Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dakota

The Worst-Case Scenario for the GOP Is Pretty Darn Good

Nate Silver provides a helpful picture of the worst-case scenario for Republicans. He certainly is not, and does not claim to be, neutral in his observations and is not a pollster himself. But he’s about the most intellectually honest analyst on the Dem side. So what’s he say about the House?

FiveThirtyEight’s forecast now projects the most likely composition of the House to be 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats. This is a one-seat improvement for the Republicans from yesterday’s forecast, and would mean that they’d gain a net of 52 seats over all.

Consider 52 seats the floor for the GOP House pickups. As the Hill sums up:

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party.

As for the Senate, here is some very useful analysis of the differences between the House and Senate races:

If the entire Senate were up for re-election in this political climate, the Republicans would be favored to earn a filibuster-proof majority, and might even earn a veto-proof majority! …

By comparison, in the House, where everyone is up for re-election every two years, Republicans appear most likely to win something like 53 percent of available seats. The fraction could conceivably approach 60 percent if they have a really terrific night, or it could be a bit below 50 if the Democrats overperform their polls and hold the House. But the Republicans almost without doubt will win a higher fraction of the available Senate seats (and probably also the available governors’ seats, although that could be a lot closer) than they will in the House.

And he is honest enough to point out that there is a candidate quality-control problem on both sides of the aisle:

My hunch is that Shelly Berkely would probably be crushing Ms. Angle in Nevada were she on the ballot in place of Mr. Reid; Lisa Madigan would probably have a clear lead over Mark Kirk in Illinois; there are even states like Arizona — where John McCain’s approval ratings are actually quite poor — in which an absolutely top-tier Democratic nominee might have made a competitive race. And meanwhile, the Republicans have some strong candidates, including both establishment choices like Rob Portman in Ohio and John Hoeven in North Dakota, and antiestablishment ones like Marco Rubio in Florida (a Tea Partier), and probably even Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (another Tea Partier), who has run a really smart campaign, although he’s not quite out of the woods yet against the incumbent, Russ Feingold.

To sum up, there is precious little good news for the Democrats. They are on track to lose the House, scads of Senate seats, and their Senate majority leader. (Even pre-programming some voting machines in Nevada isn’t likely to save Harry Reid.) The notion that the Tea Party has handicapped the GOP is belied by the facts, which Silver’s liberal colleagues would do well (at least for the sake of their intellectual integrity) to stop ignoring.

Nate Silver provides a helpful picture of the worst-case scenario for Republicans. He certainly is not, and does not claim to be, neutral in his observations and is not a pollster himself. But he’s about the most intellectually honest analyst on the Dem side. So what’s he say about the House?

FiveThirtyEight’s forecast now projects the most likely composition of the House to be 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats. This is a one-seat improvement for the Republicans from yesterday’s forecast, and would mean that they’d gain a net of 52 seats over all.

Consider 52 seats the floor for the GOP House pickups. As the Hill sums up:

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party.

As for the Senate, here is some very useful analysis of the differences between the House and Senate races:

If the entire Senate were up for re-election in this political climate, the Republicans would be favored to earn a filibuster-proof majority, and might even earn a veto-proof majority! …

By comparison, in the House, where everyone is up for re-election every two years, Republicans appear most likely to win something like 53 percent of available seats. The fraction could conceivably approach 60 percent if they have a really terrific night, or it could be a bit below 50 if the Democrats overperform their polls and hold the House. But the Republicans almost without doubt will win a higher fraction of the available Senate seats (and probably also the available governors’ seats, although that could be a lot closer) than they will in the House.

And he is honest enough to point out that there is a candidate quality-control problem on both sides of the aisle:

My hunch is that Shelly Berkely would probably be crushing Ms. Angle in Nevada were she on the ballot in place of Mr. Reid; Lisa Madigan would probably have a clear lead over Mark Kirk in Illinois; there are even states like Arizona — where John McCain’s approval ratings are actually quite poor — in which an absolutely top-tier Democratic nominee might have made a competitive race. And meanwhile, the Republicans have some strong candidates, including both establishment choices like Rob Portman in Ohio and John Hoeven in North Dakota, and antiestablishment ones like Marco Rubio in Florida (a Tea Partier), and probably even Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (another Tea Partier), who has run a really smart campaign, although he’s not quite out of the woods yet against the incumbent, Russ Feingold.

To sum up, there is precious little good news for the Democrats. They are on track to lose the House, scads of Senate seats, and their Senate majority leader. (Even pre-programming some voting machines in Nevada isn’t likely to save Harry Reid.) The notion that the Tea Party has handicapped the GOP is belied by the facts, which Silver’s liberal colleagues would do well (at least for the sake of their intellectual integrity) to stop ignoring.

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Finding the Path to 10 Senate Seats

Over the last week it appears that Sharron Angle is edging ahead in Nevada and John Raese is leading in West Virginia. Meanwhile, Dino Rossi in Washington enjoys a six-point lead in the latest poll. Here, then, is one very viable path to a 10-seat pick-up for the Republicans: North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia, Nevada, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Washington. The Republican challenger leads in the latest polling in every one of these races.

This state of affairs can change, certainly. There are races within the margin of error or with conflicting polling data. But that runs both ways. Connecticut may tighten up. Carly Fiorinia in California has been hanging tough. So there are a minimum of 12 potential pick-ups with varying degrees of difficulty for the GOP. It would be foolish to say a Senate pick-up is “likely,” but it’s simply wrong to say it’s a long shot.

