One of the most potent weapons an opposition party can employ in a bad economy is the promise of a vague but better alternative. To voters, the grass is often greener, and they're willing to give the other guys a shot.
That mentality is what fueled GOP gains in last year's midterm. But despite last week's horrendous economic news, with unemployment ticking up again and signs of a double-dip in the housing market, Republicans have foolishly ceded their advantage on the economy by embracing Rep. Paul Ryan's extreme budget-fantasy. And now, by revealing their true agenda, Republicans have punctured the allure of the unknown alternative.
Republicans, having overestimated their electoral mandate, rushed to vote for Ryan's crazy and dishonest plan without examining it closely. Nearly every Republican in the House and Senate voted for a budget that kills Medicare and gives massive tax cuts to oil companies, billionaires and corporations. Newt Gingrich called it “radical, right-wing social engineering” and Donald Trump blasted it as “a disaster” that doesn't even balance the budget.
We've already seen the electoral impact the plan can have in the 26th Congressional district of New York, where a Democrat won big a few weeks ago in one of the most Republican districts in the country by focusing like a laser on the Ryan plan. Democrats now need 24 seats to regain the House next year, and it's pretty easy to see a path to that magic number when you start looking at districts in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and elsewhere that are less conservative than New York's 26th.
But it's not just Washington Republicans in Congress who have overreached. In a host of crucial swing states around the country, new conservative governors have already become epic failures less than six months into their tenures. In Florida, Tea Party hero Rick Scott is at 29 percent in the polls because of his radical and unfair budget slashing for things like education, the poor and the disabled. And it's no coincidence that as Scott has overreached on the far right, President Obama's numbers have climbed in Florida.
In Ohio, newly elected right-wing governor John Kasich's approval numbers are also in the toilet, with 38 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable. The data show that he wouldn't be reelected today after only taking office in January.
The same can be said for the union-bashing crusader Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who would lose today to both his Democratic opponent from last year as well as former senator and liberal icon Russ Feingold. In Pennsylvania, the newly elected Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is at 39 percent because voters view his budget as unbalanced and unfair.
There are honestly too many newly-elected conservatives who are imploding to list them all: Rick Snyder of Michigan is at 33 percent approval and 60 percent disapproval, again because of his economic and budget policies. Even Republican golden boy Chris Christie of New Jersey is unpopular at home, and polls suggest Obama would crush him in a presidential match-up there. It's increasingly unlikely Christie will even be reelected.
Republicans won last year because of high unemployment and a general sense that the Democrats were spending too much. But Republicans have responded by ramming through every wacky far-right idea they've ever had, and voters have overwhelmingly rejected those ideas. The Ryan budget doesn't enjoy majority support among one single constituency, including Independents, Republicans, conservatives or even Tea Party supporters.
In 2010, the Republicans were able to exploit the unknown. In 2012, the country will have seen the Republican Party for the snake-oil peddlers they are, and that spells doom for them on election night.