For GOP, What Now?

It seems like we ask this question every two years.

Democrats walked away with huge wins last week, leaving Connecticut Republicans without a member of Congress in either house for the first time since the 1965-67 session, when Democrats Daddario, St. Onge, Giaimo, Irwin, Monagan and Grabowski were in the House, and Thomas Dodd and Abe Ribicoff were in the Senate. Since then, they’ve had at least one member, and most years they’ve had more (though never more than four)–until now.

In the House the GOP is down to 37 seats from 44, and back to 12 after a brief fling with 13. All the state constitutional offices save Governor and Lt. Governor are controlled by Democrats.

What now? Interestingly, some GOP leaders don’t seem all that worried:

“The rank-and-file Republicans are still prepared to go forward,” Foley said. “They are disappointed, as they should be. But they are not in the mood to surrender.”

Foley lived through his own roller coaster: He was a state representative when Republicans went from 64 to 85 seats in 1984, then right back down to 59.

“The tide ebbs and flows,” he said. (Pazniokas)

So it does. And Chris Healy seems convinced that this latest swamping wasn’t Republicans’ fault, that the national wave did them in. And there’s absolutely something to that.

But still, the news is not great for Republicans. They haven’t controlled a chamber since they won the Senate (to their surprise) in 1994, and the House in 1984–both Republican landslide years. In fact, since 1994 the GOP has been constantly bleeding House seats–they’re down from 60 won that year to 37 now. Yes, things were worse in 1974, when the GOP won only 33 seats in the House, but in 1976 they bounced back to win 58.

This is not 1974. This is far more ebb than flow. Take a look at these trendlines for House control:

1housecontrol.PNG

The GOP may do better focusing on congressional races, although a good year there will probably help state races as well. Strong candidates for three of the five districts (John McKinney may already be interested in running against Jim Himes in 2010) and the senate will be a good start.

Can the party come back from this? Sure. They could bounce back and pick up a few seats here and there in 2010, I imagine. Whether they’ll be a majority party in our congressional delegation or in Hartford any time soon, though, is something else.

What do they have to do to get to that seemingly unreachable goal? That’s a great question– and another post.

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