Commentary Magazine


Topic: Delaware

RE: Independent Voters Turn Right

As Pete pointed out yesterday, the midterm elections did not turn merely on the enthusiasm gap. Independent voters — the Holy Grail of politics — turned decisively against the Democrats. Charlie Cook explains:

Beyond the symbolism and images, big mistakes were made and Democrats seem happy to blame President Obama and the economy and not accept responsibility for pursuing an agenda that turned independent voters, who had voted by an 18-point margin in 2006 for Democrats, to vote for Republicans by an 18-point margin in 2010, according to exit polls.

This huge shift from one midterm election to the next, by a group that constitutes 26 percent of the electorate, is seismic. It is not a matter of turnout or partisan intensity; it is a clear indication that Democrats alienated voters in the middle who saw an agenda in 2009 and 2010 that was quite different and much more ideological that the one described in 2006 and 2008.

But it would be a mistake for Republicans to assume, just as it was for Democrats following the 2008 election, that they now have this large and decisive group in their grasp. You want proof? Try Senate races in Nevada, Delaware, and Colorado. The danger for the GOP is that while independents have been dislodged from the Democratic coalition, they can easily be turned off by Republican candidates.

The challenge for the GOP, as it is in each presidential election, is to form a center-right coalition that can gin up enthusiasm among the base but also reach out to those not automatically within the fold. Part of the challenge is to define policy objectives, and part is persona. The GOP has made strides in formulating the former, but the latter — the search for the “hot but not too hot” salesperson — has yet to begin in earnest. The dramatic swing in the independent vote should remain a cautionary tale: it’s easier to lose the independents than to keep them moored to your party.

As Pete pointed out yesterday, the midterm elections did not turn merely on the enthusiasm gap. Independent voters — the Holy Grail of politics — turned decisively against the Democrats. Charlie Cook explains:

Beyond the symbolism and images, big mistakes were made and Democrats seem happy to blame President Obama and the economy and not accept responsibility for pursuing an agenda that turned independent voters, who had voted by an 18-point margin in 2006 for Democrats, to vote for Republicans by an 18-point margin in 2010, according to exit polls.

This huge shift from one midterm election to the next, by a group that constitutes 26 percent of the electorate, is seismic. It is not a matter of turnout or partisan intensity; it is a clear indication that Democrats alienated voters in the middle who saw an agenda in 2009 and 2010 that was quite different and much more ideological that the one described in 2006 and 2008.

But it would be a mistake for Republicans to assume, just as it was for Democrats following the 2008 election, that they now have this large and decisive group in their grasp. You want proof? Try Senate races in Nevada, Delaware, and Colorado. The danger for the GOP is that while independents have been dislodged from the Democratic coalition, they can easily be turned off by Republican candidates.

The challenge for the GOP, as it is in each presidential election, is to form a center-right coalition that can gin up enthusiasm among the base but also reach out to those not automatically within the fold. Part of the challenge is to define policy objectives, and part is persona. The GOP has made strides in formulating the former, but the latter — the search for the “hot but not too hot” salesperson — has yet to begin in earnest. The dramatic swing in the independent vote should remain a cautionary tale: it’s easier to lose the independents than to keep them moored to your party.

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Thanks, but I’d Rather Not

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

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The Delaware Lesson

Sen. Jim DeMint declared that Christine O’Donnell lost because Republicans “so maligned her … that she didn’t have a chance.” This is both self-serving and false.

DeMint and Sarah Palin went to bat for O’Donnell, helping to fuel Tea Party enthusiasm for the hard-line novice. If anything, DeMint et. al so maligned Rep. Mike Castle (whose voting record reflected his tenuous position as the representative of a liberal state) that he didn’t have a chance in the primary.

This was shortsighted and ultimately cost the GOP a Senate seat. Long before Karl Rove dared to point out that she was an unelectable candidate, polls showed her far behind Chris Coons. It was hardly skeptical Republicans who did her in. Exit polls showed that 44 percent of the electorate was Democratic in Delaware. O’Donnell got a grand total of 9 percent of that group. Among Republicans, who comprised 30 percent of the electorate, O’Donnell got a respectable but not impressive 81 percent of the vote. She lost narrowly among independent voters (48-45 percent).

