After 12 years in the majority in Congress, the GOP now has amassed record levels of public disapproval, as measured by public opinion polls. The most recent polls from major media as well independent nonprofit polling groups indicate that only 25% of those polled approve of Congress, a low not seen since September 1994.
As we now know, the GOP’s 1994 “Contract with America” hubris was short-lived as the new GOP majority went far further right than most Americans wanted. Neither Tom (Delay), Dick (Armey), nor Newt (Gingrich)—the GOP’s 1994 brain trust—holds office any longer.
This year, the GOP majority leadership is under fire for corruption and ethics violations, much as the former majority holding Democrats were twelve years ago. The strong-arm tactics of Tom DeLay (R-TX) in redrawing Texas Congressional districts have been brought to court. Former Majority Leader Delay has resigned from Congress and withdrawn from the 2006 race. The Jack Abramoff influence peddling investigation has tarred more Republicans than Democrats, if only because the GOP had more influence to peddle.
Mark Foley (R-FL) was elected in the firebrand GOP class with Sue Kelly in 1994. The GOP’s Deputy Majority Whip was one of the GOP’s key floor leaders in the House. Foley has just abruptly resigned from the House over a inappropriate exchanges with teenage House pages. Until Foley resignation this week, he was deemed a shoe-in for re-election, but overnight his Democratic challenger, Tim Mahoney, now suddenly has a huge opening.
The Dems hold 202 seats now versus 232 for the GOP. The Democrats need 15 more seats to take over the House. The Democrats can “win” the House—even if they fall short of the gaining the majority.
If the Democrats come within 3 or 4 seats of parity, they will be able to hinder the GOP’s current ability to ramrod the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld agenda through key Congressional subcommittees.
Indeed, most observers (see: “Election 2006 Resources”) think a swing of fewer than 12 seats either way is more likely. Yesterday’s Rothenberg Report moved a number of House and Senate races further from the GOP column toward the “toss up” or “takeover likely” column favorable to the Dems. The Cook Political Report is more coy individual races, but has Democrats leading the generic Congressional ballot test 49% to 35% among registered voters.
In contrast to the GOP’s photo-op based saber rattling in 1994, 2006 is striking in that the Democrats’ prospects are lifting without a distinct clarion call from the minority party. How many Americans would even recognize Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi if they saw them on TV?
— Leo Wiegman