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Willisms

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Pundit Roundtable

Hi folks, and welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. I am your host, Ken McCracken, and this week we present an 'early election' edition of the Roundtable,looking forward to the elections of '06. The questions for our pundits this week are these -

On a scale of 1-100 (1 being unlikely, 100 being likely), what are the odds the Republicans lose the House and/or Senate in 2006? Why? What, over the next year, could potentially change that prediction?

Are there going to be any particularly hot races next year? Any especially critical contests?

Our first guest is a newcomer, Gerry Daly of Daly Thoughts. What do you think Gerry?

I think the chances of losing the House are relatively low, and the Senate even lower. I hesitate to give precise numbers because doing so makes it seem as if the numbers are somehow scientific, and in this case they are merely guesses based on the perceptions of the lay of the political land, but since you double-dog-dared me, I'll go with a 5% chance of losing the House and perhaps a 1% chance of losing the Senate. Both are possisble, neither would shock me, but neither is probable.

Even if there develops an anti-Republican/pro-Democrat groundswell by next November, there are counter-balancing forces which come into play. There are simply too many Gerrymandered seats in the House for there really to be an outstanding chance of the Democrats capturing the lower chamber. And people routinely underestimate the power of incumbency in Senate races. If Democrats are going to make substantial gains, the most likely place will be in Governorships and in state legislatures.

What could cause this estimation to change? A rash of retirements. That would be a sign of Republican panic, to be frank, and panic rarely amounts to anything positive. The 1994 takeover was presaged by a significant uptick in Representatives deciding to leave Washington for their homes.


Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit is a returning guest. Jim, how do you see the prospects in '06?
The “chances” are very high that the Republicans will lose seats in the House and Senate. The chance that the Republicans would lose the majority is not as high for either. I am not the expert like the political gurus at Polipundit who pull political statistics out of hat. But, I don’t see the Republicans losing either the House or Senate at this point. And, frankly, this could very well be the low for the president as far as his approval ratings go. He made the move yesterday, finally to come out swinging. It was about time he did so. He was backed in a corner and had been there for quite a while. And it is confusing why he waited so long. There are loads of Republicans wondering that themselves today. Bush has many things going for him right now. Gas prices are coming down. Republicans should never allow democrats to score points on that after all of their votes against drilling, development, etc. The economy is chugging along. The stock market made gains this week despite a rough few months with hurricanes and gas prices and terrorist attacks. The hurricane season is ending. The situation in Iraq will only improve. Tom Delay will get off soon. Frist will get out of his charges (and not much has been said about this anyway). Rove is off the hook and it would be a surprise if there were more indictments from the investigation. Cindy Sheehan gets nuttier. Etc… Things look good for Bush.

But, he does not own the media. That is the only reason he is down now. If the media was halfway fair and balanced Bush would still have a positive approval rating. But the media is not, and so Bush has to fight for anything he can get. The media has yet to say anything positive about George Bush.

Congress is in a different boat. Both the House and Senate are going to have to work hard to get Republicans to bother voting in ’06. Right now there are too many disenfranchised conservatives and moderates. Both the House and Senate Republicans are going to have to work hard this year. The president’s approval rating is rock bottom but Congress has an even worse rating.

There are several races to watch. The Missouri Senate race comes to mind right away. Jim Talent is running against Claire McCaskill who just lost the governor’s race to Matt Blunt. She is a raging liberal but the media consistently paints her as moderate so it will be a tough race. If Talent can get out the Republican vote he will win. We will see. The media just loves Claire. She was supposed to win the governor’s race but we see where she is now.

The media spin machine will be a very hard obstacle for any Republican to overcome. We will have to continue to direct people to the great conservative blogs. One year is a long time but there is much work to be done. Republicans can’t play opossum any more.


Our next guest is newcomer Mark Coffey from Decision '08 (Because Its Never Too Early!). What's your prognostication Mark?
I’d like to handle the first part of that question (though I’d love to hear any feedback from you guys on hot races or critical contests) for now.

