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Friday, February 3, 2006
Interpreting the “Surprise” Election of Boehner
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:30 am

From today’s NYT, A Cry of Concern by Republicans at Voter Unease

The surprise election of Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio as House majority leader was a cry of concern by an entrenched Republican majority, acutely worried that voter unease about corruption and partisan excesses could threaten its control of Congress this November.

Surprise? Well, maybe it was because I was deluged by e-mails from Boehner’s office. but it always seemed to me that Boehner had a chance. For that matter, many members keep their votes to themselves, and with three candidates running there was always a real chance that Boehner could win.

Yes, Blunt was the favorite, but it never seemed to me that he was the prohibitive favorite. Now, if Shadegg had won, that would have been a “surprise election.”

Indeed, this strikes me as a story where the reporter has his thesis-this is about House Republicans being afraid of losing the majority-and then works hard to create the needed dramatic narrative to fit it.

Of course, I do agree that this selection is about distancing the party from the DeLay/Abramoff/lobbyist problems that the party is experiencing. But that is hardly news.

But, if the thesis is that House Republicans ran scared away from Blunt to Boehner, then surely the vote totals should have been more lopsided-and more to the point, Blunt should never have been the frontrunner in the first place.

It isn’t so much that I disagree with the basic argument laid out in the piece, as I find the tone and emphasis a bit over the top.

For example, while the following is true, it oversimplifies the situation:

After 12 years of Republican control of the House, the White House views House Republicans as vulnerable to precisely the wave of voter discontent that gave them control of the House in the first place in 1994.

Yes, the Rep majority is probably as vulnerable as it has been since they took control in 94 (although 98 wasn’t pretty for them), and, as such, they clearly need to work to change some of their practices and their image. Having said that I continue to maintain that the corruption theme is going to insufficient in and of itself to dislodge the current majority party. The scandal has not risen to the necessary level in the public consciousness, and, far more importantly, the House races are local races, and most of the House seats are in safe districts.

For the scandal issue to truly propel the Democrats to the Majority something is going to have to emerge of a dramatic nature that is both simple to understand and that tars only the GOP-and it is going to have to be salient to the districts where GOP Reps are vulnerable.

I know that the Democrats are looking for a 1994 scenario, but the conditions are not present for that to happen, and it appears unlikely that they will emerge.

I am not saying that it is impossible for the Democrats to retake the House, just that at this point I still think it unlikely.

I do think that they will pick up at least one seat in Texas: the one belonging to Tom DeLay (indeed, the Reps’ best chance of holding that seat will be if DeLay leaves the race or loses the primary).

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