Year of the Women’ will follow fall GOP sweep
by RUSS STEWART
It is often said that you should be careful what you wish for because you might get it and, soon thereafter, you might regret it.
That mindset applies to the Republicans nationally in the November election, which is looking to be an anti-Obama "wave" election similar to 2010. The Democrats benefited from anti-Bush "waves" in 2006 and 2008. The Republicans could gain 10 U.S. Senate seats, giving them a 55-45 majority in that chamber; they will surely retain their 234-191 U.S. House majority, perhaps adding six to 10 more seats, but then the bickering, squabbling, slashing, repealing, spinning and maybe even impeaching will start, with the President Barack Obama vetoing every bill the Republicans pass and the Republicans burying every Obama proposal.
By 2016 the GOP congressional majority will be as monumentally unpopular as Obama. The party’s triumph in November will be a precursor of Republican disaster, so tarnishing and corrupting the party’s brand that no Republican presidential candidate can win.
Which brings us to the "Indispensable Woman" — Hillary Clinton. Democratic strategists readily acknowledge that if she runs, they will retain the presidency despite Obama’s burgeoning unpopularity and public fatigue, and that if she doesn’t run, a Republican will win the White House. Does anybody believe that Joe Biden, Marty O’Malley, Andrew Cuomo, Brian Schweitzer, Mark Warner, Kirsten Gillibrand or Deval Patrick will be the next Democratic president? Warner, a Virginia senator, has deep pockets and is only moderately liberal. He could be, absent Clinton, the Jimmy Carter of 2016 — enough non-Obama and non-liberal to win the primaries in a field of liberals.
However, the Democrats’ problem is that Clinton can never fulfill expectations as president. She undoubtedly will win in 2016 as the "change" candidate, and that perception is based solely on her gender. She will stimulate a huge outpouring of female voters in urban, northern and coastal areas, and her candidacy will encourage a plethora of female Democrats to seek congressional and state offices. Many will win, thanks to Clinton, and the Democrats likely will regain a congressional majority.
Then the problems erupt. At age 69 in 2016, Clinton will no longer be the flaming feminist of her youth. She will have evolved into a kindly, nurturing grandmother, sort of an American version of Israel’s Golda Meir whose raison d’etre for running is that it’s time for Washington politicians to act like adults, not schoolyard brats. Of course, the other reason is that she can win, and nobody passes up that opportunity, even if she has no particular agenda nor any significant policy differences with Obama.
Then, as the 2020s approach and the Baby Boomer generation is ensconced in restless retirement, America will be treated to the endless spectacle of the antics of the "Old Couple" — Hill and Bill — in the White House. They used to be the "Odd Couple."
Congressional Democrats, invigorated and in the majority, will interpret the 2016 result as a vindication of their liberal agenda. They will expect "Clinton II" to be "Obama II," not a replication of "Clinton I," and when Clinton does not act like Obama, the Democrats will be perplexed and angry, with the Reid-Pelosi wing embittered at the "triangulation" and trimming of the Clinton wing, who will be more focused on raising money and entrenching themselves than electing Democrats to Congress.
In 2018 the Republicans will engineer a huge comeback, retaking Congress and setting the stage for a Republican presidential win in 2020. From a political perspective, 2018 is a critical year, since 36 states elect governors and they, in conjunction with state legislatures elected in 2020, will control the 2022 redistricting.
The Republicans’ 2010 sweep is why John Boehner is the U.S. House speaker; the party elected enough governors and won enough legislatures to create a decade-long House "lock," which only Clinton can undo.
A good 2016 for the Democrats will result in a good 2018 for the Republicans, and probably a good Republican 2020, which will result in a good Republican 2020s decade, but politicians think only in the short term. They want power now.
Here are some facts to support my hypothesis:
2014: The U.S. Senate, with 6-year terms, has three classes, dating back to the nation’s founding. This year 33 seats are up (plus three vacancies with 2-year terms). In the Obama sweep in 2008, Democrats won 20 of those 33 seats. That means that the Democrats have greater 2014 vulnerability, with more states at risk.
In the 2010 Republican sweep, the party gained eight seats, and it goes into 2016 holding 24 of 34 seats. Republican incumbents in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa, Arizona, Kentucky, Georgia and Florida are at serious risk. In fact, formidable Democratic women are already positioning themselves to run against those Republicans. If the Republicans gain a 55-45 Senate majority in November, it could easily become a 52-48 Democratic majority after the 2016 election.
