Kyle Kondik of Larry Sabato’s group has written up their first set of House rankings, and it’s a mixed bag. Democrats need 24 seats to win back the House, and Sabato’s forecast has 30 Republican seats in play. This is a redistricting year, but it looks like neither party will gain much (if anything) from redrawn districts. So, at best, it looks like a big lift for Democrats in the House, and the Senate is also going to be tight, with a bunch of safe Republican seats and a few shaky Democratic ones.
Kondik uses the 1948 election as a recent historical example where Democrats flipped the House after a Republican mid-term wave. In that election, Harry Truman ran against the “do-nothing 80th Congress”, and the parallels are interesting:
Under Dewey’s leadership, the Republicans had enacted a platform at their 1948 convention that called for expanding social security, more funding for public housing, civil rights legislation, and promotion of health and education by the federal government. These positions were, however, unacceptable to the conservative Congressional Republican leadership. Truman exploited this rift in the opposing party by calling a special session of Congress on “Turnip Day” (referring to an old piece of Missouri folklore about planting turnips in late July) and daring the Republican Congressional leadership to pass its own platform. The 80th Congress played into Truman’s hands, delivering very little in the way of substantive legislation during this time. The GOP’s lack of action in the “turnip” session of Congress allowed Truman to continue his attacks on the “do-nothing” Republican-controlled Congress. Truman simply ignored the fact that Dewey’s policies were considerably more liberal than most of his fellow Republicans, and instead he concentrated his fire against what he characterized as the conservative, obstructionist tendencies of the unpopular 80th Congress.
As much as we’d like Michelle Bachmann and her closeted pray-away-the-gay husband to be the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney will probably grind out a win. By next Fall, he’ll be running towards the center, away from the Teatard House. Because today’s Republicans no longer have a positive agenda, a special session of Congress would be pointless. But running against the do-nothing House, combined with a strategy that cherry picks some of Romney’s recent base pandering and compares it to clips of, say, Louie Gohmert or Bachmann, is a winning strategy for Obama that could also give him some coattails.
This also gives Obama an opportunity to turn swing voters without damaging their delicate and exquisitely tuned feelings. It’s hard to tell people that they elected someone who’s crazy, because it makes them look stupid — discerning swing voters should have garnered that from the 2010 campaign. But if you tell them that they elected someone who’s lazy, that’s a different matter, because you can’t tell lazy from a campaign commercial.