If the election were held today, I would put the odds of losing the House at 75-25 and the Senate at 60-40. For the first time in recent memory (in fact, for the first time since…1994), voter disenchantment has reached the point where even local incumbents are feeling the heat:

Talk about negative feelings, but according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, this is the first time since 1994 that a majority of Americans — as a generation [sic] proposition — want to dump their individual Member of Congress. Question: In the 2006 election for U.S. Congress, do you feel that your representative deserves to be reelected, or do you think it is time to give a new person a chance? Answer: Re-elect My Incumbent - 37%,. Elect a New Person - 51%. That’s a very significant poll result, because usually voters say throw the bums out - but keep my bum, he’s doing a good job.

Unlike many of my fellow Republicans, I take no comfort from polls that show that, if anything, Democrats are held in even lower esteem than (or just as low as) Republicans. We’re marginally less unpopular than our opponents is not a very stirring campaign theme.

However, I put the real odds of the Republicans losing the House at 50-50, and the Senate, at 40-60. There are several things that will close the gap somewhat between now and the elections. One is another election, the one taking place in a month in Iraq. Once more, the world will see the spectacle of Iraqis voting freely in an exercise in true democracy, this time with the highest Sunni turnout yet. It will become increasingly hard for Democrats to shove the ‘Iraq is a disaster’ meme down the throats of the voters when the country is so clearly moving forward, despite the best efforts of the terrorists. Also by this time next year, Saddam’s trial will have begun in earnest, reminded the world of what a butcher he was and how much better off we are with him deposed.

The leadership within the party (as opposed to the often disastrous leadership provided by Congressional Republicans) also gives me cause for optimism. The RNC is in the capable hands of the great Ken Mehlman, and is steadily outperforming its Democratic counterpart in fundraising (and kudos to Mehlman for bringing Patrick Ruffini back on board and reaching out to the blogging community).

The final reason that I remain cautiously optimistic is that the Democrats have yet, 5 years into the Bush presidency, to define a rational policy in opposition to Bush. Most Democrats are more than happy to pile on Bush during this season of woe, but they hardly (the responsible ones, anyway) dare to call for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, since they know full well the stakes. The economy remains strong, despite the oil shock and Katrina, and the anti-war movement as personified by kooks like Cindy Sheehan has no mainstream attraction.

Further, the current push to investigate the ‘lies and manipulated intelligence’ that led us to war can’t possibly have any long-term traction, since the plain fact is that the entire world believed the intelligence, not just the Bush administration. All of these factors lead me to believe that 2006 will be a better year than 2005 for Republicans…that, and the fact that it could hardly be any worse…


Our final guest this week is also new to the Roundtable, Reliapundit of the Astute Blogger. What are your predictions for '06 Reliapundit?
think that the GOP will retain majorities in both bodies of Congress. I give this a degree of certainty of about 75%.

I think that this will happen because I belive that the "facts on the ground" will be good:

(1) gasoline will be between 2.15 and 2.35/gallon

(2) the DJI will be just over 11,000

(3) Iraq will be going well in ways the MSM cannot ignore: their troops will be doing better, we will bring home about 35,000 troops; and the Iraqis will have a well-functioning popularly elected democratic government. Bush might address thei parliament. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT!

(4) We will kill or capture Zarqawi and /or Binladen and/or Zawahiri

(5) The Dems are a left-of-center party. The reason Bush and the GOP APPEAR weak is because RIGHT-of-center republicans are unhappy. Therefore, more liberal Democrat candidates CANNOT POSSIBLY WIN many more seats UNLESS GOP VOTERS STYA HOME. The fabulous GOTV effort of the GOP will not let this happen.

IF the Dems were smart, then they run right-of-center candidates, and they MIGHT WIN MORE SEATS - as they MIGHT in PA against Santorum. But this would make their "MOVEON.ORG base" unhappy. Therefore, they will not do it. This helps the GOP.

