Hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes foresight is pretty clear, too.
The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, conducted over the past four weeks in 42 toss-up House districts, paints a clear picture of danger for Democrats.
In those races, all but two of which are currently in Democratic hands, Republican challengers were found to be ahead in 31. The Dems still held the edge in seven, and four were tied.
That 31, added to some 15 Dem seats that are so lost they weren’t even worth polling, would put the GOP pickup at 46 if voter sentiment does not change.
But 46 may lowball the Nov. 2 result by a considerable margin, too, because there are another 40 or 50 seats many experts say are in play. Republicans need to win only a handful of these to put their gains above the 50-seat threshold, and few would argue that 60 is impossible.
A margin of that size would be historic; the 54 seats Republicans won in 1994 to take control of the House for the first time in 40 years is still cited as a blowout, a revolution and other locutions suggesting massive importance. There have been bigger Republican wins, but you have to go back to the days of FDR to find one.
All this is appropriately chastening to the many in 2006 and still more in 2008 who suggested that the GOP was out for a generation. But big election results tend to be chastening only to the losers. Forty years in the minority did not stop the GOP adopting the ways of an over-comfortable majority once it had been in congressional power for a few terms. And it appears to have taken Democrats just two terms to make voters queasy.
Some of that is doubtless due to the general dyspepsia produced by a sour economy. But some, detectable in our poll numbers revealing disquiet over federal spending and a high level of disapproval of President Obama, suggests that Democrats may have failed to learn lessons about overreach that become clear during years out of power.
By this time next week we will know whether the indications in The Hill’s poll are borne out by voter actions in the nation’s polling booths. And soon thereafter, we may start to see whether another new majority has already learned or needs voters again to teach lessons the hard way.