HORIST: Time for the GOP surge
We are now approximately one month away from the midterm election. I liken this period in our election cycle to the Peanuts comic strip where Lucy always pulls the teed-up ball away and has Charlie Brown landing on his butt. In my analogy, the Republicans are Lucy, and the Democrats are Charlie Brown.
If you have followed my writing over the years – something even my family does not do – you would have seen many references to the traditional GOP surge in the last days of an election. Just a year ago, I did a commentary suggesting that Democrats not get too giddy about their prospects in 2018 despite the tradition that the party in the White House always loses seats in midterm elections. It is usually the case, but not always.
The Republican surge usually begins within the last 30 days of an election. In just the past few days, we are seeing the leading edge of a possible Republican win in November. The so-called generic ballot – which measures the general Republican/Democrat preference in Congress – had the Democrats up by double digits for months. Ergo, all that talk about a blue tide – even a political tsunami.
Suddenly – at least in the minds of all those Democrats and their captive pundits in the press – the numbers are merging. What was once as much as a 17-point lead for Democrats has shrunk to a five point lead or less.
In terms of real races, the Democrats recent hope – and even optimism – of taking control of both the House and the Senate is fading as Republican candidates are taking leads in those toss-up battleground states. In North Dakota, Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer has forged ahead to a 53/41 lead over incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn is now up over Phil Bredesen 49 to 43. Incumbent Democrat Claire Mccaskill’s, encouraging lead has dropped to a statistical tie in Missouri. A temporary lead by Democrat Beto O’Rouke over incumbent Republican Ted Cruz has vanished, and Cruz has cruised to a small lead. In Arizona, Florida and Indiana, Democrats maintain a lead – but a lead that has been declining or fluctuating within the margin of error. Too close to call.
Both the numbers and the trend lines are favorable for the GOP. But why? If you listen to the smarty pants on television, it is because of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings – a backlash against Democrat excesses. This sentiment was expressed by the co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe – Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
In an unusual departure from the prosecution of President Trump and the GOP, the Romeo and Juliet of talk television blamed the GOP surge on … get ready for this one … on the Media and its knee-jerk habit of reporting from Democrat scripts – more commonly known as talking points. They specifically criticized excessive coverage of teenage drinking and a rash of unsubstantiated petty stories.
To some extent, Mika and Joe are correct. The bias of the media is a constant irritation and motivation for those on the right side of the political spectrum. Ironically, Morning Joe is one of the programs that enrages the right as much as any. They are what they now criticize.
Make no mistake, Mika’s and Joe’s admonitions were not fairness for fairness sake. It was because they have come to realize that all that biased reporting, and all those sycophantic bobble-headed panelists’ predictions, are now hurting the Democrats and their left-wing constituency.
The movement toward Republican candidates has to be viewed in two ways. Yes, the Kavanaugh hearing may have triggered the phenomenon, but it is not the root cause. You have to look at many election cycles to see that it is a pattern, a tradition. There you will see that in general, Republican numbers improve as the elections draw near – usually breaking into a sprint in the last 30 days.
As I have long advised, one should ignore all those early polls and the armchair analyses that accompany them. They have no relevance to an election day outcome – none. It does nothing more than to fill the media pages and time slots. Even polls taken within days of an election have to be viewed with some skepticism.
The Republican takeover of the House in 2010 came as a shocker only because the press, pollsters and pundits were mistaken. Same was true in 2014 when the GOP took control of the Senate. Those in the media who are supposed to be following political events and trends closely seemed unaware that Republicans had taken over two-thirds of the governorships and state legislatures during the Obama years. Their admiring focus on Obama reminded me of that line from a song, “can’t take my eyes off of you.”
Then there was 2016. The desire not to have Donald Trump become President of the United States trumped all objectivity. The media mantra was that Trump had “no path to the presidency.” The more the left and the media wanted the Democrats to win, the more the skewed the reporting and the polls. The result was a national embarrassment for the partisan pundit community. I never predicted the 2016 outcome, but I did argue that Trump did, indeed, have a path to the presidency.
I have repeatedly written that Democrats tend to win elections every day except Election Day. This year, it may be the Kavanaugh hearings that trigger the surge, but it has been and will always be something – some event, some statement – that will bring a majority of voters home to their right-of-center values. In some ways, it is just the immediacy of the election.
The best way to prognosticate elections is to not make predictions too early, and within the 30-day lead-up shift three or four percentage points from the Democrats to the Republicans and you will generally get closer to the final results. That is not to suggest that the Republicans will always win, but that they will almost always do better than the pre-election media and pollsters reports.
This year is unusual in one aspect. It is very rare to have one party gain in one chamber and the opposition party gain in the other. But that could be the case this year. It would not surprise me to see the Republicans gain a few seats in the Senate and hang on to the House majority by a smaller margin. However, in handicapping political races and horse races, there are no certainties – only odds.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.