What would be the best thing that could happen to Obama? Losing Congress in 2010, argues Red State's Erick Erickson of Red State. It worked for Bill Clinton! (snippage)
Here's the first thing Kaus should have noted: Red State isn't exactly rooting for Obama under any circumstances. Why should people expect anyone writing for a neocon blog of doom would be giving sage advice?
I also take offense at the "It worked for Bill Clinton!" argument. Um, I'm pretty sure Bill is still extremely p-ssed off he had a Gingrich-led oppositional Congress that spent nearly 6 years of his two terms hounding him over Whitewater and Paula Jones all the way up to that flimsy nightmarish impeachment attempt over BLOWJOBS. And that's overlooking that whole GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN in 1995 that only went Bill's way (barely) because Newt was too whiny. Now try to picture a GOP Congress facing Obama. We would have nonstop investigations into Obama's birth certificate until the Republicans get driven out of power again for being totally batsh-t insane. And if you think the battle over health care reform is nasty... we would honestly get absolutely no legislation passed. Total government deadlock. Even our military actions overseas would get shut down or screwed over by the power struggle.
And that was Clinton. Do you think George W. Bush and
Evil Overlord Co-President Dick Cheney were thrilled the Dems held Congress in their last two years of office? Did ANYTHING substantial get done those last two years?
At least Kaus doesn't let the Red State madness go unmentioned:
Minor Hmms: 1) As things stand now, Erickson says, "Barack Obama cannot work the center." Hmm. I'm not so sure about that. He could be working the center a lot harder than he has been on education, welfare, the auto bailouts and the CIA, to name four. (And he probably thought he was working the center when he focused his health care pitch on curve-bending cost-control. Goes to show it's not enough to mindlessly triangulate.) ...Kaus is actually a little off here. Obama has been working the center, or at least trying to work a bipartisan position, but doing so has actually cost him support from his Democratic base. Independents have wavered but within statistical norms. Republicans of course always had Obama low in their polls so no big loss there. And for all we know about how the auto bailouts went, it looks as though Obama & Crew handled it just right. One other thing: I don't see welfare as a major issue, outside of unemployment issues and of course the Health Care debate.
2) Erickson speculates that if Obama lost Congress he'd still get immigration reform through, thanks to moderate GOP senators like Grassley and Bennett. Hmm, again. Isn't immigration more likely to remain another one of those Washington Mirage Issues where you can technically count enough votes for legalization, but (because legislators are rightly skittish) the vote somehow magically never takes place? ..."Speculates that if Obama lost Congress he's still get immigration reform through"? Erickson is definitely insane at this point: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS POSITIONED ITSELF THOROUGHLY ANTI-IMMIGRANT. They even did this in opposition to Dubya and Rove! How the HELL does Erickson think the GOP will pull a 180-degree turnabout on an issue they're using to inflame the wingnuts? Didn't he notice the huge voter shift of Hispanics in 2008 away from the Republicans? Didn't he watch the same crap we did re: Sotomayor nomination?
Kaus points out that Immigration is a Mirage Issue: something that theoretically can get voted on, but because it's such a third-rail issue we'll never really see any action on it. I dunno. After this whole health care reform fiasco, I'm willing to bet the Democratic party is gonna use the rest of '09 and the whole of 2010 to push Immigration reform, simply because it'll drive the Far Right into Crazytown and drive all the Youth, Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Sane voters well into the Democratic side of the argument.
3) Erickson even speculates that Obama, recognizing the utility of a loss in 2010, will "start" to undermine the Blue Dogs in swing districts. Really? "Start"? What would he do to undermine the Blue Dogs that he's not doing already? ... Hmm.
And it won't be Obama doing the undermining. It'll be the Kos crowd: they'll be hunting for Blue Dog scalps the same way they hunted for Joe Lieberman's, especially if Health Care reform doesn't pass. And don't forget, Kos' crowd beat Lieberman in his primary: it took him to run as an 'Indy' with hefty Republican support (taken away from an actual Republican challenger btw) to stay in that Senate seat. Imagine that played out over 20-30 primaries in 2010... which is one of the reasons (not the strongest, but) the Dems will pass some form of health care package...
