After losing the White House and nearly 70 congressional seats in the last two elections, Republicans are poised for a strong comeback in 2010, with significant gains likely in the House and a good chance of boosting their numbers in the Senate and statehouses across the country.
Could we see a repeat of 1994? Maybe, but the settings are not identical. For House races, one important difference is the reapportionment/redistricting cycle. Congressional district lines following the 1990 census were good for the GOP. In the first election of the new cycle, 1992, the party did not realize all of its potential gains because George H.W. Bush's poor performance was a drag. In 1994, Republicans were due for some "timed-release" pickups. The 2010 election comes at the end of a cycle. As we explain in our chapter on congressional and state elections, the district lines for this cycle were not as favorable as they seemed at first: in Texas and some other states, Republican line-drafters overreached. Instead of drawing a smaller number of relatively secure GOP seats, they drew a larger number of more marginal seats. When population shifted and incumbents got into trouble, many of these seats went from red to blue.
The GOP may realize some gains after the next census, recent estimates suggest, but we will not know for sure until the census has reported the data and the states have drawn their lines.