Last week, the venerable Cook Political Report increased its estimate of likely GOP gains in the House; now, with 39 Democrat-held seats required to paint the House red, the Cook Report projected a likely turnover between 35 and 45 seats. This week, Gallup polling piled on, finding that Republicans have a double-digit advantage in its generic ballot test. Nevertheless, with the prospect of a GOP takeover in the House, many Republicans are quietly asking, is this necessarily a good thing?
The question is not new. For months, a quiet undercurrent of concern has emerged, from whispers in the GOP cocktail party scene to intermittent ruminations from national writers. In June, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer admitted that while he hoped Republicans make significant gains, “I want them to fall one vote short of taking the House.” Fleischer explained his apparent political blasphemy by suggesting that the GOP House leadership had yet to earn its stripes: “I want to see more evidence that Republicans are ready to govern,” he clarified, and “I want to see more substance, particularly on what spending they will cut.”Substance aside, a GOP House takeover is not without obvious political risks for 2012. President Obama would no longer have Speaker Pelosi, easily the least popular Democratic figure on the national scene, weighing him down. GOP House leadership would be exposed and susceptible to liberal caricature. Stripped of any legislative power, no current officials are vulnerable as lightning rods for Democratic vitriol. (The old standbys, President Bush and Sarah Palin, seem only to accentuate liberal desperation and political impotence.) Without the presidency or congressional leadership posts, Republicans have inadvertently earned this advantage.But recent history offers a lesson in this respect: Bill Clinton found his political traction only after the 1994 Republican Revolution elevated Newt Gingrich to the speakership. Might the same be true in potential Speaker John Boehner? While the popular Ohio congressman enjoys respect and goodwill within GOP ranks, many party supporters may be afraid to find out. The over-tanned, drab Ohio congressman may be a fine representative, but he’s hardly the face the GOP wishes to project as its post-W image.With the Senate (likely) still in Democratic hands and the White House flexing its veto-power muscle, House Republicans will struggle pushing forth any aspect of their agenda. Repealing ObamaCare, securing our borders, and renewing the Bush tax cuts will each assuredly require a Republican in the White House. While a slim Republican majority might slow down implementation of ObamaCare and finally offer a pedestal on which to champion fiscal sanity, this still assumes that such a majority would not hinder 2012 Republican presidential prospects.A Republican majority would arm Democrats with valuable political ammunition in the run-up to the 2012 elections. Democrats and their cheerleaders in the media may finally achieve success with its “Party of No” mantra. For months, this DNC talking point has failed because Americans understand that Democrats control all the levers of the federal government by wide margins. But with a slim GOP majority in the House — and checks and balances thought to be restored — Democrats will have found circumstances more fitting for their political sniping.