Republicans are wringing their hands about the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. They also worry about failing to wrest control of the Senate from Democratic control. However, far more likely than not the GOP will maintain a healthy majority in the House.
Regardless of the 2012 election results though the GOP can find hope in looking forward to 2014. Several factors are and likely will be working in their favor in about two years.
Assuming Republicans cannot take the Senate this cycle 2014 will offer them another golden opportunity to do so. Democrats in 2014 will be defending 20 seats compared to 14 for the GOP. But more importantly, it is the seats each party is defending that matters. The GOP will be defending seats in WY, TX, TN, OK, NB, MISS, ME, KY, KS, ID and GA. Democrats will be defending seats in AK, AR, CO, DE, IL, IA, LA, MA, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OR, RI, SD, VA and WV. Quite a list I know but stay with me a moment.
A quick look at these states past electoral results shows that short of a major scandal the only seat the GOP might have to worry about in 2014 is ME. Likely that worry is contingent on whether or not Senator Susan Collins (ME) runs for reelection or not.
Democrats on the other hand have a number of likely competitive and possibly competitive seats to defend. Most competitive will be seats in traditionally conservative states. These include AR, AK, MT, NC, LA and maybe VA if the GOP finds a formidable challenger. Second tier opportunities for the GOP could include MN, MI, CO, NH and NM. Even entrenched Democratic incumbents like Mark Pryor in AR, Kent Conrad in MT and Mary Landreiu in LA will find the cycle difficult.
These Democrats may find the cycle difficult ironically because of President Obama’s possible reelection in 2012. In American politics there is something known as the “six-year itch” where voters tire of the President. This phenomenon could be compounded if the debt continues to grow and the economy remains sluggish (which the Fed has suggested).
The 2014 cycle will also see the entire US House, 36 governorships and over 1,000 legislative seats across the nation up for grabs. Also, 14 major mayoral races will be held in the cycle. If Senate Democratic candidates are hurt in the election the odds are good Democratic gubernatorial candidates will be hurt as well. Even if some candidates try to make the races local and focus on state issues the statewide electorate might vote on national concerns (as was the case in 2010).
As for the US House, if the GOP survives with its majority intact in 2012 it is likely to keep it or even expand it in 2014. By the time 2014 rolls around many freshman lawmakers will have more than one term under their belt and have made inroads with their new constituents. Also, they may have a bigger fundraising advantage over their challengers. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, all GOP lawmakers and candidates in the House will be of the “out” party.
Yet another factor that favors the GOP in 2014 will be turnout. In 2008 the electorate was 74% white. In 2010 it jumped to 78% white. In 2012 turnout is expected to be anywhere between 70%-76% white. If the turnout ratio racially holds true in 2014 to 2008-2010 the GOP is likely to benefit greatly. Minorities substantially support Democratic candidates while white voters are increasingly turning to the GOP on a bevy of issues. Also, more conservative minorities turnout out in off-year elections than presidential elections some exit poll analysis has found.
Looking even further ahead to 2016 perhaps the GOP needs to lose this cycle. Partisan Republicans and conservatives vow up and down this election is critical (they are right) but the rising stars of the party in Chris Christie (NJ), Marco Rubio (FL), Susana Martinez (NM), Brian Sandoval (NV) all point to the GOP having some seasoned all-stars ready to run for president in 2016. While Democrats have their own stars rising many remain simple mayors or Governors of partisan blue Northeastern states which limits their ability to reach out to swing voters.
In short, Republicans may be worried about 2012 but come 2014 and 2016 it could be Democrats who could be singing the same tune.