Why 2010 Won't Be Like 1994

Don't expect a Republican wave. Pundits say America has changed and the GOP won't retake Congress

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Fifteen years ago this week, Republicans introduced their Contract with America and proceeded to stage an historic takeover of Congress. Today, with Democratic fundraising dwindling and Obama's approval rating sliding, some political observes are forecasting a similar outcome in 2010. Is the comparison valid? A handful of writers challenge the analogy and explain why 2010 will not be like 1994:

  • It's All About Open Seats, writes Ed Kilgore in The New Republic: "The Republicans' 1994 victory in the House was...enabled by a large number of Democratic retirements: Twenty-two of the 54 seats the GOP picked up that year were open. By comparison [there are] only four open, Democrat-held House seats in territory that is even vaguely competitive. That low number of open seats...limits the number of seats Republicans can win." Democrats are in even better shape in the Senate: "For Republicans to take the Senate, Democrats would have to lose eleven seats without picking off a single Republican. There's no modern precedent for a tsunami that large."
  • No Gun Fight This Time, writes BooMan at Booman Tribune. In 1994, Democrats imperiled themselves, and upset many conservative, rural voters who might have been inclined to vote Democratic, by "ramming home the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Bill," he argues. This echoes President Clinton's claim that "Democrats haven't taken on the gun lobby"--a fight he thinks cost Democrats 15 seats. 
  • Popularity Matters, writes Hanlon's Razor: "All of this hinges on the notion that an increasingly unpopular Democratic Party means an increasingly popular Republican Party. But that's far from true. Despite a 19 percent approval rating in Congress, the Democrats were far more popular than Republicans according to an August poll. Even on the flagship issue of the day, health care reform, 37 percent will blame Republicans if it fails compared to 16 percent who'll blame Democrats. And Obama's approval rating remains over 50 percent.
  • Demographic Changes Won't Allow it, insists Alan Abramowitz at Crystal Ball. Compared to 1994, non-whites, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, "make up about twice as large a share of the electorate now," making a historic repeat "highly unlikely."
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