Tuesday evening was disheartening, to say the least. For many supporters of the GOP, the shock will soon lead to depression. Eventually, though, the depression will lift, and the important business of working toward future elections will commence. In that spirit, let me be one of your first doses of Prozac.
First, let’s get the a few bleak spots on the electoral landscape out of the way. With Democrats now holding 229 seats in the House, it will be difficult for the GOP to win it back. Sure, seats like Tom DeLay’s and Mark Foley’s will return to the GOP fold. Yet many GOP districts are held by conservative Democrats, and with the benefits of incumbency, they will be hard to dislodge.
Also of concern is the strip of states running from Long Island to about Iowa that never quite got the memo that a Reagan Revolution occurred in the GOP. Rather, the Republican parties in those states are mainly about getting their children summer jobs. Not surprisingly, a good portion of the GOP’s losses in the House came from that region. Unless the parties in those areas are reinvigorated, it will be hard to recruit quality candidates for House races.
On the upside, the GOP has a decent shot at regaining the Senate 2008. The most vulnerable Republicans are probably Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Wayne Allard of Colorado, and John Sununu of New Hampshire. Yet none of those states is predominantly blue, so Republicans should have a better than even chance of hanging on to them. By contrast, the Democrats have some tough fights in largely red states. With a significant portion of New Orleans population having left for good, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu is very vulnerable. So is Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who won his last election by only 500 votes. Other Democrats in red states include Max Baucus and Mark Pryor, although both will be tougher to beat than Landrieu and Johnson. Word is Carl Levin will retire as Senator from Michigan, and the GOP will have a real shot at that seat should Mike Bouchard decide to make another run.
On the presidential level, things look even brighter. From 2000-2005, states in the population in the Northeast (including New York) grew by just under 1%, while those in the South grew by under 5%. Based on Census Bureau projections, the Northeast will grow about 3% from 2005-2015, while the South will grow 9.5%. People are fed up with the high-tax, heavily regulated Northeast and are moving to the South. Ultimately, it will mean more GOP Representatives in the House and more electoral votes for GOP presidential candidates.
It is worth taking an even closer look at Florida. I suspect the big ” missed story” of 2006 will be how solidly Republican Florida is becoming. Despite a great year for the Democrats, the Florida GOP held on to all of the statewide offices, and might have picked up the Senate seat too had someone other than Katherine Harris been the Republican candidate. This should worry the Democrats, because if the trend continues, Florida may not be much of swing state in the future presidential elections.
Next, we should give due credit to Karl Rove. No, he wasn’t able to construct a permanent majority, but he has introduced techniques that will be vital to the GOP in later races. The 72-hour project, micro-targeting, focusing on ex-urban and evangelical voters, a beefed up get out the vote infrastructure — these are all things that will prove very valuable in the years to come. Tuesday showed that these techniques are not enough to withstand a Democratic wave. But there won’t be a wave every election.
Finally, early indications are that the GOP will regain its mantle as the ” Party of Ideas.” Conservative ideas appeal to Americans, and the GOP needs to be more concerned about promoting them and a lot less concerned about hanging on to power by making government bigger. Early favorites for GOP leadership in the House are Mike Pence and John Shadegg, two solid conservatives. That suggests that Republicans are moving in the right direction.
It’s important to keep it all in perspective. After 2004, the GOP seemed invincible, and the only question facing the Democrats was what their epitaph would say. As Tuesday night showed, two years is a long time in politics.
David Hogberg is a writer living in the Washington area. He also hosts his own website, Hog Haven.