Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Health Care -- Have the Dems Lost All Control?, 2010 Continuing to Look Up for GOP

If you have only been reading my blog for the past month, you might draw the conclusion that I am aligned with conservatives. I've advocated giving up the public option on health care, I've noted crashing poll numbers for President Obama and I've noted the improving prospects for the GOP in 2010. Those of you who have read this blog longer know otherwise. I am an Independent, but have voted more with the Democrats than the GOP at least over the past 10 years. I voted for President Obama, John Kerry and Al Gore (but not Bill Clinton.) The last Republican that I supported for federal office was Arlen Specter in 2004, who is now a Democrat. But, I'm not a party hack and I call them like I see them. And the Democrats are having a really bad summer.

Health Care -- Is It Already Dead?
President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius say that they didn't shift their position on the public option over the weekend, but clearly they did. They shifted the discussion from a public option being a central tenant of health care reform to a position of willingness to compromise. It was a shift that they needed to make -- a full federal option appears to be DOA in the Senate and public co-operatives would largely achieve the same policy goal while being significantly more acceptable to moderates in both parties.

Predictably, the left-wing factions of the Democratic Party has nearly had a stroke over the past 48 hours. House progressives are threatening to vote against any bill not containing a public option.

Health care is certainly not dead yet and Democrats hold sizable majorities in both houses of congress, but I can't figure out what bill could pass.

All of which points to what I think is now a fair and relevant question -- can the Democratic party govern? In 1977, Democrats took control of both houses of congress and the Presidency. They failed to achieve a single lasting policy accomplishment and were run out of town as Republicans swept into control of the Presidency and the Senate in the 1980 elections. They didn't get another shot until 1993, when Bill Clinton took office with majorities in both houses. After a botched attempt at health care reform that failed, Democrats were crushed in the 1994 elections, with Republicans seizing control of both houses of congress. It wasn't until this year, when President Obama took office, that they got another shot at full control of government.

And so far....Presidential popularity bordering on free fall, health care and limbo and infighting galore. You have to go back to Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society to find a case where the Democrats were in control of both the legislative and executive branches and got major things done.

So can they govern? We'll see. We have a proud history of splitting tickets in this country. Republicans haven't had much more success in governing -- in the past 60 years, they've held control for only 4 years (from 2003 to 2007, although they were just 1 Senate seat shy from 2001 to 2003) and it basically ran them out into the wilderness that they found themselves in this year.

So it may be that we are just conservative as a nation, in the traditional sense of the word. We don't like big changes all at once, which is what one party in power tends to produce. We backlash towards the middle as we are doing now. President Clinton learned this lesson in 1994 and adapted, embracing welfare reform and balanced budgets. He won a resounding re-election in 1996 (by a larger popular vote margin than President Obama held this past November.) President Obama may likewise adapt. Or he may find a way not to have to, as FDR did (Lyndon Johnson was so unpopular by the end of his term that he did not seek a second full term.)

Regardless, the short-term news looks bad for Democrats and good for the GOP. Let's look at how the congressional races are evolving.

2010 Projections
Here are our changes from just a couple of weeks ago:
Illinois -- moves from lean Democratic hold to Toss-Up -- even with Burris out the likely match-ups are polling dead even

Delaware -- moves all the way from Likely Democratic Hold to Lean GOP Pick-up as Rep. Mike Castle surprisingly leads Beau Biden in 2 new polls

Pennsylvania -- Sen. Arlen Specter (D) falls further -- polls are all over the map but are trending GOP, for now we'll move this from Lean Democratic Hold to Toss-up

New York (Gillebrand) -- moves from Safe Democratic Hold to Likely Democratic Hold -- this one really all depends on if Pataki runs. If he does, we have a race. If he doesn't, Gillebrand is a lock to win the rest of her term.

Missouri -- moves from toss-up to Lean Democratic Pick-up -- Democrats lead by 1 to 9% in two recent polls.

So, we now have:
Safe Democratic Holds (7)
Hawaii, Maryland, New York (Schumer), Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

Likely Democratic Holds (4)
New York (Gillebrand), Indiana, Nevada, North Dakota

Lean Democratic Holds (2)
California, Arkansas

Lean Democratic Pick-ups (3)
New Hampshire, Ohio, Missouri

Toss-ups -- Democratic Controlled (2)
Illinois, Pennsylvania

Toss-ups -- Republican Controlled (0)

Lean GOP Pick-ups (3)
Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut

Lean GOP Holds (3)
Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia

Likely GOP Holds (6)
Florida, Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota

Safe GOP Holds (6)
Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah

Which leaves us with:
Projected GOP Pick-up of 0 to 2 Seats -- Central Projection is +1 Seat
Best Case for the GOP (all leans) -- +7 seats
Best Case for the Dems (all leans) -- +6 seats

On the house side, generic ballot is all over the map right now, ranging from +6 for the Dems to +5 for the GOP (from our friends at Rasmussen, who have consistently had outlier polls that are more favorable to the GOP this year -- I just don't know if they are right or if everyone else is.) Throwing out the high and low polls gives us a range of +1% GOP to +3% Dems or a projection range of:
Projected GOP Pick-up of 17 to 35 Seats -- Central Projection is +22 Seats

Even in a very dark summer for the Dems, the GOP still has a structural problem in the Senate. From my first projection to now, I can't see any path to the GOP taking the Senate in 2010. They would need to not only win all of the presently close states (which includes winning California, Connecticut, Illinois and Delaware), they would also need 3 out of 4 in Likely Democratic states, which include popular Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), Senate Majority Leader Harry Read (NV), popular Sen. Byron Dorgan (ND) and Gillebrand's seat in New York. Seems highly, highly unlikely.

In the House, on the other hand, they could potentially get to the 41 seats that they need if Dems keep driving off a cliff. Of course, they face a structural challenge with the way districts are drawn there too. They lost the popular vote in the House by 10% in 2008. If you subtracted 10% from the margin of every Democrat who ran in 2008, the GOP would gain only 22 seats and they need 41 to reclaim a majority. In fact, using that math, they would need to win the popular vote nationally by about 5% to retake the House. Of course, that's exactly where the Rasmussen poll has them, right now.

Thanks for reading. I know August is a slow time for politics and I appreciate you tuning in to hear my thoughts. Please visit often and tell your friends. Also, note the Google search bar at the bottom of the page, which accesses the Google site. You can bookmark this site as your home site and use that bar for all your web-searching needs.

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