The Republicans are planning to fight furiously to try and recapture control of the House of Representatives in 2010, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who helped orchestrate the Republican revolution 15 years ago, thinks it’s possible for a repeat.
“I think you could easily have a bigger backlash in 2010 than we had in 1994,” Gingrich (R-GA) told Newsmax TV recently.
Looking at generic polls of party preference, Republicans like what they see, and most Democrats acknowledge they will lose seats next fall.
But a Republican House takeover? Pretty unlikely it seems, as TPMDC explored the question by talking to political consultants and campaign hands to see what conditions existed in 1994 and whether they exist now.Timing is everything
Here’s where it’s similar – you have a Democratic president who will be completing his second year in office when voters head to the ballot box next November to choose all 435 members of Congress.
President Clinton was a major factor in the Republicans’ 1994 victory, when the party won 54 seats and kept control for more than a decade. President Obama’s approval ratings have dropped significantly, but he won a higher percentage of the popular vote than Clinton.
But – Obama’s supporters on the left have grown frustrated with him as he’s taken the center approach on military issues and domestic priorities. As we’ve seen in some recent elections, the base, already worn out from a long 2008 political season, stayed home. That is the biggest thing Democrats have to worry about next year.
The Democrats have a 258-177 advantage in the House now, having won the chamber back in 2006 with a 30-seat victory and gaining more seats last year.
The 1994 revolution came about in part because there were so many Democrats retiring in districts that had become redder and redder over the years.
Redistricting also made Republican districts more so, and carved out Democratic voters for the Democratic districts. So the number of swing districts has shrunk considerably over the years.
The GOP is excited, and feel they have a movement bolstering their charge against Obama and Congressional leadership as big government big spenders.
But key Democrats believe their members will not be caught flat-footed. Everyone is worried about losing seats, so they will fight harder. Democrats who were shocked by losing power in 1994 won’t make the same mistake this time around by being unprepared.
The DCCC has been preparing since January for the tough next cycle.
For that reason, Democrats believe their candidates are top-tier this time around. They also are aggressively going after GOP seats, which they didn’t do in 1994, and because of gains in recent years aren’t dependent on one region as they once were.
Central to the Republican win in 1994 was the Contract with America, a simple list of 10 bills they were partially able to implement after taking over. Democrats tried their own plan called Six for 06, some which also went into effect the year they took control.
But the Republicans so far haven’t presented big new ideas, and some of their plans have been debunked or mocked for lack of specificity. The Democrats are starting to get traction with the “party of no” accusations.
The biggest thing that Democrats have to worry about is the economy and unemployment. If things don’t improve by next summer, they will lose a lot more seats than it stands today.
NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay tells TPMDC they are aiming to put as many seats in play as possible:
“The year we’ve always been focused on is 2010, and we took many steps this year recruit strong candidates and put as many seats in play as possible for next year’s election. Democrats, meanwhile, seem willing to lose seats in order to pass their reckless agenda. The only question is how many of their Members are going to walk the plank or choose to retire with their heads held high.”
Finally, Senate Democrats actually stand a chance of gaining seats as a handful of Republican retirements give them new pickup opportunities.
Though they have their own internal struggles, Democrats also see a silver lining in the conservative tea party war within the Republican party. Sen. Jim DeMint’s group is picking out candidates that pass his test while Erick Erickson says conservatives should weed out the “establishment” Republicans.
The Democrats see what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional district last month as a potential way they can exploit Republican divisions – national Republicans backed the tea party candidate and the party nominee dropped out, allowing a Democrat to win the seat for the first time since the civil war.
Former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove talked a bit about 2010 as it relates to the 2012 candidates on Fox earlier today, and had a telling nugget about the direction of the party going forward.
“The tea party movement is important less because of its involvement in political campaigns and more about what it doing to shape people’s attitudes about where our country is growing and let the political fallout occur as a natural result of that,” he said.
Ryan Rudominer of the DCCC said anyone who thinks Republicans can win control is in “la-la land.”
“Though we face an historic headwind, as the special election in NY-23 made clear, the DCCC knows how to win tough elections and is staying on offense this cycle putting 20 Republicans seats in play and ensuring our members and candidates have the resources to get their message out. In stark contrast, the NRCC lost a special election last month, a seat that had been Republican since the 1800s, spent nearly a million dollars on a candidate who dropped out and fueled a Republican Civil War sweeping the country in the process.”
Ed. note: This post has been updated to correct an error.