The GOP really has to listen more to their base. I expect them to make their base happier from the SOTU to Novermber 2006.

WHAT IF's:

If #'s 3-5 of my predictors fall short, then the GOP could loses some seats in either/both bodies. The chances of this happening are not good. If it did happen then the chances that the GOP holds the Congress goes down to 35.

If #1 & #2 fall short, then the Dems can pick up some seats - but not enough to gain a majority in either body.

If all 5 fall short, then the Dems could pick up at least one body. I am CERTAIN that this would happen.

CONGRESSIONAL GOP FEAR IS BASED ON A MISINTEPRETATION OF THE CURRENT POLLS:

Failing to get ANWR drilling into law by 2006 would be BAD. Failing to cut spending would be BAD. Failing to pass permanent tax cuts would be bad.

BUT I get the feeling that the House members/leaders of the GOP are afraid of losing votes if they pass these measures.

THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE. They will lose their base if they do not.

The reason they fear this is because Bush is low in many polls. They think this bodes badly for them. They think this is because Bush is losing the cemtrist vote. IT IS NOT. The real reason Bush is falling in the polls is because he has been too centrist/liberal. I assert that Bush's drop in the polls is because he is losing is losing right-wing support not centrist support.

WHAT WILL HELP BUISH'S POLL NUMBERS:

Alito getting confirmed and a good SOTU could set the stage for a very strong campaign for the GOP - which i expect. If Bush delivers a very good SOTU - with a legislative plan whgich makes ther base happy, then I feel 85% certain the GOP will do well in the fall.

WILD CARDS:

I expect Syria to go our way - with either Assad caving in or going into exile. But he and Iran and the jihadoterrorists they support will be working overtime to create widespread havoc in the Middle East to make Bush look bad and to elect Democrats who would be more likely to appease them and abandon Iraq's and Afghanistan's emerging democracies - like Zapotero did; like the Democrats did to the South Vietnamese and the Contras.

The Axis of Evil will try to effect the election - directly by increasing casualties and regional instability and indirectly by raising the price of oil/gasoline.

That's why I expect major offensives - both military, diplomatic, and covert - tio occur in the late spring.

Some might argue that Bush would play it safe before the election, and not tyr any bold moves - not wanting casualties or missteps which could make him look worse.

I say that Bush is MORE likely to try bold moves if he is down in the polls. WHY?! Because he is a bold leader deeply committed to the spread of democracy and freedom. If he senses that the Democrats might retake a body in Congress, then he might decide that he has to win whatver he can WHILE he can - (like Lincoln did in October of 1864. Lincoln, fearing he would lose the election, and that "President McClellan" would either let the Confederacy stand or let them back in with slaves - urged his War cabinet and genrals to pull out all the stops and get victory before March - when he feared McClellan would be sworn in. The result was that Grant&Co. defeated the Confederacy by April. Thank God.) Bush will put the "GWOT" ahead of his own and his party's needs. Therefiore he will authorize bold moves in th Spring and Summer and the result will be further gains in the "GWOT." tThis will be good for the nation, the world - and the GOP in the election of 2006.

Finally, though Bush's pesonal numbers are falling it is NOT becasue of anything personal. The facts on the ground control that too. If Iraq is going well (and if gas is cheap) - and IF the people KNOW that Iraq is going well - (which means the Bush Adminstration has to stay on the PR offensive that they've FINALLY started) - then people won't care about whether Bush used "WMD hyperbole" to get us into war - and the personal trust numbers will reflect that, too. Results count.

A couple of other things MIGHT happen to make me feel better: Bush could CHOOSE to replace Scott McClellan with Tory Clarke; and he MIGHT get another nominee to the court - and pick a CONSERVATIVE like Roberts or Alito. These would help.

The biggest wild card is this: Avian Flu might break out this January-June - killing millions - mostly in the Third World of Asia and Africa, but also here. And then ALL BETS ARE OFF.

