Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rothenberg Overstates Dem Edge in 2008

I agree with Stu Rothenberg to an extent. Historically, it is unusual for a party to win three consecutive Presidential elections - for the reasons that he states:

As we begin the 2008 election cycle, we all ought to be on the same page when it comes to expectations. Whether you are hoping that Republicans maintain their hold on the White House or believe that it's important for a Democrat to sit in the Oval Office in 2009, it's pretty clear that the 2008 presidential election is the Democrats' to lose.

Put another way, while we don't yet know the nominees or the specific circumstances that will shape the next election -- all of which, of course, are important considerations in handicapping the 2008 race -- the burden is on the GOP to overcome history if it is to retain the White House.

Only once in the past 50 years, in 1988, has a political party won a third consecutive four-year presidential term. That's not an accident. It's the result of inevitable voter fatigue and impatience, as well as the public's (and media's) desire for periodic change.

Obviously, Republican George H.W. Bush's 1988 victory after eight years of Ronald Reagan shows that it's not impossible for one party to win a third straight term in the White House. But it is inherently difficult to do so, and one would expect it to be even more difficult when the man exiting the White House is widely unpopular. (Before the Reagan-to-Bush handoff, the last time a sitting president was succeeded by a member of his own party was in 1929, when Calvin Coolidge passed the keys to the White House to Herbert Hoover.)

Certainly if the President is very unpopular in 2008, and the GOP nominates someone seen as his heir, that person will have a very tough time winning the election. But we don't know if Bush will be unpopular in 2008. In fact, if he is seen as a check on an overreaching liberal Congress, he might even be (gasp!) popular. Further, the Republicans will not be nominating Bush's heir - or even someone closely associated with him. They will be nominating Mitt Romney - or John McCain, or Rudy Giuliani, or Sam Brownback - or God-knows-who. But whoever it is, it won't be a 'Bushie.'

Further, Rothenberg works from the premise that voters in 2008 will want change, per se. That may not be the case. If voters believe that the economy is doing well, Iraq has improved, and the War on Terror is going well, they may even want to 'stay the course.' If the Democrats are seen as likely to keep control of the Congress, voters may want to preserve divided government.

The point is, history is not much of a guide in a single election. Yes, it would be unusual for a Republican to win in 2008, but that's not saying all that much.

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