Will 2012 be a Republican year?
By Bruce Walker
The structure of the Senate races in 2012 and also in 2014 favors Republicans. This is a consequence of the Democrats' big win six years ago in the 2006 election and good showing in 2008 (those are the classes which will face the voters in the next two election cycles.) Ten Republicans defend seats and seven of those – Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona – have been strongly Republican in recent decades. How Republican? Each of those seven states has a Republican governor, two Republican senators and Republicans control both houses of the state legislature.
Two states may be considered tossup states: Nevada and Maine. Both states have Republican governors; Nevada has one Democrat senator Republican and Maine has two Republican senators; the Nevada legislative chambers are split but both houses of the Maine legislature are controlled by Republicans. The ethical much of John Ensign and the decision by Olympia Snowe not to seek re-election, however, are the reasons that these seats are in play. The only Republican Senate seat in jeopardy because the state is strongly Democrat is Massachusetts, and Scott Brown still runs surprisingly well in polls.
Democrat senators are retiring in North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Wisconsin and New Mexico. North Dakota and Nebraska are very red states and Virginia is also a red state, though less emphatically. Republicans have strong candidates in Wisconsin, Virginia and New Mexico. Connie Mack IV will run against a popular Florida Democrat, but Mack is a popular congressman and the son of a very popular former senator. Missouri was once a swing state, but now it is increasing Republican and Senator McCaskill will face a tough re-election battle. Democrats are defending Senate seats in Michigan and Ohio which today are only leaning Democrat. West Virginia is a very red state, which could put otherwise popular Joe Manchin in trouble. Hawaii, because of Linda Lingle's run, is a possible Republican pickup. Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and West Virginia could elect Republican senators if the election turns ugly for Democrats. This translates into an almost certain gain of a few seats and a possible gain of twelve seats.
There are also a few other seats which might swing in a strong Republican year. Senator Menendez in New Jersey won only 53% of the vote in 2006. Senator Cardin in Maryland won only 54% of the vote in that strong Democrat year. Senator Cantwell in Washington is saddled with a very unpopular state Democrat Party which, in a good Republican year, could drag her down. The Cook Report and Real Clear Politics differ somewhat, but if the "undecided" races break evenly and if the "leans" races go as anticipated, both now show that the Senate will have a 50/50 split (which means that before Olympia Snowe decided to retire, both had a slight probability of outright Republican control.)
What about the House? The outlook is better for Republicans. Look at the latest Gallup Poll. Superficially, this suggests that the voters are exactly evenly divided now, with 47% indicating a preference for Republicans and 47% indicating a preference for Democrats. Two items in the poll report present a much more optimistic picture for Republicans: (1) the poll is of "Registered Voters," which has historically unstated Republican support (2) Republicans have been gaining and Democrats falling in each of the last three generic ballot polls by Gallup.
The Rasmussen Poll has shone since January of 2011 in its weekly congressional generic ballot that Republicans beat Democrats, except one week in which the poll was tied and one week in which Democrats held a slight one point lead. This is telling because Rasmussen has been reporting this congressional ballot poll every Monday for years.
An indication of how Democrats actually view their prospects of retaking the House was revealed when Congressman Dicks of Washington State announced that he would not seek re-election after 36 years in Congress. The congressman is currently the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. If Democrats retook the House in November, Dicks would become one of the most powerful people in Washington. Would Dicks retire if he really thought that Democrats would retake the House? Probably not.
There is another statistical fact which Rasmussen reported last week of salient importance: partisan identification of Democrats in February 2012, with 32.4% self-identified Democrats, is the lowest ever recorded. By way of comparison, in February 2011, right after the 2010 Republican landslide, 34.3% of Americans called themselves Democrats and in February 2010 that number was 35.1%. This is complemented by a growing "enthusiasm gap" between the parties, which is much more meaningful if you compare today (Republicans have a +8 point enthusiasm advantage) with 2008, (Democrats had a +35 point enthusiasm advantage.)
These polls taken cumulatively – and Democrats grasp this – suggest that with the right ticket and a strong presidential campaign, Democrats not only in Congress but in all those crucial other offices (Democrats are certain, for example, to lose governorships, perhaps as many as six.) With a few victories in state legislative races, Republicans could control outright state government in thirty-one states.
It is easy to focus only on the presidential race, but there are a number of indicators that Democrats in every elective office may take a beating because of Obama, and 2012 could be the biggest electoral victory for Republicans in the last 100 years.
Bruce Walker is the author of book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life.