The magnitude of the catastrophe facing the Democratic Party in the fall elections is only gradually becoming clear to the leaders of both parties. The Democrats will lose both the Senate and the House. They will lose more House seats in 2010 than the 54 they lost in 1994 and they will lose the Senate, possibly with some seats to spare.
In state after state, the races that were once marginal are now solidly Republican, those that were possible takeaways are now likely GOP wins and the impossible seats are now fully in play.
Or take Arkansas. Blanche Lincoln is clinically dead, trailing John BoozmanJohn BoozmanDeficits could stand in the way of Trump's agenda The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate SENATE: Republicans defy odds to keep majority MORE 65-27 in the latest Rasmussen poll. In the race that was supposed to be close for the open seat in AR-2, Republican Tim GriffinTim GriffinTea Party class reassesses record Huckabee's daughter to run '16 campaign Lawmakers seek Purple Heart for victims of Little Rock shooting MORE is massacring Democrat Joyce Elliott by 52-35. In the race that was thought to be a likely Democratic win — AR-1, the East Arkansas district — Republican Rick CrawfordRick CrawfordWhy a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform Convention calendar: Parties and events Southern lawmakers fight to keep USDA catfish inspections MORE is running seven points ahead of Democrat Chad Causey. And, in the district that was considered a safe Democratic seat, the home of Blue Dog leader Mike Ross, Republican Beth Anne Rankin is showing surprising strength and may topple her opponent.
In the Senate, Republicans are solidly ahead in Delaware, North Dakota, Indiana and Arkansas. They have good leads in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washington. The Democratic incumbents are perpetually below fifty and basically tied with their Republican challengers in Nevada, California and Wisconsin. Illinois is tied. Connecticut and New York (after the primary) are in play. That’s a gain of up to 13 seats!
And, then consider West Virginia, where the hugely popular Democratic Gov. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Finance: Trump advisor offers new hope for NAFTA | Funding bill to be released Tuesday | Senate Dems fight for miner pensions Top Dem signals likely opposition to Sessions nomination Senate reverses passage of anti-terrorism bill MORE — who boasts of a 70 percent job approval rating — looked like the certain successor to Robert Byrd. But, in the latest Rasmussen poll, he leads Republican challenger John Raese by only 48-41. When 22 percent of the state likes the job you are doing as governor but doesn’t want to vote for you for senator, you are in deep, deep trouble. That’s 14!
Why the disaster? Obama’s poll numbers alone don’t account for it. With a job approval in the low forties, he is not as radioactive as Bush was. He still has a ways to fall to reach those depths. So why the unbelievable wipeout in the congressional races?
Obama has a lot to do with it. But so does Congress itself. With congressional approval at 23 percent in the realclearpolitics.com average, the Democrats in the House and Senate have contributed mightily to their own demise. The Rangel and Waters investigations and the impending decision to let each keep his and her seat does a lot to undermine Congress’ image. So did the deals surrounding health care reform as the public watched sausage being made in Washington. The spectacle of Congress voting on bills the members have not read adds to public discontent.
In most off-year cycles, it is the president’s party that is judged in the voting. But, this year, Congress has been in the forefront of most of the legislation — up to actually writing the stimulus and health care bills — that the body itself is attracting its own negatives. Republican insurgents’ success in derailing incumbent senators in Alaska and Utah attest to the bipartisan nature of the disaffection.
But, for whatever reason, the only mistake either party can make as 2010 approaches is to aim too low. It is not the marginal seats that are in play, it is the safe ones!
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill ClintonBill ClintonOvernight Finance: Trump advisor offers new hope for NAFTA | Funding bill to be released Tuesday | Senate Dems fight for miner pensions Press: You can’t blame Bernie Former trade official says ditching TPP would be massive mistake MORE, is the author of Outrage, Fleeced, Catastrophe and 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by e-mail or to order a signed copy of their latest book, Revolt!, go to dickmorris.com. In August, Morris became a strategist for the League of American Voters, which is running ads opposing the president’s healthcare reforms.