Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Politics — Rick Moran @ 2:18 pm

There is a great divide in American politics today. No - it’s not between those who support the Iraq War and those who oppose it. Nor is it between people who support gay marriage and those who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman - although there are some women (and men for that matter) who should be subject to a constitutional amendment outlawing their marriage of any kind under any circumstances to anyone, anywhere, anytime. We could call it the “My First Wife Amendment.” I predict swift passage and enthusiastic enforcement.

Actually, the largest chasm separating voters today is entirely between two rival subsets of Republicans. One group believes that the GOP is toast on election day and actually looks forward to the drubbing the party will take at the polls. The other group rejects the opinion polls entirely and believes that the GOP will somehow find a way to maintain control of both houses of Congress.

Given their particular eminence, I thought I would name the two groups after the most visible proponents of their respective worldviews; Glenn Reynolds “Pre Mortem” post on GOP chances on election day reads like a combination clinical diagnostician’s description of the epidemiology of a fatal illness and a New York Times obit:

As I’ve said before, the Republicans deserve to lose, though alas the Democrats don’t really deserve to win, either. I realize that you go to war with the political class you have, but even back in the 1990s it was obvious that we had a lousy political class. It hasn’t improved, but the challenges have gotten greater. Can the country continue to do well, with such bad political leadership? I hope so, because I see no sign of improvement, no matter who wins next month.

Hugh Hewitt’s infectious enthusiasm about Republican chances on election day reminds me of stories my father used to tell us about the attitudes of some people at Irish wakes. Even the most vile, wife beating old sot would optimistically be spoken of as if he were in heaven and having a nip of the “crature” with old St. Peter:

One of the few advantages of having been a lifelong Cleveland Indians and Browns fan is the awful knowledge that Democrats –and some Republicans– appear to lack that certain victory really isn’t so certain. (The Indians are only team to enter the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series with a lead and lose the series, and football fans far and wide know of The Drive and The Fumble. And I’m not even bringing up The Shot.)

October, 2002 wasn’t easy going for the GOP either, and after the tragic death of Paul Wellstone –but before the shameless exploitation of his memorial service– very few of the pros thought much of Republican chances to hold the Senate.

It’s the Reyonoldistas vs. the Hewittonians and there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. The pessimists scoff at what they consider the naivete of the Hewittonians while the optimists are livid at the Reyonoldistas for what they view as their defeatism.

Who’s right?

The latest election projection by Blogging Ceasar would seem to make liars out of the Hewittonians:

What didn’t happen last week has happened this week. For the first time since I began projecting the 2006 mid-term elections, the Democrats are projected to take back the House. Following a slew of district polls highly-favorable to the Democrats, 7 races have flipped to blue over the last week. In truth, these projections more closely reflect the prevailing winds of political punditry we are hearing across the country.

I do think that, barring another October Surprise, we have hit bottom from a Republican perspective. With 19 GOP seats now painted blue and 8 more within 2 points of going to the Democrats, that puts the bottom at 27. Right now, I see that as the maximum number of possible losses the GOP could sustain. (The number could grow by two or three if everything goes right for the Democrats.)

Of course, the Hewittonians fire back that the polls are wrong, that it isn’t that bad. In fact, Hugh Hewitt himself also believes the Democrats have hit their high water mark and the the chances for the GOP to hold onto control of the House are trending upwards:

It took 48 hours of loose nukes in the control of bad hair kooks to get the electorate refocused on the stakes in November’s elections. But even before North Korea reminded the electorate of the wonders of Clinton-Albright era diplomacy, even as “The Path to 9/11″ and The Looming Tower had done, the Foley effect had begun to dissipate as the reality of the choice before the country broke through even the MSM’s fascination with the destruction of the Republicans because of the notorious IMs.

