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Carville: Throw the lead to November

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In early February this year, I wrote a column for The Hill in which I tried to talk Democrats off the cliff. I warned them against having such a gloomy outlook for November. To tell you the truth, though, when I saw the result from the Florida special election last Tuesday, I asked myself where my straight razor was because I thought I might need it. But before we succumb to 1994 and 2010 syndrome, I’d like to say that a lot of the things that I said in the February column remain true.

The fundamental consideration is this: if the election were held in the current climate, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that the Democrats might have a bad, perhaps even awful, election ahead of them. However, the one thing we know is that it is not going to be held now — it is going to be held in November. This is a case where we don’t know if there is going to be a political climate change or not. Suffice to say, I am pulling for some political climate change.

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Let’s apply the same logic in terms of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, if you must. Is the law and its implementations likely to stay the same, get worse or get better? A fair analysis of recent polling shows that while current polls are not impressive, they are improving slightly. In the March 7-10 edition of Bloomberg’s poll, 64 percent of Americans support the law outright or support changes to it. That is up from 60 percent in Bloomberg’s December poll. Well, in that same poll, 72 percent said the healthcare law will affect their voting decision. If we continue on this trajectory the climate might be more favorable.

It’s the same thing with the economy: look at the December, January and February jobs numbers. We have had some pickup, although it’s been slower than most would like. Will it continue? I am not sure, but it is not unreasonable to assume economic conditions will be better in November.

The point is that we don’t need dramatic changes to have a real impact. What we do need is better-than-average changes in optimism of the economic outlook and continued improvements in support of the Affordable Care Act.  

You know I’ll be watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. One of my favorite aspects of basketball is good passing. When one of these athletes grabs a rebound, he doesn’t pass the ball to where his teammates are at the time but rather to where they going to be down the floor. Well, the same is true for political strategy. Democratic strategists and operatives should not design a strategy based off today’s conditions. They should be setting a strategy for where the trajectory of polling is headed. You have to lead your teammate.

If that guard trips and falls the lead pass doesn’t matter, and if the political conditions don’t improve we will be doomed anyways.

My advice is to assume improved conditions and to throw the lead pass.

Carville is a chief political correspondent for ARISE Television. He also serves as a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Together they are finishing their book Love and War. His column will appear twice a month in The Hill.