At TNR today, Brian Beutler spells out the flip side of the monomania with which some of us have been writing about the structural advantages Republicans should enjoy in this midterm elections, especially in Senate races:
It’s a ripe year for Republicans, and everyone has known it would be since 2008, when Democrats picked up Senate seats in states like Alaska and held on to others in Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Montana.
But Republicans don’t want to pick up seats in 2014—perhaps even enough to capture the Senate—only to be met with shrugs from an unimpressed media. “So you won a bunch of Romney states. So what?” Not that the media is naturally disinclined to concoct dubious narratives, but that Republicans want the media to be primed to adopt one narrative in particular: that a GOP victory in November will be synonymous with a mandate to reopen the legislative debate over Obamacare.
To that end, you won’t find many GOP operatives willing to confess the existence of any Republican structural advantages this cycle. As long as polls show Republicans poised to win seats, and the slight favorite to capture the Senate, it is because Obamacare is a #trainwreck, and voters are itching to hold Democrats accountable for it.
Beutler thinks this pre-spin is (or at least was, prior to all the recent good news about Obamacare) intended to rationalize a post-election assault on the Affordable Care Act as being the subject of a “mandate.” Maybe that’s right. But beyond that, Republicans remain deeply invested in the claim that they have some sort of national majority that was temporarily and unnaturally interrupted by the two Obama presidential elections. So instead of acknowledging that the two parties are in roughly equal positions with one dominating presidential elections and the other midterms, Republicans appear very likely to claim that a good 2014 guarantees a good 2016. Democrats are probably hoping this makes GOPers over-confident about 2016, and/or more likely to nominate a less-electable presidential candidate who warms the ideological cockles of their hearts.