In sum, in a Blue State, O’Donnell had virtually no appeal with the largest segment of the electorate. It is important for Republicans to be clear on the facts and learn the correct lesson if they want to prevail in 2012. They need to know the makeup of the electorate in presidential races and consider whether a Christine O’Donnell–like figure — or a Jim DeMint one — is really the best approach to recapturing the White House.

Sen. Jim DeMint declared that Christine O’Donnell lost because Republicans “so maligned her … that she didn’t have a chance.” This is both self-serving and false.

DeMint and Sarah Palin went to bat for O’Donnell, helping to fuel Tea Party enthusiasm for the hard-line novice. If anything, DeMint et. al so maligned Rep. Mike Castle (whose voting record reflected his tenuous position as the representative of a liberal state) that he didn’t have a chance in the primary.

This was shortsighted and ultimately cost the GOP a Senate seat. Long before Karl Rove dared to point out that she was an unelectable candidate, polls showed her far behind Chris Coons. It was hardly skeptical Republicans who did her in. Exit polls showed that 44 percent of the electorate was Democratic in Delaware. O’Donnell got a grand total of 9 percent of that group. Among Republicans, who comprised 30 percent of the electorate, O’Donnell got a respectable but not impressive 81 percent of the vote. She lost narrowly among independent voters (48-45 percent).

In sum, in a Blue State, O’Donnell had virtually no appeal with the largest segment of the electorate. It is important for Republicans to be clear on the facts and learn the correct lesson if they want to prevail in 2012. They need to know the makeup of the electorate in presidential races and consider whether a Christine O’Donnell–like figure — or a Jim DeMint one — is really the best approach to recapturing the White House.

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The GOP Did Better, Proportionately, in the Senate

The prospect of an eight or nine or 10 Senate-seat pickup for the GOP has skewed the punditry. You have to keep in mind that the whole House was up for re-election, but the entire Senate wasn’t. Only 37 seats were at issue. Let’s say Ken Buck pulls through. The percentage of seats picked up by the GOP would then be 18.9 percent (seven of 37). In the context of the whole House, this would be the equivalent of an 83-seat pickup. Put differently, given the number of seats up and the fact that there were so many Blue States in play, the GOP’s haul is by any measure an extraordinary achievement. And in the Senate, if Lisa Murkowski wins and caucuses with the GOP, there won’t be single lost seat for the Republicans. In the House, there are three losses so far.

This is not to say that the GOP couldn’t have done better. Would Mike Castle and Sue Lowden have been able to take Nevada and Delaware, respectively? Almost certainly that would have been the case in Delaware, and quite possibly in Nevada. That said, the Tea Party critics should keep in mind that the Tea Partiers are also responsible for two potential GOP stars getting through the primary and winning big — Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson. They also helped fuel House, Senate, and gubernatorial wins. It would be nice for a party to pick only nominees who can win general elections, but that happens only in the imagination of eager partisans.

The prospect of an eight or nine or 10 Senate-seat pickup for the GOP has skewed the punditry. You have to keep in mind that the whole House was up for re-election, but the entire Senate wasn’t. Only 37 seats were at issue. Let’s say Ken Buck pulls through. The percentage of seats picked up by the GOP would then be 18.9 percent (seven of 37). In the context of the whole House, this would be the equivalent of an 83-seat pickup. Put differently, given the number of seats up and the fact that there were so many Blue States in play, the GOP’s haul is by any measure an extraordinary achievement. And in the Senate, if Lisa Murkowski wins and caucuses with the GOP, there won’t be single lost seat for the Republicans. In the House, there are three losses so far.

This is not to say that the GOP couldn’t have done better. Would Mike Castle and Sue Lowden have been able to take Nevada and Delaware, respectively? Almost certainly that would have been the case in Delaware, and quite possibly in Nevada. That said, the Tea Party critics should keep in mind that the Tea Partiers are also responsible for two potential GOP stars getting through the primary and winning big — Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson. They also helped fuel House, Senate, and gubernatorial wins. It would be nice for a party to pick only nominees who can win general elections, but that happens only in the imagination of eager partisans.

