A Republican Congress in 2010?

Byron York says that Republicans are “thinking the unthinkable.” They could retake the Congress next year:

It’s a possibility many Republicans speak of only in whispers and Democrats are just now beginning to face. After passionate and contentious fights over health care, the environment, and taxes, could Democrats lose big — really big — in next year’s elections?
Ask them about it, and many Democrats will point to the continued personal popularity of Barack Obama.

Which, of course, is sinking like a stone.

“I think what’s going to happen is Obama’s going to be fine, and the Democrats in Congress are going to get their asses kicked in 2010,” says one Democratic strategist who prefers not to be named. “This is following a curve like the Clinton years: take on really controversial things early, fail, or succeed partially, ask Democrats to take really tough votes, and then lose. A lot of guys are going to get beat, but the president has time to recover.”

That’s a plausible scenario. Other Democrats seem to think that Obama will be better off if his party takes big losses in November:

And what if the Republicans stage a comeback? Some Obama supporters think it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. “The truth is, Democratic presidents do better when there’s a Republican Congress,” says the Democratic strategist. “If there were a Republican Congress, there would be things that are non-starters.”
Things like a public option in health care reform, a massive cap-and-trade energy scheme, and all sorts of tax increases. In other words, proposals that are popular with the Democratic base but unpopular with the independent voters who hold the president’s fate in their hands.
A Republican victory might not be so bad for a president with re-election on his mind.

Well, maybe. But I think these strategists are re-fighting the last war. That is, they are extrapolating Bill Clinton’s story and applying it to Barack Obama. Could things shake out that way? Perhaps. But that was then and this is now, and the current uproar over Obama’s government takeover of health care dwarfs anything that happened in 1994. And Obama isn’t Bill Clinton. Clinton is, I think, much smarter than Obama. He had a basic understanding of economics that Obama lacks. And in a pinch, Clinton didn’t really believe in much of anything, while Obama is a hard leftist, by American standards.
So the eclipse and resurrection of Bill Clinton may or may not be a model that Barack Obama will, or can, follow. My own opinion is that there is little likelihood of the Republicans actually capturing either the House or the Senate next year. They will, however, make significant gains. And I doubt whether the GOP’s comeback will be a boon to Obama as it was to Clinton years ago. It’s much too early to tell, but from where we sit today, it seems that 2012 may well be the year when the Republicans take back both Congress and the White House.

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