On January 6, 2010, I wrote in this space that Republican might gain 12 U.S. senate seats and 55 U.S. house seats (”Electoral Avalanche? Don’t Call 9-1-1″). I think many of my readers and friends WERE tempted to call 9-1-1, but thankfully no one did. What seemed preposterous nine moths ago now seems not only quite possible, but probable. I may even have low-balled the U.S. house number.
Since, however, conventional wisdom has shifted my way, and being an instinctive contrarian, I am now being cautious about the numbers. A takeover of the U.S. senate yet remains questionable inasmuch as current estimates are that Republicans only now have secure leads in 7 or 8 races. Panic among Democratic strategists is beginning to set in as draconian measures are being put forward, but the primary cause of the liberal party’s political problems, President Obama himself, seems not quite fully aware of the problem.
I m not yet predicting a GOP takeover of one or both houses of Congress, but the election is now so near, and the possibility so real, I would suggest that conservative leaders begin to think about what they will DO after election day if they win an historic victory.
Even in mid-term defeat, an incumbent president has certain advantages if he or she is running for re-election two years later. But a dramatic defeat only two years after winning an historic presidential election does put the primary advantages in the corner of those who win the mid-terms.
On the other hand, if Republicans merely gloat, or attempt to behave legislatively as extreme on their side as those they defeated have done, their political triumph may be short-lived. If they treat their colleagues as arrogantly as the Democratic leaders did the Republicans in the past two years, the public will only become further alienated from the legislative branch…..and both parties.
A Republican victory this November is not a mandate for pay-back time. (Voters are not looking for retribution; they are seeking an economic turnaround.) It would be a mandate for the thoughtful promotion of conservative principles, i.e. lower taxes, less government spending, less interference by the federal government in state and local matters, reduction of federal deficits, and less polarization of the country. If Republicans win in November, their leaders should offer to work with, and even compromise with, President Obama to advance these principles (but not his radical principles). If they do not follow this course in general, they risk giving Mr. Obama a legitimate target for his 2012 campaign (assuming, of course, he could win his party’s renomination).
If it is Barack Obama, then, who does not seem to be trying to work with the Congress, then it will be relatively simple for the GOP nominee for president in 2012, whoever it might be, to make his or her case for finishing the job begun in 2008.