Both major political parties have ample time and no doubt will find ample opportunities for self-inflicted wounds between now and this time next year when mid-term elections may determine the country’s path until 2016 and possibly for several years afterward.
But Republicans appear to have a better chance of shoring up their majority in the House and a chance of regaining the Senate, according to Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman. He also warned that “you can’t fix stupid,” referencing Republican missteps on women’s issues from Republican candidates who seemed assured of victory in 2012 but lost to Democrats following ill-timed, far-right, and unsupportable comments. He also warned candidates to be cautious of “where you refer to the 47 percent.”
Wasserman addressed the second annual Southwest Ag Issues Summit recently in Oklahoma City.
He said Republicans have an advantage in mid-term elections for several reasons, not the least of which is the low number of Republican House seats seen as vulnerable and the number of “safe” districts that have been gerrymandered to create “a slanted playing field for Republicans.”
In 2014, Wasserman said, “Democrats will look for a more favorable opportunity, but there are fewer vulnerable Republican seats.” Democrats need 17 seats in the House to gain control. He thinks Republicans have a better chance of picking up about five seats and could take the Senate as well.
“Democrats have to defend seven seats in districts that Romney won (in 2012).”
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He also touched on “the incredible shrinking swing seat. In 1998, 164 house seats were considered swing seats.” In 2014, only 90 are considered swing seats. And 186 seats are “solid Republican, 159 solid Democrat.”
He also noted that the GOP turnout in mid-term elections is typically higher than for Democrats. “Mid-term elections bring out older voters,” he said. “And they typically vote for Republican candidates.” Wasserman also said the Democrats “message is stale. They have gotten all the juice out of issues.”
But if the Republicans “shut down the government,” they could hurt themselves. Wasserman said the sequestration has not resonated with the public and is not a big issue. Obamacare could be but Syria is not likely to be a big advantage for either party, regardless of what action is taken. “Syria doesn’t bend along party lines,” he said.
The divisiveness of the Republican Party could create problems in the mid-terms, too. Wasserman said some moderate candidates could face primary challenges from the right because they cooperated with Democrats. He pointed to Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., who has sided with Democrats on issues like climate change. “They have a runoff system in South Carolina so that could be an interesting race.”
Some have suggested Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, could be vulnerable because of his work with Democrats on a farm bill. He disagrees. “I don’t think they are disappointed in the Oklahoma Third district.”
He also commented on Congress’ inability to get anything done. “This Congress can’t pass National Peach Week,” he said.
Other observations include his contention that “the Tea party peaked a little while ago,” but still may be an issue in primaries.
He also quipped that the historic hotel in which the Summit was held is reputed to have ghosts and said he had seen “the ghost of (Texas Senator) Ted Cruz’s presidential aspirations.”
He said “an Independent party surge,” has come about as the two main parties are “pushed to the extremes. Today, there is no indication of bi-partisan deal-making. Moderates are washed out and there are no deadlines to pass bills. They wait until the 11thhour. If there is no catastrophe, there is no deal.
“The law of unintended consequences,” he said, occurred when Congress removed ear marks. “That eliminated the need to make a deal.”
Looking down the road to 2016, Wasserman said Republican candidates Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush “can win.” Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum “can’t.” Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor, is a “maybe. He has a proven ability to win in a Democrat state.” Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal are also listed in the maybe ranks.
He thinks Hillary Clinton will run and will be formidable. “Her gender is a tremendous asset, but what will her message be?”