What won't work for House Democrats in 2012

LAGOS, Nigeria — The upset loss earlier this week in a special election to replace disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner — followed by a sure win for Republicans out West in Nevada — does not bode well for congressional Democrats moving into 2012.
 
Sure, we’ll hear the usual banter that these special elections rarely serve as reliable bellwethers for national elections. Heck, I even said as much about the open Republican seat in New York-26 earlier this year.
 
But this situation seems different. Not only are the stakes higher, and the presidential race drawing nearer. Those factors alone should cause the national Democratic Party to worry. But also, it signals to me a key plank in the Democrats’ attack platform is woefully overestimated by the party, or it just plain won’t work anymore.
 
Of course, I’m referring to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget and how Democrats excoriated the House Republican for his courageous (and right) observations regarding the future of Medicare. Ryan was even so thoughtful as to offer some constructive thoughts on how to save the program. I find it odd that Democrats chose to ignore that “minor” detail. If someone were so politically bent to destroy a program as they allege, then why would the perpetrator think through a solution to keep that same program solvent?
 
At any rate, Democrats believed they had a magic elixir to help them win back the House in 2012, or at least make a respectable show of it.
 
They certainly tried the tactics in NY-9 and NV-2, throwing everything they could at the candidates to make the case stick. But it didn’t work.
 
GOP party officials told me this morning they feel as though they can weather these attacks in pretty much any district moving into next year, especially in a New York seat where Democrats outnumber Republicans three-to-one in party registration. Granted, this race was more about the infidelities of Mr. Weiner, and Republicans can only rest so much on their laurels.
 
But it’s a positive note when demagoguing an issue will only get a candidate so far. Especially during a time when both parties should be serious regarding our nation’s debt. To play seniors versus defense issues in an attempt to score points is tired and old.
 
Let’s hope both sides learn a few lessons as we gear up for 2012.