Now Santorum in Pennsylvania, DeWine in Ohio, and Corker in Tennessee have showed strong momentum to match that of Allen’s in Virginia. Jim Talent will win in Missouri, and Democratic nominee McCaskill’s remarkable ability to churn out gaffes might make it a breakaway. Key Congressional candidates have the same momentum, as does Bob Beuprez in Colorado. Arnold out west and Charles Crist in Florida are crushing their Democratic opponents and with them, Democratic enthusiasm in those states.

As of today, the GOP has apparently thrown Mike DeWine to the wolves by withdrawing promises of money and support, in effect writing off the seat. DeWine has just recently broken 40% in the polls and it’s a long, hard, climb to victory from where he is now. If the national party is writing off a seat where their incumbent trails by 5 points 3 weeks to election day, you know there is something very bad bubbling beneath the surface of those polls that has them worried.

Realistically, the Republicans still have a chance of hanging on to their majorities in both House and Senate - as long as no more little bombshells are dropped by the Democrats. But for the GOP to win through to victory, several races must break their way on election day. The fact that the GOP get out the vote program is the strongest in the history of American politics could certainly tip some of those closer races back into the Republican colummn. Analyst Jay Cost at RCP blog:

Depending upon the ranker and the model, the probability of a GOP retention ranges between a little better than 33% and a little worse than 50%. This would mean that - following Rothenberg’s categories - the House itself falls somewhere between “Toss-Up” and “Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic.”

And note that these estimates are predicated upon the currently bleak environment for the Republicans staying constant. As things stand right now, the odds of a GOP retention, according to these arguments of these rankers, are somewhere between 1/2 and 1/1. If Cook, Rothenberg and CQ are your guide - you should not take the GOP at even money, but anything less than that is a bet worth taking.

Given the horrific spate of bad news for the GOP over the last month or so, that is actually a Hewittonian prediction. If someone had said to me last week that the GOP had a 50% chance of retaining control, I would have danced a jig for joy.

Indeed, in addition to the most expensive and sophisticated GOTV effort in American political history, the GOP will benefit - as they did in 2002 and 2004 - from their dominance at the state level. Their control of so many state legislatures and governorships during the redistricting process may have insulated just enough of their incumbents from the ravages of this election season.

And Michael Barone makes the case that the electorate is too divided to give the Dems too much of a victory even if they manage to wrest control of the House:

They’re more likely to prevail, if they do, by something like the narrow margins by which Republicans have prevailed in the five House elections from 1996 to 2004. By historical standards, there’s been strikingly little variation in those five elections. A Democratic victory of this magnitude would represent the kind of small oscillation that was commonplace in eras when one party or the other was dominant. The difference is that, with the electorate so evenly divided, a small shift can produce changes in party control.

Political realignments occur because of events that have deep demographic impact and when one party stands for new ideas that command majority support. The Iraq war (2,500 deaths) and our current economy (4.6 percent unemployment) are not events of the magnitude of the Civil War (600,000 dead) or the Great Depression (25 percent unemployment).

Moreover, voters’ complaints about George W. Bush and the Republican Congress are more about competence than ideology. Why is Bush’s second-term job approval so much lower than Bill Clinton’s even though the economy has been in similarly good shape during both periods? Iraq. Katrina.

Barone manages to plant one foot squarely in the Reynoldista and Hewittonian camps at the same time. But Barone actually hit the nail on the head last week when he wrote this:

I know that a lot of Americans long to return to the holiday from history that we enjoyed from the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But, alas, while we were on holiday, the forces of evil determined to destroy us were gathering strength.

Can you imagine if the Democrats had actually had the balls to run a positive, upbeat campaign that would have promised America a “return to normalcy” a la Warren G. Harding? Of course, the Democrats aren’t running any kind of an organized campaign at all - unless you want to call the orchestrated sleaze in the Foley caper a campaign. But instead of sitting by and watching as Republicans self destruct, suppose they had revealed their real feelings about Iraq and the War on Terror while promising a return to a 9/10 kind of America?

