As ancient Greeks anxiously waited for a pronouncement from the Oracle of Delphi, we have awaited the results from the Iowa caucuses. We now know who got the most votes and won, and who outperformed expectations and therefore “really” won. And of those who “lost” in Iowa, some will accept the decision of the Fates, and some will continue onto other primary states as zombies apparently unaware of their lack of pulse.
We do not know now who will be chosen as the Republican candidate for president, but we can foresee part of the future.
The next president, a Republican or Barack Obama, will face a Republican House of Representatives and a Republican Senate. That alone tells us a great deal about the next four years.
Today, there are 242 Republicans in the House. A simple majority is 218. The strong reaction against Mr. Obama’s stimulus spending and Obamacare helped to elect 87 freshmen Republicans in November 2010, and freshmen are more vulnerable than veterans. But there is little likelihood that many will be swept from office in 2012. Why? Because while the Democrats had their tsunami election victories in 2006 and 2008, the Republicans wisely waited until 2010 to win their majority so that Republican-controlled states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin could redistrict congressional lines after the 2010 census in time for the 2012 elections.
The Tea Party not only won the House for Republicans, but their energy helped achieve a net gain of six governorships and 715 state legislators for the GOP, which allows Republicans to draw the maps that will control the House for the next 10 years. Democrats hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 11 states; Republicans, 24 states. This explains why eight senior Democrats in the House have decided to follow Rep. Barney Frank into retirement. It is no fun being in the minority party in the House. And even less fun with little chance to change that for 10 long years.
The Senate will also be Republican after the 2012 elections. Today, there are 47 Republican senators. On Nov. 6, there will be 23 Democratic Senate seats up for election and only 10 Republican seats. Already, two Democratic senators in red states have decided to retire: Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Democrats must defend seats in 11 states where - one measure of the redness of a state - both houses of the state legislature are Republican. Republicans are seriously contesting the Senate seats in traditionally Democratic states like Hawaii (Linda Lingle, former GOP governor) and New Mexico (Heather Wilson, former congressman.)
Of the 10 Republican Senate seats up, nine were won in 2006, suggesting the candidates are strong enough or the states Republican enough to withstand a very bad year for Republicans. Scott P. Brown in Massachusetts has an opponent with strong White House and left-wing backing, but he has raised money and kept in touch with his home state and has already won once in blue Massachusetts.
Republicans need to win only four or more Senate seats of the 23 Democratic seats to win the majority for control of the Senate. Two years later in 2014, there will be 20 Democratic seats up and only 13 Republican seats. The Democrats again are more vulnerable as they won in the wake of Mr. Obama’s 2008 win and the 13 Republicans won swimming upstream.
The next president will have a Republican majority in the House and Senate.
So the requirements for a Republican candidate for president are that they be able to win 270 electoral votes and be able to sign legislation sent to him by the Republican House and Senate.
What matters now is what each candidate would do within the executive branch. Will they commit to undo the Obama and Bill Clinton (and some George W. Bush) executive orders that expanded government? President Bush disappointed conservatives when he allowed many of Mr. Clinton’s last-minute regulations and executive orders to remain in place. The corrupt pardons could not be undone, but simple regulations and executive orders often can be. International agreements signed by the president, but not ratified by Congress, may be unsigned.
Will the next Republican president uproot the government-by-fiat instituted by Mr. Clinton and then Mr. Obama in the face of Republican control of the Congress? This is one question that any candidate who remains standing after Iowa should be asked.
Grover G. Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.