Ann Coulter, quite rightly, has expressed concern about Republicans declaring victory in the 2010 elections. Most folks understand that capturing the Senate will require some luck. But consider this: RealClearPolitics is balanced and brainy. It shows that in the battle for the House of Representatives, 202 seats lean Democrat, 201 lean Republican, and 32 are toss ups. That means Republican chances for even gaining the House – something everyone is touting is almost certain – is, in fact, a coin toss.
What happens if Republicans go into the voting booth in a few months believing the highly optimistic projections of Dick Morris and other pundits about a Republican landslide…and then Republicans fall short of capturing either house of Congress? Who declares victory the day after the election? Not conservatives; not Republicans.
Republicans have a decent chance of winning the House and a long shot chance of capturing the Senate. The chances of Republicans making big gains in Congress, on the other hand, are excellent. So why not play the pre-election banter that way? If we make the election a referendum on Obama, and if we enter the election predicting big gains which will reflect disenchantment with Obama, we surely will win the expectations game.
No Democrat leader is going to get on television and say: “Of course we are going to lose a lot of seats, because our agenda is just not very popular with the American people.” Democrats will have to say that their losses are not going to be great and if Republicans agree that capturing Congress is a tall order, then if Republican candidates will do better than the American people have been led to expect, the Republican victory is magnified.
If Republicans make big gains, nothing Obama proposes will pass in the next two years. Democrats with microscopic majorities in Congress after the election, they will be in a big mess. Their message will be: “Yes, we control the White House and both houses of Congress, but we cannot pass anything because of the Republicans.” How well will that play with the American people? If Nancy Pelosi is still Speaker, won’t ordinary Americans expect her to be able to pass bills that have broad support? Democrats would be left, as Republicans were for much of the Bush Presidency, with the perception but not the reality of power – a terrible combination when times are bad.
During the following two years it will be absolutely imperative for Republicans not to be co-opted into some warm, cozy, united program for America . Republicans must make during those two crucial years the contrast between their party and Obama’s Democrats as bright, sharp, and clear as possible. What does that mean? It means making serious, tough proposals to reign in government, cut taxes, and to reduce spending. If Democrats want to jump on our band wagon – ideally, if enough terrified Democrats from conservative electorates can be persuaded to support our measures in spite of the threats from leadership – then the argument about how to make things better will have been won by us. Conservative bills that actually pass Congress and are vetoed by Obama would be the left’s worst nightmare.
2010 will not produce the sort of victory which will allow conservatives to govern. 2012 is a very different story. If Republicans nominate an attractive conservative and make more gains in Congress, ideally a filibuster-proof Senate, then conservatives will be able to govern, and in governing to transform an America sick of the left’s version of “Hope and Change.” In a few weeks, conservatives will have a chance to win an important victory. It must not be just adding numbers in Congress, but surprising the left and the American people with the size of disenchantment with Obama.
Good football coaches never predict easy, lopsided victories over their next opponent. It encourages their players to be sloppy, their opponents angry, and commentators to expect teams to do more than just win. In 1994, one Republican who was on a news program with a prominent Democrat, instead of debating Clinton’s success, said something like this: “Okay, my friend, let’s let the elections be the judge. If Republicans gain seats in Congress, then the American people agree with my party. If Democrats gain seats in Congress, then the American people agree with your party.” That should be our position on the elections: if we gain seats, we have won. That is how to play the November elections to insure victory.