Where do we stand today, on election eve?
Late yesterday, Gallup posted the following pre-election assessment: “Taking Gallup’s final survey’s margin of error into account, the historical model predicts that the Republicans could gain anywhere from 60 seats on up, with gains well beyond that possible.” That would mean 238 Republican votes in the House next year, at the very least.
As of this morning, Real Clear Politics’ “Battle for the Senate” analysis projects a 50-50 Democrat-Republican outcome in the upper chamber. Only a few days ago RCP had the Democrats at 52 seats in the new Senate. They still give the Democrats both West Virginia and California. But with the wind blowing so powerfully the GOP’s way, at least one and possibly both of those close races could go Republican, too.
It isn’t over ‘til it’s over. The unions will be launching massive get-out-the-vote efforts, and with federally mandated same-day registration, they will surely manufacture tens of thousands of votes. The trial lawyers are poised to pull a Franken all over the country, litigating every close vote count until the Democrat emerges a winner. And who knows in how many states the electronic voting machines have been manipulated, as appears to have been discovered in Nevada?
A five point-plus race is hard to steal. A blow out may not be counted as a blow out, but odds are high, it will be counted as a win. So the key to winning tomorrow is to win big, which looks likely.
Assuming a blow out, what happened? Two years ago, the mainstream media was reading the Republican Party’s obituary. What brought us here and where are we going?
Here are three facts to keep in mind in the weeks ahead:
Fact number one: Tuesday’s win will not have happened overnight. Since the late 1990s, what might be called the Great American Swing Vote has been looking for elected officials who would restrain spending, keep taxes low, and produce budget surpluses. This vote was part of the story of the 2000 election, when Al Gore walked away from the Clinton-GOP-Congress centrist legacy with his “People versus the Powerful” campaign, and the Great American Swing Vote turned to George W. Bush.
By 2005, pollsters were starting to find that a large group of GOP supporters from the prior two elections was becoming disaffected from the president and his Congress. After the 2006 defeat, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman was reported to have told his staff, “We got out our vote. They just voted for the other guys.” That disaffection built over the next two years, setting the stage for the Obama victory in 2008.
The new White House team could not have more thoroughly misread their election. Their trillion-dollar stimulus, bailouts, health overhaul, and projected deficits drove the Great American Swing Vote back to the GOP. The bad economy said to those voters that not only had all that money been spent but we got nothing for it.
Fact number two: This year’s vote will have been against the Democrats, not for the Republicans. After the cavalcade of trillions, the Great American Swing Vote fears the Obama-Reid-Pelosi Democrats. But they don’t trust the Republicans. They know that following each campaign, the voice of the Dark Side rises. Last July, in the political equivalent of Darth Vader’s “Luke, I am your father,” former-Senate-majority-leader now-lobbyist Trent Lott said, “We don’t need a lot of [Tea Party types]. As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.”
But if the new crop of Luke Skywalker’s heeds that corrupting call, the GOP could end up going the way of the Whigs. The Great American Swing Vote may be just one election from rejecting both parties.
Fact number three: Something more than traditionally defined self-interest is moving in our politics. Around the world – for example, in Britain, Germany, France, and nearly in Australia — voters have been backing governments that will cut spending and put their nations on a financially sustainable, pro-growth footing. They appear ready to take cuts in benefits to achieve this end, even to demand cuts. In the United States, voters are calling for something else, as well: restricting government’s power. Listening to the voices of 2010, you hear the fear that the terrifying run-up in spending doesn’t just undermine the government’s solvency. It challenges the Constitutional system and compromises the nation’s character.
In other words, the Great American Swing Vote cannot be bought with a bridge or an entitlement. It is the highest-minded phenomenon American politics has produced in decades. It is the determining force in American politics today, and when the new Congress convenes, it must be heard.