Just last week, the GOP had one of its greatest nights ever: gains of 60 plus House seats, new governorships in many large industrial states and an increase of 675 seats and counting in state legislatures across the country. Republicans now have more House members than at any time since 1946 and the most state legislators since 1928. The relative disappointment of a loss of a couple of hotly contested Senate seats is minor by comparison.
And yet, as Ronald Reagan would say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” That’s because there is still room for Republicans to make additional gains as we look to the congressional elections of 2012.
In the Senate, Democrats will be defending 23 of the 33 seats up for election. Several are in states that President Obama lost in 2008 and generally vote Republican in presidential years: Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska and West Virginia.
Yet others are in states won by President Obama, but have very competitive Republican parties: Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Still others might be open because of retirements (Wisconsin). Under the able leadership of NRSC Senator John Cornyn, Republicans have a favorable map to make another run at Senate control in 2012.
In the U.S. House, despite the incredible gains of 2010, the GOP is well positioned to protect or possibly even expand its ranks. This is because redistricting will begin next year in time for the 2012 elections. Republicans gained a stunning 25 legislative chambers this year. Of the states that will gain or lose congressional seats, eight states are controlled by the GOP, 6 are split, 3 are governed by commissions, and only one is Democratic. And for the first time, a commission will control both congressional and legislative redistricting in the nation's largest state of California.
Republicans also have total control in other states not gaining or losing members where redistricting could affect the partisan balance (Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma and Wisconsin). The fact is that Republicans are in the best position for redistricting since the 1960s when the Supreme Court first mandated redistricting based on "one man, one vote."
After everything they've gone through this year, surviving House Democrats' first vote will now be whether to vote for Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader. -- Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.
For those who think President Obama will save the day for Democrats, the facts tell a different story. It is true that he is still a formidable political force who will generate enhanced turnout from his base of minorities, liberals and young people. The third category is uncertain since they have borne the brunt of his economic policies that have generated few new net jobs.
However, even assuming a changed electorate in 2012, President Obama’s victory of 2008 shows that he is a candidate whose support is a mile deep and an inch wide. As a winner in 2008, he still ran behind 46 House Democrats who won their seats in spite of President Obama losing their districts. He is not likely to have coattails in many districts and states beyond the very blue seats that his last minute campaigning helped save for his Party this year.
To be sure, the issue mix will be different next time. It better be, or the Democrats will face another monsoon. Yet, even assuming enhanced Democratic turnout and a strong reelection effort by the president, Republicans have a rare opportunity to increase their ranks in Congress and that would make for a lonely reelection for the president.
Frank Donatelli is the Chairman of GOPAC, the center for training and electing the next generation of Republican leaders.For more information on GOPAC, visit the organization’s Website at: www.gopac.org.
A longtime Republican political activist, Frank Donatelli is executive vice president and director of federal public affairs for McGuireWoods Consulting LLC, and serves as counsel with McGuireWoods LLP. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain tapped Frank to serve as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee, where he coordinated the RNC’s fundraising and organizing activities directly with the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. Frank is the former chairman of GOPAC, an organization dedicated to educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders. He previously served as Political Director for President Ronald Reagan.