BTW: I am a registered Democrat - a Zell Miller Democrat who is sickened by the fact that my party has been taken over by the McGovernites. I thought that Bill Clinton - who originally ran as a centrist "New Democrat who would change welfare as we know it" - put that sad chapter of our party behind us, but he did not. As long as the Democrats are controlled by this crowd I will vote GOP. I cannot trust the Democratic Party with my nation's defense or with the defense of the Free World. Like I said before: they'll do to the Afghanis and ther Iraqis what they did to the South Vietnamese and the Contras. God forbid.


The host's last word: the chances of the Democrats regaining either the House or the Senate next year are remote, I give it about a 20 on the scale of 1-100. There just are not enough Republican seats at real risk for the Dems to take advantage - they would need to sweep nearly all of the 30-something at-risk seats in the House to regain power for example, and that just isn't going to happen barring some fresh huge disaster for the nation. And Bush is at his nadir I think, his poll numbers and stature is all uphill from here. I think Jim Hoft and Reliapundit hit on it best - gas prices are going to continue to drop, and the Republicans chances will have a strong inverse relation to the price of oil. I really think gas prices are the number one gripe with the economy. Everything else looks strong, including an unprecedented string of quarterly growth in the GDP.

The big race to watch will be Jeanine Pirro v. Hillary Clinton in Hillary's bid for reelection as Senator for New York. Pirro's campaign has had a few 'hiccups' and she is not expected to seriously challenge Hillary, but there will be a lot of focus on this race nonetheless and it will tell us a lot about how Hillary has or has not matured as a politician and campaigner, and whether she has what it takes to run for President in '08.

If Pirro corrects some things, starts raising money and gets some support, she could really muss up Hillary through early opposition research and tactics, and Hillary's victory in New York could be a pyrrhic one, ruining her for the nomination in '08.

Or not.

You heard it here first! Come back again next Sunday for our next installment of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Update: Actually, I will give Will Franklin the last word -

Although this was a bad week for Republicans, the chances of Democrats taking back the House and/or Senate are maybe 30-40% at best, if only because there are so few competitive races these days. Furthermore, Tuesday's elections are entirely meaningless for the next election. In 2001 (when Bush's approval numbers were astronomical), Democrats won governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, yet GOP picked up 6 House seats in 2002. Surely I am not the only one who remembers Terry McAuliffe and his media soldiers declaring that Democrats had seized the momentum and were rejecting "tax cuts for the rich" and so on.

But Congressional Republicans still need to snap out of it. Word that a couple dozen "moderate" House Republicans were killing ANWR drilling in order to get those 50 billion dollars in spending recissions was irritating. Then, when that compromise didn't even produce results on the cuts, it became comical. How boneheaded. Word that the President's tax relief may be scaled back due to the objections of "moderate" Senators George Voinovich and Olympia Snowe, however, was not so funny. These failures, on top of the failure to reform Social Security, on top of so many other bits of stupidity we've seen from the GOP this year, could very well mean that Republican voters stay home in 2006.

While Tuesday's elections truly were meaningless, if Republicans learn the wrong lessons, they may very well become a harbinger of the disaster lurking around the corner. Congressional Republicans seem to be trying their best to create a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom and gloom, running from core GOP principles. If Congressional Republicans fail to snap out of it, AND SOON, they are cruising for a political bruising-- and it won't have anything to do with President Bush, one way or the other.

In terms of specific races to look for, I am looking forward to Minnesota, West Virginia, Maryland. I also wouldn't mind seeing Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee getting knocked off, one way or another.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 13 November 2005 11:55 AM

Comments

I dunno... I think Dems will certainly pick up some seats, but fall slightly short of majority. Perhaps they have a chance in the Senate, if some races are close. The House, however, I think will stay solidly in the Republican category. Dems would have much better chances if Howard Dean could learn how to actually fund raise. Hes doing poorly in that area. Wasn't fund raising the reason Dems made him their chairman?

Posted by: Kevin W at November 13, 2005 02:19 PM