Election 2010: How bad is it for Democrats?
As the November midterm election approaches, it seems to be dire straits for Democrats. Obama and other party leaders will have to energize their base in order to turn it around.
Richard Dickin/The Tri-City Herald/AP
A consensus is building that Democrats‚Äô chances of holding on to both houses of Congress ‚Äď certainly with anything like the majorities they have today ‚Äď are fast fading.
News story and polling headlines this past week paint a grim picture for Democratic lawmakers and therefore for President Obama:
‚ÄúAmericans Most Likely to Favor GOP Newcomers for Congress‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúDems in power could be in peril, poll says‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúFewer Young Voters See Themselves as Democrats‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúDangerous Numbers for House Democrats‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúRepublicans Hold Wide Lead in Key Voter Turnout Measure‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúGeneric Ballot Continues to Suggest Major Losses for Dems‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúDemocrats Plan Political Triage to Retain House‚ÄĚ
Undoubtedly, there will be twists and turns (and probably some surprises) between now and when voters go to the polls Nov. 2. Eight weeks can be a political lifetime.
Plus, the ‚Äútea party‚ÄĚ movement ‚Äď showing extraordinary muscle in some recent Republican primaries ‚Äď could be as much of a problem for the establishment GOP as it is for Democrats. And as John Dickerson at Slate points out, ‚ÄúThe advantage for Democrats is that they have the better organization.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOrganizing for America, the Obama campaign operation, has been up and running for more than three years,‚ÄĚ he writes. ‚ÄúSome of the volunteers have been knocking on the same doors since Obama was just a freshman senator from Illinois running for president.‚ÄĚ
Postpartisan? Forget it.
Obama himself has largely shucked his ‚Äúpostpartisan‚ÄĚ ideal, and you can expect some sharp rhetorical elbows thrown at Republicans when he addresses a Labor Day rally in Milwaukee on Monday. That‚Äôs likely to escalate in coming weeks as Obama ‚Äď and first lady Michelle Obama ‚Äď go stumping for Democrats.
"They've forgotten I politick pretty good,‚ÄĚ he told a crowd in Austin, Texas, last month.
Still, it‚Äôs an uphill battle for Obama and his party. Some of the evidence:
In a new survey released Friday, a USA Today/Gallup poll shows voters more likely to pick a generic Republican over a Democrat for Congress by 53-40 percent, particularly if that candidate is a newcomer. ‚ÄúIt appears that the best type of candidate to be this fall is a Republican challenger,‚ÄĚ writes Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.
In another sign of danger ahead for Democrats, Gallup reports that minorities and young voters ‚Äď a solid part of Obama‚Äôs base in 2008 ‚Äď are unlikely to turn out in large numbers come November.
‚ÄúIn contrast to 2008, when whites and blacks were about equally likely to say they were giving ‚Äėquite a lot of‚Äô or ‚Äėsome‚Äô thought to the presidential election, whites are much more likely than blacks to be thinking about the 2010 elections: 42 percent vs. 25 percent, a gap exceeding those from recent midterm elections,‚ÄĚ according to Gallup‚Äôs Lydia Saad. ‚ÄúAs a result, and because of the extraordinarily keen interest in the elections that conservative Republicans currently display, Republicans overall currently enjoy a 54 percent to 30 percent lead over Democrats in ‚Äėthought given to the election‚Äô.‚ÄĚ
Professional political prognosticators are weighing in along the same lines.
‚ÄúConditions have deteriorated badly for Democrats over the summer. The economy appears rotten, with little chance of a substantial comeback by November 2nd. Unemployment is very high, income growth sluggish, and public confidence quite low. The Democrats‚Äô self-proclaimed ‚ÄėRecovery Summer‚Äô has become a term of derision, and to most voters ‚Äď fair or not ‚Äď it seems that President Obama has over-promised and under-delivered.‚ÄĚ
Could the GOP take over the House?
At the moment, Sabato predicts, ‚ÄúRepublicans have a good chance to win the House by picking up as many as 47 seats, net.‚ÄĚ In the Senate, he writes on his web site, ‚ÄúRepublicans have an outside shot at winning full control (+10), but are more likely to end up with +8 (or maybe +9, at which point it will be interesting to see how senators such as Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and others react).‚ÄĚ
Charlie Cook doesn‚Äôt go quite that far. His latest outlook is for Republicans to gain 35 seats in the House (four fewer than they‚Äôd need to take control) with a net GOP gain in the Senate of 7-9 seats.
‚ÄúThe odds still favor Democrats holding their majority, but that is no longer given,‚ÄĚ Cook wrote in the National Journal on Saturday. And with a campaign war chest that needs to be doled out most effectively, Democrats are going to have to make some tough choices ‚Äď maybe abandoning some of their most vulnerable incumbents.
‚ÄúWith this many races in play, Democrats may have to perform triage and focus their resources on those that remain winnable,‚ÄĚ Cook writes. ‚ÄúThat means giving up on the rest.‚ÄĚ
Dire straits for Democrats, in other words. For as David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report writes, ‚ÄúThis is an environment in which any Democratic laxity or misstep can prove fatal and even underfunded or flawed Republicans can be highly competitive.‚ÄĚ