For months, pundits have been comparing this election with 1994, when Republicans took back control of Congress and gained 54 seats in the House of Representatives. Can they do the same this November, with the public mood seemingly turned against Democrats and incumbents?
Now, here’s another similarity: On Thursday, House Republicans are set to release a “governing agenda,” outlining their priorities should they take back control.
Comparisons with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract With America” are inevitable; that document was also released six weeks before the election (on Sept. 20) and set forth eight reforms the GOP backed and 10 bills lawmakers promised to bring to the floor should they be elected.
The Republicans' victory – and the resurgence of the conservative movement – became closely linked to the contract.
No details are available about this year’s document, which will be announced at a hardware store in Sterling, Va. – a contrast with the Capitol-steps signing ceremony that accompanied the Contract With America release – but it is supposed to contain about 20 points. It’s likely to include a repeal of President Obama’s health-care-reform and economic priorities, including reining in spending and emphasizing job creation.
At least in part, the agenda is fueled by public input, via “America Speaking Out,” an Internet project that solicited ideas earlier this year.
So will this election be 1994 redux?
The polls have not been in Democrats’ favor. Two weeks ago, Gallup polls showed the biggest “generic” lead for Republicans – 51 percent to 41 – in 60 years of polling. And most pundits – including Charlie Cook’s political report – are predicting House Republicans will gain the 39 seats they need to take control, though few are predicting anything like the 1994 rout.
But not everything is bad news for Democrats. That Gallup poll may have been an aberration. This week, the poll shows a virtual tie in the generic ballot: 46 percent favoring Democrats versus 45 percent for Republicans.
While Thursday’s agenda may be Republican lawmakers’ attempt at creating a new Contract With America, it’s unclear just who in the fractured party is taking up the leadership role that Newt Gingrich held in 1994. John Boehner, the Ohio congressman and minority leader who will be the likely speaker in a Republican House, is the one option. But Representative Boehner seems an uncomfortable spokesman for the direction the party is headed, and has already caused a stir within with his statement that he’d be open to a compromise on tax cuts.
On Monday, President Obama gave his view of the election, when asked whether he would debate Boehner before the election, as President Bill Clinton did with Gingrich 16 years ago.
“I think that it’s premature to say that John Boehner’s going to be speaker of the House,” Mr. Obama said at a CNBC town hall meeting.