Premature Triumphalism

By Will, George F. | Newsweek, February 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

Premature Triumphalism


Will, George F., Newsweek


Byline: George F. Will

The GOP looks away from Dixieland.

Giddy since their election of a senator from Massachusetts, Republicans have visions of political sugarplums dancing in their heads. Their arithmetic of optimism begins with the fact that 48 Democratic members of the House--nine more than the current size of the Democrats' majority--hold seats from districts George W. Bush carried in 2004 and John McCain carried in 2008, and 84 Democrats are from districts that either Bush or McCain carried in those elections. Regarding the Senate, Republicans have more targets of opportunity because, until Scott Brown took office, there were six appointed senators--Democrats from Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, Colorado, and Illinois, and a Republican from Florida. In 2010, Republicans seem certain to gain seats in North Dakota and Delaware. Now suppose, as it is not delusional to do, that they also win the Colorado and Illinois seats. In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter, who last year became a Democrat to avoid losing the Republican primary this year to former congressman Pat Toomey, is polling substantially behind Toomey in anticipation of the November election. And suppose Republicans win the governorship of the failed state of California, and a Senate seat there, putting that state's 55 electoral votes in play in 2012.

Now suppose Republicans hold the Florida seat by nominating and electing Marco Rubio, who at age 39 would be the nation's most prominent and articulate Hispanic elected official. This matters because 56 more counties have become "majority minority" since 2000. There are now 309 such, 10 percent of all counties. Hispanic votes surged by 4 million between 2000 and 2008. Of course, wishful thinking butters no parsnips. Still, Charlie Cook, author of The Cook Political Report, says Republicans are fielding first- or at least strong second-tier candidates in 10 Senate races, including those in Arkansas, Nevada, Indiana, and Connecticut, so they now have plausible hopes of recapturing the Senate.

The fact that it is not unreasonable to contemplate so many gains in so many regions suggests that Republicans are beginning to solve this fundamental problem: The South, far from being the firm base of a national party, has recently resembled the embattled redoubt of a regional party. …

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