On Tuesday, Republicans won a historic electoral victory, sweeping away a Democratic Senate, replacing Democratic governors in blue states like Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois, and reversing Democratic state legislatures in Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Maine, West Virginia and New Hampshire. Republicans now control more state legislatures than they have at any point since the 1920s, and a bigger House majority than they have since 1928.
The celebratory mood for Republicans pervaded the country -- a feeling of hope, lost since President Obama revealed himself to be just as radical as the right suspected, has returned. That hope isn't vain -- when a landslide of such proportion takes place, there is something to it. The question is whether Republicans can capitalize on their newfound opportunity and finally make a strong move toward winning the White House.
Therein lies the problem. Midterm elections have historically been poor predictors of presidential elections. That's because the crowd that turns out for midterms does not mirror the crowd that turns out for presidential elections -- those who turn out for midterms are more highly motivated and generally better informed. In 2010, for example, approximately 84 million Americans voted for in local Congressional race. In 2012, 108 million Americans voted in the same races. Republicans won about 45 million votes in the Congressional races in 2010, with Democrats coming in far behind at 39 million. In 2012, each party earned about 54 million votes. Of the additional 24 million voters who showed up to vote in Congressional races in 2012, 62.5 percent went for Democrats.
That means that Republicans must not sit on their laurels.
For many in the commentariat, that means that Republicans must push forward a compromising, bipartisan agenda. That seems to be the general opinion of those on the political left, who despise Republicans and who, as the evening of Nov. 4 progressed, strongly resembled Arnold Toht at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," their faces falling with each result.
The truth is precisely the reverse. Republicans cannot be seen as the Party of No, as the GOP's enemies would have it -- but they do have an obligation to turn President Obama into the President of No. That means pushing easily comprehended, single-issue bills, short and clear and popular. If President Obama wants to veto those bills, that becomes his problem. But Republicans should not stop passing legislation between 2014 and 2016.
Meanwhile, Republicans must work to exploit holes in the Democratic base. In 2012, President Obama appealed heavily to minority groups for strong turnout; Hillary Clinton does not have the same minority appeal. That means she will focus strongly on winning single women, and driving them to the polls in large numbers. Republicans should therefore push national security issues, family freedom issues -- and they have just the right faces to do that in Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa and Mia Love, R-Utah, among others.
Conservatives can see a ray of sunshine at last. Now they must work to ensure that the ray of sunshine doesn't turn into another faded opportunity.