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Brent Budowsky: GOP peaked too soon

Brent Budowsky: GOP peaked too soon
© Getty Images/Greg Nash

The danger to a political party when pundits almost unanimously predict a nation-shaking victory for that party is that, quietly and thoughtfully, voters concerned about the future of their families and country ask themselves: Will we be better off if this party wins complete control of Congress?

For many days, the bastions of Republican power in Washington have gloated with triumphalism about a coming GOP wave. Pundit race-callers and statistical prognosticators have told voters the election is over. The Drudge Report has regaled its readers with echo-chamber links to tales of demonic Democrats; GOP columnists have written about what Republicans should do after they inevitably seize power; and neoconservatives have promised a return to the glory days of former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

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But then, what happened?

In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory MORE began to pick up steam. In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic presidential race comes into sharp focus Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump MORE began to gain more support. And several statistical prognosticators have increased their odds that Democrats retain control of the Senate.

Of course other states are still trending toward the GOP in an election that is shaping up, not as a Republican wave, but as a razor-thin cliffhanger between the parties. In a handful of states, there is some evidence — inconclusive but worth watching — of a nascent mini-Democratic counter-wave.

The Republicans peaked too soon. The chorus of predictions of GOP victory have led swing voters to more carefully consider how to vote and Democratic base voters to more urgently consider whether to vote. What do they see? What is the Republican plan for power and how will it affect their lives?

Republicans promise they will continue to hate President Obama with a fanatical passion and politics of total gridlock. They promise to continue investigating Benghazi forever. They pledge to loathe Lois Lerner, vow to defeat the minimum wage and promise to prevent pay equity for women. They promise to prove that climate change does not exist and to destroy ObamaCare — but are silent on what they would do to replace it or improve healthcare. They vow to arrest Hispanic Dreamers and send them back where they belong. They vow to despise Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE as much as they despise Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama to campaign for Biden in Florida Jaime Harrison on Lindsey Graham postponing debate: 'He's on the verge of getting that one-way ticket back home' Quinnipiac poll reports Biden leading Trump by 8 points in Pennsylvania MORE and despised Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and the hugely popular Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton'Democrat-run cities' fuel the economy, keep many red states afloat Late-night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study A closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare MORE, whom they tried to impeach while he was accomplishing the things that made him America’s most popular living former  president.

The Republicans peaked too soon because reports of their predicted victory drove voters to take an earlier-than-usual and closer-than-usual look at what they would actually do in power. When voters look, they see an agenda that is almost exclusively aimed at turning out the GOP base, almost exclusively negative and almost exclusively dominated by attacks against people Republicans despise and policies Republicans oppose.

The GOP has become the “we hate Obama” party. Its message emanates from an echo chamber of negativity that repels swing voters, motivates Democratic voters and offers nothing to improve the lives of Americans who are not partisan Republicans or far-right fanatics.

Will the recent uptick for some Democrats continue and spread? I don’t know that, but I do know this: three weeks ago, I predicted Hagan would win because the more voters urgently focus on the stakes of the election, the more they gravitate toward widely respected Democrats, from highly respected political families, who believe in governing across the aisle. And the more they gravitate to Democrats, the more they reject a GOP that acts like a gridlock-championing “hate Obama” cult without any plans to create jobs, raise wages, improve healthcare or make life better for most Americans. So far, that call is looking good.

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face MORE (D-La.), Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE (D-Ark.), Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary Alaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place MORE (D-Alaska) and Michelle Nunn are widely respected Democrats from highly respected political families who believe in governing across the aisle. Stay tuned for movement in their races — and don’t forget Kansas, where even many GOP voters are rejecting the brand of Republicanism that peaked too soon in 2014.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.