Beyond the Election, the GOP’s Future Looks Bright

Michael Barone assesses the impact Barack Obama has had on the Democratic Party. It’s not a pretty picture:

When Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, there were 257 Democrats in the House of Representatives. Going into this election there are 201 (including two vacant Democratic seats).

Psephologists universally agree Democrats will suffer a net loss of House seats…. That will leave them with a number probably somewhere in the 190s.

That means a loss of something like 60 seats — far more than the parties of George W. Bush after six years (19 seats), and slightly more than Bill Clinton at this stage (47 seats). …

Why has the Democratic Party fared so poorly under Obama’s leadership? I can see two reasons: one ideological, one demographic.

Start with demographics. The Obama coalition, even more than Bill Clinton’s, is based on overwhelming support from constituencies with some conflicting interests. It’s a top-and-bottom coalition: he carried the very lowest and highest income and education groups, while his support sagged among those in the middle.

His strongest groups are blacks and gentry liberals — the same two groups he gathered together when he got to design his own state Senate district in 2002. Majorities of both groups still support him, but perhaps with diminished enthusiasm. … Moreover, the geographic clustering of blacks and gentry liberals in central cities, sympathetic suburbs and university towns puts the Obama Democrats at a disadvantage in equal-population districts where Republican voters are spread more evenly around.

Meanwhile, the thrill is clearly gone among two groups that backed him heavily in 2008 and 2012, and which will inevitably be larger parts of the electorate in the future: Hispanics and Millennials. …

That gets us to ideology. Bill Clinton was credited with competence and acceptable ideology, which made his party competitive in the early 2000s and well-positioned to take advantage of George W. Bush’s perceived incompetence (Iraq, Katrina) in 2006 and 2008. President Obama’s ideology — expanded government, Obamacare — has been less widely acceptable, and his reputation for competence is currently in tatters. He was able to eke out re-election with a reduced percentage by good organization. But he leaves his party in trouble. …

Predicting 2016 when 2014 isn’t over is risky. But it looks like President Obama has left his party in worse shape than any president since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century ago.

In recent years there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Republican “brand.” To listen to the pundits, one would think that just about everyone hates Republicans. Yet, as we near the end of the current election cycle, it is Democrats whose ship is low in the water, not Republicans.

And how about the local, grass roots level? Here, the picture is even brighter. The Washington Post reports that the GOP is on the verge of a historic dominance of state legislatures:

Republicans have the opportunity to take control of a record number of state legislative chambers across the country this year, as Democrats play defense in unfavorable terrain. …

Today, the party controls 59 of the 98 partisan chambers in 49 states, while Democrats control only 39 chambers (One legislature, Nebraska’s, is officially nonpartisan).

Once election results are tabulated in the 6,049 legislative races on the ballot in 46 states this year, Republicans could find themselves running even more. …

In 2010, Republicans picked up more than 700 seats, which amounted to nearly one in 10 legislative seats around the country.

This year, another legislative wave benefiting the GOP is certainly possible, perhaps even likely.

If the Republican brand is in such disrepute, then why are many millions of Americans–a clear majority–pulling the level for local candidates who wear the GOP label? A party that is strong at the grass roots has a bright future. Let’s hope that future looks even better after tonight’s results are in.

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