Remember, the Democrats had planned for this midterm. This was not going to be like the ’94 Republican Revolution because they had prepared for this election. Nancy Pelosi believed she had a winning prescription for the House. The Senate was certainly not in jeopardy. Obama was going to go out and campaign, the voters would swoon, the electorate would buckle, the seas would rise and fall. The Democrats had a plan and that plan would insure retention of Congress and possible gains in governorships. This was all worked out and the wheels of their bus would grind slowly but finely over the bones of the Republicans.
Their first plan was to throw the renegade Blue Dogs under the bus at their first hint of problems. This would teach the troops a lesson. You don’t vote against the Democratic Machine. If you do, you are electoral dead meat. They’d pretend support, but it wouldn’t do to have too many of these backsliders making it. McCain/Bush districts would get financial and presidential cover if they had voted the right way, they’d get two hands on the back and out the door if they didn’t.
The second part of the plan was to target vulnerable Republicans who were in districts too liberal for them. They enlisted good-sounding moderates who would be grateful and compliant to House leadership, and these dozen or so wins would help the Democrats keep the House of Representatives. They could sacrifice several Democrats, their margins were deep enough, that inroads in Republican ranks would buffer those losses and provide a slimmer, but more loyal, majority. Pelosi is still convinced her plan is going to work. Polls aside, she believes this strategy will pull out enough wins to keep the gavel. Why is she so sure?
Money. They have tons of it, and as everybody knows, especially in the Ruling Class, money is the elixir of winning campaigns. Money allows the spender to define his or her candidacy, define the opposition, and get out the vote. Buttressing all this cash is the Democratic Party Machine in the form of Organizing for America, Moveon.org, all the unions, and of course the big urban political machines. This would allow Democratic candidates to get out a massive vote that would dwarf Republican attempts. It would trump the usual bonus the opposition party gets in midterms. It would move the needle in those important Republican poach districts.
Finally, they had the best campaigner the Democrats had ever seen in their messiah, their One, their young, bright, articulate, clean president. He could spend his time fundraising, (a little more money can’t hurt), campaigning in those Republican poachable districts, and defend the few Democrats who were in trouble but had loyally voted for his programs. In the end, he’d pull off W’s for the D’s.
As far as the Senate was concerned, they had wads of cash and they didn’t have to defend too many seats. Before the death of Senator Robert Byrd, they had 18 seats to defend and Republicans the same. However, Republicans had to defend Missouri, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, and New Hampshire, where there were retiring incumbents. They figured they could lose Delaware, Indiana, and North Dakota, and perhaps even Arkansas, but they’d balance that out with Burr in North Carolina and Vitter in Louisiana. Overall, worst case scenario, they’d lose a couple of seats, but that still left them with a 55, 56 seat majority when you took into account reliable independents Lieberman and Sanders of Vermont. Reid could be in a little trouble because of his mouth, but the Republicans imploded and named a cuckoo bird, Sharron Angle as their candidate. Reid was safe. He had oodles of money, the always important defense mechanism, and he had statewide influence.
Heck, given the right prescription of well-funded challengers in the open seats, the vulnerability of Louisiana, North Carolina, and perhaps, could they dare, Grassley in Iowa, a best case scenario could lead to a plus one and they’d be back to the magical 60th seat. With Obama’s prowess as a campaigner coupled with big money and the Democratic Vote Machine, this wasn’t entirely fanciful. The wheels of their bus would run right over Republicans in Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Iowa. Splat.
Sometimes even the “best laid plans of mice and men, go astray.” This is especially true when those plans are based on fantasy and refuse to see the bright light of reality. The Democratic Party’s plan to deal with the midterms is wrought with problems they refused to acknowledge.