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Recap

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami — Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami — Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

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LIVE BLOG: Nevada

It appears that Harry Reid has managed an amazing comeback from a double-digit deficit to beat Republican challenger Sharron Angle. What this means is simple: This was Angle’s race to lose, and boy, she lost it. She was the worst major Republican candidate in the country — who talked rather freely over a long political career on unusual and peculiar topics — and only went under the media radar in September because Christine O’Donnell emerged in Delaware. Reid turned the race into a referendum on Angle, and took it.

It appears that Harry Reid has managed an amazing comeback from a double-digit deficit to beat Republican challenger Sharron Angle. What this means is simple: This was Angle’s race to lose, and boy, she lost it. She was the worst major Republican candidate in the country — who talked rather freely over a long political career on unusual and peculiar topics — and only went under the media radar in September because Christine O’Donnell emerged in Delaware. Reid turned the race into a referendum on Angle, and took it.

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LIVE BLOG: The Senate

The West Virginia Senate race has been called for Joe Manchin. With Delaware and Connecticut gone, I don’t see a viable path to 10 seats. In all of these, we should not lose track of the fact that six or seven or eight seats in the Senate, with mostly Blue seats on the ballot, would be a significant accomplishment for the GOP.

The West Virginia Senate race has been called for Joe Manchin. With Delaware and Connecticut gone, I don’t see a viable path to 10 seats. In all of these, we should not lose track of the fact that six or seven or eight seats in the Senate, with mostly Blue seats on the ballot, would be a significant accomplishment for the GOP.

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LIVE BLOG: More on Delaware

Apparently the anti-O’Donnell vote was so large that Delaware’s House seat has flipped to the Democrats.

Apparently the anti-O’Donnell vote was so large that Delaware’s House seat has flipped to the Democrats.

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LIVE BLOG: The Senate

Republicans fail to win in Delaware and Connecticut. They hold in New Hampshire and Missouri. Delaware, as many of us warned, was a missed opportunity and the downside of the Tea Party’s emphasis on ideological purity. It is also a lesson that establishment Republicans (in New Hampshire and Missouri) remain critical players in the party. For Sarah Palin’s critics, Christine O’Donnell’s loss will be Exhibit A in the indictment against her political judgment. That said, Rand Paul won, as will other Palin-endorsed candidates. It will be, I suspect, a mixed result for the Mama Grizzly.

Republicans fail to win in Delaware and Connecticut. They hold in New Hampshire and Missouri. Delaware, as many of us warned, was a missed opportunity and the downside of the Tea Party’s emphasis on ideological purity. It is also a lesson that establishment Republicans (in New Hampshire and Missouri) remain critical players in the party. For Sarah Palin’s critics, Christine O’Donnell’s loss will be Exhibit A in the indictment against her political judgment. That said, Rand Paul won, as will other Palin-endorsed candidates. It will be, I suspect, a mixed result for the Mama Grizzly.

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LIVE BLOG: O’Donnell

Christine O’Donnell loses in Delaware. Will the conservative blogo- and Twittersphere apologize to Karl Rove and others who rightly said Christine O’Donnell was a preposterous candidate without a chance of getting elected?

Christine O’Donnell loses in Delaware. Will the conservative blogo- and Twittersphere apologize to Karl Rove and others who rightly said Christine O’Donnell was a preposterous candidate without a chance of getting elected?

