In his post “The 2014 Midterms Matter More Than You Think: Winning the Senate would finally put Republicans on the spot” at The New Republic, Brian Beutler explains why a GOP takeover of the upper house would burden their party with elevated expectations they won’t be able to satisfy:
Republican hardliners in Congress and their enablers on the grassroots right will expect a Senate takeover to translate into the kinds of results they’ve been denied thus far. No more blinking in budget showdowns. No more balking at the prospect of confrontation.
But by the time those fights roll around, the presidential contest will be in full swing, and to the extent that mollifying the base would be politically damaging to the Republican party nationally, Congressional leaders will be more reluctant than they are now to do so. If GOP voters nominate a member of the Senate or House, that person will be linked to the Congressional party and all of its hijinx. If they nominate a governor or a former governor, that person will feel tremendous pressure to draw contrasts and divide the party ahead of the election. Those are both outcomes Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to avoid.
Beutler adds that Republicans would likely create confrontations with the White House over Obamacare, greenhouse gas regulations, nominee confirmations and impeachment, to name a few issues. While “Obama can counter each these impulses with a veto pen, the bully pulpit, and a determined minority party in Congress,” the Republicans will be expected “to behave like a governing party. And to succeed they’d have to overcome the impulse to behave like the opposition.” Not an easy challenge to meet when their tea party flank is screaming for blood at every turn.
Beutler concedes that “The flip side, of course, is that Republicans would gain agenda setting power.” But the problem is that the GOP lacks a popular agenda. Sure, many Americans want tax cuts for themselves, but the Republicans would have a tough sell ahead in pitching the rest of their agenda, particularly weakening environmental and financial regulations, greasing the skids for corporate tax dodges, restricting reproductive rights of women and gutting the popular provisions of Obamacare.
In short, the GOP would finally have to own and better explain its agenda in the spotlight, instead of just bashing away at Democrats. It wouldn’t be pretty.
All of that said, however, Democrats still have a huge stake in doing better than expected in November. Every senate seat held could make a tremendous difference, if not before 2016, then certainly afterwards.