Will a last ditch litany of negative campaign ads and pep rallies save the Left in November?
Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Reid, the Democratic Party is facing the biggest defeat in bi-elections in the past 110 years.
The modern record is a loss of 74 seats set in 1922, by the Democrats, at the height of the Harding/Teapot Dome scandals. This year, the Democrats will lose at least 80 House seats and perhaps as many as 100, and will also lose control of the Senate.
Currently, according to published polls, Republicans are leading in 54 Democratic House districts and, in 19 more, the incumbent congressman is under 50 percent of the vote and his GOP challenger is within five points. That makes 73 seats where victory is within easy grasp for the Republican Party. The only reason the list is not longer is that there are 160 Democratic House districts that were considered so strongly blue that there is no recent polling available.
There is no Democratic message out there. President Obama is heralding education — an issue never mentioned on the campaign trail. Secretary of State Clinton is trying to restart the peace talks in the Middle East. Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano is trying to enhance international air safety. Attorney General Holder is re-evaluating Internet national security taps. And a hundred endangered Democrats are scrambling about on their own trying to get re-elected!
The Democratic campaigns they are waging are formulaic. They make no attempt to defend the administration, but run away from it where possible. They never mention its signature legislative achievements unless to say that they opposed them. The words stimulus, health care reform, card-check, GM takeover, and cap and trade never cross their lips.
Instead, they are running almost exclusively negative ads. In a few districts, they have dug up dirt that they are throwing at their opponents. They base their campaigns on tax liens, failed marriages, DWIs and the like. Where there is a paucity of dirt, they resort to three pre-fab negatives: that their opponent favors a 23 percent national sales tax, that he wants to privatize Social Security and that he is shipping jobs overseas.
The Republican answers are simple. Candidates urge the 23 percent value-added tax as part of a Fair Tax reform that eliminates the income tax — a switch most voters favor. Some Republicans do back letting people under 55 divert one-third of their FICA taxes to approved investment alternatives, and most voters agree with them.
But, on the campaign trail, simply saying — accurately — that "I oppose any change at all in Social Security for our seniors" takes care of it. And Republicans rebut the jobs overseas charge by citing how the incumbent backed cash-for-clunkers, where 40 percent of the cars bought were foreign, the TARP bailout, which paid billions to overseas banks, and the GM bailout, where two-thirds of the jobs were overseas.
This is the sum total of the rhetoric the Democratic Party is using to stave off the biggest defeat it has suffered since 1860! It is a pathetic defense, easily pierced and defeated.
Now the field of battle will increasingly shift. The marginal Democrats — the freshmen and sophomores — are mostly gone. The seats of Southern conservative Democrats are largely already lost. Now the combat shifts to the previously safe seats occupied by many in the House leadership, including, perhaps, the seats of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Banking Committee Chairman Barney Frank.
This new attack will force the Democrats to spend their resources defending their base and make it even easier to pick off marginal members. And, while Republican resources shift to the previously solidly Democratic districts, eager donors anxious to develop relationships with the new Republican majority will fill their shoes.
In the Senate, Republicans lead in eight Democratic seats: North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Illinois. In Nevada, the ninth, Harry Reid has been stuck at 44 percent of the vote since Aug. 1, when his Social Security/Medicare attack was rebutted, largely by americansfornewleadership.com, an independent expenditure group with which I work. He is dead in the water. His negative ads that flood the airwaves are not working, and the ads run by Karl Rove's American Crossroads have him pinned down.
For the 10th seat, the GOP has five options: New York, where Joe DioGuardi is only one point behind Kirsten Gillibrand in the latest published poll; California, where Barbara Boxer is stubbornly below 50; Washington state, where the lead has seesawed back and forth between Dino Rossi and Patty Murray; Connecticut, where Linda McMahon has closed to 50-45; and Delaware, where Christine O'Donnell may yet come back and has closed the gap to 9 points.
And where is Obama while all this is happening? Proposing new initiatives on education!