Over the last week it appears that Sharron Angle is edging ahead in Nevada and John Raese is leading in West Virginia. Meanwhile, Dino Rossi in Washington enjoys a six-point lead in the latest poll. Here, then, is one very viable path to a 10-seat pick-up for the Republicans: North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia, Nevada, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Washington. The Republican challenger leads in the latest polling in every one of these races.

This state of affairs can change, certainly. There are races within the margin of error or with conflicting polling data. But that runs both ways. Connecticut may tighten up. Carly Fiorinia in California has been hanging tough. So there are a minimum of 12 potential pick-ups with varying degrees of difficulty for the GOP. It would be foolish to say a Senate pick-up is “likely,” but it’s simply wrong to say it’s a long shot.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.’” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?’” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.’” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.’” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?’” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.’” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

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Ford Runs Over Democrats

Harold Ford Jr. has decided not to run for the Senate. But — in an Evan Bayh–like  move — he’s going out with guns blazing. He aims for the liberal Democratic leadership:

Voting for health care legislation that imposes billions in new taxes on New Yorkers and restricts federal financing for abortions is not good for the people of this state. Voting against critical funds necessary to ensure the survival of the financial services industry — the economic backbone of this state — is not good for the people of New York.

I was considered out of touch with mainstream Democrats when I argued against spending more than $200 million a year to hold the Khalid Shaikh Mohammed trial in New York. I was also labeled out of touch for advocating a payroll tax cut for small businesses and for putting a jobs bill before a scaled-down health reform bill. Though much more needs to be done to create jobs, I am pleased that these ideas have now become part of the Democratic mainstream.

And then he unleashes this:

Yet the party has been too slow to change. The effects of its lack of flexibility have been clear in a series of worrisome political events: Ted Kennedy’s “safe” Senate seat was lost to a Republican; Evan Bayh of Indiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced they weren’t running for re-election; Senate seats held by Democrats in Wisconsin and Delaware now seem to be in jeopardy; New York’s state government faces even more controversy and challenge. …

Our elected officials have spent too much time this past year supporting a national partisan political agenda — and not enough time looking out for their own constituents.

New Yorkers aren’t asking for much. A jobs bill that cuts taxes for the middle class and invests in the future; a health care system that doesn’t bankrupt people when they get sick; and public schools that lay the groundwork for children to take advantage of all the future holds.

Once again we can expect the liberal punditocracy, which has rooted for the very items Ford deplores, to either ignore or attack Ford. Carpetbagger! Spoilsport! Perhaps. But his views are more in line with public sentiment than with the rest of his party and, at this point, with the White House’s agenda. If Ford is an outcast in the Democratic party and Bayh can’t take it either, that should tell the Obami that something is amiss. But I doubt that lesson will be learned. They’ve invested too much in their ultra-liberal extremism. Only defeat of their cherished signature item, and then of many of their fellow Democrats in November, I think, will register. But as Obama told us, perhaps a one-term president is all he wants to be. Ignoring Ford and Bayh, not to mention the voters, is a recipe for just that.

Harold Ford Jr. has decided not to run for the Senate. But — in an Evan Bayh–like  move — he’s going out with guns blazing. He aims for the liberal Democratic leadership:

Voting for health care legislation that imposes billions in new taxes on New Yorkers and restricts federal financing for abortions is not good for the people of this state. Voting against critical funds necessary to ensure the survival of the financial services industry — the economic backbone of this state — is not good for the people of New York.

I was considered out of touch with mainstream Democrats when I argued against spending more than $200 million a year to hold the Khalid Shaikh Mohammed trial in New York. I was also labeled out of touch for advocating a payroll tax cut for small businesses and for putting a jobs bill before a scaled-down health reform bill. Though much more needs to be done to create jobs, I am pleased that these ideas have now become part of the Democratic mainstream.

And then he unleashes this:

Yet the party has been too slow to change. The effects of its lack of flexibility have been clear in a series of worrisome political events: Ted Kennedy’s “safe” Senate seat was lost to a Republican; Evan Bayh of Indiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced they weren’t running for re-election; Senate seats held by Democrats in Wisconsin and Delaware now seem to be in jeopardy; New York’s state government faces even more controversy and challenge. …

Our elected officials have spent too much time this past year supporting a national partisan political agenda — and not enough time looking out for their own constituents.

New Yorkers aren’t asking for much. A jobs bill that cuts taxes for the middle class and invests in the future; a health care system that doesn’t bankrupt people when they get sick; and public schools that lay the groundwork for children to take advantage of all the future holds.

Once again we can expect the liberal punditocracy, which has rooted for the very items Ford deplores, to either ignore or attack Ford. Carpetbagger! Spoilsport! Perhaps. But his views are more in line with public sentiment than with the rest of his party and, at this point, with the White House’s agenda. If Ford is an outcast in the Democratic party and Bayh can’t take it either, that should tell the Obami that something is amiss. But I doubt that lesson will be learned. They’ve invested too much in their ultra-liberal extremism. Only defeat of their cherished signature item, and then of many of their fellow Democrats in November, I think, will register. But as Obama told us, perhaps a one-term president is all he wants to be. Ignoring Ford and Bayh, not to mention the voters, is a recipe for just that.

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Are Democrats Cooked?

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

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Maybe a Raffle?

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

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Democrats Flee the Battleground

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick – who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick – who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

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