Election Analysis: The Center Abandoned Republicans
Independents and moderates were the king makers
By Adam C Posted in 2006 — Comments (109) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
After reading a lot of post-mortems and looking into all the data I have available, here is my analysis of the election results with significant referencing to Michael Barone:
1. Republican turnout did not falter significantly. The partisan makeup was 38D/36R compared to 2004 when it was 37D/37R. The overall vote in the House was 53D-45R. The shift in results from 2004 where President Bush won 51-48 came from independents and moderate Republicans who voted for Bush switching to vote Democratic in 2006. Together with other data, it seems this is mainly because the Republican Brand has been damaged. The excessive spending, pork-barreling, corrupt politicians, and a misreading of where to spend political capital made many moderates (and conservatives) think that Republican leadership was out of touch.
2. Outside of the South, Republicans lost ground almost everywhere. The South held solid even if there is discontent. But the economic populism of Democratic candidates won many seats in the old rust belt and up-state NY. The populist midwest and libertarian west are trending away from Republicans. The South is much larger than the Northeast as far as a base goes, but it is not large enough to win elections on its own. Republican will need to find successful tactics for the west and midwest to regain a majority.
3. Swing groups took a swing against Republicans. Let's compare the full house exit poll numbers for certain constituencies in 2004 and 2006: Hispanic support of Ds went from +11 to +39. Indepedents support for Ds went from +3 to +18. Catholics went from not supporting Ds -1 to supporting Ds +11. And those who report "no religion" went from supporting Ds by +34 to +51 (although these are not generally a "swing group").
Analysis of these trends lead me to one conclusion: the Republicans must return to policies that unite conservative and moderates as Reagan did and the 1994 Revolution did. These are usually good governance, small government efforts that win over people who are suspect about the intentions of government. Republican leadership can show a commitment to those ideals by selecting Pence/Shadegg to leadership and by coming out with a bold reform agenda addressing the Congressional side of lobbying/K Street issues. Instead of attacking lobbyists, Republicans should be attacking Congressmen and limit their abilities to distribute money in shadowy earmarks. Republicans lost the mantle of good governance and they must win it back to win over centrist voters.