Washington insider Michael Barone, who punditizes for Fox among others and created the Almanac of American Politics, brought the good news to the conservative faithful at a Center of the American Experiment event at Orchestra Hall Tuesday evening. The good news was that Republicans will make huge gains in the House this year (“very, very likely” to win a majority there) and have a shot at taking control of the Senate (although he seemed to think that the odds favored Dems to hang onto a slight Senate majority).
Barone is a numbers guy and a careful guy, and doesn’t go overboard in embracing any one measure of the political trend. But he did cite one that raised the possibilty of a big Repub wave. Gallup’s most recent effort to identify the likely electorate in November found that if turnout was high, Repubs held a national 53-40 edge, Barone said, and if turnout is low the Repub edge rises to 56-38.
“We can take comfort in something we couldn’t be sure about 20 months ago,” Barone said, “which is that the majority of our fellow citizens reject a culture of dependence. They do not want to be wards of a powerful state.”
As you’ll note, Barone wasn’t saying anything much outside the current conventional wisdom as far as the likeliest outcome in November, and he subscribes to the conventional view on the right that Democrats blundered since taking control of Congress and the White House by believing that the Dem successes of 2006 and 2008 represented an ideological swing to the left by the U.S. electorate.
Americans got a taste of big government policies “and it turned out, they didn’t like it,” Barone said. He gigged lefty pundit James Carville, who had said that the results of those elections prefigured 40 years of Democratic governance. It was more like 40 weeks into Pres. Obama’s term that the generic ballot began to reflect that Repubs were on the comeback trail, and that comeback has gathered strength all through 2010.
The Barone appearance headlined the annual “Fall Briefing” event of the CAE. A turnout in the low hundreds left most of the Orchestra Hall seats empty and, although audience liked Barone’s message, the response was surprisingly muted in such a time of conservative triumphalism.
Barone didn’t throw much red meat to the crowd. He’s from the quieter, more serious, number-cruncher end of the pundit spectrum. But he did, surprisingly, adopt the “gangster government” to refer to what he said was a feature of the auto industry bailout that took funds that should have gone to the secured creditors of the bankrupt Chrysler Corporation and transferred them to the UAW as a reflection of the Dems’ labor alliance.
The biggest attempt at a punch line came at the expense of Christine O’Donnell, the Repub Senate nominee in Delaware who has been trying to live down her confession that she long ago “dabbled in witchc raft.” Barone referred to the ad that I featured yesterday in which O’Donnell says into the camera “I’m not a witch.” (I called it the most effective I’ve seen this year.) Barone cracked that “I think throwing away the Wiccan vote is just dumb.”
Barone confessed that the one big race in Minnesota this year – the race for guv – seems to be an “outlier” from the national trend. He didn’t cite any numbers, but he clearly believes that DFLer Mark Dayton is ahead.
He was very cautious about the Repubs chances of winning the White House in 2012, and said he sees a situation that could produce a meaningful independent candidacy in the political middle.
ALDS opens tonight. Go Twins.