The 2006 question

It always comes back to turnout.

It was the worst day of the worst month of the worst season in years for Republicans hoping to mitigate political damage in this fall’s midterm elections. And Texas political operatives were left stunned as they processed the ramifications.

In one Tuesday afternoon, a Virginia jury found President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty of financial crimes, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to his own financial and campaign law violations, and a GOP congressman – U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California – found himself indicted on a slew of charges.

But instead of serving as some sort of seminal turning point of the 2018 cycle, operatives from both parties interviewed by The Texas Tribune viewed these events as merely a further deterioration of an already grim situation for Republicans. The damage to the GOP brand is now at a crisis point, and many in politics wonder if the party might salvage its control of the U.S. House.

“It’s a drip, drip, drip,” said Beto Cardenas, a Houston lawyer and political insider with connections to both parties. “At what point does your pond turn into a lake?”

Washington Democrats have long pushed back against comparisons to 2006, when Democrats swept away Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. Back then, the Democrats faced less of a disadvantage due to gerrymandering. And those were the pre-super PAC days, meaning the Republican financial advantage was less daunting.

But now the battle cry of of 2006 – “culture of corruption” – and the comparisons are back. And Democrats are showing signs of confidence.

Texas is, in part, why.

We’ve discussed this before, but the reason why I have harped on 2006 in the past is because Republican turnout was low, or at least lower than the other off years this century. If Republicans turn out this year like it’s 2006, that’s 300K to 500K fewer votes statewide that Dems need to get to have a chance at winning. It’s also fewer votes that candidates in the contested legislative races need to win.

I don’t know if Republican turnout will be lower than usual. I feel confident that it won’t be like 2010, but if 2014 is their baseline, I could see that happening. It may be that they won’t feel a great sense of urgency. It may be that the lack of a Democratic president will tamp them down. It may be that the continued scandal show will turn some of them off. It may be that none of it has any effect, or even that it galvanizes them. Maybe something will happen to put Democrats on the defensive. Who knows?

As things stand right now, I think Republicans are in line to have average to average-minus turnout, maybe something between 2006 and 2014. Could be better, could be worse, for each side. We’ve seen multiple recent examples of events having big effects late in the cycle, so whatever we think is happening now may well not be true in two months. Think of 2006 as a framing device. If we continue to talk about it as a possible model for this year, it’s a good thing.

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6 Responses to The 2006 question

  1. Manny Barrera says:

    Three polls have Trump at 36%,

    Here in Texas even the far right is cannibalizing those they consider not far right enough, i.e.

    Guess Bill is right, one must bow their knee to Trump to be considered a legitimate Republican.

    Will go on a limb and state that Democrats will capture at least 40 seats and capture the Senate as well.

    Sent another small contribution to Beto and Lupe. While I don’t think Lupe can win she can bring out Latino voters and that still takes money.

    Media keeps stating the Cruz got 40% of the Latino vote. Don’t know where they got that idea. Went back to look at county results from 2012. In the Valley which have the highest percentage of Spanish surname of voters and it shows that at most Cruz got 20% and that is giving him the benefit that there are non-Latino people residing there. Camaron County was where he received a higher percentage but still short of 40%. Same thing in El Paso County.

    Here in Harris County I looked at the most Latino pcts and Cruz average less than 20%.

  2. Manny Barrera says:

    There are two types of turnout for elections, one more people vote and the other less.

    The way the poll numbers for Trump are heading suggests that Republican turnout will be down.

    Bill is right as it seems that Republicans must bow their knees to Trump as evident by what is happening at Big Jolly –

    Used Act Blue to donate to Lupe and Beto last night. We need to help Lupe bring out the Latino community, whether she wins or not it will other candidates.

  3. Manny Barrera says:

    Sorry about two posts, lately when I post they don’t show up, ever.

  4. Manny, comments with links in the go into the moderation queue, so they appear after I approve them. This is a standard anti-spam feature on blogs. I’m sometimes a little slow on dealing with the moderation requests, but I do get to them, and when I do those comments appear.

  5. Manny Barrera says:

    I was thinking that was what was happening, but was not sure, Thanks.

  6. asmith says:

    I think people will be scratching their heads after this election. I think the wall will be broken between the urban counties and the older suburbs/suburban counties. The D vote for beto and state senate and house candidates will be apparent. Not sure if the female college educated realignment is occurring or is this a one off. Not saying Beto will win a Collin county but he may get 42% or 43% there.

    If I had to guess we’re looking at 2006 turnout. I think the Senate race will be as close as Hobby/Rylander in 1998, but not sure who wins yet. I think the Ds have a good night down ballot, but Abbott’s money may juice enough turnout to where there’s enough coattails in the outer suburbs and rural areas for the statewides to survive minus Paxton.

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