Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Declaration of Independents

National Journal's Chuck Todd assess what could be called the GOP's "unfair to middlin' voters" problem: "

So how did this happen? Two words: Bush and Iraq.

These two issues, intertwined, drove independents to the polls and toward the Democrats. As one pollster said to me last week when he predicted this tidal wave: 2006 will be known as the "revenge of the independents."

He looks to be correct. The difference in just about every close race comes down to independent voters. Turnout for the Republican base was good. Maybe not great like '04, but decent enough to hold some districts that I thought would fall in a wave (like those three seats in Ohio that the GOP somehow held).

Dems were only going to win Ohio-01, Ohio-02 and Ohio-15 with some deflation in the GOP turnout. But the base was there. What killed various Republican candidates everywhere else was their inability to woo the middle.

There was a time when I believed the Angry Independent wasn't going to vote in '06 because Democrats hadn't made a compelling case for change. If that had turned out to be the case, Republicans would have been safe in the Senate and certainly would have held the House losses to less than two dozen. But a combination of events, possibly triggered by the Mark Foley scandal, awakened the Angry Independent.

There is an important lesson for the GOP to learn when studying these returns. When a political party gets shellacked, the intra-party feud becomes dominated by the base, not the moderates. The base will swear, in this case, that the party needed more true-blue conservatives running, or that it should have been more conservative in its congressional governance. And then these losses would have been avoided.

There are some shreds of truth in that thinking, but the GOP will only isolate itself even more if it takes a turn to the right. Republicans will not regain the majority if they continue to grow away from the inner-suburban voter. Missouri and Virginia, for instance, sent that message loud and clear. "
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