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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/15/10

Why Democrats will keep control of Congress in November

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Not long ago, pundits told us the 2008 progressive revolution just might change the country's political map for decades to come. Gosh, they got that wrong, didn't they?

I suspect the latest round of media predictions -- that a Tea Party Revolution could sweep Republicans into power in both houses of Congress come November -- will soon earn a tombstone in the same graveyard of hyperbolic predictions gone awry.

In recent weeks, political pundits from Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report to Nate Silver and his political calculus for The New York Times have been feeding the insatiable 24-7 news cycle with predictions that this November could bring a Democratic defeat of historic proportions. The predictions have echoed around the Internet so loudly that at times they seem self-fulfilling prophesy.

The only problem is that they're more than likelywrong (which, even if true, everyone will have forgotten by January).

Yes, Democrats will lose seats in both houses this November. The economy remains a mess. We're still mired in two wars. And the rabid ranting of right-wing pundits and politicos from Glenn Beck to Newt Gingrich have, sadly, scarred the Obama Administration (in fairness, Obama's tentativeness and tendencies to seek compromise with the party of "no" haven't helped his cause either).

But please. I'm not ready to accept that a majority of Americans are ready to embrace the nutty Tea Party movement no matter how fired up its base is and no matter how many primary victories it scores. The outcome of the November 2010 Congressional electionmay comedown to three words: "cast your ballot," a mantra the Democratic Party will wield by pointing to candidates like Republican Delaware Senate nomineeChristine O'Donnell, whose claim to fame includes running an organization, Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth, that pushed sexual abstinence so far as tospeak outagainst masturbation.

True. If Americans sit home in record numbers, theywillcede democracy to the wing nuts, rednecks and roll-back-the-clockers who seem to long for thebad old days of, say,segregationist 1952. But if a reasonable number of Americans vote, we simply aren't going to see the kind of wholesale changes pundits are predicting.

Here are a number of reasons why:

1. As unpopular as he may seem for a sitting president, Barack Obama, with positive popularityratings of about 46 percent, is a lot more popular than most politicians in the United States. He's also a very good campaigner, as he began to show last week in taking on "tax cuts for millionaires," an extension of $700 billion in Bush tax cutsto those earning $250,000 or more. Polls have shown a significant majority of Americans oppose this tax cut extension for the rich, but Republicans have dug in their heels in insisting on it. That will prove a mistake.

2. The Tea Party movement has fractured the Republican Party. Oh, the party is trying to paper over the differences, but the astounding defeat of nine-term congressman and former Delaware Gov. Mike Castle in the Republican primary against O'Donnell will make it that much harder.

Far right Tea Party candidates have won Republican nominations for the Senate in Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, Kentucky and Florida. Though some will win, I'll bet Democrats hold Nevada and win in Delaware specifically because Republicans nominated Tea Party candidates to the right of America'srather conservative mainstream. If defeated Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski runs a write-in campaign in Alaska, a Democrat mightsneak inthere as well, though it's a predictably safe Republican state.

3. Incumbents historically have a big advantage in any race. Even though this is not an historically predictable year, it's hard to imagine multiple-term Democratic Senate incumbents like Barbara Boxer (California), Harry Reid (Nevada) and Russ Feingold (Wisconsin) all losing, even though those races currently areall statistical dead heats. Much more likely is that all three of these Democrats will win.I'll bet that Democrats will win the Senate, probably with a reasonably comfortable 54-46 margin (I'll cede Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana and Colorado as Republican pickups.)

4. Fervent predictions that Republicans will pick up 40, 50 and even 60 seats in the House to control that chamber all point to the Republican revolution of 1994 midway through Bill Clinton's first term, But unlike then, Democrats just took back control two years ago and unlike then, the party this time is well aware of the danger.

Will the country really blameDemocrats for everything that's gone wrong, given that the economy crashed before they took power? I don't believe so.

Neither does the anonymous "Votemaster," who runs the respected political web site, which tallies all races using state-by-statepolling. On his site, he offers this explanation of why the Deomcratsface much better odds of keepingcontrol in Noevember than most pundits suggest.

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Jerry Lanson teaches journalism at Emerson College in Boston. He's been a newspaper reporter, columnist, writing coach and editor. His latest book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in January by Rowman & Littlefield.
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