MINNEAPOLIS—As the Republican National Committee closed its recent summer meeting at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel here, two of the nation’s most-quoted political prognosticators told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that it was increasingly more likely that the Republicans would lose their majority in the House, and possibly in the Senate, in this November’s elections.
Despite these gloomy forecasts from analysts, the members of the Republican National Committee with whom I spoke almost universally expressed confidence that the party would emerge triumphantly from the mid-term elections.
Independent political analyst Charles Cook told the Star Tribune the Republicans could face “an electoral rout” this November. With the Democrats’ needing a net gain of 15 seats to take back a majority in the House, Cook lists precisely 15 Republican House seats as tossups, and argues that in “a very large tidal-wave election, as this one appears to be” the Democrats could win all the toss-ups as well as some races now perceived to be leaning narrowly to the Republicans.
University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato said, “Republicans are headed for their most serious midterm losses in decades.” Along with fellow UVA analyst David Wasserman, Sabato expects Democrats to gain 12 to 15 seats in the House and three to six seats in the Senate. If the Democrats do win six Senate seats, they would take a majority of that body, too.
Noting that Cook and Sabato are basing their predictions on nationwide poll numbers on the popularity of President Bush and congressional Republicans, South Dakota GOP National Committeeman Ron Schmidt told me, “All politics is local, and in our state, those national numbers just don’t transfer.”
Nebraska GOP National Committeeman Hal Daub also disputed the gloomy forecasts. “We have a great economy and great President,” said Daub, a former U.S. representative and one-time mayor of Omaha. “We just need to get positive, get off negative, and play offense.” Daub went on to argue that Republicans would have a triumphant off-year election because “we have a different conviction of principles than the Democrats. They may not know it now, but their rhetoric may lead to a permanent minority status for the Democratic Party and their conduct will do it. [Democratic National Chairman] Howard Dean doesn’t get it!”
Dr. Doug McKinney, the newly elected state party chairman in West Virginia, noted that the President won his state over Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) by a big margin. (“My people weren’t fooled by Kerry’s hunting trip to Ohio,” said McKinney.) He predicted good off-year results in the his state. “We have a lot of DINOs [Democrats in Name Only] where I come from,” he said.
Illinois Republican National Committeeman Mary Jo Arndt, who began reading Human Events by giving annual subscriptions to her Bridge Club for $1 a year under a special offer in 1964 (“to help Barry Goldwater, my hero”), also said the party is in strong shape in her state because “a lot of Democrats are very unhappy.” She cited the nationally watched race for president of the Cook County (Chicago) Board of Supervisors, in which ailing incumbent John Stroger blessed his son Todd to replace him as the Democratic nominee this fall and the county Democratic committee went along with it—upsetting other ambitious Democrats. According to Arndt, Republican nominee Tony Peraica “has a great chance to win and there is great enthusiasm for him, as there is for Peter Garza, our nominee for Cook County sheriff. People want to see more integrity in public officials.”
Perhaps the most pungent rejoinder to Cook and Sabato came from California GOP National Committeeman Tim Morgan. “At this time in 1998 [when Republicans lost a net five seats in the House], Republicans thought they would win 30 more seats,” said Morgan. “And they thought that right up to a few days before the election and then they lost seats. So who knows?”