Published on TheHill.com on March 27, 2012
Outside the Beltway, polling indicates a massacre of Senate Democrats is in the offing in the 2012 elections. Currently, Rasmussen’s polls have Republicans leading Democrats for eight Senate seats now held by Democrats. Nelson is 6 points behind Mack in Florida, McCaskill is 10 behind Steelman in Missouri, Tester is 3 behind Rehberg in Montana, Brown is 4 behind Mandel in Ohio. And, for open seats, Allen is 3 up on Kaine in Virginia, Bruning is 20 ahead of Kerry in Nebraska, Thompson is 15 ahead in Wisconsin, and either Berg or Sand will undoubtedly win in North Dakota. Additionally, the races in New Mexico and Michigan show the Republican less than 4 behind. (The GOP might lose Massachusetts and Maine, but a massive wipeout of Democrats is coming.)
Why? Obviously, the shift in party identification has a lot to do with it. While Washington insiders are chortling about Obama’s likely reelection, those who are paying attention know that there has been an 8-point party-identification shift from Democrat to Republican, 2 points of which took place after the 2010 elections. Not only is this shift going to doom Obama’s chances, it will engulf Democratic candidates up and down the line.
But could Obama be slaying his own candidates? Ever since the GOP victory of 2010, Obama has emulated Harry Truman in attacking the “do-nothing Congress” — a theme that underscored Truman’s 1948 reelection. But has Obama noticed that half of Congress is Democratic? In an effort to avoid appearing partisan, the president attacked “Congress” without distinguishing the House from the Senate or the members of his own party from the opposition.
In a reprise of 2008, he is trying to run against the “culture” in Washington and the “gridlock” in our system. But while he hasn’t done much damage to Republicans seeking election, he has inflicted massive harm on his own party. Democratic support for Democratic senators is incredibly low, and independent backing for their candidacies virtually nonexistent.
Yet Obama’s dissing of his own candidates has not elicited a murmur of protest from his party. As he excoriates Congress for not passing his “jobs” bill and complains about the toxic atmosphere in which he is forced to dwell, he is ruining his own party’s chances. Nothing else can explain fully the drop in the support Obama voters give the Democratic Senate candidates. Sure, Obama will lose Florida and probably Missouri as well, but not by enough to have McCaskill at 41 percent of the vote and Nelson at 36. Even in Michigan, my own polls have Stabenow only at 46 percent (trailed by Hoekstra at 42 percent), in a state Obama must carry and in which he is favored.
In Obama’s reelection strategy, it appears that he plans very little defense of his own abysmal record, understandably, and will run an ad hominem campaign against Romney (as soon as Santorum stops his ad hominem attacks). The prospects for this reelecting the president are doubtful, but it certainly won’t give Democrats running for the Senate any place to stand.
His party should realize just how ineffective ad hominem negatives were in 2010. No Democratic congressman ran on Obama’s record — or even his own — as each tried to savage his particular opponent. It was as if they were saying, “Vote against Obama, I understand, but you can’t possibly vote for this Republican who is opposing me.” It didn’t work, and it won’t if that is the only platform Obama gives his candidates.
Two years ago, it seemed that Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Medicare reforms would give Democrats a place to stand, but Ryan’s newfound moderation, masquerading as a deal with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), undercuts that premise.
Now the Democrats stand accused by their own president of doing nothing, fostering a toxic atmosphere and promoting gridlock. A great way to run for reelection.
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