GOP Bad News: Downticket Races
Republicans are not going to have a good year in November–even if Hillary’s divisive tactics or the “Obama is a secret Muslim” crap helps McCain squeak out a narrow White House victory. The “downticket” races for the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and state and local races look even bleaker for the GOP. That’s not just my liberal wishful thinking. Karl Rove wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week that tried to brace his fellow Republicans for bad news. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), architect of the ’94 Republican Revolution, wrote a long letter to House leaders begging them to take emergency measures or risk being the minority party in the House for long years to come! These are not easily spooked men, folks.
Look at the tough road ahead for the GOP:
Democrats only have a 1 seat majority in the Senate (which is why Obstructionist Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can block almost everything good the Dems were elected in ’06 to accomplish). So, optimist Republicans could say that they only need a net gain of 2 seats (or 1 if McCain wins and his VP breaks numerous ties as the President of the Senate), right? Unfortunately for the GOP, only a 3rd of the Senate is elected every 2 years and this year, thanks to previous Republican victories, they have to defend 21 seats while Dems have to defend only 12. Of those 12 Democratic seats, only 2 are remotely competitive: LA’s Mary Landrieu who looked almost as bad during Katrina as Bush did and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson because of his mild stroke in ’06. But even Republicans think Johnson’s seat is safe and Landrieu’s seat is looking safer all the time.
Meanwhile several GOP senators retired, leaving their seats open (always easier for a pickup by the other side). And the GOP has had difficulty recruiting strong candidates for their races. Further, a death by one Wyoming Senator and Trent Lott’s unexpected resignation means that both Wyoming and Mississippi have TWO U.S. Senate seats up for contention in the Fall. Now, both are GOP strongholds, but just running senate races is expensive–Democratic challengers in WY and MS could force the GOP to spend money there that it needs elsewhere–and this is the one year in recent history where Dems have more $ available than the GOP!
There is a longshot (EVERYTHING would have to go right for the Dems and wrong for the GOP) chance that Democrats could actually win a net of 10 more seats in the Senate, thereby giving them a filibuster proof majority! More likely is 5 to 8 seats with a 3 seat minimum pickup (VA, NM, & CO). I think we have a great shot at VA (giving it 2 Dem. Senators for the first time in my memory!), NM, CO, NH (Good-bye John Sununu of Reagan infamy), MN, ME (if both NH and ME go, that will turn all of New England, once the most Republican part of the country–but a far different kind of Republican, into Democratic territory), OR, NC. There is a chance that we pick up Lott’s former seat in Mississippi because it picks Wicker (R) against the very popular former governor Ronnie Musgrove (D). State Sen. Rick Noriega (D-TX), a Marine and Iraq War vet against the war is giving strong challenge to Bush crony John Cornyn (R) in Texas! I WOULD have had high hopes this year for getting rid of McConnell (R-KY), whose approval rating is at record lows, but our best chance (State Auditor Crit Luallen) declined to run and our second best chance was hounded out of the race. I don’t think either of the two remaining Dem candidates (to be decided a week from tomorrow at the KY primaries) can do it, but I hope I am wrong.
More bad news: The House is expected to lose more seats to the Dems than the Senate! In special elections to fill retirements (which have to repeat in Nov.), we are seeing GOP strongholds go down: First former Speaker Hastert’s seat in Illinois. Then, a district in Louisiana that the GOP has held for 30 years! Now, tomorrow may see a third GOP stronghold bite the dust in northern Mississippi! (Even if the GOP keeps this one, they were forced to spend $1.8 million and send VP Dick Cheney to campaign here–in a spot they could have taken for granted even last year.) UPDATE: Travers Childers (D-MS) won yesterday. So the Dems are 3 for 3 on flipping GOP House seats this year.
Recent articles have shown what I have been saying for 2 years: White evangelicals are no longer a strict voting bloc for the GOP with the Religious Right in control. See also here. They aren’t automatically voting Democratic and many are registering as Independent, but if this strongest GOP voting bloc splinters in THIS year, it cannot be good news for the Republicans. Bill Clinton captured 33% of white evangelical votes, while John Kerry only garnered 22%. If that percentage is swinging back to the Dems, even in only some races, Republicans are in trouble.
And Catholics are the new ultimate swing vote.
And, while it may not help Obama (thanks to the “secret Muslim” crap and the controversy over Rev. Wright) in all Southern States, the New York Times notes that bi-racial alliances for Democrats are increasing in Dixie, especially at the local and state levels, but increasingly also at the national level. Even though race is still a factor in U.S. politics (Duh!?) and will lead Obama to lose WV and KY to Clinton tomorrow(WV) and next Tues.(KY), the time of the “Southern Strategy” of racial politics seems to be drawing to a close. As the U.S. becomes ever more racially and ethnically diverse, no political party will be able to win with ONLY white support.
Now, even if everything goes fantastic for the Dems in November and they take the White House and large majorities in both Houses of Congress, plus governorships, state legislatures, etc., this will NOT usher in the Rule of God. In fact, it could lead to gross overconfidence and swaggering pride for the Democrats–as the GOP victories in ’94 did for them. Major losses by the Republicans in the Fall could lead them to a major stock-taking and reconsideration–not just of tactics, but of basic message. Could we see a return of the Eisenhower/Rockefeller/Harold Stassen/Mark Hatfield/Gerald Ford style Republicans? I hope so. That would be good for the country.
The work for a more just and peaceful world goes on no matter what party is in power. Christians do not give ultimate allegiance to any Party or ideology, just to the Rule of God. But electoral politics do matter: politicians and parties can create the conditions in which it is easier or harder to work for justice and peace. Weigh the issues carefully my friends and vote your consciences–then remember that we trust in God and not in mere mortals, whether the mortals we back win or lose.
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