My good friend and fellow blogger, Bob Byers over at Watchman’s Words, recently wrote an article entitled: Elephant Rising: 10 Reasons the GOP Will Gain Senate Seats in 06. If you haven’t read it, you should. Bob’s a great thinker and we usually agree on most things. I truly hope he is right. I would love to be wrong on this. But I’m afraid I see Donkeys rising where he sees Elephants. So, for the fun of it, let me give me thoughts on why I suspect that Republicans will lose Senate Seats in 2006.
1. Jack Abramhoff and Friends — Today’s newsflash is that “Dingy” Harry Reed and his staff were far more frequently in Abramhoff’s lobbying bed than previously disclosed and to an extent which will help keep this from being a purely “Republican” Scandal. However, there are just two many “Abramhoff-style” scandals percolating beneath the surface which will be played out in the headlines over the next few months and most of them involve some pretty bigwig Republicans. Tom Delay has his Texas problems making his seat look vulnerable. Bill Frist has his family Trust issue and while he’s retiring, it colors the Republican party. The Bush Administration’s questionable wire-tapping problem is just getting started and I think that the Democrats are dragging their feet for a bit longer before they try and exploit it for political gain closer to the election. Add all this up and I’m afraid that many moderates and Independents are going to smell to much scandal and either vote Democratic or stay home in November.
2. President Bush’s Low Approval Ratings — Ratings come and ratings go, but this country is as sharply divided as it could be without having a Clinton in office. Without some major 911-type emergency with a good “non-Katrina” followup, Bush will be lucky to break 50% approval during the remainder of his Presidency. Thus, many Senate candidates won’t have (or want) the President appearing at their campaign rallies or will want to be seen dismounting from Air Force I — which is usually a photo opportunity worth tens of thousands of dollars, if not votes. The Katrina Debacle will continue to be a smudge on the Administration’s reputation and will also be exploited by those who didn’t like Bush in the first place.
3. Fractured Evangelicals — Let’s face it — Evangelicalism is in an identity crisis. Rick Warren wants to be a Born-Again Bono. Eighty-Six (alleged) leaders in evangelicalism are now going green. Some of the most conservative evangelicals are still smarting over the Meirs nomination (thought Alito was an encouraging second choice.) Plus, evangelical political leaders tend to over-play their hand every second election cycle or so and they’re due to get embarrassed by watching their megachurch minions stay home on election day. The Republican coalition is absolutely dependent upon Evangelicals, Business Conservatives and Libertarians who don’t want to throw their vote away. Take away any of these major groups and they’ll be out of office faster than John McCain can lose a South Carolina primary. With people like Arlen Specter and Lindsey Graham getting so much face time these days, there’s not a lot of evangelical enthusiasm about many Senate races.
4. Gas Prices – As one politician once said, “The public, they are fools.” When it comes to gas prices and interest rates and inflation and unemployment — the President and Congress really has very little, if anything, he can do to influence them up or down. Our economy is just not as politically sensitive as we think it is. That said, the public doesn’t care. Let a recession come, let gas prices spike, let interest rates go too high and they’ll take it out on the politicians every time. (Think Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.) If they blame the President, they’ll take it out on the Republican party in general. Iran is highly likely to pull an oil embargo in the next year and if they do, watch out for what happens.
5. A New Breed of Dems — Virginia’s recently-elected Democratic governor is a case-study in how Democrats can chip away some red states from the Republicans. You’ve got a nice-looking articulate guy who speaks openly of “values” and knows the language of people of faith and you can skin off enough independents to get into office. The Democrats in swing states have no place else to go if they want to win and while the liberal activists go nutso with anyone even playing the role of conservative, in border states from Arkansas to Virginia, it’s how they keep electing Democrats. BTW, that’s why Robert Byrd is a shew-in for yet another term — wishful thinking aside. It’s also why Casey will upset Santorem (which will be a tremendous loss) in Pennsylvania.
6. An Old Breed of Dems — Whether you like her or just like to hate her, Hillary Clinton and her philandering hubby represent POWER with a capital “P” in the Democratic party. Did you see them walk through the crowd at Coretta Scott King’s funeral? The pope wouldn’t have been treated with more adoration. Clinton wins her Senate seat back in a cakewalk which will give her plenty of money and time to help others and collect political chits. She’s the man (no pun intended) to beat for the Dem nomination in ‘08 and she can and will deliver the African-American, Hollywood Elite, Feminist and Ultra-liberal segments of her party in both ‘06 and ‘08 — no Republican on the scene is going to crack these die-hard constituencies and its foolish and a waste of time and resources for them to even try. These people take their politics VERY seriously.
7. The ‘08 Presidential Republican Wannabe Nominees — When it starts looking like I’ll have to hold my nose and vote for John McCain (unless I just decide to stay at home which is a more likely scenario), it means that there aren’t really any viable announced candidates for real social conservatives to get excited about. I (and many like me) are discouraged at the thought of having to choose between the likes of McCain and Guiliani. But let’s face it — Frist and Brownback have the personality of penny loafers. Maybe George Allan could wake me up, but he’s going to have to get out in front pretty quickly. Other than that — I feel like hitting the snooze button for another four years. So if I’m going to be uninspired in ‘08…what is there to inspire me in ‘06?
8. The Iraq War — My Republican and conservative friends chide me regularly, but I still believe that the Iraq War — with the information we have now (no WMD — and PLEASE don’t use the cliche’ “Hussein was a WMD“) is a loser as a rallying cry. Cindy Sheehan aside (and she’s making me more likely to say that the war was a good idea), most Americans are questionning why we went there in the first place and many are wondering how long we should stay there. For those who feel strongly that we shouldn’t be in Iraq, this alone may be enough to have them pull democratic voting levers.
9. History — History itself indicates that the party not in office loses seats in most mid-term elections. Let’s not deny this trend. To hope for a filibuster-proof Senate majority is a fun thing…but it flies in the face of many years of history.
10. Apathy – C’mon…let’s face it. When the economy is doing reasonably well, the people that head to the polls are the activists…the ones who either have a major axe to grind or just love the whole political thing. The rest stay at home and watch “Survivor.” If there is no major economic, terrorist or weather crisis — most people aren’t going to be nearly as interested in the November elections except those who are really engaged. Right now, there appears to be more “dissatisfied” Dems than Republicans and if that’s the case, close races will go to the Dems while the Republicans stay home.
So, my prediction is that the Republicans will lose at least 2 seats — most likely Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. But Montana and Missouri could be in big trouble if there’s a true-blue Democratic upswing as we often see in the sixth year of most Presidencies. No way will Republicans pick up WV, FL, NE or NJ. A sleeper race is Tennessee where the very personable black candidate, Harold Ford is running to take Frist’s seat. He’s got some family scandal that could impact him negatively, but he’ll make a good candidate in the style of Barak Obama. I believe the Republicans will hold the Senate, but not with the margin they currently have.
The House tends to be more vulnerable to grassroots unrest, but with only 40 seats really in play, the Dems would need to run the board to gain enough to get back their majority.
But stranger things have happened. Remember 1994. All in all, it is VERY early in the election year and a LOT can change. I just wanted to play devil’s advocate a bit with Bob. Feel free to share your comments. And Bob…I sure hope you’re right, friend!