The one thing the Red State article highlights, and what Kaus' response highlights, is that people are looking ahead to the next midterms, and they're already trying out the math to see if the Republicans have a chance to rebound and regain seats. They're thinking that it's 1993-94 all over again (esp. with the same health care fight going so quickly to pot). To that I would like to make Five Observations:
1) Not every midterm goes against the person or his party currently occupying the White House. Seats may shift accordingly, and may go up and down depending on the actual races. But the Democrats currently enjoy a sizable seat count in both House and Senate, far too much to where they can actually lose control of either wing of Congress to the Republicans. At least not in 2010. To regain the Senate the Republicans have to win nearly 21 of the 22 elections up for grabs (unlikely) and to regain the House they have to win over 77 seats (and given the near-invulnerable status of incumbents that's unlikely as well). Throw into that mix that the Republicans are virtually non-existent in the Northeast anymore (save for a handful of moderates) and there's a lot of hurdles for the GOP to overcome in this regard.
EDIT: After re-doing the math, it may not be 21 wins needed for the Republicans to retake the Senate. It's NOT 22, it's 34 elections for 2010 (there are 3 extra for special elections due to replacing Senators who left for Cabinet jobs as well as Kennedy's passing. There may be more if Hutchinson from Texas follows through on resigning to run for Governor). There are 16 Incumbent Democrats and 12 Incumbent Republicans: do note Incumbents are very hard to defeat. There are 8 Senators retiring - 2 Democrat and 6 Republican - which is where the competitions tend to be fiercest. The deal for the Republicans would be 1) return all incumbents (12) and secure the vacating seats (6) meaning they need the 18 they already count on, and 2) take away 11 seats from the Democrats to get the Republicans over 50 total seats, most likely getting the 2 vacated seats (it's so doubtful Kennedy will get replaced by a Republican it shouldn't even be considered) and somehow earning 9 upset victories over any of the 16 Democratic incumbents (insert Ha-Ha noise here). Based on this math, the GOP Senate needs 29 wins out of 34 elections (so far). That's still very unlikely.
2) Add to 1) the fact that the Republicans in Congress (and overall) are still massively unpopular compared to the Democrats across general polling lines. And a lot of that unpopularity stemmed from a Republican-led government that had been in power long enough to leave some damage on the nation.
Compare to 1994. In the early 1990s the electorate had endured 25 plus years of Democratic control of Congress (save a few times the Senate tilted GOP), with that Dem control anchored in the Watergate crisis that IHMO threw off the electoral cycle by 10-15 years. During that time there had been scandal after growing scandal of Democratic misdeeds, culminating in the infamous S&L scandals and the less-remembered Rubbergate. There may have been a good number of Republicans caught in those scandals, but for the most part these were burdens on a Democratic leadership. It was most likely the Iran-Contra scandal that kept Reagan's GOP from exploiting that issue until his term of office was well over.
Compare that to right now. The Republicans had (barring one year hiccup) control of both houses of Congress from 1994 until 2006. 12 years to build up their own record of corruption and malfeasance. Voters are still blaming Bush (and by extension the whole Republican party) for the current economic hardships. While Obama and the Dems will have been in power for 2 years by the 2010 elections, it's still too early to shift everything worth blaming (the housing crisis, the wars, the joblessness) onto them.
A good amount of polling bears this out. While Obama's numbers have been slipping (into the low 50s/high 40s), for the most part the Democrats' numbers remain decent (high 30s) compared to the Republicans' numbers (low 20s). Voter registration should also be considered: as of 2004 it was 72 million D(em), 55 million R(ep), 42 million I(ndy). And the registrations trends by 2008 were solidly Democratic and Independent. I'm trying to see what the current allotment is...
3) The big question about the midterms: What will the Republicans be FOR?
