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There is an old saying in politics. Under promise on the campaign trail and then over deliver when you govern.
It’s only mid-April. But House Republicans are certainly promising voters a great deal. In fact, Republicans are increasingly cocky about their chances of flipping the House back to GOP control. Many Republicans are pledging to voters a laundry list of both policy priorities – and score-settling – should they emerge in the majority after this fall’s midterms.
“We’re going to (be in power) if we get the majority of the American people to put us there,” boasted Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Fox News.
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Let’s fillet Jordan’s statement a bit.
Democrats certainly face a host of electoral problems right now. History runs against them. The party of the president almost always loses seats in the first midterm of a presidency. The modern exceptions are 2002 (the first election after 9/11) and 1934. The moribund poll numbers of President Biden are suppressing the Democrats’ chances of holding onto the House. Inflation, gas prices, the economy and border security are significant issues for Democrats. Contrary to early concerns, Democrats may hold a minor edge over the GOP when it comes to redistricting. But if voters went to the polls today, GOPers would only have to flip seven seats to seize the majority.
In 2020, Democrats collected 77.5 million votes in House contests. The Republicans: 72.7 million votes. Still Republicans gained 14 seats and came within a whisker of unexpectedly winning the House. Democrats reclaimed the House in the 2018 midterms, pocketing 60.5 million voters compared to 50.8 million GOP votes – and capturing 41 seats.
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But the party with the most votes doesn’t always prevail when it comes to control of the House. That’s because one party may run up the scoreboard in a deeply blue or red district, winning with say 75% or 80% of the vote. By contrast, the other party may cling to a few seats in battleground districts by just a point or less.
A good example of that came in 2012. Democrats got shellacked in the 2010 midterm elections, losing the House and coughing up a staggering 63 seats. Voters returned President Obama to the White House in 2012. Democrats didn’t get the House back in 2012 – although they gained eight seats. But Democratic House candidates scored a narrow victory over Republican candidates. Republicans pocketed 58.2 million House votes. Democrats scored 59.6 million House votes. A 1.1 percentage point edge for the losing party.
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But the trick is to win more seats in the House, not a majority of aggregate votes. Midterm elections are “base vote” elections. Democrats benefited in 2018 because former President Trump wasn’t on the ballot. Many voters cast their ballots in the Democratic column as a repudiation of the former president and GOP policies. Democrats won the House – consistent with the historical, midterm election for a first-term president.
So, it’s easy to see why Republicans are bullish – if not braggadocios – about their chances in November.
Maybe. The possibility that the House of Representatives may be in play in 2020 was on no one’s radar two years ago – overshadowed by the pandemic and the hurly-burly of the presidential race. Few astute political observers believe Democrats will hold the House majority in 2023. But they also know that controversial candidates could jeopardize the Republicans’ chances.
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Democrats held the House for 40 years from the mid-1950s until the historic 1994 midterms. Again, that first midterm of a new president didn’t go so well for Democrats and President Bill Clinton. Republicans won the House in 1994, propelling Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., into the spotlight as House speaker. Many political analysts believed Republicans were in the best shape they had been in years as the midterms approached. Michael Barone, then of U.S. News and World Report and the main author of “The Almanac of American Politics,” controversially predicted the GOP could win the House in 1994. Many other pundits – and certainly Democrats – scoffed at Barone’s soothsaying. But the voters proved Barone correct that fall.
So fast forward to present day.
“We’re going to win the majority,” predicted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to Punchbowl News in late March. “And it’s not going to be a five-seat majority.”
McCarthy has boldly prognosticated that his party would be in the majority for several months now. And if McCarthy is right, some Republicans will push the party to tick off a major checklist of campaign promises.
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Investigate Hunter Biden and his laptop. Check. Investigate the hamfisted withdrawal from Afghanistan. Check. Probe Justice Department’s efforts to go after parents involved in school board meetings. Check. Explore the origins of COVID-19. Check. Go after Dr. Anthony Fauci. Check. Target Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of the border. Check.
“Give us the ability to fire (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., implored Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
“And impeach Joe Biden,” continued Gaetz.
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The Florida Republican wasn’t done.
“I’m going to nominate Donald Trump for speaker of the United States House of Representatives,” added Gaetz.
In other words, there are some Republicans who demand more than others. Perhaps even bypassing McCarthy for speaker.
And what happens if a prospective House majority doesn’t go as far as some GOPers would like them to?
That’s the problem facing Republicans – and perhaps McCarthy specifically – if he wishes to become speaker on Jan. 3, 2023.
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“If Kevin McCarthy keeps reiterating the fact that he’s going to bring the team across the finish line and they’re going to get the majority, then I guess he’s the one who gets to claim the credit. He’s the one in all of the private meetings. He gets to say, ‘I did it and I get to be the speaker,’” said Alison Dagnes, a political science professor at Shippensburg University. “We’ve learned that even if you end up overpromising and underdelivering, there’s not much consequence for that anymore.”
So impeach President Biden?
“If someone breaks the law and the ramifications (are) impeachment, we would move toward that,” said McCarthy on Fox. “We will take the facts to wherever the facts go.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., believes Republicans can also win the Senate this fall. But, there is little hubris from McConnell.
“It’s a perfect storm of problems for the Democrats because it’s an entirely Democratic government. A Democratic president. A Democratic House. A Democratic Senate,” observed McConnell. “Which leads you to the question, ‘How could you screw this up?’ It’s actually possible and we’ve had some experience of that in the past.”
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And so the expectations are ionospheric this November for Republicans.
The historical norms mean the GOP stands a very good chance of securing a majority in Congress. But over promising is something to watch.
Source URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/2022-midterms-republicans-confidence-pergram-reporters-notebook