Republican partisans are ratcheting up predictions of doom if Democrats get control of Congress on Nov. 7. They have also been laying a guilt trip on any Republican considering not voting. You'd think that we were in danger of having our government taken over by totalitarians who will enslave us in January.
OK. I know this is an exaggeration. But I don't recall such heavy-handed pressure previously being used by either party in midterm congressional elections. Normally, such all-out efforts are reserved for presidential contests where the stakes are higher. By turning up the heat so high this time, I think Republicans risk sounding like the boy who cried wolf. This may make it harder to motivate their base in 2008.
Oddly, many of the same people predicting disaster if Democrats retake Congress are among the most optimistic about Republicans' maintaining control. They seem to feel that it would be inconsistent to advocate Republican control while predicting a Democratic win. Personally, I have never understood how being a Pollyanna contributed to political victory. I've always thought that having an accurate assessment of one's political opponents was a better way of achieving it.
I have no special insights on the likely Election Day results. I defer to those analysts like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg who have been handicapping congressional races for years. Their view is that it is almost a certainty that Democrats will get enough seats to at least retake the House of Representatives and probably the Senate, as well. To avoid this result, the Republicans would have to win all of the toss-up races, something that seems unlikely.
Republicans respond that they still have a cash advantage and a superior get-out-the-vote operation. But I have doubts about the value of both this year. Running more television commercials with a lame message may well lose more votes than it gains. And as far as Republican voter-targeting is concerned, this has always seemed like a lot of hype to me. I believe that its currency comes mainly from Democrats who would rather believe that their electoral losses resulted from a better Republican organization than the unpopularity of their candidates and policies.
Assuming that Democrats do retake the House, I think they will know they have a great opportunity and will work hard not to blow it. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of San Francisco, who will be speaker of the House, may be one of the most liberal members of Congress, but she is also a skilled politician. She has already put out the word that no craziness will be tolerated from the new committee chairmen, many of whom, like her, are from the Democratic Party's far left wing.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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