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The Perils of Palin Punditry

You can bet the “how to stop Palin” columns will keep proliferating. There’s one in the Daily Beast today, warning the GOP establishment “to treat her with respect, and to avoid any hint at all of a patronizing attitude.” Not bad for platitudinous advice, albeit a little late. Tunku Varadarajan asserts that “the party cannot ‘manage’ Sarah Palin unless she agrees to manage herself.” Actually, if she were managing herself, she might advise herself not to be managed by the people who backed Charlie Crist. He then opines:

Palin knows her own strengths. In all likelihood, she knows her own weaknesses even better. The Republican Party must flatter her for her strengths, all the better to use them well in the next year. Equally, it must be diplomatic about her weaknesses, alluding to them in private and not blaring them out to the nation in the incendiary manner of a Karl Rove. Palin will come to concede her electoral limitations—sooner than most people expect. And when she does, she will leave the presidential field open to a candidate better able than she to tackle Obama in 2012. That would be her finest contribution to the Republican Party. In not running herself, she will make the party electable.

How does he know all this? He certainly hasn’t talked to her and cites no source (he couldn’t even manage a blind quote or two) for his “upon clear reflection, she’ll not run” view.  The problem with most of these “managing Palin” stories is that they are based on nothing more than the wishful thinking of her skeptics and potential adversaries. They tell us a lot about them, but nothing about Palin.

Far more helpful and certainly more reliable than peering into the Palin crystal ball is to analyze what she has done and said. The 2010 midterms show the promise and the peril of Palin. She spotted some unique talent (e.g., Nikki Haley), knew enough to stay away from Charlie Crist, and encouraged the Tea Party to remain within the two-party system. She also has been a consistent voice for a robust foreign policy, providing an important counterweight to neo-isolationist strains on the right. But there was also plenty to raise concerns. Mike Gerson explains:

Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Senate primary revealed a preference for a shallow ideological purity above achievement, qualification or electoral success. And on Monday, Palin issued a robocall for Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado, one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

Gerson is dismayed by what he calls an “odd mix of Tea Party Jacobinism and feminist grievance.” If Palin is inclined to run, she should take these concerns and the lessons of 2010 to heart.

And the pundits would do well to stop playing Carnac the Magnificent. There’s plenty of news to opine on without making up fanciful scenarios.

You can bet the “how to stop Palin” columns will keep proliferating. There’s one in the Daily Beast today, warning the GOP establishment “to treat her with respect, and to avoid any hint at all of a patronizing attitude.” Not bad for platitudinous advice, albeit a little late. Tunku Varadarajan asserts that “the party cannot ‘manage’ Sarah Palin unless she agrees to manage herself.” Actually, if she were managing herself, she might advise herself not to be managed by the people who backed Charlie Crist. He then opines:

Palin knows her own strengths. In all likelihood, she knows her own weaknesses even better. The Republican Party must flatter her for her strengths, all the better to use them well in the next year. Equally, it must be diplomatic about her weaknesses, alluding to them in private and not blaring them out to the nation in the incendiary manner of a Karl Rove. Palin will come to concede her electoral limitations—sooner than most people expect. And when she does, she will leave the presidential field open to a candidate better able than she to tackle Obama in 2012. That would be her finest contribution to the Republican Party. In not running herself, she will make the party electable.

How does he know all this? He certainly hasn’t talked to her and cites no source (he couldn’t even manage a blind quote or two) for his “upon clear reflection, she’ll not run” view.  The problem with most of these “managing Palin” stories is that they are based on nothing more than the wishful thinking of her skeptics and potential adversaries. They tell us a lot about them, but nothing about Palin.

Far more helpful and certainly more reliable than peering into the Palin crystal ball is to analyze what she has done and said. The 2010 midterms show the promise and the peril of Palin. She spotted some unique talent (e.g., Nikki Haley), knew enough to stay away from Charlie Crist, and encouraged the Tea Party to remain within the two-party system. She also has been a consistent voice for a robust foreign policy, providing an important counterweight to neo-isolationist strains on the right. But there was also plenty to raise concerns. Mike Gerson explains:

Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Senate primary revealed a preference for a shallow ideological purity above achievement, qualification or electoral success. And on Monday, Palin issued a robocall for Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado, one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

Gerson is dismayed by what he calls an “odd mix of Tea Party Jacobinism and feminist grievance.” If Palin is inclined to run, she should take these concerns and the lessons of 2010 to heart.

And the pundits would do well to stop playing Carnac the Magnificent. There’s plenty of news to opine on without making up fanciful scenarios.

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Where Is the 10th?

