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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Republicans Aren't Dead Yet

From left and right, some clarity emerges about the recent past and near future.

At The American Prospect, Paul Starr says that Democrats exaggerated the impact of Obama's victory:
But if you step back now, look at government as a whole, and think about the likely course of politics in the next several years, things look different. In what was a bad year for Republicans, they emerged with enough power to stymie major Democratic legislative initiatives and to advance key items on their own agenda through the arms of government that they continue to control.
...
The fiscal-cliff legislation severely limits domestic policy for the rest of Obama’s presidency. With income-tax increases off the table, most of the focus in the coming rounds will be on spending cuts, particularly in Social Security and Medicare. However those issues are resolved, spending on discretionary programs as a percentage of gross domestic product will be virtually certain to fall back to levels last seen in the 1950s. If any Eisenhower Republicans are left, they should be smiling.
Meanwhile, Republicans have considerable power to set the nation’s direction through other arms of government. Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to vote with the liberals last June to uphold the Affordable Care Act should not obscure the reality that the Court remains in conservative hands. Even the “Obamacare” ruling represented a doctrinal victory for conservatives in two crucial areas—the limitation of the interstate commerce clause and congressional spending powers—and this year Roberts appears poised to lead his fellow conservative justices in decisions declaring affirmative action and critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act to be unconstitutional.
The other critical base of conservative power lies in the states, where Republicans have one-party control of 24 states, compared with only 12 for the Democrats. The GOP made the most of its victories in 2010, seizing the chance to gerrymander state legislative as well as congressional districts and positioning itself to dominate those legislatures as well as the U.S. House for the rest of the decade.
At The Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove writes:
Yes, there will be fewer whites and more minorities in the future, and Republicans will have to adjust. But the situation is more complicated than that.
Start with the obvious: If demographics were determinative, then Republicans shouldn't have gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives in 2010—the largest midterm shift since 1938—while also taking 30 governorships.
When presidential re-elections yielded realignments in the past, the winner earned a bigger share of the vote than he had in the past. FDR won 60.8% of the vote in 1936 after winning 57.41% in 1932. But Mr. Obama won 51.06% in 2012, down from 52.87% in 2008. Over the course of his first term, his support dropped among young people (a swing of 2.4 million net votes to Mitt Romney), women (a net swing of 1.6 million votes to Mr. Romney), and African-Americans (a net swing 945,000 votes).
And while Mr. Obama may believe he can ignore moderate and conservative whites, congressional Democrats would disagree. Mr. Obama won Florida by a razor-thin 74,309 votes (0.9% of the total), yet Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won re-election by 1,065,184 votes, or 13%, many from white voters. In North Dakota, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won a Senate seat by less than 1% while Mr. Obama lost by 20%, and in West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin won re-election by 24% while Mr. Obama lost by 27%. Such Democrats from swing states or districts will be uncomfortable with Mr. Obama's strategy of playing to his party's left wing.