Democrats have no message as the election approaches.
Published on National Review Online on October 18, 2010
A pattern is emerging in the 2010 midterm elections that is repeating itself in scores of districts and a dozen states throughout the nation. The rhythm of the races is becoming clear.
Because the Obama agenda proved so unpopular, Republicans opened the Senate and Congressional races of 2010 in surprisingly good shape. Districts that were supposed to have safe Democratic incumbents generated polls showing unexpectedly competitive races, even against unknown Republican challengers. Marginal Democratic seats actually tended to open their campaigns under water — behind their GOP challengers.
Realizing their desperate straits and unable to advertise their support for the discredited Obama agenda, the Democratic incumbents laid down a hail of fire in their negative advertising. Capitalizing on detective work as well as on conventional negative research, they ran wall-to-wall negative ads, scarcely bothering to give voters positive information about their own records. And never, never did these Democrats defend their own voting records. Nobody said the stimulus was working or Obamacare was a good idea or cap-and-trade is needed or that TARP worked. The only ads coming out of the Democratic campaigns were negative.
In some districts, the detectives came up empty and the incumbents were reduced to generic issue negatives. Three dominated: The accusation that the Republican wanted to privatize Social Security, that he would not close tax loopholes that let jobs go overseas, and that he advocated a 23 percent national sales tax. (The latter charge stemmed from the Fair Tax plan, which had been conceived, of course, as an alternative to the income tax. Democrats failed to mention that fact.)
But in most districts, the negatives assumed a more personal and harsher character. Watching them, one felt not only that the Republican should not be elected, but that he should be imprisoned. The vitriolic negatives played fast and loose with the facts. Candidates were accused of laying off workers in businesses they had sold years before. Routine IRS audits that resulted in unfavorable rulings were depicted as tax evasion even when the candidate promptly paid his back taxes, interest, and penalties. Votes in state legislatures were distorted beyond recognition. One candidate, who lived twelve inches outside his district, was made to appear to have lived on the moon.
The attacks sent Republicans reeling. Democrats did not pace themselves and opened up with all they had, usually throwing the harshest negatives first. Throughout the country, Republicans slipped back and Democrats managed to reestablish leads. In the Senate races, Angle fell behind in Nevada, Rossi dropped in Washington, O’Donnell lost points in Delaware. And in dozens of House races, the Republicans fell back.
In the past two weeks, these races have stabilized and the Republican has come back. The negatives have worn off. Republicans have answered the charges and shown how ridiculous they are. And voters have reminded themselves that on the key issues of the day — stimulus, Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and TARP — they agree with the Republicans and not with the Democrats. These underlying Republican advantages have become more manifest.
As Mark Twain said, “A lie can make it half way around the world before the truth has time to put its boots on.” It took all of two or three weeks for the Republicans to put on their boots to pursue the Democratic negatives. But, by late September, they were fully shod and were overcoming the negative attacks.
Now Republicans are opening up good-sized leads again, particularly in House races, and the Democratic attacks are being seen as shrill, inaccurate, and ineffective.
Many Democrats are retreating from their party positions and are running as Republicans. In West Virginia, Senate candidate and Democratic governor Joe Manchin has an ad in which he is loading his rifle and aiming at a distant tree. He says that he will defend Second Amendment rights, will fight “to repeal the bad parts of Obamacare,” and will fight cap-and-trade because it is “bad for West Virginia.” With that, he hits the bulls-eye on the target pinned to the unfortunate tree. One could be forgiven for asking why not vote for a real Republican like his opponent, John Raese, who will vote to repeal all of Obamacare, oppose new taxes, and fight stimulus spending in the bargain.
In Georgia, Democratic congressman Jim Marshall has an ad that opens with hippies and says, “San Francisco is far away from Macon, Georgia, and Nancy Pelosi is far away from Jim Marshall.” He then says he won’t vote for Pelosi as speaker and won’t follow her lead. This after he voted for stimulus spending and the TARP bailout! Why vote for the second-best Republican — the Democrat Marshall — when there is a real Republican conservative named Scott Austin running against him?
These transvestite Democrats, masquerading in Republican garments, are a testament to the total absence of any Democratic agenda as they move into the final lap of the election.
It brings us face to face with the fundamental reality of this election: The Democrats have no message. After they turned the nation on its head with the most activist Congress since 1964, they have nothing to say in the election except personal attacks and attempts to depict themselves as conservatives.
Voters are realizing the bankruptcy of the Democratic candidates and are turning to the Republicans in ever-increasing numbers.