By Matt Rooney
Count me among those who is skeptical of a “blue wave” crashing on America’s shorelines this November, Save Jerseyans. Click here for a more developed rant on the topic.
But regardless of what happens at the polls? Either a miracle GOP retention of the House or a new Democrat majority led by Pelosi (or someone else)? The word “historic” being bandied about on the nightly news and most political blogs is almost certainly NOT going to happen.
Blame gerrymandering, in part.
In 1894? Republicans picked up 120 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2010? 63.
On the whole, our swings are getting much less swing-y over time. Decidedly smaller and less dramatic.
The most recent big year for the Democrats — 2016 — saw the donkeys recapture the House with a gain of…. 31.
It’s math. There simply aren’t as many competitive seats as there were 25, 50 or a 100+ years ago. If you made me bet, I’d say 2018 is shaping up to look a lot more like 2006 than 1894 or 1948 (or even 2010), and the way these districts are drawn is only part of it.
For starters, the narrative you’re hearing/reading isn’t backed up by numbers. Trump is not the most hated POTUS. President Trump’s net approval rating is actually a few-to-several points better than President Bush’s was in the summer of 2006. Russia is actually more polarizing than the Iraq War, meaning that the issue has deflated Dems and some independents but actually rallied many self-identified Republicans to Trump (his #’s with Republicans are rivaled only by Bush’s own in the wake of 9/11).
The generic congressional ballot, a far more accurate measure than ‘enthusiasm’, a vague term you’ve also heard a lot this cycle, is presently 4.2-points better for Republicans in 2018 than it was on Election Day 2006.
There’s also the economy, and the lack of a geopolitical quagmire like Iraq (or a policy disaster and overreach like Obamacare) to spur opposition outside of the most ardent Trump-hating liberals who are likely to vote anyway.
Candidly? Were it not for the fact that Democrats ONLY need a net gain of 23 seats this year? And the large number of open GOP seats engendered by incumbent retirements, disproportionately located in blue states like our own NJ-2 and NJ11? I’d be cautiously optimistic that Republicans were going to hold the House notwithstanding relatively normative midterm losses.
But that’s kind of the point, right? Thus far, there isn’t much abnormal about this midterm cycle. Dubya’s first post-9/11 midterm cycle (2002) was an exception to the rule for patently obvious reasons.
Republicans were left with 202 seats after the 2006 disaster. Right now? Cook Political Report says they’re favored to win 207 with others in “toss up” column.
We’ll see what the next 90-ish days hold in store. Much can change. Much often does!
I remember 2006. I campaigned as college student in PA-8 for Mike Fitzpatrick, watched the Republican incumbent lose a nail-biter at the Bucks County GOP’s headquarters, and then took a long, dreary drive back to D.C. with other volunteers crammed into a van, exhausted, listening to bleak radio reports coming in from around the country of other heavy electoral loses.
It sucked. It wasn’t good. It also happens all of the time in this country. Any attempt to act like its something special or ‘historic’ is just another biased attempt to pretend there’s something especially awful about Trump without any actual facts in evidence.
Work hard. Take it seriously. But please, whatever you do, don’t let them make you start hyperventilating.