House Election 2010
With President Barack Obama telling vulnerable Democrats in Congress that it may not be best for him to assist with their campaigns, party strategists are pulling out the only card they can, which is to blame George W. Bush:
One of the most potent arguments Democrats used to capture seats in the past two election cycles can be summed up in two words: President Bush.
Now, they are being urged to ride George W. Bush’s continued unpopularity one more time in hopes of stemming losses in November.
It’s a risky gambit since that very strategy fell flat last year in the 2009 governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey. Still, armed with some promising polling data, some Democrats remain convinced that Bush-bashing is electoral gold.
“The central challenge for Republicans heading into November is to shed the Bush economic legacy, and so far they are doing that,” said Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, a moderate think tank. “Democrats have to show they have a plan for private-sector-led economic growth, and they must tie Republicans to Bush. There is still time to make that case, but it is running short.”
The problem with this is that Obama has largely dominated the media for the 18 months, taking ownership of the economy, through stimulus program after stimulus program, in the process. I’m no fan of George W. Bush, but let’s not forget the fact that Democrats have held Congress since 2007.
Even President Barack Obama knows that his presence in toss-up districts with Democratic incumbents could hurt them in November:
As lunch was served in the Roosevelt Room of the White House one day last week, President Obama assured the nine Democratic members of Congress sitting around the table that he would do anything he could to help them survive their fall elections.
Even, he said, if it meant staying away.
“You may not even want me to come to your district,” Mr. Obama said, according to guests, nearly all of whom hold seats that Republicans are aggressively seeking.
It is a vivid shift from the last two elections, when Mr. Obama was the hottest draw for Democratic candidates in red and blue states alike. And it highlights the tough choices Democrats face as they head toward Election Day with the president’s approval ratings depressed, Republicans energized, the economic slump still lingering and two veteran House Democrats now facing public hearings on ethics charges.
Democrats who are on the ballot hope to make the election about issues other than Mr. Obama, including the benefits to their constituents of the health care and stimulus legislation and the argument that voting Republican means a return to the policies of President George W. Bush.
While I’m not a fan of George W. Bush, running against his economic policies, which aren’t that far off from Barack Obama once you really break them down, is a tired strategy since the Democrats have effectively taken ownership of the economy.
Democrats are feeling more upbeat about their chances in the 2010 mid-term elections, claiming momentum in four Senate seats and while acknowledging that there are a lot of seats in play, they will still hang on to control of the House.
There’s not really any there there. What does it mean for a seat to be “in play”, for instance? Suppose it means a seat which the Republican has some tangible chance of winning. If that’s the case, there are more than 70 or 80 seats “in play”. In fact, there are 101 Democrat-held seats that are rated as something other than safe by at least one of the “Big 4″ forecasters (Cook, CQ, Rothenberg, Sabato). And if you include Real Clear Politics’ forecasts in the mix, the total rises to 108.
That’s a fairly liberal definition of “in play”, but at least it’s one with some concrete standard attached. By a slightly more conservative definition — a seat is “in play” if at least three of the five forcasters noted above think it is — the figure is 89 seats, still higher than the range that the DCCC memo suggests.
The DVD comes wrapped inside a mailer covered with promotional slogans: “Congressman Alan Grayson, Hard at Work for You,” “He works hard. He pays attention. He gets things done,” and “Video DVD Inside: Watch Congressman Grayson in Action!”
In many ways, it’s the perfect campaign video — with one key difference.
Thanks to perks given to all members of Congress, it’s not Grayson’s campaign but taxpayers who footed the nearly $73,000 bill to produce and mail the DVD to 100,000 homes in Grayson’s district of Lake, Marion, Orange and Osceola counties.
It’s a stunt that drew howls from Republicans, who complained that Grayson was abusing the congressional privilege of franking that allows lawmakers to send taxpayer-paid newsletters and other mail to residents.
“This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars, and it goes to show that Alan Grayson is completely out of touch with Central Florida,” said state Rep. Kurt Kelly of Ocala, one of seven Republicans looking to unseat Grayson this fall.
“This is just ridiculous behavior. What congressman would do this in the face of a huge budget deficit?” he asked.
Calculating that moderate and independent voters might be turned off by some of the more extreme positions postulated by Tea Party types and Republican conservatives, the Democratic National Committee and Congressional Democrats are trying to join the two in the minds of voters.
“There is no doubt that the Republican Party and the Tea Party cause have been fused,” Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, said at a press conference on Wednesday hosted by Democratic chair Tim Kaine at party headquarters on Capitol Hill.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, said it is hard to tell where the Republican Party ends and the Tea Party begins. “Or vice versa.”
The “contract on America,” according to Democrats, includes the following:
- Repeal the Affordable Care Act (Health Insurance Reform)
- Privatize Social Security or phase it out altogether
- End Medicare as it presently exists
- Extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy and big oil
- Repeal Wall Street Reform
- Protect those responsible for the oil spill and future environmental catastrophes
- Abolish the Department of Education
- Abolish the Department of Energy
- Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency
- Repeal the 17th Amendment
Ilya Shapiro looked through the list and can’t seem to find too much to disagree with, though Democrats are dishonest on some points:
Over at Real Clear Politics, Jay Cost offers a primer of the 2010 congressional mid-term elections based on four questions voters may ask themselves before casting a ballot in November.
The questions are:
- Am I upset with the current state of the country?
- Do I blame the President for the bad times?
