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Bill Press: Democrats’ Enemy No. 1

Democrats have a big job in 2014: they need to hold onto control of the Senate, win back leadership of the House, and elect Democratic governors and state legislators in key states. But to get there, they face one big obstacle.

Arrayed against them will be an obscene amount of money. The dreaded Koch brothers alone, who spent $400 million in 2012 bashing President Obama and Democratic candidates, are expected to raise and spend just as much, if not more, in 2014. They’re already running TV spots against several incumbent senators and House members they deem vulnerable.

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But Republican opponents and outside groups like the Koch brothers are not the Democrats’ biggest problem. Their No. 1 obstacle: themselves. As Pogo once famously said, “We have met the enemy — and he is us.” 

Here’s the problem: Too many Democrats, and too many members of the media, are spending too much time talking and scheming about 2016. 

Just last week, reporters gushed over the latest Quinnipiac poll showing Hillary Clinton beating every possible GOP challenger — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — by an average of 14 percentage points. But who cares? Why waste time taking about such a poll, let alone reporting on it? It’s totally meaningless.

But even more of a distraction is the emergence of a full-fledged Clinton political machine. In January, Priorities USA, the Democratic Party’s largest super-PAC, announced it was supporting the former secretary of State for president in 2016 and would begin raising money to scare off any potential Democratic challenger. Ready for Hillary, another political action committee, began soliciting campaign funds in 2013 with the help of veteran Clintonites Ann Lewis and Craig Smith. David Brock, founder of Media Matters, has launched Correct the Record to respond to conservative media attacks on Clinton. And all the while, other Democrats are actively plotting the potential candidacies of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Enough already! Whether it’s Clinton, Warren or Sanders, Democrats have a bad case of premature political ejaculation. It’s like we’re already in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign, yet we have no declared candidate. Meanwhile, the important work of 2014 is being ignored at the Democrats’ great peril. 

For Democrats, there’s too much at stake in 2014 to be worrying about 2016 now. With 36 Senate seats on the line, a shift of only six seats would mean loss of control for Democrats. In the House, Democrats need only 17 seats to get back in power. Among the 36 governorships up this year, with reapportionment on the line, Democrats have excellent prospects in Maine, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among other states. But those opportunities could be lost with so much energy going into 2016. 

As former chairman of the California Democratic Party, here’s my advice to Democrats. The best path to victory in 2016 is to focus on 2014. Hold onto your lead in the Senate. Win back the House. Take back several key governorships. Win big in 2014 — and 2016 will take care of itself. 

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.