There has been a steady drumbeat of bad news for the Democrat’s plan for some time now. Republican’s didn’t implode at the sight of Obama, Democrats did. Democratic safe states have become surprisingly purple. Illinois, Obama’s seat, is embroiled in a dogfight. Colorado’s incumbent senator is losing. Murray and Boxer on the Left Coast are holding on by their fingernails. Pennsylvania’s gone, as is Wisconsin. West Virginia’s popular governor is tied with the Republican in that fight. Angle’s slowly besting Reid in Nevada and Connecticut is a challenge. That’s the good news for the Democratic bus. It looks like they can retain the Senate God willing and the creek don’t rise. I hear a bolt fall out from a tire.
But the House is another matter, entirely.
Republicans are leading in 37 seats for the House. They trail in two. Once again, that’s the good news. The bad news is there are, as of today at Real Clear Politics, 42 tossups. Even if Republicans only win a quarter of those, they retake the House. Only one fourth of these tossup seats. But the field only gets deeper. Democrats have 58 seats that are vulnerable. There are now 135 Democratic House seats in play, more than half the caucus, which is outlandish. Republicans have 16 seats in play, just under 10% of their caucus. I just heard another bolt fall out of a tire.
In governor’s races, the tires get even wobblier. The Republicans, with no tossups, stand to win five more governorships. But, that’s the good news for the Democrats. They are seeing tossups in California, Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine. These are not races that should even be competitive, not really. They are fighting tooth and nail for Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, and Colorado, against Tom Tancredo! They are losing in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Harry Reid’s son has disavowed his family name and still is losing big in Nevada. Their only bright spot for governor is Arkansas is a sure Democratic bet.
Why the hubbub regarding governorships? Because, in the next couple of years, the states will be redistricting. The governors are generally part of the process. Along with the governorships, there are thousands of state senators and representatives elected. With this kind of rickety campaign bus with bolts flying from the rims, the down ballot candidates are deeply in peril. Democrats are seeing serious losses of state house and legislatures. That will give them a huge disadvantage in elections for the next ten years. I think they just broke an axle.
So, what is the plan now? Apparently widespread panic is the solution. Democrats are running against Pelosi, their record, and evil corporations. Obama’s stumping, not in Republican-held districts or right-leaning states, but for his pal, Deval Patrick who’s in trouble in Massachusetts. Bill Clinton isn’t working his magic in Iowa or Kentucky, he’s busy stumping for Barney Frank, chairman of the House Banking Committee. Everyone, except Patrick in deep blue Massachusetts is avoiding Obama. No one wants Pelosi to even fly over their district. Reid is so busy losing in Nevada, he doesn’t have time to take a breath. This is the good news. I think the tire rod just blew.
Twenty-five percent of Obama voters are preparing to vote against his party in November. Just half of Obama voters are positive they will vote. Two-thirds of McCain voters will enthusiastically vote, all according to an AP poll. Other polls have confirmed this enthusiasm disparity with high electricity among conservatives and Republicans and depressed attitudes among liberals and Democrats. This will be even more significant given its not a presidential election but a midterm.
There are three distinct reasons why enthusiasm counts.
1. Voter turnout. If liberals and Democrats are depressed, they will be less likely to vote. But, more importantly, they will also be less likely to get others to vote. When a person doesn’t have much faith in their own side, they are less likely to get others less likely to vote to the polls.
2. Vote Splitting. When liberals and Democrats are annoyed, they may vote, but not necessarily party line. They are more likely to ‘teach them a lesson’ and split their vote. Perhaps they’ll tow the party line when it comes to governor or even senator, but their representative, their state and local officials could all be victims of voter’s disgruntled attitude.
3. Bandwagon Effect. There is a significant number of voters who are more interested in picking the winner than the ‘right’ side. This can be illustrated by polls following an election which find more people reported voting for the winner than the percentage of votes the winner won by. As the election draws near, these voters will want to be on the winning side and with Democratic losses eminent, they could provide a couple of percentage point boost to Republicans.
So the wheels are flying in all directions. Their campaign plan is in the trash. The bus that should have been carrying them to victory is instead in the junkyard. All hell is breaking loose and the Democratic Party is a mess.
What will happen next? Implosion? In-fighting? Complete reversal? Or something else entirely.