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Matt Towery / August 26, 2010

Come November, Will There Be a Democratic Tree Left in the Forest?

I was among the last pollsters and pundits to buy into the notion that 2010 could be a reprise of 1994, when Republicans abruptly took control of a U.S. House of Representatives that had seemed irreversibly controlled by the Democrats. Now, I’m starting to see signs that even the U.S. Senate could go GOP this year. What has changed to suggest this?

I was among the last pollsters and pundits to buy into the notion that 2010 could be a reprise of 1994, when Republicans abruptly took control of a U.S. House of Representatives that had seemed irreversibly controlled by the Democrats.

Now, I’m starting to see signs that even the U.S. Senate could go GOP this year. What has changed to suggest this?

First, take a look at the primary elections across the nation. A common theme has been the tendency for incumbents to lose, or to unexpectedly struggle to win, especially on the Republican side. I predicted as much more than a year ago, and pointed out the parallels to the 1992 primary season.

This week in Florida, businessman and political neophyte Rick Scott fought Jeb Bush and virtually the entire state GOP establishment in his successful primary campaign for governor against the rather uninspiring Attorney General Bill McCollum.

McCollum’s bureaucratic approach to government was epitomized by his inaction on a case that addressed the rights of Florida homeowners and others who had citrus trees on their lands. If their trees were within 1,900 feet of other trees that were deemed to be infected with citrus canker, then the private property rights of these homeowners were violated and their trees were felled by the state.

This totalitarian action by the state was overturned, not by lower courts but by a district court of appeals. Still McCollum pushed on, fighting the bureaucratic fight. This may seem like inside baseball, but it is emblematic of how the McCollums of the political world don’t “get it” this year. The public is in no mood for traditional politicians and their traditional ways of bulldozing over the public.

Critically in most of the primaries in swing states, voter turnout, though by no means robust, has been decidedly heavier for Republicans. There may be internal GOP fights over how conservative the party’s nominees should be. But come November, look for those supporting GOP candidates – including the many independents who are “going Republican” this year – to continue their support by flocking to the polls.

Why the lukewarm Republican voter turnout, even in hotly contested primaries? The answer is simple, and has been aptly outlined by my friend Neal Boortz, a nationally syndicated talk radio host. Boortz says these voters are a coiled snake – they’re saving their energy for one dramatic strike in November.

Public relations gaffes by the Democrats over the so-called “ground zero mosque” have only added an exclamation point to the long sentence of political illogic that President Obama and the Democrats have lately been composing.

With the general election just over two months away, a cascade of bad economic news keeps drowning the hopes of Americans. Worse, everywhere you look there are either new congressional measures or White House executive actions that have failed or even backfired.

The Republicans had a hand in helping to create today’s economic morass. Now the party is trying desperately to resuscitate is policies from the days of Ronald Reagan, and of Newt Gingrich’s revolution. Recently, House Minority Leader John Boehner listed an assortment of proposals the GOP would seek to revive if they regain power.

In so doing, Boehner revealed a debilitating aspect of recent Obama-led legislation. It’s a requirement that companies big and small must issue a 1099 federal tax form to any entity to whom they pay more than $600 a year. If strictly interpreted by the IRS, it could mean a mom-and-pop business having to call, say, Home Depot, to obtain its federal identification number. To say nothing of the extra paperwork.

Forget for a moment the waste of time and money this would require. What of the additional trees that would have to be cut down just to create the paper needed for such a jewel of a law? Al Gore, where are you when we need you?

For the moment, those trees are still standing, and as the political winds start to blow harder, I see them leaning evermore to the right. If things get much worse, they might topple. And so might the whole political forest we so reluctantly dwell in.

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