By Tim Montgomerie
The hype of a forty year rule by Obama's Democrats crashes to earth: After the Democrats took control of the White House in 2008, and increased their stranglehold of the Senate and House of Representatives, former Clinton adviser James Carville hubristically claimed that Democrats would be in charge of Washington for forty years.
Tomorrow – in America's mid-term elections – the Washington Post's prediction panel is agreed that the Republicans won't win the Senate but will win the House: A CNN poll gives the Republicans a 10% lead over the Democrats. The Republican lead was 7% in 1994 when Gingrich took the House on a landslide with his Contract with America. It's not just conservatives who are energised and ready to vote (the GOP-to-Democrat "intensity gap" is 64% to 49%); independent voters are deserting the Democrats. Obama led among independents by 8% in 2008. Republicans now lead by 20%. The GOP has a very good chance of winning the Senate in 2012 when the Democrats will be defending their big gains from 2006. Three quarters of Senators up for re-election then will be Democrats.
Republican gains are not likely to be as substantial as once expected: After defending their record brought no opinion poll improvement, the Democrats have switched tactics in the final weeks of the campaign. They appear to have successfully minimised their losses by turning all their fire on some of the less credible GOP candidates.
Obama over-interpreted his 2008 victory: Charles Krauthammer argues that Obama attempted to impose a liberal agenda on a centre right country (42% of Americans identify themselves as conservative, 35% as moderate and just 20% as liberal): "The story of the last two years is as simple as it is dramatic. It is the epic story of an administration with a highly ideological agenda encountering a rising resistance from the American people over the major question in dispute: the size and reach and power of government and, even more fundamentally, the nature of the American social contract."
Obama focused on healthcare when American voters were worried about the economy: The Economist's Lexington noted that "Obamacare" hogged the headlines from early 2009 to March 2010. The administration appeared obsessed with introducing a big new government entitlement at a time when jobs were being lost and growth was faltering. The Weekly Standard blogs that Democrats who voted for ObamaCare are faring particularly badly in close races.
The backlash against Obama is not just a rebellion against big government: It is, writes David Brooks, reflective of a sense that America's best years are behind it: "The current sour mood is not just caused by high unemployment. It emerges from the fear that America’s best days are behind it. The public’s real anxiety is about values, not economics: the gnawing sense that Americans have become debt-addicted and self-indulgent; the sense that government undermines individual responsibility; the observation that people who work hard get shafted while people who play influence games get the gravy." This mood – linking national debt and national decline – was captured in this video, entitled 'The Chinese Professor':
As the GOP looks forward it is looking to British conservatives: Debra J Saunders, a conservative columnist on the San Francisco Chronicle, contrasts Britain under Cameron with America under Obama: "Across the pond, British Prime Minister David Cameron's conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition is calling for 19% cuts in government spending. As the New York Times reported, British finance minister George Osborne believes that the cuts will steer the country – where the deficit runs at about 11.5% of total economic output – away from the "brink" of "economic ruin." In President Obama's Washington, however, there is a rush to the brink. The U.S. federal deficit represents 10.7% of economic output – compared with 5.4% for Germany – yet there are calls for more needless spending." The expansion of government and its implication for future tax levels hasn't even brought economic relief. US growth remains sluggish and unemployment is stuck at 10%.
The Tea Party rebellion rescued the Republican Party: That is the view of many conservative commentators anyhow, including Peggy Noonan: "The tea party did something the Republican establishment was incapable of doing: It got the party out from under George W. Bush. The tea party rejected his administration's spending, overreach and immigration proposals, among other items, and has become only too willing to say so. In doing this, the tea party allowed the Republican establishment itself to get out from under Mr. Bush: "We had to, boss, it was a political necessity!"
Winning gubernatorial races may bring the most important political dividends for Republicans: The GOP is likely to hold thirty or more governorships after Tuesday. This matters because 2011 is a redistricting year. Governors will play a role in drawing the boundaries of congressional districts. "Many governors," reports Reuters, "have influence or veto power over plans drawn through an often highly politicised process that is designed to inflict maximum damage on opponents by making a district more reliably Republican or Democratic."
If the GOP can find a credible candidate for 2012, Obama could become a one term Commander-in-Chief: In nearly all polls his approval rating is well below the critical 50%. If national security becomes a top order issue again, that will also hurt Obama.