- Is my incumbent party candidate indistinguishable from the President?
- Is my district’s opposition party candidate a marginally better alternative?
Here is Cost’s assessment:
Right now, we can conclude that most voters in most House districts have answered Questions 1 and 2 in the affirmative. That’s what most of the polls - national and statewide - have indicated pretty clearly, so it is not hard to extend that to House districts.
But the campaign for the House has not yet begun in earnest, which means that Questions 3 and 4 have yet to be answered, and we probably will not have a solid grasp of the public’s answers until the leaves are falling from the trees.
If history is any guide, voters in at least two-dozen districts will agree that their local Democratic candidate is “part of the problem” and that the Republicans have fielded at least a slightly better alternative. But the Republicans need at least 40 districts to make a change. Will that happen?
That remains to be seen, and that’s not a trite equivocation. Congressional elections are a strange brew of national and local forces, which means that each is a unique world unto itself. The national forces have sorted themselves out pretty well, but strong Democratic performances on the local level could very well result in the party holding its House majority, albeit it by a slim margin.
As we close in on the mid-terms, Republicans seem content on staying where they’re at, embracing the “Party of No” label, riding the wave of voter discontent that could cost Democrats the majority in the House:
After the highly partisan debates on the economic stimulus and health care that dominated the first 15 months of the Obama administration, Democratic leaders, conscious that many members of their party have become wary of being tagged by Republicans as big spenders, intentionally decided to push less controversial measures.
But the barrage of “no” votes from the GOP has not abated. Emboldened by sagging approval ratings of the Democratic-controlled Congress, Republicans almost unanimously opposed a bill to overhaul the financial regulatory system that President Obama signed into law; they are against a measure to increase the disclosure of campaign spending by corporations; and they’ve largely eliminated the chance of passing a series of measures Democrats say could help the economy.
Their opposition turned unemployment benefits, usually an issue with little political controversy, into an intense clash between the parties.
Republicans say polls suggest that they can oppose all of these initiatives by casting them into a broader critique of Democrats increasing the size of government and the budget deficit, even if their bills are individually popular with the public.
“We’re very comfortable where we’re at; we have very few members who feel endangered,” said Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a veteran Republican and a deputy whip in the House. “We feel like we are reflecting a broader mood of dissatisfaction. Right now, the American people want us saying no.”
Given how close the result was two years ago, most people expected the race in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District to be close again this year. If this SurveyUSA poll is right, though, the race may already be over:
In an election for US House of Representatives in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District today, 07/20/10, Republican State Senator Robert Hurt defeats incumbent Democrat Tom Perriello 58% to 35%, according to this latest exclusive WDBJ-TV poll conducted by SurveyUSA.
The seat is one of many Republicans hope to capture in November 2010. 39 “take-aways” are needed for Republicans to capture control of the US House of Representatives.
Perriello, who defeated 6-term Republican Virgil Goode by 727 votes in 2008, today trails among most demographic groups. Among men, Hurt leads by 19 points. Among women, Hurt leads by 26. White voters back Hurt 2:1; black voters back Perriello 2:1. Twice as many Democrats cross over to vote Republican as Republicans who cross over to vote Democrat. Independents break Republican. Perriello runs most strongly among Democrats, African Americans, liberals, moderates, those who have unfavorable opinions of the Tea Party movement, among pro-choice voters, and among those who do not own guns … each of which is today a minority among likely voters in VA’s 5th district.
Anti-incumbent sentiment slams both parties as voters disapprove 59 - 31 percent of the job Democrats are doing, and disapprove 59 - 29 percent of Republicans in Congress. But voters say 43 - 38 percent they would vote for a Republican in a generic Congressional race.
The poll also shows:
- Independents disapprove of President Barack Obama, 52% to 38%
- Voters do not believe Obama should be re-elected, 48% to 40%
- 56% of voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy
- 44% of independents would support a Republican, only 29% would support a Democrat
Remember on June 2 when Republicans took a big lead in the Gallup generic ballot? I used it to project conservatively a 45 seat Republican gain in the House. This was a poll of registered voters, according to Gallup’s Survey Methods notes:
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted May 24-30, 2010, with a random sample of 1,594 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using a random-digit-dial sampling technique.
Democrats this week have jumped into a 6-percentage-point generic-ballot edge for November’s election, according to a new Gallup Poll.
Forty-nine percent of the 1,535 adults surveyed nationwide said they would prefer to vote for a Democrat to represent their congressional district. Forty-three percent are more likely to vote for a Republican.
Just more than a month ago, Republicans held a 6-point edge over Democrats in the poll.
Republicans hold a 4-point edge among independents in this week’s poll, 43-39 percent. Just a week before, Republicans led by 14 points. In mid-June, Republicans led 52 percent to 31 percent among independents.
In her analysis, Gallup’s Lydia Saad speculated that the generic-ballot bump for Democrats this past week could be due to the passage of financial reform.
“The financial reform bill is the second-biggest piece of legislation to get through Congress this year, after health care reform, and it enjoyed majority support,” Saad wrote. “According to a USA Today/Gallup poll in June, 55% of Americans were in favor of legislation expanding government regulation of financial institutions — including 72% of Democrats and 56% of independents. Only Republicans were generally opposed.”
The poll surveyed registered voters, which generally skews towards Democrats. However, this is a significant swing and something Republicans may want to pay attention to, instead of measuring the drapes in the House of Representatives.
The red flag for Democrats?: