Is the GOP’s tide rising just in time for 2016?

AP file photo

After eight years of President Obama, with Republicans constantly being told they have to change this and change that lest they go the way of the Whigs, it probably comes as a surprise to learn the GOP is as strong as it’s been in almost 90 years.

And yet, according to Sean Trende, elections analyst extraordinaire at Real Clear Politics, that’s exactly where things stand after the 2014 elections.

RCP party index

Credit: RealClearPolitics.com

 

The above chart shows the GOP’s standing over the years according to an index Trende developed with his colleague, David Byler. A positive number indicates relative Republican strength, a negative number relative Democratic strength. Read their article for all the nitty-gritty, but the short explanation is that their index takes account of the party’s performance in five types of elections: those for president, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, governor, and state legislatures. And while the GOP has struck out in the last two presidential elections, Republicans have made great — even historical — strides in the other four categories:

“It goes without saying that Republicans improved upon their showing in the 2014 elections.  Their 54 Senate seats represent the second-best tally for the party since 1928.  Their 247 House seats is the most the party has won since 1928, although when combined with the popular vote percentage, it drops to the second-highest since then (in 1946, the party did slightly better).

“At the state level, the GOP’s share of governorships is the ninth-highest since Reconstruction, and the third-highest in the post-war era (1996 and 1998 were higher). The party’s showing in state legislatures is the highest since 1920, the ninth-highest ever, and the third-highest since the end of Reconstruction.”

So, Republicans not named John McCain or Mitt Romney are winning elections, and lots of them. While performance in past elections doesn’t necessarily predict future success, as the GOP’s standing in 1928 and precipitous slide afterward shows, this index does suggest a better candidate at the top of the Republican ticket could very well capitalize on the party’s recent successes in gubernatorial and legislative races.

One thing the above chart illustrates quite clearly is the proverbial pendulum swing: The direction of that black line tends to change each time the background color (reflecting control of the White House) changes from red to blue or vice-versa. Momentum changes quickly. That’s a major reason why, since Truman left office, there has been only one run of three straight presidential wins: the GOP’s streak of 1980, 1984 and 1988. History, at least, does not bode well for Democrats’ ability to win next year.

Ah, but what about the Democrats’ famed “blue wall” of electoral votes? Isn’t the eventual Republican nominee, whoever that might be, starting at an extreme disadvantage, practically doomed to failure?

Not really, according to a separate analysis by another respected political watcher: Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com.

Silver notes there effectively was a “red wall” leading up to the 1992 elections: 21 states with 191 electoral votes that had gone Republican in at least six straight elections. This list included such hard-right states as California, Illinois, New Jersey and — wait for it — Vermont. But a funny thing happened on the way to George H.W. Bush’s re-election:

“In 1992, Bill Clinton won nine Republican ‘lock’ states, containing 118 of the red wall’s 191 electoral votes, en route to a 370-168 overall Electoral College victory. Four of the GOP ‘lock’ states — California, Illinois, New Jersey and Vermont — haven’t voted Republican since. Democrats obliterated the red wall.”

Silver argues that the “blue wall” really just amounts to “a pretty good run in presidential elections lately …. if you conveniently draw the line at 1992 (it doesn’t sound so impressive to instead say Democrats have won five of the 12 elections since 1968).”

In fact, Silver goes on to point out, Mitt Romney easily could have won the same number of electoral votes in 2012 as Obama did, had he won the same share of the popular vote as Obama did:

silver-blue-wall-chart-51

So it is not the case that Democrats have an indomitable advantage in the Electoral College, any more than the GOP did in 1992. They’ve just performed well in recent elections, and that’s a streak that, as history shows us, can change on a dime.

Now, if Republicans can just figure out who is the person to turn around their fortunes …

Reader Comments 0

71 comments
PaulinNH
PaulinNH

"After eight years of President Obama....."

I must have missed a couple of years - or maybe 2015 - 2009 = 8 is Republican math

lvg
lvg

I agree with Kyle's overall premise but GOP has yet to field a candidate that appears to have the intellect to be President  with exception  possibly of Walker.  Hillary has a unique platform- her husband;s record which as far as the economy was above average. How that effects the treend remains to be seen.

Juanx
Juanx

Kyle...gerrymandering mentioned anywhere in the "study? If not then not is word or chart is valid.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Juanx See my comment below ... in short, three of the five factors (president, governors, Senate) aren't subject to redistricting. And it's not as if gerrymandering was invented in 2010 ...

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

From the graph, it looks like there is a drastic loss of Republican favoritism halfway through the red highlighted areas where there was a Republican President. 

So a quick conclusion is that once a Republican is elected President, they screw things up so bad that Democrats come away better. 


Quit screwing things up Republicans! 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude And the reverse happens when a Democrat is elected president: Republican popularity goes up. That's what I meant by what I said about the pendulum.

Caius
Caius

From "Politico":


"Indiana Gov. Mike Pence won't run for president"

kitty72
kitty72

Doesn't surprise me with the decline in real education in this country. Teaching to a test just makes good test takers but not educated critical thinkers. That is EXACTLY why the GOP can win. The more stupid the better for them. Also lower voter turn out.

kitty72
kitty72

@Kyle_Wingfield @kitty72 


True, but you blow off science and live in denial of reality regarding climate change, immigration and the browning of America, you really aren't critically thinking.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@kitty72 I could say the same thing about the debt, minimum wage, war on women ...

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@kitty72 @Kyle_Wingfield The anti-frackers, anti-vaccine, and believers that the fetus is not able to feel pain are mostly Democrats.  The Dems dispute the science on these issues, because the science doesn't support their ideology.   So, who are the anti-science party again?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

The GOP should be cautious about extrapolating the results of off-year elections to Presidential elections.  Real Americans show up more reliably in off-years, hence the Republican wins in 2010 and 2014.  The Democrat "taker" class shows up for Presidential elections to ensure their handouts keep coming.

Takers are now a slight majority, so I don't see Real Americans winning the White House any time soon.

lvg
lvg

@LilBarryBailout What is  a real American ? 


and who are the "takers" that soak up government subsidies ? veterans, disabled, elderly on Medicaid, college students with student loans, rich farm owners (like Michelle Bachman's family), owners of show horses, oil exploration companies, Ryan Construction Company (yes his family earned their wealth from government contracts)?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@lvg @LilBarryBailout

Real Americans are those who believe in working for a living, being responsible for the proper upbringing of their children, minding their own business, and letting others live as they wish as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others.

Real Americans don't need government subsidies, don't borrow money they don't intend to pay back, don't seek favors from the government to give their business an advantage.

Real Americans believe the Constitution means what it says.

If you think Obama's doing a great job, you miiiiiight not be a Real American.

lvg
lvg

@LilBarryBailout @lvg so all the veterans and disabled getting benefits and all the elderly in nursing homes getting Medicaid and the disabled as not Real Americans- very interesting. I think Romney got caught saying something like that and lost the 2012 election.

Dusty2
Dusty2

Way to go, Kyle.  Republicans are strong!  We are winners.  Any Republican  standing next to Hillary at election time is going to be the next president.


I suggest Jeb Bush, a strong, intelligent, experienced man.  .We've already heard all the phony propaganda to discredit the integrity and service of  the Bush family.  Liberals will be running  stale propaganda (as if the Clintons were not loaded with the real disgraces).


Keep up the honest comparisons.  The public will get use to seeing it after the long contrived and polluted political systems of the Democrats has lost its appeal..   

lvg
lvg

@Dusty2 -Still waiting for ole Jeb to explain that  million dollars a year  he received as a consultant from Barclays Bank. They got hit with top dollar sanctions by US government for violating sanctions and  today admitted illegal banking practices involving currency manipulatiion. Of course since he is part of the Bush family this is just par for the course. And  cons will say it is no different than Clinton speaking fees but one involves illegal practices that violated US laws. Or that is part of Jeb being "experienced" ?

Dusty2
Dusty2

@lvg @Dusty2 


Ivg

Being governor of Florida was fine political experience for Jeb Bush.  Haven't heard of any "bank investigation" that liberals might  concoct. Maybe you mean the  investigation of the Clintons on funds to foundations they neglected to mention.  They have a lot of experience in that line of funding and bad memory on remembering them. .   

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar The right candidate could flip Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, maybe Michigan. That's 46 EVs, which pretty much puts the two parties even going into the traditional toss-ups.

Nothing is permanent in politics.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar The right candidate could flip Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, maybe Michigan


Possible. But VERY unlikely. 


Nothing is permanent in politics.


Nope. Heck Georgia will be blue again someday too. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar It was also very unlikely that 1992 was going to be the year the Dems broke through the "red wall." That's why so many bigger names in the party stayed out of the race; they didn't think they could win and preferred to wait until the office was open in 1996. Oops.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar  It was also very unlikely that 1992 was going to be the year the Dems broke through the "red wall."


Right. An exception NOT  the rule.


That is like counting on Villanova to upset Georgetown again. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar All the new rules start as exceptions. Your problem is your failure to understand that new rules get written in politics all the time.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

The pebble in the pond effect. 

A good analysis, Kyle. 

coj
coj

In states that followed conservative policies, their economies didn't improve but declined. And this is the direction the republicans want to take our country? Really? 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Kyle_Wingfield @coj He can't do it, the opposite is actually true, i.e. Texas, SD, Ohio, Indiana, etc, while Illinois and California are circling the drain.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Accepting that's true for the sake of argument, that's one state. The implication was that this was true as a rule.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister @Kyle_Wingfield @coj  The blue cities drive the economies in those red states


And states like California Illinois send FAR more into the Federal Govt than they get back. That money goes to subsidize the poor rural red ones.


Its easy to balance the books when someone else is paying the bills.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@coj Not to mention there are some awfully dubious time frames involved there ... and some clearly biased factors. Not everyone, for example, thinks spending cuts are a bad thing per se.

It's also interesting that you refer to these as "states that followed conservatives policies," when in fact many of them are states that followed liberal policies for years and then cut taxes during an arbitrarily chosen time frame.

And, finally, I'm suuuuuuure you would be terribly impressed by studies from folks like Heritage that come to conclusions that are quite different from the conclusions of the left-leaning CBPP.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@HeadleyLamar @RafeHollister @Kyle_Wingfield @coj Yeah, like what they send in federal taxes would do anything to stem their economic demise.  They are so loaded down with public sector pension debts,, large government employment, and the long term results of folks fleeing their high taxes.  Blue states are finally catching up to the blue cities in the number going down the economic drain hole. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

With strong conservative victories in Britain and Israel, despite the polls showing big losses, the Dems are totally confused about the dwindling conservative voting blocks.  Conservatives seem to have rebounded.  We may have to put Headley on suicide watch, if conservatives refuse to die off and just continue to win elections.  The GOP is constantly written off, but when no one is looking over their shoulder, conservatives get in the voting booth and vote their beliefs.  Surrounded by ultra liberal social media and MSM, folks are lead to believe that "everyone" thinks like the media wants them too.  Obama is always shocked at the opposition to his socialistic proposals, like everyone is crazy but him, when it is him that is out of step with the majority of Americans.

Claver
Claver

@RafeHollister Considering that Obama won the electoral and popular votes twice in a row, if he "is out of step with the majority of Americans" what did that make his Republican opponents?

lvg
lvg

In fall 2008 the economy was headed over  the cliff with daily collapses of major financial institutions, Unemployment was rising and the auto industry was  in the toilet. George Bush invited McCain and Obama to the White House for a pow wow to show how dire the situation was (due to his sterling leadership). Only one person at that meeting seemed to to have a firm grip on what needed to be done- Obama. His record on bringing the  country back from total economic collapse has proven his capabilities. McCain seemed clueless like a deer in the headlights . Show me one Republican who has proven his capabilities and intellect  to manage three wars and  stop  a total economic meltdown.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@lvg In fall 2008 the economy was headed over  the cliff with daily collapses of major financial institutions,


And Americans are going to be reminded in 2016 of that and asked if they wish to go back to those policies 


Im betting they wont. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@lvg Yes, there are people like you who believe that, but it is simply convoluted logic.  Name something that he did to turn things around.  The porkulus bill which was supposed to fix our infrastructure?  What else, Cash for Clunkers?


The answer is the great American free enterprise economy is strong enough to survive even Obama's tinkering.  Survive is the right word, in that we still have the longest economy recovery since the great depression.

lvg
lvg

@Kyle_Wingfield @lvg -Kyle can quote from American Enterprise Institute, Fox News , Project for a New American Centuryy and Heritage Foundation all day long to convince us George Bush was a great leader and not responsible for thje Great Recession, 9-11 attack,  Iraq debacle or Katrina fiasco. 

If you want to see how expert economists summed it up when Obama took office see:


http://harpers.org/blog/2008/01/how-bushs-fiscal-mismanagement-produced-a-recession/

Basically Wall Street and a certain investment firm was running the White House

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg ^^Discredits right-leaning source, cites left-leaning source -- and specifically, an article published just as the recession was starting and before the vast majority of the relevant data was even available -- as authoritative.

Why don't you try arguing with some of the points made in the piece I cited?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@HeadleyLamar @lvg I'm betting that they are going to look at the last eight years and say, "recovery"- really?  Just because Obama fantasizes that he has steered the economy to a "recovery", and brags on his fantasy recovery daily, Joe Sixpack isn't buying the propaganda, because he and his brother in law are either unemployed or making 75% of what he made in 2007.

Likewise
Likewise

Republican strength is in the rural deep south and the Rockies. Research has shown that in strong Republican areas the population is generally below the national average in wages, under-educated (without college degrees) and to a great extent rely on government programs (who knew?).  The national electorate is pretty much split 50-50 in this country.  Most national elections go 51 or 52% to the winner.  Regional contests in the south will continue to benefit the Republicans.  This can mainly be attributed to high turn out among white voters in largely rural/suburban areas

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Likewise "Research has shown that in strong Republican areas the population is generally below the national average in wages, under-educated (without college degrees) and to a great extent rely on government programs (who knew?)."

The picture is rather more nuanced than you let on. For example, the part about education. Obama's largest margin was among high-school dropouts. Romney won those with college degrees (though not those with graduate degrees). Or the part about income: Obama won those who make <$50K, Romney won everyone else (as did McCain).

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/2012-exit-polls/table.html


Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Likewise  (though not those with graduate degrees)


Obama won those with advanced degrees by a wide margin.


Well, it happened again: As in 2008, Barack Obama won those voters with a post-graduate degree by a huge margin on Tuesday -- 13 points. That's smaller than the 18-point margin that Obama achieved in 2008, but still substantial.


The question is, why do the most educated Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic ?

Claver
Claver

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar The ones that are minorities do so because too many Republicans have made them feel unwelcome for the last 50 years even though they share many of the same conservative values.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar Probably because they are poor and tired of being called moochers by Republicans when all they want is a fair chance.


And do we really need to go into why minorities ( who tend to be poorer ) dont vote for the lily white GOP ?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Because they've been told that if they keep voting for Democrats, one of these centuries they won't be poor anymore?

kitty72
kitty72

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar 


It is also possible that they realize that without the Democrats, they wouldn't be anything anymore. Go back a century or two and the poor just died from disease and hunger. That could be what they realize.