Quin Hillyer warns Republicans to “beware of overconfidence”:
Yes, Barack Obama’s poll numbers are down. Yes, the Democratic Congress is vastly unpopular, and leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid more unpopular still. Yes, the “generic ballot” test for Congress has Republicans in the lead. Yes, the measures of voter “intensity” greatly favor the right, including the Daily Kos finding that 40 percent of Democrats may not vote in 2010.
But national politics is like the weather in New Orleans: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes (and vice versa). While sometimes it is possible for perspicacious observers to see growing tides that won’t ebb anytime soon (my former boss Bob Livingston correctly did so in 1994), the far more common occurrence is either for a rough equilibrium to take hold or for the non-ideological electorate to surge and retreat in different directions, with few surges sustaining themselves for longer than about six or nine months. Untouchable President George H.W. Bush, he of the 89 percent approval rating well into 1991, is the most obvious case in point of how political winds can quickly shift.
Hillyer provides two reasons, apart from the vagaries of politics, to fear that Republican performance in 2010 will not meet current expectations. First, “the Republican Party organizationally has become hostile to conservative sensibilities and no obvious leader for the party or the conservative movement has shown any ability to get officials to sing off the same page — or to hit any positive ‘high notes.'” Second, although the left has its problems now, it not is sclerotic and/or hopelessly divided as Hillyer says it was in 1980 and 1994.
I agree that Republicans are overconfident these days. In addition to the points Hillyer makes, the relatively low standing of President Obama and, to a lesser extent, the low standing of congressional Democrats, is largely a function of the lack of a perceptible recovery. It’s possible that such a recovery could be well underway by next summer.
I’m not worried about the overconfidence, though. Republicans are hungry for victory and their seriousness of purpose is not likely to be affected by their confidence level. If anything, a high level of confidence will likely reinforce their seriousness and, if nothing else, help the Party recruit strong candidates for 2010, as seems to be occurring.