’ll be manageable for the president.”
The 1994 tsunami was driven by several converging factors. There were a huge number of Democratic retirements. The redistricting after the 1990 census favored the Republicans. Clinton had taken on the gun lobby by ramming home the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Bill. The effort to pass health care had failed. And labor was demoralized by that failure in combination with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
It didn’t help that Clinton was elected with a mere 43% of the vote.
In contrast, Obama received a healthy 53% of the vote. He maintains the same degree of popularity he had on election night. Before the 2010 elections, he will sign some form of health care bill and labor’s top priority, the Employee Free Choice Act. The 2000 census will have no impact on this election and there are only a small handful of retirements in competitive districts. And, as President Clinton pointed out, Obama hasn’t done anything to critically wound Democrats who won election in red districts.
However, even if the Democrats are just as popular in 2010 as they were in 2008, they’ll probably lose a few seats because of low turnout and the corresponding increase in the age of the electorate. The Democrats will probably pick up three or four seats and lose slightly more than that. I still think the midterms in the House are likely to result in a wash, with less than a ten-vote swing to the Republicans.
The Senate could be a bit more unpredictable. A lot will depend on individual candidates, and the field is not yet complete. Suffice to say, though, that the Democrats have a better shot at getting to a veto-proof 67 than the Republicans have of regaining their majority.