Ahoy hoy, Wizbangers, it's your resident RINO/DIABLO back to blaspheme against the Tea Party yet again. I'm actually not a RINO, though, I'm a Libertarian. But that's neither here nor there. And I'm not really here to blaspheme against the Tea Party. But the comments in the post I put up after the Delaware primary really had me scratching my head.
Just so everyone is clear, my main point was that this year's midterm may be a once-in-a-generation chance for Republicans to pick up a Senate seat in Delaware. I don't have any affinity for Castle and I don't have any real opinion at all on O'Donnell; all I know is the seat went from "likely Republican pick up" to "likely Democrat retention" on the RCP Senate tracker the day after she won. I come not to criticize O'Donnell, nor to chide Delawareans for their decision - as many commenters accused.
The running theme in the comments was, "So what if Republicans don't take the majority in the Senate. We need to purge all the RINOs from the party and show the party we won't stand for nominating a moderate when there's a more conservative candidate available, even if it is a historically deep blue state." I oversimplify, of course, but there were several commenters who said straight up that a Senate majority wasn't important, just recapturing enough seats to sustain a filibuster.
To which I say, Harry Reid didn't have a filibuster-proof majority when Obamacare was passed in the dead of night. But, controlling the Senate, he found a procedural way to get it through. To willingly sacrifice control of the Senate to "send the Republican party a message" is a fool's errand.
Naturally, I would like the Republican Party to be as economically conservative as possible; my question is what degree of conservatism can we expect a majority of ALL voters in deep blue states to accept in a statewide election?
Alright then? We can all agree that most economic conservatives want to repeal Obama care, right? Depending on the poll the same holds true for Independents. Sure, TARP was the first spark and the stimulus bill threw fuel on the fire. But Obamacare was what set the Tea Party off into a full-scale conflagration.
Since we can agree on the goal, all that remains is determining the best course of action to make repeal actually happen. Before we can seriously discuss making repeal a reality there are three requirements - a Republican President, a Republican majority in the House, and a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate. Not just a majority, a filibuster-proof majority. The Dems will use every tool in their arsenal to prevent repeal. And getting to 60 seats is going mean accepting some Republican Senators who only vote with the Republican caucus 60% of the time.
I'll tell you why behind the fold...
I know some of you are spitting mad right about now. The very idea of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in the Republican party makes you vomit with rage. But here's the thing. Replace them in the Maine Republican primary with someone sporting a 90+% ACU score and you're trading two R's who vote with conservatives 50% of the time for two D's who vote with conservatives zero percent of the time.
Hey, I don't like it any more than everyone else who fancies himself as an economic conservative. But to get to 60+ we're going to have to accept some moderates or RINOs or DIABLOs or whatever else you want to call them.
Do you know how many times the Republicans have held 60+ seats in the Senate since 1959 (when it expanded from 96 to 100 seats)? That would be zero. Never. A fifty-five seat majority is the largest Republicans have ever held.
So how can we reach the up-to-now unattainable filibuster-proof majority in state-wide Senator elections? Below is a table of the states sorted by their partisan index. Then to whom their electoral votes went in the 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 election. Then the party makeup of their Senate delegation. The partisan breakdown data came from Cook Political Report and the rest was cribbed from different sources.
State D/R % 96 00 04 08 Sen.
VT D+13 C G K O D/D HI D+12 C G K O D/D MA D+12 C G K O D/R RI D+11 C G K O D/D NY D+10 C G K O D/D MD D+9 C G K O D/D IL D+8 C G K O D/D CA D+7 C G K O D/D CT D+7 C G K O D/D DE D+7 C G K O D/D ME D+5 C G K O R/R WA D+5 C G K O D/D NJ D+4 C G K O D/D OR D+4 C G K O D/D MI D+4 C G K O D/D NM D+2 C G K O D/D WI D+2 C G K O D/D MN D+2 C G K O D/D PA D+2 C B K O D/D NH D+2 C B K O D/R NV D+1 C B B O D/R IA D+1 C G K O D/R CO Even D B B O D/D OH R+1 C B B O R/D VA R+2 D B B O D/D FL R+2 D B B O R/D MO R+3 D B B M R/D NC R+4 D B B O R/D AZ R+6 D B B M R/R IN R+6 D B B O R/D GA R+7 D B B M R/R MT R+7 D B B M D/D SC R+8 D B B M R/R WV R+8 D B B M D/D TN R+9 D B B M R/R AR R+9 D B B M D/D SD R+9 D B B M R/D MS R+10 D B B M R/R LA R+10 D B B M R/D TX R+10 D B B M R/R KY R+10 D B B M R/R ND R+10 D B B M D/D KS R+12 D B B M R/R AL R+13 D B B M R/R AK R+13 D B B M R/D NE R+13 D B B M/O R/D OK R+17 D B B M R/R ID R+17 D B B M R/R WY R+20 D B B M R/R UT R+20 D B B M R/R
What we see is that there are far more Democrat senators elected in even very heavily Republican partisan states than Republicans elected in partisan Democratic states. Likewise for presidential elections. There's some room for movement in the D+2 to R+2 range, but for whatever reason Democrats can win statewide races even in R+10 states while it takes a buffoon of cartoonish proportions like Martha Coakley to get a moderate R like Scott Brown elected in a deep blue state.
