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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Republicans Pin Hopes on Midterm Elections - November Votes Could Reshape U.S. Politics, Voters in midterm elections tend to be older and whiter than those in a presidential-election year, and Republicans typically outperform Democrats among both demographic groups. That trend, which often gets lost in much of the pre-election prognostication, might affect the midterm results more than any other factor.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Voters are rarely kind to the occupant of the White House in the middle of his second term.

A war-weakened George W. Bush lost control of the House and Senate in 2006. Ronald Reagan suffered a similar blow 20 years earlier, when Democrats grabbed the Senate and strengthened their hold on the House. The big political question this year is whether President Barack Obama will face similarly rough treatment in November.

Mr. Obama's fading popularity and the rocky debut of his sweeping health-care law have given Republicans a big jolt of optimism that they can build on their 31-seat House majority and retake the Senate.

There's no doubt the year ended on a sour note for the president and his party. After riding high amid public backlash against the GOP over October's government shutdown, Democrats took a beating over the troubled debut of the Affordable Care Act. Voters in a rolling average of national polls went from favoring Democratic control of Congress to preferring the Republicans.

Veteran politics-watcher Charlie Cook called the swerve "one of the most dramatic shifts" he'd seen in 40 years of covering politics. Democrats, however, have 10 months to recover.
 
The outcome of the midterms will have an impact on the president's last two years in office. Democratic leaders in the Senate have ignored or killed a range of legislation emerging from the Republican-led House, while stifling GOP Senate initiatives. That has insulated Mr. Obama from having to veto bills to cut domestic spending, diminish union clout, increase abortion restrictions and alter or repeal the health law he championed. If Republicans capture a Senate majority, the party could apply pressure more directly on Mr. Obama and shape the environment ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
 
In the House, a bigger Republican majority would give Speaker John Boehner—should he remain in the post—a little breathing room to buck conservative upstarts. Losing seats, on the other hand, would embolden the most ideological members of his conference, making the GOP's already fractious majority more unwieldy.
 
As was the case in 2012, all eyes this year will be on the Senate, where Democratic incumbents have to defend seats in seven states won by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
 
Republicans need to get a net six seats to recapture a Senate majority, giving them little margin for error, especially because the GOP has to defend seats in what are shaping up to be tough races in Georgia and Kentucky. The GOP has an early edge in three states where senior Democrats are retiring—Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia—and a realistic shot of knocking off Democratic incumbents in four other states won by Mr. Romney in 2012: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina.
 
The troubled rollout of the 2010 health law has made all those races more difficult, while also raising risks for Democrats in states such as Colorado, Iowa and Michigan.
 
Republicans might also be able to mount formidable challenges to Democratic incumbents in New Hampshire and Virginia, if former Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie launch bids in those states, respectively.
 
Whether the GOP can summon the wave it would need to grab the Senate will depend on many factors. The Obama administration has 10 months to deal with the political fallout from the health law. Continued signs of economic improvement could also ease the pressure on Democrats in some states. The dramatic shift in public attitudes toward the two parties in recent months also suggests the electorate remains fluid.
 
Meanwhile, Republicans must navigate another round of tricky primary fights involving tea-party-aligned challengers that, even more so than 2012, threaten to splinter a party already rife with divisions.
 
Many of those contests will be waged in states where Democrats have little chance of claiming a Senate seat. But the chaotic primary landscape also features crowded Republican fields in such states as Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky and North Carolina, where Democrats already hold the Senate seat or have rallied around a single candidate.
 
Historical trends suggest Republicans will have one very clear advantage in the fall: a favorable electorate. Voters in midterm elections tend to be older and whiter than those in a presidential-election year, and Republicans typically outperform Democrats among both demographic groups. That trend, which often gets lost in much of the pre-election prognostication, might affect the midterm results more than any other factor.
 
If Republicans don't take the Senate majority in this year's election, their prospects for regaining power dim significantly in 2016.
 
While Democrats are defending 21 seats this year, the party will defend only 10 seats in 2016, all of them in states that Mr. Obama carried last year.
 
By contrast, Republicans are defending 14 seats this year, and Maine is the only state where the president claimed victory. In 2016, the party will be defending 24 seats, of which Mr. Obama won seven.

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