The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit has a spate of final polls showing GOP candidates leading narrowly in Nevada, Illinois, Washington, and Colorado. Rand Paul and Pat Toomey are pulling away. California is tightening. But Joe Manchin is leading in West Virginia. Not much good news for the Democrats. Still, it’s hard to see how the GOP can come up with 10 seats.

Let’s say PPP is on the money. The GOP has North Dakota, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania well in hand. Add in Illinois, Colorado, and Nevada. Washington also is doable for the Republicans. So the Senate comes down to a search for the 10th seat. West Virginia? I’ve seen no recent public or private poll (Dem or GOP) showing the Democrat contender behind. California? Carly Fiorina is close, but, again, there is no poll out there showing her in the lead. This is not to say that one of these states won’t fall to the GOP in the conservative-rich turnout on Election Day. But unless one of those GOP contenders pulls an upset, prepare to hear a lot of recriminations about Delaware. If so, it’s a lesson to keep in mind for 2012.

One caveat: if, in fact, we’re talking about an election not like that of 1994 but like that of 1928 (which Jay Cost suggests is more analogous), the rising tide will lift all boats and perhaps swing some marginal Senate seats the GOP’s way. Yes, Senate races tend to be more differentiated than House contests and are often determined on the merits of individual candidates. But if the electorate is dark Red, there are only so many Democratic votes for Barbara Boxer, Joe Manchin, and the rest to work with. For those of you who recall 1980, the liberal Senate lions fell one after another, to the shock of the network anchors and liberal intelligentsia. In a wave year, lots of marginal candidates are swept in and lots of dead wood swept out.

The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit has a spate of final polls showing GOP candidates leading narrowly in Nevada, Illinois, Washington, and Colorado. Rand Paul and Pat Toomey are pulling away. California is tightening. But Joe Manchin is leading in West Virginia. Not much good news for the Democrats. Still, it’s hard to see how the GOP can come up with 10 seats.

Let’s say PPP is on the money. The GOP has North Dakota, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania well in hand. Add in Illinois, Colorado, and Nevada. Washington also is doable for the Republicans. So the Senate comes down to a search for the 10th seat. West Virginia? I’ve seen no recent public or private poll (Dem or GOP) showing the Democrat contender behind. California? Carly Fiorina is close, but, again, there is no poll out there showing her in the lead. This is not to say that one of these states won’t fall to the GOP in the conservative-rich turnout on Election Day. But unless one of those GOP contenders pulls an upset, prepare to hear a lot of recriminations about Delaware. If so, it’s a lesson to keep in mind for 2012.

One caveat: if, in fact, we’re talking about an election not like that of 1994 but like that of 1928 (which Jay Cost suggests is more analogous), the rising tide will lift all boats and perhaps swing some marginal Senate seats the GOP’s way. Yes, Senate races tend to be more differentiated than House contests and are often determined on the merits of individual candidates. But if the electorate is dark Red, there are only so many Democratic votes for Barbara Boxer, Joe Manchin, and the rest to work with. For those of you who recall 1980, the liberal Senate lions fell one after another, to the shock of the network anchors and liberal intelligentsia. In a wave year, lots of marginal candidates are swept in and lots of dead wood swept out.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.'” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.'” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

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Senate Coming into Focus

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

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Cook: House in the Bag, Senate Up for Grabs

Charlie Cook writes:

It’s easy to look at what appears to be a gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House and feel a little slack-jawed, but not so much surprised. There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

On the other hand, the Senate picture is incredibly confused. There is no clear narrative in the Senate, just bizarre ups and downs. Republicans could easily find themselves picking up as “few” as seven or as many as 10 seats.

That view matches the take of many conservative analysts and activists. Why is the Senate so much closer? For one thing, the seats that could tip the Senate majority to the Republicans are in Blue States — Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, etc. It is remarkable that these are competitive and that they may, in fact, go to the GOP. Second, senators are simply more distinct figures than House members, with the ability to differentiate themselves. Harry Reid can’t, because he is the Senate majority leader and therefore is joined at the hip with the White House. But in places like Colorado and West Virginia, Democrats are making the case that they are not rubber stamps for the Obama administration. And yes, the Republicans blew a seat in Delaware. But, again, that is only one seat.

