Although more people voted for Democrats than Republicans for the House in 2012, the Democrats have an uphill battle to retake control. Think Progress calculates that the Democrats would have to boost their lead in the popular vote to over seven percent due to gerrymandering. The higher concentration of Democrats in cities also contributes to the higher total number of Congressional districts won by Republicans.
Running against the Republicans for their extremist views isn’t enough for Democrats to win control of the House since so many members of Congress are gerrymandered into safe seats. Many Republicans have more to fear from even more extreme conservatives beating them in primaries than from moderate or liberal Democrats defeating them. Politico reports that instead Democrats are planning to run against the Republicans for being ineffective at governing:
Democrats, facing a challenging fight to retake the House of Representatives in 2014, see a promising new line of attack rising out of the fiscal cliff follies: casting the Republican congressional majority as a terminally dysfunctional body that cannot perform the basic functions of government, let alone lead the country through difficult times.
It’s a meaningful shift from the Democrats’ message in 2012, when President Barack Obama’s party gained a modest eight seats in the House attacking Republicans as ultraconservative allies of the super-rich.
After the past two weeks of tumultuous negotiations over the fiscal cliff, which ended late on New Year’s Day with a majority of House Democrats and minority of Republicans voting to raise taxes on upper-income Americans, Democratic strategists now say that competence, as much as ideology, will be at the core of their midterm message.
New York Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the political reality is that “people do tend to blame Republicans for this chaos” and the minority party has two years to explain to voters how the fallout from that hurts their lives.
“If we continue to be the problem solvers and Republicans continue to be the problem, we will have a very strong path to getting the majority,” Israel said. “Republicans are drawing those contrasts with every cliff they try to throw us off.”
The House’s image took another hit Wednesday when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential Republican presidential candidate, lashed out at congressional Republicans for failing to schedule a vote on aid for Americans affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“Americans are tired of the palace intrigue and political partisanship of this Congress, which places one-upsmanship ahead of the lives of the citizens who sent these people to Washington, D.C., in the first place,” Christie said. “New York deserves better than the selfishness we saw on display last night. New Jersey deserves better than the duplicity we saw on display last night. America deserves better than just another example of a government that has forgotten who they are there to serve and why.”
There is hope that voters who generally vote Republican will change their votes if they realize how much harm the current Republican leadership is doing to the country. Actually these two strategies are synergistic. The Republicans are ineffective at governing because of their extreme views. Their extreme views also leads them into taking action such as hindering economic recovery and placing the nation at risk of defaulting on its debts.
The next battle over the debt ceiling will provide a clue as to whether the Democrats can stand up to Republican tactics. The Republicans are demanding large cuts to Medicare and Social Security, and are essentially threatening to crash the global economy if they do not receive these cuts. Obama forced the Republicans to back down at the last minute before going over the fiscal cliff. He needs (and probably intends) to handle Republican economic terrorism in the same way with the debt ceiling. My bet is that voters will side with the Democrats in opposing cuts to Medicare and Social Security, and blame the Republicans for any consequences of not increasing the debt ceiling. Once that dynamic is clear, there is hope that the Republicans will again fold, as opposed to demanding unpopular cuts to Medicare and Social Security.