Right now, what agenda (besides tax cuts) are the Republicans pushing? What issues are they laying the groundwork for as a platform to run on? Because for right now, all we voters know is what the Republicans are AGAINST: the Republicans are AGAINST OBAMA, AGAINST SOCIALISTS, AGAINST OBAMA, AGAINST HEALTH CARE REFORM (which, despite their current victories in the media battlefront, isn't going to win over voters to them either), AGAINST WISE LATINAS, AGAINST THIS, AGAINST THAT, AGAINST OBAMA. Repeat 20 times.
Compare to 1994. Gingrich and his fellow back-benchers got together to forge a Contract With America, listing items on a broad national agenda for the GOP Congress to rally around. While the Contract was dismissed as a gimmick, it proved a popular enough draw to conservative voters who came out to vote. When the Republicans won that midterm, the Contract was cited as a key reason.
Compare also to 2006. Howard Dean, essentially in charge of things for the Democrats at the DNC, initiated the 50-State Strategy to make Congressional challenges in every state, even those deemed 'unwinnable' for being so conservative. Dean realized that you can only win if you actually run for the damned offices, and pushed for candidates in as many places as were found. That strategy worked: it revitalized previously despondent Democrats in key states and helped the Dems re-take both houses in Congress.
Just as a side note: both in 1994 and in 2006 the ruling party in Congress suffered from waves of retirements (tens of Democratic incumbents fleeing in '94, tens of Republicans fleeing in '06.). Just to ask, do you see any massive dash for the lifeboats by the Democrats right now?
So, to re-state the argument: What are the Republicans FOR right now? Other than being obstructionist and paranoid, not a lot. That negativity is not a solid platform for campaigning.
4) Aside from the platform problem the Republicans have, what about their leadership? Upon whom can the mantle of flagbearer be placed?
The deal with Republicans is their organizational structure: they love to follow specific leaders (unlike the Democrats, who operate under a system best comparable to cat herding). It's been that way since, well, back in the day of machine politics. It's REALLY been that way since Goldwater in 1964. Lead up to Nixon in '68. Nixon's fall from grace really mixed up the party in the 70s, but there was Reagan by 1980. Bush the Elder went in via Reagan's good graces (albeit untrusted by the Far Right). With Bush's fall in 1992, it was left to Gingrich to rally the troops via that Contract in 1994...only for Gingrich to be driven out by backstabbers by 1998. Bush the Lesser was ostensibly the flagbearer as the President by 2000, but in truth by then the GOP Congress fell to the more corrupt elements that had driven Newt out (DeLay, Armey, anyone on Abramoff's payroll). And those clowns were out of office by 2006.
So who's in charge now of the Congressional GOP? Obstensibly the likes of McConnell, Cantor, Boehner. But how effective have they been with regards to GOTV issues? How effective have they been positioning themselves in the media as leaders in their own right? Because they haven't. In the media the only ones the voters see and listen are the rabble-rousers like Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity. Irregardless of whom those guys invite onto their shows, you really don't see a lot from the congressional leadership.
Also, if voters could name anybody from today's Congress, it's going to be the wackos like Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who's been getting all the press that's been encouraging the GOP Base but scaring the hell out of moderates and Independents, the voters you still need to actually, you know, win elections. It's been these wingnuts who've been screaming about birth certificates and socialist concentration camps getting all the press. GOP Leadership? What GOP Leadership?
5) There's still a lot of time between now (2009) and the midterms (2010). As I've mentioned earlier, there's still a lot of time there for the Democrats to pull out other issues of major import - Immigration Reform! - that poll well for Dems but will cause massive self-inflicted damage on Republicans.
That's my position. I seriously doubt the Republicans will make any serious gains in 2010. They *could* win back some seats that are normally in GOP-friendly districts that they lost merely due to retirement/lousy candidates/the fact that Bush the Lesser, Cheney and Rove made the GOP brand less popular than swine flu, but that's all I would concede at this point. For all the noise they're making in the media, the Republicans just aren't impressing people with any sign of, you know, maturity and intellect and wisdom. Stuff we need from our elected leaders.