The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

So a 49-Seat Win Would Be a Mandate, No?


It is rude to mock one’s elders, so it gives me little joy to illlustrate how wildly out-of-touch David Broder is.

Broder, this morning:

I have this strange feeling that we are about to be badly misled about the political climate in this country. We are going to look at the returns on the biggest Republican victory in 16 years and think that it spells doom for the Democrats and a shift to the right in our politics. And we will be wrong.

The size of the Republican gain will be exaggerated by the severity of their losses in the preceding elections. They will pick up many seats in the House, perhaps 50 or so, because they lost so many in 2006 and 2008.

A more realistic way of gauging their strength will be to ask about the size of their majority. And it is likely to be minuscule. If it reaches double digits, Republicans will have done very well. More likely, John Boehner will be elected speaker by a handful of votes.

A double-digit majority of 10 would be 228 House Republicans, meaning the GOP would need a net takeover of 49 seats; this is the bar Broder wants to set for “very well.”

(My thought was 218 + 10 = 228; a reader notes that if the GOP wins 223 seats, they would have an 11-seat majority. So the GOP really only needs to win 44 seats.)

Ordinarily, I would scoff at that for being absurdly high, yet Republicans may well clear it. Elsewhere this morning:

The Cook Political Report’s pre-election House outlook is a Democratic net loss of 48 to 60 seats, with higher losses possible. A turnover of just 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands.

Larry Sabato:

We believe +47 was the right call, though at the time the number was considered startling to most. The likely switch of the House to the GOP was fiercely disputed by Democrats at that time. Many other nonpartisan prognosticators had estimated Republican gains as being below the 39 net required for a GOP takeover. Even at this late date, we see no need to do anything but tweak the total R gains, based on more complete information now available to all. Thus, we are raising the total to +55 net R seats.

Broder also writes:

Neither party can claim success on the most urgent task, providing an economic blueprint that allows people to lead their lives with confidence. The stewardship of George W. Bush and the Republicans was a disaster. The Democrats and Barack Obama have been only marginally more successful.

For the duration of the Bush presidency, unemployment ranged between 4 and 6 percent. In the first full month of Obama’s presidency, it was 8.2 percent, went as high as 10.1 percent in October 2009, and has remained 9.5 or higher for the entirety of this year. (The “new normal,” or perhaps “Obama normal,” we fear.) Yet in Broder’s mind, this record is “marginally more successful” than what preceded it.

In 2009, Broder predicted a backlash against the angry crowds that were greeting members of Congress at their summer town-hall meetings, illustrating his point with an anecdote as precedent . . . from 1960. No backlash materialized; if anything, the anger has intensified.

Broder is an ironic choice to charge that we have “been badly misled about the political climate in this country.”

Tags: 2010 , Barack Obama


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