Friday, September 02, 2011

A GOP sweep in 2012?

Three years ago, there was media speculation that the Republican Party was in disarray and could find itself as the minority party for a decade or more.

Barack Obama's election as president appeared to solidify the Democrats strangle hold on the levers of government, the conventional wisdom seemed to be loudly shouting.

If you wrote one of those obituaries about the GOP, then you're in need of a rewrite.

Instead of being doomed to obscurity, the Republican Party enters 2012 with a strong majority in the House and a reasonable chance to win the presidency. And as the Wall Street Journal reports, GOP leaders are also thinking that they could gain control of the Senate.
The political arithmetic for 2012 shows what Democrats are up against. Republicans would need to gain just four Senate seats to win a majority.
Twenty-three seats held by Democrats or their allies are up for election next year, compared with 10 for the GOP.
This tough electoral map for Democrats is a byproduct of the party's success in 2006, when it gained Senate control by winning long-shot victories in conservative and swing states.
Now, those Democrats are about to face re-election, but in less favorable political circumstances.
Mr. Obama hammered Sen. John McCain on election night 2008 in large measure because young people flocked to him, the Republicans were blamed for a horrible economy and the legacy of unpopular wars hung over President Bush like the proverbial albatross.

However, the prevailing wisdom that Mr. Obama was leading a generation-long transformation of politics was soon punctured. Unable to gain any support from Republicans and equally unable to rein in the liberal wing of his party, the president quickly was saddled with an image that has stuck -- he can't cut it.

He will be his party's nominee next year; there is no chance that a Democrat will attempt to steal the nomination. But the cries that the president needs to do something, ANYTHING that smacks of being bold and decisive continue. Robert Reich, who served on President Clinton's cabinet, is one of those people calling on the president to show some guts. You can add 50 (!) economists to the list.

The Republicans almost certainly will retain control of the House, and there also are positive indicators that they will take control of the Senate. But the presidency is far more difficult to figure.

As you know, it takes 270 electoral votes to secure the White House. Based on recent voting patterns, Mr. Obama should count on winning California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Those states provide Mr. Obama with 252 of those precious electoral votes.

However, those same voting patterns are likely to hand the Republican nominee 218 electoral votes. (Please note that the aforementioned projections are based on trends; so-called one-off years in which one party wins a state it hasn't in multiple recent elections are not considered.)

That leaves 68 electoral votes -- representing five states: Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio. If the Democrats take either Florida or Ohio, Mr. Obama is re-elected. No guarantee, but not unrealistic.

If a strong Republican senatorial candidate can swing a previously reliable Democratic state, then the math changes; however, that represents the one-off idea I referenced earlier and dismissed. More likely, the Republicans are going to need to sweep those five states in order to win the White House.

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