But Will They Still Keep the House?
Monday, April 17, 2006 :::
Michael Barone has two hypotheses on the outcome of this November's elections. The first is very familiar:
Hypothesis One sees House elections as a referendum on the president and his party. If the president's job rating is above 50 percent, his party tends to suffer only narrow losses or even, as in 1934 and 1998 -- and almost in 1962 -- makes gains. If the president's job rating is significantly under 50 percent, his party tends to lose lots of seats.
And given the president's current approval ratings, this version would seem to indicate a Republican rout.
The other hypothesis is of Barone's own creation, and it runs like this:
Hypothesis Two is one I developed myself, and it's based only on the elections of the last 10 years. In the five House elections from 1996 to 2004, there has been very little variation in the popular vote percentages for both parties. The Republican percentage of the popular vote for the House has fluctuated between 49 and 51 percent, the Democratic percentage between 46 and 48.5 percent.
So under this model, a president's approval rating doesn't really matter. What's more important are the "cultural divisions" of our "highly polarized politics." As such, the Republicans look to maintain their House majority because they have done a better job at getting their people to the polls on election day.
It's an interesting theory. But I have to wonder...with the growing discontent among some portions, at least, of the Republican base, will Barone's theory hold true in November? He looks at the results of the special election race in San Diego and concludes:
These results are inconsistent with Hypothesis One. They're consistent with Hypothesis Two. Republican turnout was down more than Democratic turnout, but only very slightly. Of course, things may change by November. But it looks like Hypothesis Two is still in force, and if so, Democrats will have a hard time winning control of the House.
It's dangerous to draw larger conclusions from any special election race. Barone may be right -- maybe the discontent is confined largely to the grasstops. If so, the GOP may just be able to count on another two years in the majority. But I'm not so sure.
I think the 2005 Virginia results are probably a more accurate indicator of what could happen this November. But that still assumes a great deal -- including the Democrats fielding viable challengers, in greater numbers, than in the past. So far, that doesn't seem to be happening.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 4/17/2006