Midterm Election: The GOP is in Command, For Now

Posted on October 12, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The emergence of the Tea Party as a full-on political player has confused the calculus for this fall’s midterm election, setting the stage for dramatic gains by the GOP. While Republicans are poised to celebrate, Democrats are hoping their end zone dance will be short-lived.

While there is little doubt that lingering economic turmoil will keep the Democrats on the defensive, there also are signs the electorate is cooling in its zeal for the Tea Partiers and their message of extreme cuts in federal spending and government regulation.
Conservatives say the polls are meaningless in an election that has been dominated by the Tea Party wild card.

Ginni Thomas, the CEO of the conservative group Liberty Central, said on Good Morning America, that she sees the election transcending traditional two-party politics and, therefore, traditional polling practices. “I don’t think it’s a partisan thing going on, I think it’s a principle thing. I think it’s an American thing. I think people are rebelling and there is a big tidal wave coming,” she said.
Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, could be right, as the polls themselves yield anything but clear trends.
Take, for example, the latest polls from the Washington Post/ABC News and Gallup.

The Post/ABC poll had the Republicans ahead by 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. That lead is half what it was in the same poll in early September. At the same time, voters give Democrats a significant edge as the party that would do a better job in helping the middle class. And after hitting an all-time low of 46 percent in September, President Obama’s approval rating rebounded to 50 percent in October.

Gallup, meanwhile, looked at various scenarios, with likely voters favoring the Republicans 56-38 percent in an election with low voter turnout, as is expected this month. Gallup, for the first time, issued poll results looking at both high and low voter turnout.


Then there’s the question of the touchstone issue of the economy, where despite boisterous frustration about the state of things, Americans still trusted Democrats more than Republicans to handle the economy 44 percent to 37 percent in the ABC News-Washington Post poll.

So what are voters going to do? Most experts predict Republicans will likely take control of the House and make gains in the Senate. At the same time, however, the findings could bode well for the Democrats in 2012 when turnout is certain to be stronger.

A big success by Republicans this fall does not necessarily presage victory in 2012 when the electorate will be more engaged, particular moderates who are not likely to favor a GOP that has tethered itself to its conservative edges.

David Plouffe, Obama’s strategic guru in 2008, says the Tea Party’s pull on the GOP could have a boomerang effect two years hence: “The formula they’re using for victory this year – fire up the base, forget the moderates – may work for a midterm election, but it’s not likely to be particularly sustainable in a Presidential year.”

But, for now at least, the tea leaves continue to give a sharp edge to the Republicans and their Tea Party friends.

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