It’s Not 1994 Redux, It’s 1974 All Over Again

For those not old enough to remember (or are otherwise unfamiliar with the history), 1974 was the beginning of the Republican Party’s sojourn in the electoral wilderness.

Democrats fall as fast as Nixon Republicans in 1974
By: Michael Barone
Senior Political Analyst
January 27, 2010

But more than health care legislation is in trouble. I have not seen a party’s fortunes collapse so suddenly since Richard Nixon got caught up in the Watergate scandal and a president who carried 49 states was threatened with impeachment and removal from office.

The victory of a Democrat in the special election to fill Vice President Gerald Ford’s House seat in February 1974 was a clear indication that the bottom had fallen out for the Republican Party. Brown’s victory last week looks as if something similar has happened to the Democratic Party.

Many people ask me whether the Democrats are in as much trouble as they were in 1994. The numbers suggest they are in much deeper trouble, at least at this moment. Back in 1994 I wrote the first article in a nonpartisan publication suggesting that the Republicans had a serious chance to win the 40 seats necessary for a majority in the House. That article appeared in U.S. News & World Report in July 1994.

This year political handicapper Charlie Cook is writing in January, six months earlier in the cycle, that Republicans once again would capture the 40 seats they need for a majority if the House elections were held today. I concur. The generic vote question — which party’s candidates would you vote for in House elections — is at least as favorable to Republicans as it was in the last month before the election in 1994.

Nothing is entirely static in politics, and opinions could change. Barack Obama could shift to the center, as Bill Clinton did after his party’s thumping in 1994; the economy could visibly recover and start producing new jobs; a crisis like 9/11 and a good presidential response could boost the president and his party as 9/11 boosted George W. Bush and his party in 2001 and 2002.

I wouldn’t bet on Obama moving to the center, as that would be a tacit admission of error:

Obama self portrait as Jesus

His hubris would never permit it.

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