The Wave On The Horizon?


Republican Congressman Charles Boustany worried recently that actions by House Republicans “could trigger a wave of discontent that could wash out our Republican majority in the House if we’re not careful.” Nate Cohn continues to insist that the Republican majority is safe:

[E]ven if public outrage with the GOP persists at today’s levels, there good reasons to question whether the wave will endure through November 2014. Unlike real waves, electoral waves shrink as they approach the shore. Political scientists have found that the generic ballot overestimates the president’s party this far from an election. That’s part of why Alan Abramowitz estimates that Democrats need a 13 point Democratic edge on September 1 to win the 17 seats necessary to retake the chamber in November.

Enten disagrees and argues that “Abramowitz’s forecast is a good starting-point for understanding how uphill is the Democrats’ task in taking back the House, but it is far from perfect.” Furthermore:

The thing is that expert ratings (like most polling) are not all that predictive a year out from an election. At this point in the 2006 cycle, there were 17 Republican seats in the lean or tossup categories (pdf). That’s well short of the 30 seats that Democrats would ultimately take from Republicans. At this point in the 2010 cycle, there were 28 Democratic seats in the lean or tossup category. Republicans, of course, went onto gain 63 seats in 2010.

It’s not until later in the cycle when individual seat rankings become quite useful. That’s when potential challengers and incumbents read the national environment and decide to run or not. Chances are that if the 4-5pt Democratic lead holds, the individual seat rankings will reflect that edge. For now, individual seat ratings probably aren’t all that helpful to understanding which way and how hard the wind is blowing.

My view, for what it’s worth, is that this event has the potential to deeply shape public attitudes about the GOP’s fitness for public office and change the shape of the next Congress decisively. I mean, here’s Ross today:

However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.

And the key thing for responsible actors in the next year is to remind voters again and again about what this crew voted for: a second great depression to appease their ideological purity. They nearly got away with it. The lesson should not be relief and moving on; it should be continued outrage at this vandalism and brinksmanship and a demand for accountability. That means voting Democrat next year even if you disagree about many aspects of their policy proposals. Because this is not about mere policy. It’s about a party threatening to break apart the country if they do not get the rest of us to bend to their minority will and their apocalyptic vision.

If that message can sink in with independents and moderate Republicans, then of course the Democrats can regain the House – and finish the job of the Obama presidency.

I don’t like partisanship. But if it is an indispensable means to ending this level of blackmail of the entire system, then it is a necessary, short-term price to pay.

(Photo by Miguel Teixeira)