With Nov. 7 just four weeks away and the Republican Party looking less and less likely to hold on to its dual control of Congress, it’s a good time to check in with political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg.
Rothenberg edits and publishes “The Rothenberg Political Report” (rothenbergpoliticalreport.blogspot.com), a Washington newsletter known for its nonpartisanship that reports on and analyzes congressional and gubernatorial elections, presidential politics and other political developments. I talked to Rothenberg Wednesday, Oct. 4, by telephone when the Mark Foley scandal was still rocking the Beltway:
Q: Will the Foley scandal add significantly to the Republican Party’s troubles this fall?
A: Well, we won’t know until we see some poll numbers on that. But I think it certainly could. Obviously, a Democratic wave was already building. There is a desire for change. The president is not held in high regard. And Congress is not held in high regard.
It at least raises significant questions in my mind whether it will depress some conservative voters or lead to some conservatives staying home or whether it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and convinces more independents and even some Republicans that there is a need for an across-the-board change. I think it has the potential to add to the Republicans’ considerable pre-existing woes.
Q: Is 2006 looking like it will be a rousing success for Democrats the way 1994 was for Republicans?
A: The short answer is yes. The longer answer is we don’t know how big it’s going to be. We didn’t know how big ‘94 was going to be until it happened. But it’s going to be a very good Democratic year.
Q: Is it that Republicans are weak or that Democrats are stronger?
A: It’s not about the Democrats at all. It’s just about the Republicans. People want change. They are dissatisfied with the performance of their elected officials. They are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. This is not about the Democrats. Voters are not looking for any particular kind of change. The Democrats are not really offering any kind of particular change. Voters just want something different. The last time I looked, we have only two parties. So if one party is unpopular, the other party is the beneficiary.
Q: Is Iraq the Republicans’ biggest problem issue?
A: I think it has been and continues to be the kind of cloud that hangs over the party. Heck, it’s the cloud that hangs over the country. It’s probably the single reason why people feel things are not going well and frankly the single biggest reason they have lost confidence in the president — in what he has told the country, in his policy. The news from Iraq weighs on the public and is the major reason why people are in a pessimistic mood.