I think this Ron Brownstein column is exactly right:
In midterm elections, the electorate tends to be whiter and older than in presidential elections. ABC polling director Gary Langer has calculated that since 1992 seniors have cast 19 percent of the vote in midterm elections, compared with just 15 percent in presidential years. That difference contributed to the 1994 landslide that swept the GOP into control of both the House and Senate. Seniors had cast just 13 percent of the vote in Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory, but that figure spiked to nearly 19 percent two years later, with voting by the young people who had bolstered Clinton falling off sharply.[….]
These trends may be especially troublesome for Democrats next year. In 2008, Obama assembled what I’ve called a “coalition of the ascendant” that revolved around minorities and rapidly growing groups, such as the Millennial Generation of young people. Those voting blocs still provide him his strongest approval ratings. But if historical patterns persist, they will turn out at lower rates next year — possibly declining even more than usual because Obama inspired such an elevated turnout among them last year.[…..]
But that dynamic also means that Republicans could do very well in 2010 without solving their fundamental demographic challenges. In the 2012 presidential election, the young and minority voters central to Obama’s coalition are likely to return in large numbers. The risk to the GOP is that a strong 2010 showing based on a conservative appeal to apprehensive older whites will discourage it from reconsidering whether its message is too narrow to attract those rapidly growing groups. “It can’t be the same formula in 2012,” Ayres warns.
I think that 2010 is going to be a rough, rough year for Democrats. Unemployment will still be high and, as Brownstein asserts, a reasonable proportion of the voters will be people who have spent the last four years doing AOL key word searches on “kerning.”
Politico/Drudge will hype the Republican party’s moderate success possibly with the headline “Mac is back!”, for an article about how the great victory was due to John McCain’s talent for picking candidates. Drudge will be in his heaven and all will be well in the kingdom of Beck.
The net effect will be another two years or more of Republicans pissing off young voters, pissing off non-white voters, and taking another step towards Whigdom.