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David Brooks on Midterms: Has GOP "Detoxified Themselves" From Tea Party?

DAVID BROOKS: All the models say the Republicans are likely to take over the Senate. A couple of things, one, ticket-splitting. There used to be a lot of people ticket-splitting. They would vote for a Democrat up here, Republican down there, vice versa. That just happens less.

One of the reasons is, the electorate is more educated. The more educated a person, the less likely their ticket splits.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Interesting.

DAVID BROOKS: College apparently teaches people to think less.

No, they’re more ideological. They give themselves ideological labels. Obama’s a drag. If you look at his numbers in a lot of these states, where he was with groups like women and Latinos, he’s come down a lot, and so it’s just a big drag. There are a lot of undecided voters out there.

And my newspaper had a story today suggesting the early voting, there are some good signs for Democrats, so it’s not a lock. But when the country’s unhappy, the president is in a sixth year, it doesn’t take — it’s not brain surgery that the out party is going to do OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you watching for here at the end, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, the first two in — I’m looking at New Hampshire and North Carolina, Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic incumbent in New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan, Democratic, embattled in North Carolina.

Obama carried New Hampshire twice. Jeanne Shaheen has been favored. Scott Brown, the transplant from Massachusetts, has narrowed that race. It’s a tossup. I would say if Jeanne Shaheen and Kay Hagan win, the two Democrats in those two states, then the Republican sweep is nonexistent in 2014.

But, beyond that, Judy, I have to look at the states that the president did carry where Democrats are running, Iowa, Colorado. If the Democrats lose those, I think that’s significant and it will indicate that the Republicans are having a very good evening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you’re seeing?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I actually was hoping to give the same answer.

You know, the Republicans will do well in the red states. They’re probably going to do well in Arkansas, places like that, West Virginia, obviously, probably Louisiana, but if the victory — winning over your own people is good. It’s not a huge victory.

So they could do that and still even win the Senate, but if they can get in these purple states, then they’re really showing — they’re breaking out of their pattern, and their pattern has been, especially over the last four years, is they’re toxic. People, even some traditional Republicans, are unhappy with the Republican Party.

But has the party detoxified themselves? Have they returned from sort of a Tea Party, which generates intensity, but scares a lot of people? Are they now seen again as sort of a business party that maybe will get the economy going? And if they start winning some of those purple states, the North Carolinas of the world, or even if Scott Walker wins in Wisconsin in the governor’s race there, then you begin to think, OK, they have improved their image with some of the swing voters.

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