These days, it’s all doom and gloom for Republicans. Everyone is predicting a tough election season, although I notice that relatively few are going out on a limb and forecasting a Democratic takeover of either the House or the Senate.
A number of indicators are bad for the Republicans: the generic Congressional preference poll data, President Bush’s approval rating, the “wrong track” numbers, etc. However, as Jay Cost noted this morning on Real Clear Politics, none of these factors has been much of a predictor in past Congressional elections. Cost predicts that the Democrats will gain around nine seats in the House, not enough to regain majority status.
That strikes me as a good educated guess. But I wouldn’t be shocked if the Republicans didn’t lose any seats at all. Republican candidates generally outperform polls, for a variety of reasons, and they have one ace in the hole: they get to run against Democrats. I don’t detect any great ground swell in the electorate for a return to Democratic rule.
What is currently roiling Washington and driving down the approval numbers of both President Bush and the Congress is disaffection among conservatives. Some of that disaffection is well-founded–spending and immigration–some, in my opinion, is not–the Emirates ports transaction. This shouldn’t be too suprising; as Paul has pointed out a number of times, President Bush has never portrayed himself as a movement conservative. He earned great credit with conservatives by making tax cuts the centerpiece of his early legislative agenda, and cemented his position with the right through his vigorous conduct of the war on terror. But the fact is that his positions on a number of issues are not very conservative, and some level of conflict with his party’s right wing was inevitable. Likewise, many Republican Congessmen and, especially, Senators are not especially conservative, and they have disproportionate influence given the close division between the parties in Congress.
But conservatives aren’t about to start voting for Democrats. Nor, given the magnitude of the issues now at stake, will many of them stay home in November. So my guess is that when the dust settles in November, Congress will look very much as it does now.
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