Tomorrow is a big election day. The press and pundits have been playing up the drama and we have been assured that the angry tea party will send the Democrats packing. Well, most likely.
On the face of it, it seems likely that the media’s narrative will play out. After all, the Democrats’ popularity is low, the Tea Party seems to be riding high and the Republicans seem to be in a good position to take some seats.
Of course, the narrative does not always play out and there are reasons to think that the Republicans might not win as big as they hope. Rather than play along with the narrative or reject it outright, I’ll offer a brief discussion of some of the factors in play.
First, the Democrats have allowed two problematic (for them) impressions to endure and grow. One is that the Democrats have done little (or nothing). The other is that what the Democrats have done (mainly the health care reform) is bad. Obviously, “What little we have done is bad” is not an election winning slogan for the Democrats. They have tried to counter with the “key and ditch” metaphor, but this seems to be getting little traction.
Second, voter anger does seem to be a factor. There is a highly motivated opposition to the Democrats and they will probably turn out for the vote.
Third, apathy is a factor. While the Democrats face a motivated opposition, their base seems to be far less fired up. Folks who were fired up for Obama seem much less fired up and some seem to be indifferent, at best, towards the Democrats. One main reason is that people expected that Obama would do amazing things. When he did not deliver awesomeness and proved to be yet another politician, some folks became disillusioned.
Fourth, there is the Tea Party. While the Tea Party is considered a Republican ally, it can actually work against Republicans. One reason is that Tea Party candidates have beat out some more traditional Republican candidates and some of them have decided to run anyway (most famously in Alaska and Florida). Having a Tea Party Republican (TPR or Tealephant) and a (former) Republican will tend to split the vote to the advantage of the Democrats. Also, while the Tea Party candidates might play well to the motivated folks who voted in the primaries, they might not do so well in the regular election. As even some Republicans have pointed out, some of the Tea Party candidates are way to the right or rather wacky.
Fifth, there are the minorities, especially the Hispanics. While the Republicans did well with Hispanics in the past, the anti-immigration sentiment in the Republican (and Tea) party might lead to a larger than expected turn out of Hispanic voters. This could work in favor of the Democrats. However, the Democrats seem to have been unwilling to make this into a significant issue.
Six, there are the DINOs (Democrats In Name Only). Some Democrats are running against…well, the Democrats. Taking this approach might work-if the voters buy it. Of course, running as a DINO/pseudo-Republican means that such candidates face the problems of the Republicans as well as having the Democratic taint. Also, having Democrats running ads that attack other Democrats is not exactly helping the Democrats.
Seventh, there is the media. The media’s narrative and coverage almost certainly has some impact. For example, the media folks give the Tea Party coverage, they made Sarah Palin a star and so on.
Overall, I suspect the Republicans will make some gains. But, the game is still an open one and it could turn out in unexpected ways.