As to the election, here are some quick observations on some of the punditry and spin:
- Democratic talk of a good “ground game” is the surest sign that they’re expecting huge losses.
- Why the House will go but the Senate might not: in an election that’s been nationalized, it’s much easier for people to decide to vote against their congressmen (who are oftentimes nameless/faceless), which is why there’s a significant possibility that the House will flip and the Senate won’t.
- Take a drink if someone else says that these elections are “all about turnout.” But it’s true. More accurately, it is about “which voters” turn out. Some analysts are using voter turnout models based on 2006 and 2008 (not great years for Republicans), while others have more abstract models showing much higher GOP turnout. And while we all expect a substantially more Republican turnout this year based on the available evidence, we simply don’t know for sure.
- We agree with GOP pollster Bill McInturff: the GOP will have an extremely short leash. Everyone who thinks that the Tea Party is just going to fall in love with Republicans once they take office is, to put it mildly, nuts. If Republicans don’t cut spending and do a lot of the other things that Tea Partiers have clamored for, the Tea Party will go after Republicans in 2012 and beyond. Remember, it was basically the Tea Party — though it didn’t have a name yet — that took out the GOP in 2006.
- To the above point, Obama will have an easier time of things if the GOP takes over one or both houses of Congress because he’ll finally have something tangible to run against. So the real story over the next year (or two) will be which party better articulates its vision for the future. Will the GOP be able to make significant cuts to spending without suffering a backlash (and certainly Obama and the Democrats will have a field day saying: “The GOP is cutting your X!” and “The GOP is taking away your Y!”)? Republicans need to learn from the mistakes they made after taking control in 1994 (i.e. the government shut down and fixation on investigations). They would be wise to look to Chris Christie in New Jersey as a template for how to cut spending and, even more importantly, communicate with voters about the hard choices ahead.