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House Poll Numbers Lean in Republican Favor

November 2, 2010 at 4:52 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: And here now are syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

David, how would you characterize the potential importance of this election? There has been a lot of talk about how important it is.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I mean, I guess the country has been unhappy with the direction for about six years now. And people have been flip-flopping back and forth, looking for somebody to get us out of the political morass, a sense of fiscal morass, a sense that maybe we’re not competing with China and India. And so they have been looking for change.

And so they have been sort of bouncing around. And two years ago, they bounced to the Democrats. And now you have got a lot of people who did bounce to the Democrats bouncing to the Republicans. A lot of people who split their ballots now you have been hearing over the last several months saying, I’m going straight Republican.

Now, how many there are, we will see. But the effect will be, if the Republicans take control of the House, well, we will start repealing bits and pieces of the health care bill. The tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts, all of them will probably be made permanent, at least for a little while. Spending will certainly be restrained. It will change the whole atmosphere here.

JIM LEHRER: Change the whole atmosphere, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: It will certainly change the atmosphere, Jim.

If you think about it, national health care, the signature accomplishment of Barack Obama’s first two years, was achieved by his party without — unlike Medicare, unlike Social Security which were largely bipartisan in the final passage, this was a solely Democratic Party achievement, or liability, depending upon how the election turns out today.

But, for that reason, we will see no more of that. There will not be a Democratic majority able or willing to pass something of that magnitude. So, you will see an awful lot more…

JIM LEHRER: What about David’s point that this is a bouncing back and forth, that this may not be — he didn’t really say it, but I will ask you.

MARK SHIELDS: Sure.

JIM LEHRER: This may not mean a permanent revolution, a permanent change; it’s just another bounce.

MARK SHIELDS: There’s no way it’s a permanent change, just simply because it’s been an election about very little.

Just as the Democrats won in 2006 by not being the Republicans, the Republicans are winning in 2010 by not being the Democrats, and not being the Democrats at least of the past two years. And that’s where the dissatisfaction is. There isn’t a Republican agenda.

I mean, of what, lower deficits and tax cuts and jobs? Now, those are all sort of fairy dust politics. They’re all kind of appealing, but they’re not realistic.

DAVID BROOKS: I don’t know. Jobs, lower taxes sounds good to me.

I’m not sure it’s an embrace of the Republican agenda, but it certainly is a rejection of a few things. It’s a rejection of the idea that you can borrow your way to prosperity. The Democrats decided we’re going to have a stimulus package, and maybe we will have a second stimulus package will accrue about $800 billion in debt, and that will create enough jobs.

The American people have certainly rejected that. It’s pretty much a rejection of what health — the Obama health care plan, which — has been. When it was passed, people thought it would become more popular. It certainly has not. If you take a look at the moments when the polls really shifted, it was June to August 2009.

Democrats in June 2009 were hanging there — in there pretty steady with the Republicans. By August, they were well behind. And that’s been deteriorating since. So, I do think there are some policy rejections, but I agree with Mark that there’s not really an embrace of the Republicans.

JIM LEHRER: How much is this election about Barack Obama?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, it is being — it will be viewed as a referendum.

JIM LEHRER: He is going to have a news conference tomorrow at 1:00 to kind of walk on the results, is he not — walk with it?

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: Well, he’s got to simply say, I hear you, and then, I heard the people spoke last night and the sacrament of democracy, and that’s the statement. And, therefore, I am.

And that’s the question. Fill in the blanks. What is he going to say? How is he going to change, or how will this — these elections…

JIM LEHRER: But the idea that he’s having a news conference, Mark, the very next day, does he create the possibility that he can be the lead tomorrow night, rather than the results?

MARK SHIELDS: Oh, oh, I see your point. Well, he obviously wants to be part of the lead. But he’s been — Jim, we have talked about it in the show.

He’s been talking about this event for too long during the campaign. I mean, he gave that interview with The New York Times. He gave another one to “The National Journal” about kind of what lies ahead. So, I mean, I guess he’s been thinking about it a lot. So he wants to share it.

But, no, tomorrow, if in fact the polls are correct — and I have no reason to believe they aren’t — it’s John Boehner’s night. I mean, it’s Speaker John Boehner and it’s a Republican resurgence. And it’s a big Republican victory.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, let’s not forget he did Ryan Seacrest today. I think he’s doing “Dora the Explorer.”

I don’t know how…

JIM LEHRER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: If he says, “I’m still relevant,” then he will be the lead, which is what Bill Clinton said, if you will recall, after 1994.

For all that, I do not get the sense — and I think a lot of people I have spoken to in the White House do not get the sense — there’s a fundamental rethinking going on there. They will have to adjust. And they will think about that calmly and rationally.

But one doesn’t get the sense it’s a White House that’s saying, oh, we sort of messed that up. We have got to have Obama 2.0.

I do not think that is happening.

JIM LEHRER: OK. We will be back to you in a few minutes. Thank you.