If the Rs and Ds hold serve in partisan leaning states and split Colorado it equals a 55/45 majority for Republicans - matching their highest ever seat total. Even with two seats in Colorado Republicans would need to poach four seats in states that rarely, if ever, elect anything other than a Democrat in statewide elections.
Drilling down further, again from Cook Political Reports, in 2004 the most partisan D House district Bush won was a D+4; the most partisan R House district Kerry won was R+1. In 2008 the most partisan D House district McCain won was...R+1- i.e. none; the most partisan R House district Obama won was R+6 - and he actually won a significant majority of the the R+1 to R+4 House districts.
What does it all mean? That in a perfect storm election a Democrat running for president as a moderate was able to get good traction in districts where he had no business being competitive and drag along some other Ds on his coattails.
Alright then, now for some concessions. The midterms may turn out to be a perfect storm where Republicans gain traction in statewide races where they have no business being competitive. Yes, recent polling shows a tremendous enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democrat voters leading up to the mid-terms. Independents polled also oppose Obamacare and runaway spending. We are in the midst of what could be an unprecedented swing in electoral fortunes from one election to the next.
And yes, we're not seeing the usual "Throw the bums out - except for my bum, who's doing a fine job" philosophy voters tend to express.
So it is theoretically possible that Republicans could pick up every contested Senate seat now held by a Democrat. But that doesn't mean it's going to happen. The RCP averages show R+6 - which leaves us with a 53-47 Democrat majority. Which means Republicans still need 13 additional pick-ups in 2012 (along with the presidency) to make repeal a reality. I think it's safe to say that with Obama on the ballot the Democratic base will turn out en masse so picking up the entire 13 is probably not attainable.
Which means that voter anger and frustration with the Democrats (and only the Democrats) will have to continue boiling over into 2014. Lord willing a Republican president and Republican Congress will be facing mid-terms in 2014, and the majority party rarely picks up seats in mid-terms.
Believe me, I understand the anger and frustration over the course Pelosi, Reid, and Obama have charted. But anger alone isn't going to get Obamacare repealed. The Tea Parties have a lot of momentum now, but we're still a long way from 2014 - when a third Senate election cycle occurs and gives Republicans probably their last, best chance at a filibuster-proof advantage.
Political movements built on anger have a tendency to fizzle out over time. Maybe this one is different, but then again maybe it's not. Remember the upcoming "forty year Democratic majority" in which liberal pundits were reveling in late 2008?
Our Liberal Democrat leadership overreached and conservatives need to avoid the same trap. I'd love to wave a magic wand and slash government spending back to...oh, let's say 1988 levels. But to do so would mean fundamentally altering entitlements and a host of other programs on which millions of Americans rely or find desirable. Repeal Obamacare? Popular. Reform Social Security and Medicare? Gird your loins for some ruthless, media-assisted demagoguery from the left.
Egon Spengler said it best - the door swings both ways. If enough people are unwilling to hold their nose and accept the lesser of two evils we just might end up with the worse of two evils. The warts on John McCain look a whole lot better after a couple of years of Obama, wouldn't you say?
To make repeal of Obamacare happen Republicans are going to have to win a majority in the Senate bigger than anything they've ever managed before. That's not going to happen by shutting out moderates. I've always said a Republican from the Northeast would be a Democrat here in Texas and God knows they make me want to pull out my hair from time to time. But when the alternative is a Democrat holding that Senate seat for the next 30 years I'll live with the aggravation.
Or maybe this time we really are witnessing a fundamental shift in American politics that sweeps Democrats from office in sufficient numbers long enough for conservatives to make the structural changes to government spending obligations necessary to avoid what is now the inevitable default. I hope so. I wouldn't bet the mortgage on it, though.