It is a measure of how far we have come in two years that the “ray of sunshine” for the Dems is that they may lose only eight Senate seats.

Charlie Cook writes:

It’s easy to look at what appears to be a gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House and feel a little slack-jawed, but not so much surprised. There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

On the other hand, the Senate picture is incredibly confused. There is no clear narrative in the Senate, just bizarre ups and downs. Republicans could easily find themselves picking up as “few” as seven or as many as 10 seats.

That view matches the take of many conservative analysts and activists. Why is the Senate so much closer? For one thing, the seats that could tip the Senate majority to the Republicans are in Blue States — Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, etc. It is remarkable that these are competitive and that they may, in fact, go to the GOP. Second, senators are simply more distinct figures than House members, with the ability to differentiate themselves. Harry Reid can’t, because he is the Senate majority leader and therefore is joined at the hip with the White House. But in places like Colorado and West Virginia, Democrats are making the case that they are not rubber stamps for the Obama administration. And yes, the Republicans blew a seat in Delaware. But, again, that is only one seat.

It is a measure of how far we have come in two years that the “ray of sunshine” for the Dems is that they may lose only eight Senate seats.

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That’s a Lot of Local Issues

In one of his least believable utterances, Robert Gibbs said the election wasn’t so much about Obama. It was about “local” issues. That’s preposterous, of course, given that this is arguably one of the most “nationalized” midterm elections in recent memory. It is even more ludicrous when one understands the size of the tsunami:

With two weeks remaining until Election Day, the political map has expanded to put Democrats on the run across the country – with 99 Democratic-held House seats now in play, according to a POLITICO analysis, and Republicans well in reach of retaking the House.

It’s a dramatic departure from the outlook one year ago – and a broader landscape than even just prior to the summer congressional recess. As recently as early September, many Republicans were hesitant to talk about winning a majority for fear of overreaching.

Today, however, the non-partisan Cook Political Report predicts a GOP net gain of at least 40 House seats, with 90 Democratic seats in total rated as competitive or likely Republican.

This is not to say that 90 seats will fall to the Republicans, but the numbers now are so large that a GOP House majority is nearly assured. With results that decisive it will be hard even for Gibbs to spin it as anything but a repudiation of one-party liberal rule.

But what about all that money? Two things should be kept in mind. First, money follows excitement and enthusiasm. The best example was Obama’s own 2008 campaign. Second, I tend to agree with David Brooks on this one: money is overrated. Brooks writes:

After all, money wasn’t that important when Phil Gramm and John Connally ran for president. In those and many other cases, huge fund-raising prowess yielded nothing. Money wasn’t that important in 2006 when Republican incumbents outraised Democrats by $100 million and still lost. Money wasn’t that important in the 2010 Alaska primary when Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski despite being outspent 10 to 1. It wasn’t that important in the 2010 Delaware primary when Mike Castle, who raised $1.5 million, was beaten by Christine O’Donnell, who had raised $230,000.

And Brooks points out that for all the president’s huffing and puffing, that independent money is about “a tenth of spending by candidates and parties.”

Nevertheless, it’s a nice excuse to say, “We were outspent.” But there is no amount of money that would help 90+ Democrats guarantee their re-election. There is no amount of money that will change the public’s perception of Obama and his agenda. And there is no amount of money that will convince an increasingly irritated media that the midterm elections are local.

In one of his least believable utterances, Robert Gibbs said the election wasn’t so much about Obama. It was about “local” issues. That’s preposterous, of course, given that this is arguably one of the most “nationalized” midterm elections in recent memory. It is even more ludicrous when one understands the size of the tsunami:

With two weeks remaining until Election Day, the political map has expanded to put Democrats on the run across the country – with 99 Democratic-held House seats now in play, according to a POLITICO analysis, and Republicans well in reach of retaking the House.

