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Beyond Obama's B+: How Democrats can hold the House in 2010

Job growth will be a key factor in whether voters let Democrats retain control of the House in 2010, says John Podesta, influential Democrat and CEO of Center for American Progress. Obama's approval rating will be another.

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John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress at the St. Regis Hotel, Monday.

Michael Bonfigli / Special to The Christian Science Monitor

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President Obama gave himself a “good, solid B+” when Oprah Winfrey asked him to grade his performance in office so far. But what most interests Democrats on Capitol Hill is how voters grade him – and whether that will help them keep control of the House when every seat comes up for election in 2010.

Whether Democrats can keep control of the House in the 2010 election hinges on three things: the direction of job growth, Democrats' ability to convince independent voters that the country’s finances are not out of control, and the direction of Barack Obama’s approval ratings.

That is the assessment of John Podesta, president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Mr. Podesta is an influential Democrat, having served as co-chair of Mr. Obama’s transition and, previously, as chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. He was the guest at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters on Monday.

Job growth key

“The most critical issue … for Democrats next November will be the direction of job growth,” Podetsa said. His view is that at the moment Democrats in Congress “are hit with sort of a double whammy of having done a lo, but of having people feel like it hasn’t affected their lives.”

Podesta argued that no one unemployment figure will be a “magic number” for Democrats' political success. Instead, if by the summer of 2010 the number of jobs in the economy is growing consistently, then Democrats in Congress can hold the loss of seats “to a relative minimum,” he said. One question, he added, is “do people smell we are on the right path or do they feel still bogged down?”

Getting back to balance

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