Washington Beat Preview: Election Edition

Posted: Nov 02, 2010 11:20 AM
From today's Washington Beat — if you haven't signed up yet, do it right now on the top right corner of the home page.
Today, Republicans will finally get to scratch that itch that’s been pestering them for two long years. They’ll get to cross the finish line in what promises to be a wickedly exciting race. They’ll get to….  free themselves from horrific analogies put forth by political reporters whose emotions get the best of them as Election Day approaches.
Jokes aside, today is pivotal. Republicans need 39 seats to win back the majority in the House, and 10 seats to win the Senate. The former is likely; the latter is not. Analysts peg as many as 60 seats for a likely Republican takeover, and as many as 8 in the Senate. The chance of the GOP winning all of those tight Senate races is low, but it’s also not impossible. The next-two closes seats that would allow the GOP to push itself over the edge – Connecticut and Delaware – are extreme long-shots: America can handle a lot, but they probably can’t handle both a former witch and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO in the Senate at the same time.
What are the factors that matter? Policy, independents, tea parties, the enthusiasm gap, President Obama, unemployment, and much more. Here's what you need to know about "policy."
Health care and economic legislation are the two biggest policies at play this cycle. Even if Republicans can win, Obamacare isn’t going anywhere. Republicans might be able to take apart the thing piece by piece, but any major motions to repeal would be blocked by a Democratic filibuster even if that magic number of “10” Republicans win their Senate races today. What’s more possible is that Republicans could block funding or stonewall the bill’s implementation with procedural antics. That could have similar effects to repeal, but it wouldn't mean the thing is off the books. Similarly, there won’t be big reversals in the stimulus packages or TARP bailouts. Future fiscal action, however, will really let Republicans put their money where their mouth is.

Within the first few weeks of the new session, Republicans will have to vote to raise the debt ceiling — something Republican Committee Chairman Michael Steele has already vowed that Republicans will not do. Either Republicans reneg on that vow, or something like a global default takes place. Or, Republicans manage to tweak their messaging and convince voters that increasing the ceiling doesn't actually mean the debt is growing, because Republicans didn't actually appropriate all that money themselves (the previous Democratic Congress did). I doubt that tea party voters will allow them to get away with that kind of message-flip, so it promises to be an interesting situation.
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