Some time ago I predicted that the Democrats would win control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate this November. Despite what I felt was a lucid explanation for that assertion, some readers wanted a more expanded explanation.
Voters are clearly in a sour mood. Not only did Connecticut Senator Joseph I. Lieberman lose his Democratic primary, but a freshman Republican in Michigan lost his House seat. And in what has to be a terrible humiliation, Governor Frank Murkowski came in a distant third in the Alaskan Republican primary. After 22 years in the Senate, this conservative Republican went home and sought out the Governorship. He won handily. But as soon as he took office, after having polled state GOP leaders as to who would be the best nominee to replace himself, he appointed his daughter, Senator Lisa Murkowski. Few saw her winning a full term in her own right but she did, although narrowly, in the Republican landslide election year of 2004. That convinced the Governor that he could be nominated and elected once more. The voters had a different idea. In the end, he had less than 20% of the primary vote. Other incumbents, although victorious, were given a hard time during their own primary elections.
Representative Chris Cannon (R-UT) comes to mind. This is the sixth-year itch election. Voters going back a century or more, with the exception of the 1998 elections, have punished the party in the White House by handing an average of 30-some seats to the opposition. 1998 was the one and only exception because President William J. Clinton campaigned hard and stoked up racial issues to the point that the Democrats picked up five seats. He told his minority audiences that if enough of them would vote for Democratic candidates Congress would never impeach him. That strategy seemed to work until Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) sent Members one-by-one to a special reading room where the FBI's dossier on Clinton was on tap. Even the skeptics returned from that reading room ready to indict the President of the United States. If the polls are correct then this November truly will be a sixth-year itch election.
The polls show voters angry and wanting to punish the Republicans. The Republicans have an exceptionally large number of open seats. Republican Members, even Committee chairmen, sensed that this was the year to get out. The GOP had has a run of a dozen years of controlling the House of Representatives. Another election and the Member could go out a loser whereas if the Member quits now he can go out the winner. While defense of open seats is easier than is defeat of incumbents, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has a lot on its plate.