Needed: Good Candidates for 2012

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Jonathan Bernstein tells Democrats how they can win back the House in 2012:

The one thing that the political science literature tells us that matters in Congressional elections and is to a large extent within the control of the parties is the quality of candidates….What political scientists have learned is that this is a case in which party prophesies are to a large extent self-fulfilling. Believe that the party is going over a cliff, and you’ll wind up with third-rate candidates, who will then lose — not because of the general environment, but because bad candidates lose Congressional elections. Believe that your party is about to benefit from the wave, and you’ll wind up with excellent candidates who will win regardless of whether such a “wave” actually existed.

It seems to me that the GOP did a great job of selling their own potential candidates that 2010 would be like 1994. That’s behind the data that Brendan Nyhan reported last week about the large spike in quality GOP candidates, especially challengers. I strongly suspect that when all is said and done, that’s going to be the controllable variable that made the most difference, much more than choices about pushing the agenda for the Democrats or opposing it for the Republicans (with the possible exception of economic policy, but it’s always hard to know the effects of any potential changes, there).

He also recommends this post from Ed Kilgore, James Vega, and J.P. Green, begging liberals not to degenerate into a frenzy of finger-pointing and general circular firing squad-ishness. I share Jonathan’s “good luck with that” reaction, but it’s still worth a read. 2010 was not the end of the world, Republicans are no more competent than they’ve ever been, and 2012 is only 24 months away. There’s no reason John Boehner can’t be a one-term Speaker of the House.

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