How many seats will GOP win this fall? It's up to voters, not RNC's Michael Steele.
Washington's 'political-industrial complex' obsesses over the performance of Republican and Democratic party leaders, but GOP gains will depend on conditions and candidates, not campaign turmoil and media narrative.
The two national political party committees are dinosaurs, and as with the dinosaurs before them, their time has come and gone.Skip to next paragraph
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I offer this critique from the vantage point of a rare animal. I am one of the few – if not only – persons to have worked for both the Democratic National Committee (DNC), in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the Republican National Committee (RNC), in the early years of the Bush presidency.
I began thinking about the relevance of the national parties after reading story after story about their current health.
As you are probably aware, there has been a wave of news about the RNC’s disorganization and dysfunction under chairman’s Michael Steele’s leadership.
On the other hand, reports on the DNC have largely been glowing – under chairman Tim Kaine, the DNC is well-organized, on message, and raising money. Based solely on these contrasting storylines, one might expect (and some have asserted) that Republican efforts this fall will be greatly hindered.
So why is it that nearly all independent analysts are forecasting that the Republicans will pick up at least 25 House seats and five Senate seats and make gains in state offices across the country? The short answer is that the fault lines and tides of the political environment matter profoundly more than the activity of the national committees – and, for that matter, the specific tactics of any campaign.
Think back to 1993 and 1994 after President Clinton took office. Under the very able leadership of David Wilhelm, the DNC was better organized, better run, and better funded than it had been in many years. However, in the 1994 elections Democrats lost 54 House seats, eight Senate seats, and control of Congress. Flash forward to 2005 and 2006. In Ken Mehlman, the RNC had one of its best chairmen in recent history. Under his strong leadership, the RNC was well-organized, well-funded, and extremely disciplined. Yet in the 2006 elections, Republicans lost badly and found themselves the minority party once again.
What this suggests is that effective national parties are more a function of recent electoral success rather than a predictor of future electoral success.
These results raise a larger question that has been debated by political scientists and operatives for decades. Do campaigns and political tactics matter? The short answer, in my opinion, is absolutely. But their importance is very small relative to the importance of the overall political conditions and the governing position of each party (incumbent vs. challenger).
In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In politics, it’s conditions, conditions, conditions. And after conditions, the second most important factor is the candidate. And then, in a distant third, the campaign and its tactics. These are what one of my friends calls “the 3 Cs of elections” and they don’t include the national committees.)
What about 2008?