That may be a theme that resonates with the American people - if not in 2006 then almost certainly in 2008. The farther away from 9/11 we get, the harder it is to engage the public in the harsh realities of the world as it is - not as Democrats would wish it to be. Hence, their calls for the organized bribery sessions with Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Ahmadinejad of Iran that negotiations would turn into with those two thugs would, as Hewitt writes, bring us back to the Clintonian years of sleepwalking through history. Until we were once again rousted from our reveries by another terrorist attack.

I don’t know if the Republicans can pull out an electoral victory these last three weeks before the vote. But I think that the Hewittonians are probably right to be upbeat. In the end, hope and optimism are always better than bitterness and despair. That goes for politics as well as war.

Something we should keep in mind if the Democrats take over…


  1. As Yogi Berra was fond of saying, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” Why on earth would anyone want to admit defeat between (by all reports) evenly matched teams before the game even starts? All this defeatist talk is decidedly a liberal trait, and not usually used to describe conservatives. Why play to lose? Only liberals (when they lose) try to redefine terminology to make them “feel” like winners after losing. Omigod…..could the polls be….wrong? After all, the only poll that ever matters is the one called ELECTION!

    Comment by Bruce — 10/16/2006 @ 3:16 pm

  2. This reminds me of a commercial I saw on Sunday. Construction workers using tape measurers as lances and wheelbarrows as horses, pushed by other mad construction workers, jousting to see who had the stiffer tape measurer.

    That was funny. This is farce.

    Comment by GawainsGhost — 10/16/2006 @ 3:59 pm

  3. “get out the vote program is the strongest in the history of American politics ”

    Depends on district. Maybe districts Dems win are where they have a better ground game.

    McSweeney v Bean and Roskam v Duckworth
    In the IL 8th, and even more so in the 6th there appears to be no attempt at recruiting door-knockers. Conservative activists flagged in the DB as having knocked on doors in the past have not yet been assigned a precinct. At most they have received a vague request to “help somehow sometime … if you can”.

    Maybe that is why these conservative activists have time to be on the internet whining in harmony with Reynolds.

    The Duckworth staffers who assign the volunteers may not know where the district is located and send 20% of volunteer time out of district. But even with that, the 80% in district is magnitudes greater than the invisible Roskam ground game.

    Oh, and the Duckworth volunteers report that the swing voters are lean Duckworth for two reasons.
    #1 swing voters in that district hate trial lawyers.
    #2 swing voters in that district think Roskam’s anti immigrant, code worded anti-Mexican ads are mean spirited. Roskam has been unable to learn from recent history. Oberweis lost the primary because some conservative anti-corruption voters could not get past his anti immigration emphasis.

    I don’t hear any reports from the Duckworth voters of swing voters opposing Bush on Iraq. No, they have to imply that Duckworth stands with Bush on Iraq and only disagrees on providing more armor, more troops to fight in Iraq.

    On the flip side, the Bean pro-abort ads are likely to do to Bean what they did to Corrine Woods. Most voters are neither pro-life nor pro-choice. The issue makes them feel uncomfortable. They want to avoid the issue. They reject the candidate who makes them feel uncomfortable. At the saem time, the Bean pro-abort ads can only energize the Kathi Salvi voters who were not otherwise energized for McSweeney. (Salvi had a single issue pro-lifer aura. McSweeney is a multi-issue pro-lifer with strong immage on cutting wasteful spending in strong understanding of economics.)

    Comment by spintreebob — 10/16/2006 @ 6:19 pm

  4. I particularly like your last sentence. I choose optimism, laced with reality, any day. I am not cedeing the election to a Democratic House but if it should happen, I hope we Republicans rise above it and return to civil behavior. I hated what the party became during the Clinton years and since the Republican takeover, the Dems have been enjoying payback and nothing but shouting gets done.

    Comment by Karen — 10/16/2006 @ 9:50 pm

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