The Implosion of the Republican Brand and Control of the House

Greg Sargent had a useful interactive graph posted here which demonstrates the implosion of the GOP brand based upon recent polling numbers. Key findings are that, compared with September 2012, Republican unfavorability ratings have increased among women, people over age 65, independents, and white college grads. Among other problems, losing the young can have implications for years to come as early voting habits often persist. We know that Republican favorability among minorities is pretty low. The graph does leave out white voters without college degrees. Republicans have generally done the best among low-information white males, but there just aren’t enough of them to win national elections.

Sargent summarized the results:

Observers believe that over the long term, the GOP will have to do a better job winning over college educated whites, who are an increasingly important constituency, along with young voters and minorities, in the Democratic coalition of the future. (Ron Brownstein has dubbed these groups the “coalition of the ascendant,” arguing they are increasingly important in statewide races, not just national ones.)

Among white collar whites, the GOP’s unfavorability rating has shot up by a startling 21 points, to 70 percent. Among college educated women – who may be more critical to the Dem coalition than college educated men – the spike in GOP unfavorability has been somewhat more dramatic than among women overall, jumping 15 points, to 74 percent. If this trend continues, it could fuel future Dem gains among women.

This makes it difficulty for Republicans to win a national election, and if these numbers hold will also hurt them in state-wide races, possibly leading to Democratic pick-ups in the Senate. Of course these numbers are undoubtedly different geographically, and presumably the Republicans will remain strong in more authoritarian-oriented regions such as the south. Republicans continue to benefit from gerrymandering and concentration of Democrats in a fewer number of urban districts, making it more difficult for control of the House to change. There are a number of different projections as to how large a lead the Democrats must maintain in the generic Congressional ballot to flip control of the House. I previously cited an estimate of around seven percent. Yesterday Steve Benen quoted a couple of other views on this yesterday:

Political scientist Nicholas Goedert made the case this week that if Democrats go into the 2014 midterms with a lead on the generic ballot of 5 or more percentage points, they stand a pretty good chance of winning back the House. Nate Cohn, however, recently argued the Dems’ advantage would have to be closer to 10 points.

There are many variables, including whether the Democratic lead on the generic ballot persists, whether this improves Democratic recruitment of candidates and inhibits some Republicans from running, and how it affects fund raising.  Battles over immigration might further harm Republicans.  Republican rooting for the failure of Obamacare might backfire against the Republicans as initial computer SNAFU’s are forgotten and people see that the law is far different from what Republicans have claimed. Demographic changes will also help tilt many districts as each year passes.

Democrats are also likely to do better in the 2016 presidential election (assuming events between now and then don’t radically change the election landscape) when more young and minority voters are likely to turn out. Even if the Democrats fall short of taking control of the House in 2014, they might make gains that year making flipping of House control more likely to occur in 2016. Regardless of who controls the House in 2014, it is doubtful Obama will be able to accomplish much in the final two years of his term as long as the Republicans can use the veto in the Senate. I suspect we will have to wait until 2016 to see further change in how Washington works.

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