This should be the Republicans’ year.
Democrats need to defend 20 U.S. Senate seats, seven of which are in states Mitt Romney won, even as he lost to President Obama by nearly 5 million votes. The GOP only needs to win six of those seats to take control of the upper house of Congress.
In 2012, the party of Romney underperformed its presidential nominee by more than 6 million. Republican House candidates took in 1.4 million fewer votes than Democrats. But thanks to redistricting and the way Americans tend to gerrymander themselves, the GOP kept a large majority in the House.
For a while last year, it seemed possible that the “Suicide Caucus” in the House could lead Republicans down such a far-right path that they could threaten their majority. After a 16-day government shutdown that sent the party’s disapproval ratings to all-time highs, Democratic groups were releasing polls showing that a House takeover was possible. However, as the problems with HealthCare.gov rolled into the second month and the gap in the news left by the government reopening was filled with cancelation stories — that often turned out to be badly reported or bogus — that storyline quickly withered.
Since November, the story has been that Democrats would need a miracle to keep the Senate. Yet recently polls have shown again and again that the Senate is a pure toss-up. Republicans trail slightly in the generic ballot polls and President Obama’s approval rating has been edging back toward 50 percent. And in states where Republicans thought they would have easy Senate pickups — like Arkansas, Alaska and North Carolina — the Democratic incumbents are still leading in the polls.
Democrats — with the right breaks and get-out-the-vote efforts — could easily keep the Senate.
But for the sake of argument, let’s indulge in a little speculation — some might call it “fan fiction.” Here are five things that could magically align to radically transform the political landscape and give President Obama a friendly House for his last two years as president.
Screenshot via Senator Ted Cruz YouTube channel
Republicans gave in to their base and decided to go full #Benghazi, even after several committees haven’t been able to discover anything more than former UN Ambassador Susan Rice having used talking points the weekend after the attack that may not have been correct… with the qualification that it was the best information available at the time.
Republicans clearly have impeachment on their collective mind. The specter of the party that misled us into Iraq impeaching a president over bad talking points could be too much for Americans to bear.
The prospect of overreach even spooks GOP leaders, according to The Daily Beast.
Job Creation Speeds Up
Job creation is now at a six-year high, according to Gallup. The number of jobs small businesses cannot fill has not been this high since 2008. And there are signs that the job market may actually be healing to its pre-Bush-crisis strength.
A booming economy gave Ronald Reagan a massive landslide in 1984, but it still wasn’t enough for Republicans to take the House. However, after five years of screaming that Obamacare is a job killer, how would the GOP explain that full implementation has led to the best year of job creation since at least 1999?
Voters Take Revenge
What happens when you deny 4.8 million Americans health insurance that your state has to pay for anyway?
We have no idea. It’s never happened before.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, 24 Republican-led states have blocked Medicaid expansion — even though the federal government has made deals with two other Republican-led states, Arkansas and Michigan, to expand in a conservative-friendly way.
We now know that health insurance has saved lives as implemented in Romneycare. What if millions of pissed-off voters denied health insurance showed up at the polls to punish Republicans for becoming a leading cause of preventable death?
Those being denied Medicaid expansion aren’t the only Americans suffering as a direct result of GOP policy. Even though they helped George W. Bush extend emergency unemployment insurance five times, House Republicans refuse to even vote on a paid-for bill to extend emergency benefits. The long-term unemployed are still in a recession, if not a depression, with their prospects of gaining employment remaining stubbornly low.
Thanks to GOP inaction, more than 2 million unemployed people who are looking for jobs have lost their only income and 72,000 more lose it every week. If they voted as a bloc, maybe Republicans would finally listen to them.
And don’t forget the ladies.
Democrats still have much of the gender-gap advantage they had in 2012. What happens if the Supreme Court rules Hobby Lobby does get to decide which birth control methods its employees should be allowed to use? Could Republican celebration of such a decision reignite the “War on Women”?
A Real GOP Civil War
Rumors of a GOP civil war are always exaggerated. The differences between most Tea Partiers and Republicans have much more to do with tactics than policy.
On immigration reform, most Republicans and Tea Partiers support at least some legalization when polled. However, the voices against “amnesty” are loud — and trained in how to drown out their opposition.
Imagine, if you will, that going full #Benghazi is just a way to appease the base while Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) prepares to pass immigration bills, as he’s been vowing to do for a year. The Chamber of Commerce, a massive Republican donor, is basically demanding that this happen so the issue doesn’t explode in the party’s face during the presidential primary as it did in 2012, sending the GOP hurtling toward a demographic cliff.
Let’s say something, anything, that could be called “amnesty” passes as the #Benghazi hearings result in nothing but retreads of the half-dozen other investigations.
GOP enthusiasm, which is currently higher than Democratic enthusiasm but much lower than previous years, nosedives. Perhaps even some Tea Party leaders call for a boycott of the November election?
Is this likely? Maybe not. But after five years of nurturing a subculture of uncompromising rebellion, it’s not hard to imagine.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr
Polls suggest that Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) has built a lead over his opponent Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), whom Republicans describe as a “top recruit,” by focusing on the Republican House member’s repeated votes for the Ryan budget, which privatizes much of Medicare.
In a speech on Tuesday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed support for Ryan’s voucher plan for Medicare. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) had introduced a budget that would immediately privatize both Medicare and Social Security — to “save” them, of course.
Strangely, the plans like those from Ryan, Rubio and Paul that “save” Medicare and Social Security tend to be paired with plans to cut taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
At some point seniors may see that Republicans are serious about breaking the promises to older Americans in order to “save” the richest, who have never been richer, billions of dollars.
And if the nation’s most reliable voters turn against the GOP, the demographic time bomb they fear in the future may go off right underneath their feet.