Outlook: Bright Prospects for the Democrats in November Midterm Elections?

Brookings Thomas E. Mann participated in a chat to discuss why he thinks the Democrats may regain a majority in the House in the midterm elections.

Arlington, Va.: Karl Rove and the White House are pushing a national support the President against the Democrats who want to cut and run campaign which strikes me as not being particularly helpful to the local Congressman who is hoping to make his way back on his own. Are many Congressional Republicans buying into this unit front? Similarly, Rove is calling Senators asking them to vote against stem cell research so Bush won’t be embarrassed by a veto. Again, it doesn’t strike me that Rove has the individual politicians’ job security as his major emphasis.

Thomas Mann: Individual Republicans will have to distance themselves from some of the positions and strategies being pursued by Rove, when local conditions dictate that.

Washington, D.C.: Your prediction that Democrats “might” win this November fails to acknowledge that a number of “centrist” Democrats will backstab any liberal/progressive attempt to nationalize the election by highlighting Republican war deceptions and pro-corporate legislation. Second, “centrist” Democrats will never stand up to Republican efforts to suppress likely Democratic voters. Your analysis ignores the key fact that without a unified and well advertised Democratic position, no matter how disaffected the electorate becomes, it won’t automatically translate into electoral change in the face of the Rovian anschluss (e.g.,the unanswered “cut and run” attack was just prologue; look at Gingrich’s plea that Bush declare World War III and ask the Democrats whose side they are on).

Thomas Mann: I actually see less ideological conflict within the Democratic party this year, the well-publicized exceptions notwithstanding. The election is already nationalized by an electorate very unhappy with the war in Iraq and the economy. Democrats can and should sharpen that focus but it would be a mistake to get deeply involved in laying out policy alternatives. That’s for 2008. 2006 provides an opportunity for a referendum on the performance of the governing party. Scare tactics become less effective over time.

Woodbridge, Va.: Posting early due to work — Several precinct level studies have shown that in 1998 conservative turnout was about 6 percent lower than in 1994, largely due to total disgust with the 1997 budget surrender to Clinton’s spending priorities. By 2002, conservative turnout had returned to 1994 levels and the results are history. Consequently, it seems the critical question this year will be “Are conservatives more disgusted by Republican earmarks or by Democrat posturing?” Normally, I would be predicting a repeat of 1998 (Conservatives are REALLY ticked about Republicans turning their back on fiscal responsibility) but the Democrats are taking every opportunity to trash conservative values and making the attacks personal as well as ideological, which helps increase conservative turnout. I was part of the Republican GOTV effort in Ohio and we never could have won without the efforts of ACORN, and the rest of the liberal hate groups. If they are active in swing precincts this fall, Republicans may even gain seats.

Thomas Mann: Turnout will be key. Current evidence suggests Republicans are demoralized by a number of factors: high spending, big deficits, a bloody and costly war in Iraq, high energy prices. Democrats exhibit a greater interest in this year’s election. Can the Republican GOTV effort overcome that?

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