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A political tsunami is in the offing, with Republicans in the November elections anticipated to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives and make considerable inroads into the current 59-to-41 Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, according to political analyst Charlie Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report.
Speaking before the NAHB Board of Directors in New York on Sept. 25, Cook said that there is a 75% to 85% certainty that the GOP will take the House in next month’s elections.
“Something very dramatic would have to happen to change the trajectory here,” Cook said.
Republicans need to pick up 39 seats to regain control of the House, and while Cook did not venture a guess on the overall total, he did say “it’s going to be north of there.”
Needing 10 seats to wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats, Cook said it’s not impossible, but that Republicans would need to “run the table.” He predicted a net gain of seven to nine GOP Senate seats, which would leave Democrats running the chamber under a much narrower majority than they have now.
With Democrats currently holding a slender 26-to-24 lead in state governorships, Cook predicted similar gains for Republicans come November, with at least 30 governorships going to the GOP.
In analyzing what is the driving force behind this push for political change, Cook centered on one group of voters. Referencing the “Austin Powers” movies, he said: “The Independents are where you get your mojo.”
Stating that “we live in three different countries,” Cook said there is an 80% approval rating for President Obama among Democrats, 12% approval among Republicans and 38% to 41% among Independents.
Voters identify themselves as: 38% Independent, 32% Democratic and 28% Republican.
In 2008, Independents favored the Democrats by an 8% margin and the most recent Gallup poll now shows a complete reversal, with Independents supporting Republicans by a 10-point margin.
Another factor is that more Republicans — upset by comprehensive health care legislation, federal stimulus spending and a ballooning federal budget deficit — are much more motivated to vote in this year’s midterm elections than their Democratic counterparts.
The challenge for Democrats, Cook said, is the lack of enthusiasm among their natural base — African Americans, Hispanics and students. He attributed this lethargy largely to the high national unemployment rate, which has hit these constituencies particularly hard.
With the economy a top issue among voters, Cook cited recent polling data that shows Americans are increasingly worried about the future. Twenty-seven percent of respondents are confident their children will be better off than they are but 66% are not. Further, 65% believe the U.S. economy is in a state of decline; 31% do not.
“The economic statistic that hit me the hardest: Last year, the U.S. birth rate was at a 100-year low,” Cook said. “If you’re too worried about your future that you are hesitant to start a family — wow, that says a lot.”
While this election season is shaping up as a very favorable one for the Republican Party, Cook said it would be foolish for the GOP to be overconfident.
“I consider this an unearned win for Republicans,” he said. The bad news for the party is that their favorable ratings remain very low. The good news, Cook said, is this election is not about them. Voters are mad at the Democrats.
With a strong partisan climate pervading Capitol Hill, Cook said that Republicans will face many challenges.
“After this election, Republicans will be like the dog that catches the car,” he said. “What will you do now?”
The rise of the Tea Party could also present new concerns for Republicans.
“Republicans are worried about a civil war after the elections,” Cook said, adding that one Tea Party official told him, "you should consider this a hostile takeover of the Republican Party.”