A mid-summer look at midterms: How bad will bad be for the Democrats of Obama, Pelosi and Reid?

July 21, 2010

Today, as everyone remembers, is the 145th anniversary of the Wild West’s first recorded showdown, when Wild Bill Hickok met Dave Tutt in a Missouri town square and Dave didn’t walk away.

In 104 days comes the nation’s next big political showdown, the first midterm elections of Democratic President Barack Obama.

Unless your name is George W. Bush or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a president’s first midterms are historically big trouble for the party controlling the White House, with modern losses for his party averaging 17 seats in the House of Representatives.

At the moment things look much worse than that for Obama’s Democrats on Nov. 2, 2010.

Here are a few things they face: Obama’s not up for election, so his name won’t be on any ballot to draw out the same volume of motivated youths and African Americans as in 2008. Not to mention the absence of Obama’s 750-million bucks. Additionally, polls show the crucial independents began peeling away from him last summer over healthcare.

Obama’s popularity is down overall, now generally under 50% from about 70% on Inauguration Day.

Gallup finds the Democrat’s approval has declined every quarter in office, now standing at….

…47.3%, his lowest yet. That puts Obama way below his Republican predecessor’s 74.9% and right down there just above Bill Clinton’s 46.1% at this point. Clinton, of course, went on to lose both houses of Congress to the Republicans in 1994 for the first time in four decades, an electoral spanking that sent him scurrying back to the political center and a decisive 1996 re-election.

Approval of the Democrat-dominated Congress now is near historic lows in most polls. Less than one-in-four Americans say their government has their consent. Obama, a former state and federal legislator, will sign his latest Grand Legislative Reform today, to remodel government financial regulation and hail it as a big step into the future.

But in the present, after spending $787 billion on economic stimulus and, defying public opinion polls to spend a year debating healthcare, unemployment is still actually increasing in some states. It’s likely to worsen down South under Obama’s offshore oil drilling moratorium, which some now fear may cost more long-term jobs than the oil spill itself.

The deficit now has more digits than non-federal calculators can digest; frightened, frustrated voters rank it with terrorism as a top concern.

Last month was the worst for casualties in the nearly nine-year-old Afghan war; this month could be worse. Those Americans believing the effort is worth it are shrinking.

(BTW, do you believe in trickle down politics? About 6,000 of the states’ 7,400 legislative seats are on the November ballot, too.

(As NPR’s Alan Greenblatt notes, a good result for the GOP in state legislative races means it will control more of next year’s nationwide decennial redistricting, which will stand until after the 2020 census.)

Back in March here’s what Baltimore Democratic dinner donors heard Vice President Joe Biden foresee for their $2,500:

Barack generated such an overwhelming turnout and enthusiasm (in 2008), that we had the biggest turnout in history. It was gigantic.

And a lot of really good Democrats got washed up on shore and all of a sudden were congressmen, in districts that Democrats have no business having congressmen.

I’m not here to tell you we’re gaining seats. But I’m telling you, we’re going to go into the second half of our administration, with a solid Democratic majority in the House and the Senate, and with the wind at our backs.

Here’s what Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs got his Biden shot off for saying earlier this month:

There’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control” (of the House of Representatives).

Here’s what House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said last Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union”:

I don’t think we’re talking about a big loss, Candy.

Sometimes Biden predicts a Democratic upset win. But here’s what he said last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week:”

I don’t think the losses are going to be bad at all.

So, just wondering, JB, exactly what kind of political losses are good?

Notice the pattern here: Losses. No talk of winning or gaining. Or even holding steady. Our colleague Ashley Powers highlighted one difficult Democrat House race in Nevada here on The Ticket.

Republicans will try to make the election a referendum on the priorities, policies, spending and deficits of Obama, Senate Majority Harry Reid and the House. Democrats are already trying to make the election about alleged obstruction by the feckless Republican minorities in Congress.

The predictions of GOP success by nonpartisan political prognosticators have been climbing steadily all year. One of the most respected, Stu Rothenberg, has called large GOP gains “inevitable” for months and recently raised the top of his estimate for a Republican House pickup to 33 with 15 weeks still to go.

Rothenberg adds: “Considerably larger Republican gains in excess of 39 seats are quite possible.”

On The Rothenberg Political Report website, Nathan Gonzales points out that Gibbs appears already to be laying the groundwork of a post-election White House excuse for party defeat. Success, Gibbs says, “will depend on strong campaigns by Democrats.” A keen grasp of the obvious that just happens to absolutely absolve an incumbent president of any responsibility for the anticipated setbacks.

Sound familiar? Remember last winter when Obama rushed to the political rescue of Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general seeking to inherit the Democratic Senate chair of the late Ted Kennedy? Soon after, the Bay state’s longtime liberal voters rejected Obama/Coakley to choose a little-known state senator named Scott Brown as their first Republican senator since the early 1970’s.

Even before the votes were counted, the White House was peddling its analysis that Coakley had run such a weak campaign that even a smooth-talking ex-state senator from Illinois couldn’t save her.

Note to Ticket readers: A GOP pickup of 39 or more seats on Nov. 2 makes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a former House speaker come January.

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