Then comes 2018, when 33 senators — 25 Democrats and eight Republicans — are up. A sizable number of Democrats, buoyed by the 2012 Obama wave or aided by inept Republican opponents, are at risk — those in Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Dakota, Florida, Montana and Virginia. Blowback against an unpopular or embattled Clinton Administration could give the Republicans a four- to eight-seat 2018 gain, a majority, and gridlock going into 2020. Interestingly, Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who was elected in 2012 by a 224,525-vote margin (with 52.9 percent of the vote) and who is a former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, is atop Clinton’s list for vice president. He’s young enough (age 56) to run for president in 2020 or 2024, and, to be acceptable, Clinton needs a white man as a running mate — not a black, Hispanic or female candidate.
In non-presidential election years such as 2014, turnout among the Democratic base falls significantly. That’s why the Republicans swept in 2010, when anti-Obama (and anti-"Obamacare") Republicans and independents were energized, while minorities failed to vote in 2008 numbers. The Democrats’ strategy for this election is simple: avoid a national referendum on Obama and localize it by running a lot of white women, thereby appealing to independent women, the one demographic which may vote in 2012 numbers.
The outcome of many key 2014 Senate races will depend, as it did in 2010, on drop-off. When a third of the 2008 Obama voters did not vote in 2010, the Republicans won. If that recurs in 2014, the Republicans will win again. November elections for governor or senator in seven states (New Hampshire, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Kentucky), female Democrats are up against conservative male Republicans.
In Louisiana, 18-year Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, who voted for "Obamacare," faces U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy. Landrieu won in 2008 by 988,298-867,177, getting 53.3 percent of the vote aided by a heavy minority and pro-Obama vote, but Obama still lost the state 1,148,275-782,989. Landrieu ran 205,309 votes ahead of Obama, getting a lot of white (and John McCain) votes. In 2010 Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter was re-elected 715,415-476,572, with 60.0 percent of the vote. Vitter got 432,860 fewer votes than McCain (a 38 percent drop-off), but his opponent got 306,417 fewer votes than Obama and 511,726 fewer than Landrieu — drop-offs of 39 percent and 51 percent, respectively.
Turnout in 2010 was down by 658,000, or 36 percent. Obama lost the state in 2012 by 1,152,262-809,141.
It was the same in North Carolina, where first-term Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagen, another "Obamacare" backer, faces North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. Hagen beat Elizabeth Dole in 2008 by a 361,801-vote margin (with 52.7 percent of the vote), getting 2,249,311 votes while Obama got 2,142,651 votes (50 percent). Republican Senator Richard Burr was re-elected in 2010 by 1,458,046-1,145,074 (getting 56.0 percent of the vote), with Democrat Erskine Bowles getting a million fewer votes than Obama. Obama lost the state in 2012, getting 2,178,391 votes (48.4 percent of the total), with Mitt Romney getting 872,000 more votes than Burr.
Landrieu and Hagan can only win by demonizing their opponents and avoiding any Obama connection, but if the Democratic drop-off is 30 to 35 percent on Nov. 4, both will lose, along with a lot of others.
In Kentucky, U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell faces a challenge from youthful Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Londergan Grimes. A 30-year incumbent with high negatives, McConnell cannot be a bully by attacking her, as Grimes has no tie to Obama, so he will spend more than $15 million to portray the contest as McConnell versus Obama, since Obama got only 38 percent of the vote in 2012. Grimes will spend $8 million to make the race a referendum on McConnell, portraying him as part of the Washington "problem."
If the Republicans win a Senate majority, it will increase the pressure on Hillary Clinton to run in 2016.
In Illinois, 2016 is already under way. U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-8) and state Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) both want the Democratic Senate nomination. Incumbent Republican Mark Kirk won by 59,220 votes in 2010 in turnout of 3.7 million. Obama won Illinois by 1,388,169 votes in 2008 and by 884,296 votes in 2012, in turnouts of close to 5.5 million. Kirk’s feisty recovery from a stroke engenders sympathy and admiration, but that will not translate into votes. Kirk’s ailments have precluded him from vigorously campaigning, and he has not evolved into a sympathetic or iconic figure.
If Illinois native Clinton runs, she will win the state by at least a million votes. That makes Kirk a goner.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.