It’s a dramatic departure from the outlook one year ago – and a broader landscape than even just prior to the summer congressional recess. As recently as early September, many Republicans were hesitant to talk about winning a majority for fear of overreaching.

Today, however, the non-partisan Cook Political Report predicts a GOP net gain of at least 40 House seats, with 90 Democratic seats in total rated as competitive or likely Republican.

This is not to say that 90 seats will fall to the Republicans, but the numbers now are so large that a GOP House majority is nearly assured. With results that decisive it will be hard even for Gibbs to spin it as anything but a repudiation of one-party liberal rule.

But what about all that money? Two things should be kept in mind. First, money follows excitement and enthusiasm. The best example was Obama’s own 2008 campaign. Second, I tend to agree with David Brooks on this one: money is overrated. Brooks writes:

After all, money wasn’t that important when Phil Gramm and John Connally ran for president. In those and many other cases, huge fund-raising prowess yielded nothing. Money wasn’t that important in 2006 when Republican incumbents outraised Democrats by $100 million and still lost. Money wasn’t that important in the 2010 Alaska primary when Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski despite being outspent 10 to 1. It wasn’t that important in the 2010 Delaware primary when Mike Castle, who raised $1.5 million, was beaten by Christine O’Donnell, who had raised $230,000.

And Brooks points out that for all the president’s huffing and puffing, that independent money is about “a tenth of spending by candidates and parties.”

Nevertheless, it’s a nice excuse to say, “We were outspent.” But there is no amount of money that would help 90+ Democrats guarantee their re-election. There is no amount of money that will change the public’s perception of Obama and his agenda. And there is no amount of money that will convince an increasingly irritated media that the midterm elections are local.

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Where Is Obama Going?

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

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Even Angry Voters Want Responsible Leaders

Democrats are, as Jennifer noted, rapidly coming to understand that the proportions of the Republican wave this fall may turn out to swamp not only incumbents in competitive districts but also those once thought safe. Voters have had enough of taxes and spending and deficits and are profoundly dissatisfied with the Obama administration. But even in the midst of what may prove to be an unprecedented midterm tsunami, there are races that will prove that no matter how angry voters may be, there are limits to what they will accept from insurgents seeking their votes.

One obvious example is the unelectable Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. But as frustrating as that lost opportunity for a Senate seat may be for the national GOP, the spectacle of their party’s New York gubernatorial nominee is even more embarrassing.

Carl Paladino won the New York GOP primary over Rick Lazio because he presented a well-funded alternative to a retread that had no pulse and no chance to tap into the vein of voter anger that has generated the Tea Party revolution. Paladino’s bull-in-the-china-shop personality seemed perfectly suited to the 2010 election. The thinking here was that if he could sustain his momentum with attacks on his liberal-establishment opponent in Andrew Cuomo, it was just possible that the real estate mogul could make this Blue State competitive. And some polls taken in September showed that this might be happening.

Yet what this races teaches is that it even angry voters are unprepared to elect a man who is not cool under fire and devoid of judgment as well as what Main Street America used to consider common decency. With the media spotlight shining on him in the aftermath of his stunning primary victory and polls showing him to be closing the gap with Cuomo, Paladino quickly came undone. Reacting to the coverage of the revelations about his fathering an out-of-wedlock child (not all of which was unsympathetic, as the candidate’s wife was trotted out to defend her husband and the notion of a blended, if unorthodox, family group), the nominee physically threatened a reporter and then began to make unsubstantiated charges about his opponent’s personal life.  While trying to pose as the victim of a prurient media, he engaged in personal slanders that made the coverage of his own life look tame. Then he used a speech before an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn to make remarks that went beyond opposition to gay marriage and were easily construed as homophobic.

Paladino defends himself as a man who doesn’t bother with political correctness. But the pattern of his behavior in the past few weeks is more of an out-of-control blowhard who has no respect for anyone or anything. The result is that his standing in the polls has plunged, which has also damaged the already shaky chances of GOP Senate candidate Joseph DioGuardi, who is running against the vulnerable Kirsten Gillibrand.

