SCOTT MOONEYHAM: Will 2010 be Rosy for Republicans?
It certainly wouldn't be surprising to see Republican office seekers making gains in North Carolina in 2010.
In fact, it would probably be shocking if they didn't.
A Democrat sits in the White House. A Democrat sits in the governor's mansion. Democrats control Congress. Democrats control the state legislature. Democrats have nowhere to go but down.
You can throw into the mix that 2010 is not a presidential election year. A controversial measure (health-care reform) being pushed by President Obama and congressional Democrats has many people uneasy, and the economy is still pretty awful.
It's a recipe for success if you're the political party that isn't in power, a recipe that has some bringing up comparisons to 1994, when Republicans gained majorities in Congress and the state House.
Still, a year, in the world of politics, is an eternity. And putting much stock in generic polls that show people preferring unknown Republicans over unknown Democrats is a fool's game.
There have been two such polls recently. One, commissioned by the conservative Civitas Institute, put Republicans ahead of Democrats 52 percent to 39 percent in a generic race for Congress. Another, conducted by Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling, put Republicans ahead 48-38 in a generic congressional contest and 46-39 in a generic legislative contest.
But in the real world, real people actually get placed on the ballot. That's why generic polls should be taken with a grain of salt.
In congressional races, incumbents -- especially those in office more than one or two terms -- have huge (and unfair) advantages over challengers. Gerrymandered districts and the ability to raise money are the two most obvious.
Heath Shuler, who represents the mountain counties that make up the 11th Congressional District, and Larry Kissell, whose 8th District stretches from Fayetteville to Charlotte, are the lone congressional Democrats from the state likely to be vulnerable in 2010. If Democrat Bob Etheridge runs for U.S. Senate, that would leave the 2nd District seat up for grabs.
In the state legislature, it's also reality on the ground, not some feeling in the air, that should worry Democrats.
Democrats in the Senate, in particular, are aging, meaning the likelihood of more open seats in 2010. One Democratic veteran of the chamber, David Weinstein of Robeson County, has already given up his seat. Meanwhile, scandal swirls around the Senate's longest-serving member, Democrat R.C. Soles of Columbus County.
Gov. Bev. Perdue's current poor standing among voters also could hurt fellow Democrats. She may not be on the ballot in 2010, but Republican leaders recognize that attacks on the governor -- a face and a name known to voters -- can help buoy their prospects.
But Democrats also won't be running against generic Republicans. If the GOP can't put qualified moderates on the ballot in these swing districts now held by Democrats, no amount of vulnerability will matter.
Thirty years ago, Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local."
Still is. Always will be.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
More like this story