Slouching Towards Gotterdammerung

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The legendary political analysist Larry Sabato writes a long history of post-WWII midterm elections, and comes to the conclusion that presidential approval ratings were the mitigating deciding factor in most of them.

What makes a midterm historically memorable? All of these elections involved two or more of the following critical factors:
* Exceptional presidential poll ratings (either unusually low or high)
* Foreign war (popular or unpopular)
* Sour economy
* Major scandal
* Intense hot-button social, domestic issues

The problems bedeviling Bush and the GOP may get a bit better or a little worse, but they appear to be intrinsic to this election year. Therefore, the only real question is how many seats the Democrats will gain in the Congress and the statehouses, not if they will gain.

Sabato sees potential Republican losses as low as 5 seats in the House, which would leave a weakened-but-still Republican majority in control for the end of the Bush era, and Democrats' hands far away from the subpoena drawers. Both parties will get a sense of the playing field in five days, when voters in Randy "Duke" Cunningham's old California seat go to the polls. A Democrat, Francine Busby, has even odds of winning a district that voted for Bush by 15 points. If that happens, all this analysis of Republican doom will start to be taken seriously.

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  1. Mitigating?

  2. I don’t think there will be a big victory for the dems this year. Congress has a very low approval rating and not just the republicans. I think it’s going to be a vote that sucker out election year and those suckers are the incumbents. I expect many democrats will lose to republicans and vice-versa. We will have to wait till November to see who’s on top.

    Then again I might be betting on an intellectual voting public, and that’s a losing bet every time.

  3. I don’t think there will be a big victory for the dems this year. Congress has a very low approval rating and not just the republicans. I think it’s going to be a vote that sucker out election year and those suckers are the incumbents. I expect many democrats will lose to republicans and vice-versa. We will have to wait till November to see who’s on top.

    Then again I might be betting on an intellectual voting public, and that’s a losing bet every time.

  4. I wish I could vote for “split Congress”. Not for an individual representative, not for my state, just “split”. I’m laying odds that Mark Warner will be the next president, so I definitely don’t want the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress and the White House. Not that I think we’re likely to make that big of a switch, despite the GOP’s valiant efforts to alienate, well, everyone.

  5. Finally, a Wagner reference.

  6. Hey Hak – it’s “Vahhhhg-ner”

    🙂

  7. * Exceptional presidential poll ratings (either unusually low or high)

    Helps Dems.

    * Foreign war (popular or unpopular)

    Probably helps Dems, but some of what scoreboards as oppo to the war is hardcore Repubs who think Bush is pussing out and would never vote Dem.

    * Sour economy

    Economy’s good. Helps Repubs.

    * Major scandal

    Hurts everyone.

    * Intense hot-button social, domestic issues

    So far, these have been Repub turnout drivers. Put it in the Repub column.

    My prediction? Assuming not much changes in the next 5 months, modest Dem gains, no change of control.

  8. Hey Hak – it’s “Vahhhhg-ner”

    I though it was “Vahhhhg-nuh”

  9. Dear God, please deliver us from undivided government.

    Realistically, I am guessing the Dems narrow the margins in the House and Senate, but don’t take either. I honestly don’t know that they have done enough to distinguish themselves from the Repugs on the issues that the Repugs are taking a beating on.

  10. It’s a T.S. Elliot reference, too.

  11. The economy is only good if you don’t look at how the economic gains have been distributed. If you’re not at the top of the ladder, the economy’s not good at all, and rising gas prices have, er, driven that home for people.

  12. I say the Democrats take control of the House and pick up at least three Senate Seats (Montana, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

  13. Probably helps Dems, but some of what scoreboards as oppo to the war is hardcore Repubs who think Bush is pussing out and would never vote Dem.

    An excellent point that is rarely made, RC Dean. It also applies to presidential approval ratings. Too many seem to think that “Bush ratings low” = “Democrats ratings high”, but it’s obviously more complicated. E.g., many are upset with Bush for being lax on illegal immigration, but those folks are unlikely to vote for Dems who want to give illegals driver’s licenses and easy citizenship. Many are upset with recent Republican spending habits, but that doesn’t mean they’ll vote for Dems who want to spend even more. Etc.

  14. PapayaSF:

    Like most fringe politicos, you’re a wishful thinker. Voters have only two ways to punish the Republicans: 1)voting for the Democrats and 2)not voting at all. After the November mid-terms, the Democrats will contol both houses of Congress, the Republicans will be fending off corruption investigations and presidential impeachment, and libertarians will be watching it all with their thumbs in their asses, a posture they mistake for critical thought.

  15. PapayaSF:

    Like most fringe politicos, you’re a wishful thinker. Voters have only two ways to punish the Republicans: 1)voting for the Democrats and 2)not voting at all. After the November mid-terms, the Democrats will contol both houses of Congress, the Republicans will be fending off corruption investigations and presidential impeachment, and libertarians will be watching it all with their thumbs in their asses, a posture they mistake for critical thought.

  16. Bob, what a nuanced web you weave. Actually, PapayaSF made a fair point. Screaming about it won’t help you 🙂 Disenchantment with the GOP doesn’t mean that conservatives–or right-libertarians, for that matter–are going to vote for the Democrats. Only a small number might vote third party, I agree, but plenty might not vote at all, or perhaps will vote against incumbents during the primaries, only to return to the GOP in the general election.

    Frustration with the business-as-usual attitude in D.C. seems quite high. While I don’t see any outside parties getting anywhere soon, one does wonder where the breaking point will be. There will be one at some point–this idea that everything about our political system is immutable and unchangeable is all-laughable. We’ve avoided any major political ruckus mostly because our economy has been holding up pretty well. Hopefully, that will continue, but I expect a revolt of some sort (I don’t mean in the streets) in the next 5-to-10 years.

    My Democratic friends are no less disenchanted with the national party than are my GOP friends. They are all asking the same questions–how do we get rid of these scumbags? Why can’t we deal with facts and important issues? What can we do about the rampant corruption? Is there a better way to do things? What are the limits to government power, anyhow? Didn’t I read about those limits in some old document somewhere? Too bad the LP is so wacky; otherwise, this could’ve been The Year.

    As for the Democrats taking power and riding some sort of purity wave. . .hah! They’re doing an excellent job of keeping themselves marginalized, and are trying quite hard to match GOP corruption one-for-one. The latter is a remarkable achievement, considering the GOP’s control of the reins of power. I’m hoping for a divided government, but I’m worried that the Democrats will screw that up, too. The worst thing that could happen to this country is for either the GOP or the Democrats to control all three branches.

  17. “Bob, what a nuanced web you weave. ”

    Remember PL, Bob is a self loather who shows these fits of rage based on the fact that Juanita or the Widow White won’t fuck him.

    Something about “too bony – would be like falling off a moped” or something like that.

    he’ll have to re-explain it.

  18. VM,

    You randroid. 🙂

  19. VM, oh it’s that Bob. I think Juanita should reconsider. I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy about the trolls, since they inspired my “Maw-wide” song earlier today.

  20. If all “right-libertarians” abstained from voting en masse, it would have the same effect as that of a gnat biting an elephant’s ass.

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