After the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republicans celebrated electoral victories that many thought would put them in the position to maintain a long-term majority. In turn, Democrats pushed the panic button and began looking for ways to turn things around. Likewise, after 2006 and 2008, it was the opposite effect, with Democrats claiming a permanent majority, and Republicans looking to rebuild.
Once again, the political climate seems to be changing, this time in favor of Republicans. President Obama’s approval ratings are continuing to trend significantly downward, with the latest Rasmussen Poll even suggesting that the majority of Americans disapprove. More voters believe that the economic stimulus plan has hurt the economy than helped it. Support for the public health option continues to tumble, too.
Looking at these trends and others, Patrick Ruffini writes that a 2010 blowout is quite possible, and I really don’t disagree at all. However, I wanted to offer a word of caution in the case Republicans win (or win big) in 2010, despite the fact that I recently Tweeted the following:
No more “[Name] for President” group invites on Facebook, please. Let’s focus on winning in 2010 first and worry about 2012 after!
Such a victory in 2010 will by no means indicate that things are better for Republicans long-term. Rather, it would be the result of a number of fortunate circumstances. Just see Ruffini’s suggestions as to why Republicans should prepared for a blow out:
- The horrendous 2006 and 2008 cycles have depressed Republican totals in Congress to far below the historical mean. Though the fact that there were two successive 20+ seat losses in the House and 5+ seat losses in the Senate in the House is historically unique, collectively they equal one 1980 or 1994-style wipeout — after which Democrats finally began to recover.
- The unique confluence of youth and African American turnout for Obama padded vote totals for Congressional Democrats by about 4 points — and in a midterm — I’m sorry — those votes won’t be there. We saw this pretty clearly in the Georgia Senate runoff. In 2012, however, those voters might be back — making 2010 an opportune moment for a promising Congressional challenger to gain a foothold.
- The Democrats are now clearly responsible for everything, and trying to blame Bush and the GOP wears thinner and thinner by the day. Even if the economy recovers somewhat, and with massive job losses still on the horizon, I don’t see people feeling that recovery, let’s remember that the economy was in a clear recovery by 1994 but that didn’t help Clinton and Democrats.
The bottom line — and what Republicans cannot forget, even with a huge win in 2010 — is that these fortunate circumstances are not something around which you can build a sustainable majority. Voters aren’t always going to be ticked about the economy, the Democrats won’t always have a filibuster-proof majority, and although the “unique confluence of youth and African American turnout” may not be there in 2010, as Ruffini notes, “in 2012 … those voters might be back”. And as I’ve been writing about lately, the RNC hasn’t done a darn thing to try to win over young voters while the DNC continues to find new ways to earn their support. While these voters may not show up in 2010, in 10-15 years they will no longer be youth voters — instead, they will represent the kind of middle-aged voters that Republicans will need to turn out, both during Presidential election years and during mid-term and other off years.
So while there are many reasons to be excited about the prospects of 2010, the political climate will likely change again from 2010 to 2012, as it often does. Although focusing on the short-term may end in positive results in 2010, Republicans still must think long-term about building a sustainable majority. Otherwise, the GOP may soon again face another 2006 or 2008 — but the next time, it may be much harder to turn around.