Even though I’m a bit addled from waking each morning around 0400 to do the daily radio spots this week, I’m not addled enough to dramatically shift my viewpoint on this: the tactical mistakes and near anarchy exhibited by House Republicans will not lead to the rainbows and unicorns of a Democratic House following the 2014 elections. Silver, at his temporary new site, has a typically solid rundown here. There are some minor flaws in his reasoning, specifically Benghazi, the IRS, et al., are not issues equitable to holding the global economy hostage while demonstrating no clarity of thought or leadership, but his broader points are worth taking into consideration before drinking the kool aid. (Several of these minor critiques can be found both in this post by Sam Wang, and the comments).
Of specific interest in the Silver post is his third point: “Democrats face extremely unfavorable conditions in trying to regain the House.” The one thing I’ll add to that is what I’ve said repeatedly before: it’s near certainly going to be a qualitatively different electorate in demographic terms than 2012, or 2008, and one that tends to favor Republican candidates.
That said, some evidence is coming to light that has me examining my assessment. Not a dramatic shift, but I have moved from “No bloody way!” to “Huh. Nearly certainly not, but, huh.” Wang has written several posts, each worth a read, that lend support to a narrative counter to my trotting out conventional political science wisdom. Especially intriguing is evidence (more substantive than just the theory / hypothesis, mind) suggesting that gerrymandering has created a bunch of suddenly vulnerable Republican incumbents. Indeed, it appears that the swing against Republicans is significantly stronger in gerrymandered districts.
However, two weaknesses in the data prevent me from inviting all my friends down to Guyana for some crisp liquid refreshment in the sunshine. First, these polls are all predicated on generic matchups. As I linked last week, there’s concern that real live candidates have quality weaknesses that can (and certainly will) be exploited in a real live campaign. Second, the election is still over a year away. While all the numbers showing a fantastic collapse in Republican support could hold over the next 12 months, a lot will happen between now and then. Especially if the House actually passes the deal just announced in the Senate (no sure thing, of course, given the current lunacy), and the Republicans don’t hold a gun to their own heads yet again when this temporary agreement expires on January 15 (for the whole running the government part) and February 7 (for the whole avoiding economic collapse part), the past three weeks very well will recede into the background as other issues / events occur.
I still believe it will take a wave election in 2014 to flip the House, and given the composition of the electorate, one that would require a lot of typically Republican voters in heretofore Republican districts to either stay home, or switch parties, on top of gaining a significant margin among independents. I’ve been considering methods to do a proper empirical comparison of 2006 and a potential 2014, but one variable keeps intruding: 2006 was a wave against the incumbent president’s party (as was 1994 and 2010).
Thus, I’m still not optimistic, but the recent posts by Wang captured my attention. And, most evidence, both empirical and theoretical, suggest that a Democratic Senate is increasingly a safer proposition.