The lesson here is that the electorate expects candidates for high office to more or less behave themselves. Rather than acting like a governor, Paladino has comported himself like the kind of guy who gets thrown out of bars for disorderly behavior. And even angry voters draw the line at electing someone like that to high office.

Democrats are, as Jennifer noted, rapidly coming to understand that the proportions of the Republican wave this fall may turn out to swamp not only incumbents in competitive districts but also those once thought safe. Voters have had enough of taxes and spending and deficits and are profoundly dissatisfied with the Obama administration. But even in the midst of what may prove to be an unprecedented midterm tsunami, there are races that will prove that no matter how angry voters may be, there are limits to what they will accept from insurgents seeking their votes.

One obvious example is the unelectable Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. But as frustrating as that lost opportunity for a Senate seat may be for the national GOP, the spectacle of their party’s New York gubernatorial nominee is even more embarrassing.

Carl Paladino won the New York GOP primary over Rick Lazio because he presented a well-funded alternative to a retread that had no pulse and no chance to tap into the vein of voter anger that has generated the Tea Party revolution. Paladino’s bull-in-the-china-shop personality seemed perfectly suited to the 2010 election. The thinking here was that if he could sustain his momentum with attacks on his liberal-establishment opponent in Andrew Cuomo, it was just possible that the real estate mogul could make this Blue State competitive. And some polls taken in September showed that this might be happening.

Yet what this races teaches is that it even angry voters are unprepared to elect a man who is not cool under fire and devoid of judgment as well as what Main Street America used to consider common decency. With the media spotlight shining on him in the aftermath of his stunning primary victory and polls showing him to be closing the gap with Cuomo, Paladino quickly came undone. Reacting to the coverage of the revelations about his fathering an out-of-wedlock child (not all of which was unsympathetic, as the candidate’s wife was trotted out to defend her husband and the notion of a blended, if unorthodox, family group), the nominee physically threatened a reporter and then began to make unsubstantiated charges about his opponent’s personal life.  While trying to pose as the victim of a prurient media, he engaged in personal slanders that made the coverage of his own life look tame. Then he used a speech before an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn to make remarks that went beyond opposition to gay marriage and were easily construed as homophobic.

Paladino defends himself as a man who doesn’t bother with political correctness. But the pattern of his behavior in the past few weeks is more of an out-of-control blowhard who has no respect for anyone or anything. The result is that his standing in the polls has plunged, which has also damaged the already shaky chances of GOP Senate candidate Joseph DioGuardi, who is running against the vulnerable Kirsten Gillibrand.

The lesson here is that the electorate expects candidates for high office to more or less behave themselves. Rather than acting like a governor, Paladino has comported himself like the kind of guy who gets thrown out of bars for disorderly behavior. And even angry voters draw the line at electing someone like that to high office.

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Senate Sliding Toward GOP

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

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How the GOP Gets to 10 Without Delaware

The GOP’s Senate prospects are looking up. New polling shows Republicans with solid leads in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Add to those Indiana, Arkansas, and North Dakota, which look like they’re in the bag for the GOP. West Virginia is now looking very gettable for the GOP as well. That’s seven. The Senate majority flips if the GOP snags three more from among the next batch of most-viable pickups: Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Connecticut, and California. That is quite doable. And should the GOP fall one short, might Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman switch sides?

The Democrats whooped it up after Delaware, convinced that Christine O’Donnell’s victory would somehow turn off voters in other states. It hasn’t happened. And now Delaware may not even be essential to a Republican takeover of the Senate.

The GOP’s Senate prospects are looking up. New polling shows Republicans with solid leads in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Add to those Indiana, Arkansas, and North Dakota, which look like they’re in the bag for the GOP. West Virginia is now looking very gettable for the GOP as well. That’s seven. The Senate majority flips if the GOP snags three more from among the next batch of most-viable pickups: Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Connecticut, and California. That is quite doable. And should the GOP fall one short, might Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman switch sides?

The Democrats whooped it up after Delaware, convinced that Christine O’Donnell’s victory would somehow turn off voters in other states. It hasn’t happened. And now Delaware may not even be essential to a Republican takeover of the Senate.

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