As stated recently by Mark Z. Barabak in the January 1, 2010, edition of the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Republicans are “poised” for a “strong comeback” in the 2010 midterm elections, with a good chance for significant gains in the Congress; and to increase their numbers in the statehouses across the country as well. All 435 House seats, 36seats in the Senate, and the governorships of 37 states are on the ballot in November; and the Democrat and Republican candidates are locked in a tight race on January 19 in a special election to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts.
Some of the Democrats’ most prominent figures, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, appear to be in serious danger in their reelection bids, while longtime Democrat stalwarts, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut (trailing badly in the polls) and Senator Dorgan of North Dakota, have both announced that they will not seek reelection this year. Currently, Democrats hold a 256-178 advantage in the House of Representatives, with one vacancy; and Republicans need to win 40 new House seats to gain a majority. In the Senate, Democrats currently hold a 58-40 advantage, with two independents. Republicans would need to pick up 11 seats in the Senate to retake control of the upper body.
Recent polls on the issues of the day confirm that Republicans are poised for a comeback; and it is a fact that since World War II, the political party of a new President has lost an average of 16 House seats in the midterm elections, a handful of governorships, and more that 200 legislative seats. Historically, the parties have come out close to even in Senate races.
Karl Rove and the Ipsos/McClatchey polling company tell us that 1) Democrats have lost their advantage on important issues (down from 39% in 2008 to 4% in 2009 on health care; down from 30% in 2008 to 1% in 2009 on the economy; and down from 17% in 2008 to a plus 2% for Republicans in 2009 on taxes). Furthermore, they tell us that “voters are increasingly wary of activist government” (fewer voters believe government should spend more to help needy people [down from 54% to 48% since 2007] and more Americans believe government can be trusted only “some of the time” [up from 66% to 72% over the past year]).
Finally, Rove tells us that “the intensity gap has closed”, citing the BATTLEGROUND POLL that found that the number of Republicans and independents who are “extremely likely” to vote in the next election rose, respectively, from “6 to 9 points over the past year”; while Democrats “extremely likely to vote” in the next election slipped from 66% to 64% during that same period. Likewise, a PEW POLL found that 39%of Republicans would be angry if current reform proposals are enacted, while only 22% of Democrats would be “very happy” if they succeeded.
Despite all of this good news for Republicans, I note that GOP Chairman Michael Steele stated recently that “Republicans won’t win back the House in the fall elections and might not be ready to lead even if they do.” (Assoc. Press, Jan.6, 2010). These remarks predictably did not sit well with the GOP National Congressional Committee, which is charged with recruiting and raising money for Republican Congressional candidates. The NRCC immediately issued a statement that “we are playing to win”, and complaints were made to Chairman Steele’s office by congressional staffers and consultants. By contrast, Steele’s remarks delighted Congressional Democrats, who issued their own statement: “If the NRCC hasn’t convinced the Republican National Committee Chairman they can win, it’s no wonder that Tea Party activists, Republican small donors, and Republican House members are not confident and have failed to invest in the NRCC.” Incredibly, Mr. Steele responded: “I’m the chairman. Deal with it”(WASHINGTON POST, Jan.9, 2010) adding …”if you don’t want me for the job, fire me. But until then, shut up. Get with the program or get out of the way”.(Ben Smith, THE POLITICO, Jan.7, 2010).
I have stated several times that serious divisions in the party leadership, Democrat or Republican, lead to lost elections. It is certainly in the best interests of Congressional Republicans to support and cooperate with the leadership of the Republican National Committee; but it is an absolute must for the Chairman of the Republican National Committee not only to marshall all available RNC resources in support of Republican Congressional candidates, but he must APPEAR to fully support the Republican Congressional leadership as well. This is especially true with Congressional elections on the horizon, where Republicans are poised to make historic gains that could derail the Obama juggernaut. To do otherwise suggests that someone has lost sight of what is in the best interests of the Republican Party and the nation. This problem needs to be fixed – and fast.
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