Published on TheHill.com on September 28, 2010
Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, the Democratic Party is facing the biggest defeat in midterm elections in the past 110 years, perhaps surpassing the modern record of a 74-seat gain set in 1922. They will also lose control of the Senate.
Republicans are now leading in 54 Democratic House districts. In 19 more, the incumbent congressman is under 50 percent and his GOP challenger is within five points. That makes 73 seats where victory is within easy grasp for the Republican Party. The only reason the list is not longer is that there are 160 Democratic House districts that were considered so strongly blue that there is no recent polling available.
There is no Democratic message. President Obama is heralding education — an issue never mentioned on the campaign trail. Secretary of State Clinton is trying to restart the peace talks in the Middle East. Attorney General Holder is re-evaluating online national-security taps. And a hundred Democrats are scrambling about on their own trying to get reelected!
The Democratic campaigns they are waging are formulaic. They make no attempt to defend the administration, but run away from it where possible. They never mention the words stimulus, healthcare reform, card-check, GM takeover or cap-and-trade.
Instead, they are running almost exclusively negative ads. They base their campaigns on tax liens, failed marriages, DWIs and the like. Where there is a paucity of dirt, they resort to three prefab negatives: that their opponent favors a 23 percent national sales tax, that he wants to privatize Social Security and that he is shipping jobs overseas.
The Republican answers are simple. Republicans want a 23 percent value-added tax (VAT) only as part of eliminating the income tax. Some Republicans do back letting people under 55 divert one-third of their FICA taxes to approved investment alternatives, and most voters agree with them. But, on the campaign trail, simply saying — accurately — that “I oppose any change at all in Social Security for our seniors” takes care of it. And Republicans rebut the jobs overseas charge by citing how the incumbent backed cash-for-clunkers, where 40 percent of the cars bought were foreign; the TARP bailout, which paid billions to overseas banks; and the GM bailout, where two-thirds of the jobs were overseas.
It is a pathetic defense, easily pierced and defeated.
Now the field of battle will increasingly shift. The marginal Democrats — the freshmen and sophomores — are mostly gone. The seats of Southern conservative Democrats largely already lost. Now the combat shifts to the previously safe seats occupied by many in the House leadership, including, perhaps, the seats of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (Mass.).
This new attack will force the Democrats to spend their resources defending their base and make it even easier to pick off marginal members. And while Republican resources shift to the previously solidly Democratic districts, eager donors anxious to develop relationships with the new Republican majority will fill their shoes.
In the Senate, Republicans lead in eight Democratic seats: North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Illinois. In Nevada, the ninth, Harry Reid has been stuck at 44 percent of the vote since Aug. 1, when his Social Security/Medicare attack was rebutted. He is dead in the water. His negatives flood the airwaves but are not working, and the ads run by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads have him pinned down.
For the 10th seat, the GOP has five options: New York, where Joe DioGuardi is only one point behind Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the latest published poll; California, where Sen. Barbara Boxer is stubbornly below 50; Washington state, where the lead has seesawed back and forth between Dino Rossi and Sen. Patty Murray; Connecticut, where Linda McMahon has closed to 50-45; and Delaware, where Christine O’Donnell may yet come back and has closed the gap to nine points.
And where is Obama while all this is happening? Proposing new initiatives on education!