The Campaign Spot

The Broad Outlook for Republicans in 2010 at This Point . . .

A worried reader writes in:

Jim–with the Left setting up a huge campaign to discredit the Tea Party and polls that seem to be tightening (Rasmussen says Delaware is now “leaning” GOP rather than “solid” GOP) do you think we are losing for November? Have we peaked and now started down? I am so frightened we are not going to take our country back–that the free lunch crowd will be able to vote all this Nightmare administration back in! Do you believe we still have a chance in November?

Keep in mind, “this Nightmare administration” is in office until at least January 20, 2013, barring some extraordinary impeachment-oriented turn of events.

My first thought is that some passion dissipation is probably normal, because the conservative grassroots have been fired up from the first Tea Party last April, through the summer of town halls last year, through the fall elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and elsewhere, through the Massachusetts special election, through the health-care fight . . . You can’t rev the engine too long without some burnout. I expect that the grassroots are trying to enjoy their summer, and that attention and activism will back up at health-care-fight levels by mid-September.

I’m not that worried about Delaware, although we ought to keep in mind it’s a heavily Democratic state. Mike Castle is likely to win, but he’s going to win because Delaware voters like Mike Castle, not because they like the GOP. Yes, I know a good solid conservative, Christine O’Donnell, is also running in the GOP primary there. Yes, in the latest Rasmussen, she leads the Democrat 41-39. But it’s just not a likely scenario at this point; the state of Delaware electing a conservative Republican would make Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts look like a mild upset.

The range of possibilities for Republicans in 2010 is from good but mildly disappointing (20-some seats in the House, 4-5 pickups in the Senate) to 1994 on steroids (say, two-thirds of my 99 races in the House, 7-9 pickups in the Senate, huge pickups in governors and state legislatures).

What’s working against Republicans right now: Certain candidates, like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky, are just going to be harder to elect than your standard-issue Republicans. The New York state GOP is comatose, and in at least six competitive U.S. House races there, promising Republican challengers could use some real top-of-the-ticket-help. The three-way race in Massachusetts is keeping Deval Patrick ahead. Some of our candidates are not fund-raising at the level you would like to see (this may reflect the difficulties of fundraising in the Obama economy). Pat Toomey would have had an easier time against Arlen Specter. A three-way race in Florida means there’s at least a possibility of Crist winning. The PA-12 race demonstrated that a Democrat can win by insisting he’s not liberal and opposes health care, which is precisely what almost every Blue Dog will do. In Colorado, gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis may be imploding because of plagiarism charges. In California, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have to overcome the fact that it’s still a very Democratic state; raw partisan loyalty ensures Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer have high floors of support. In Illinois, Mark Kirk can’t seem to get out of his own way. The NRA may provide a lifeline to some of its favorite Democrats, like Harry Reid and Tom Strickland.

What’s working for Republicans right now: Almost everything the Obama administration touches gets worse, and the public isn’t buying the excuses anymore. They reject the argument that the stimulus worked; Obama and leading Democrats seem hell-bent on telling the public, “Don’t believe your own instincts and what you see around you, we’re telling you it worked and your life is better.” The frustration with Washington and the Democratic approach to government is expressing itself in some very surprising places like Wisconsin, Washington state, Illinois, and Iowa. A lot of Democratic incumbent governors won in 2006 on promises to make things better and have, by almost every measure, failed miserably: Martin O’Malley in Maryland, Ted Strickland in Ohio, Deval Patrick in Massachusetts. Every week some little-known House Republican challenger releases a poll with a Democratic incumbent either trailing badly or only ahead by a hair. The Democrats’ outlook in the generic polls ranges from barely acceptable to Democrats to apocalyptic. Democratic House incumbents keep cropping up on YouTube sounding like Mel Gibson. In poll after poll, independents are preferring the Republican, sometimes heavily.

In a bunch of races, the Republicans by luck or by design, found near-ideal candidates: Sean Duffy, Jon Runyan, Renee Ellmers, Lou Barletta, Rubio, Toomey, Nikki Haley, John Kasich, Suzana Martinez, Chris Dudley, Dino Rossi, Brian Sandoval . . .

[UPDATE: Somehow I forgot to mention that the lawsuit against Arizona is spectacularly wrongheaded and tone-deaf politically, the Gulf spill response and the lame Oval Office address shattered Obama’s reputation for competence and effectiveness, and cap-and-trade makes life exponentially harder for Democratic candidates in coal country . . .]

Will that be enough? Well, there’s still a lot of road ahead before the race is done . . .


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