Posted Monday, Nov. 8, 2010, at 10:03 AM
Laura Clawson has an
incredibly useful post
up about the Democrats who lost narrowly last week, victims of the wave who would have won in other years. This stuff always sounds like Pollyana-ism, but it isn't -- re-recruiting losers is often how you gain back ground. Jim Talent lost a Missouri gubernatorial race in 2000, and then ran for Senate in 2002, winning... before being taken down in 2006 by Claire McCaskill, who had lost a gubernatorial race in 2004. John Thune, considered a potential presidential candidate for some reason, lost a Senate race in 2002 and was immediately re-recruited to run against Tom Daschle in 2004. Something I didn't realize about failed South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen:
Sheheen’s narrow four-point loss in the South Carolina Governor’s race (in what was supposed to be a virtual coronation for Republican Nikki Haley) was one of the biggest surprises of election night. 47% for a Democrat in South Carolina is no joke, and Sheheen won the Fifth District even as Democratic Rep. John Spratt lost by 10 points. Sheheen is only 39 years old, so he would seem to have a bright future in South Carolina politics either as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate or perhaps a candidate for SC-05, where Sheheen lives.
The starting assumption for any Democrat this year has to be "it can't possibly get worse." In 2012, Barack Obama will be back on the ballot -- if your state or district has a black population of any size, that's a few more points you can count on. (Paging Tom Perriello, Vincent Sheheen, Bobby Bright). The Republican party will no longer be an amorphous, faceless engine of change -- it will be something to run against. (Ask the Democratic winners of 1996 how this worked). And frankly, the Republican wave in 2010 was so strong that, like the 2008 wave, or the 1994 wave, it brought in people who couldn't have won in a normal year and will define themselves badly out of the gate. This is a tricky thing to predict, but basically the members from strong Democratic districts will be in trouble, and the others won't. Georgia's Paul Broun, for example, has been invulnerable despite being famous for comparing the Obama administration to the Third Reich. If one of the Republican winners in the Chicago suburb tries that, he's out in two.
The coming redistricting of congressional districts -- which will favor Republicans in most competitive states, as did the 2001 redistricting -- shakes this up a bit, makes it tougher to convince the losers to jump back in. But not much tougher.