The Hill invites two established bloggers from either side of the political spectrum to sound off on a designated topic in original commentary each Saturday. This week, bloggers were asked what the greatest liability is for the Democratic and Republican parties as we head toward November midterm elections.


No hidden problems in the 2010 elections

by Chris Bowers

Republican problem: Weak primary winners. Delaware just produced the most gratuitous example of the biggest problem Republican face: less electable candidates winning Republican nominations due to the ever-growing strength of the conservative primary-industrial complex. Christine O’Donnell’s win turned a Republican polling advantage of 10.8% into a Democratic advantage of 14.3%, according to Pollster.com. Essentially, the tea party handed Democrats a free Senate seat.

In Nevada, Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidLobbying World Mitch McConnell is not invincible Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary MORE had been trailing one-time Republican frontrunner Sue Lowden by an average of 10.3%, before Sharron Angle was endorsed by the Tea Party Express (and before Lowden began talking about switching over to chicken-based currency). Since Angle became the frontunner, the campaign has been a dead heat. So, the Tea Party effectively cost Republicans one and a half Senate seats in Nevada and Delaware.

Not once did the success of an insurgent Republican candidate actually improve the Republican chances of winning a Senate seat this year. In Kentucky, pre-primary polling showed Trey Grayson polling 9% better against Jack Conway than Ur-tea party candidate Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers MORE. Insurgent Republican primaries also turned cakewalks into mildly competitive campaigns in both Florida and Alaska. While Republicans are still favored in all three states, they will have to spend resources to win them. Even if they avoid any upsets, that will drain precious dollars from battlegrounds like Nevada and Wisconsin.

Democratic problem: The Economy. Unemployment remains high (9.6% in the U3 calculation), and has not dropped much since the start of the year (when it was at 9.7%). The broadest measure, U6, which also measures underemployment, is at 16.7%, down only 0.1% from August of 2009 and up from May of this year. Home values are down 3.2% from last year, and foreclosures are up 6%. Real disposable income has been anemic, at best, declining 0.1% in July after a 0.1% increase in June. A new report released this week by the Census Bureau shows poverty reaching a 15-year high, and the number of people without health insurance reaching an all-time high.

Those are bad, bad numbers for an incumbent party. In terms of real disposable income, they are akin to the economic problems Republican presidents faced in 1992 and 2008. It is difficult to imagine an incumbent party winning re-election when people are facing such economic pain, and when the situation is not getting better.

Even the enthusiasm problems that Democrats face are likely closely tied to the sluggish economy. A GQR survey from July showed that economic problems are hitting drop-off voters far more severely than likely voters. It is not a coincidence that two Democratic base demographics, non-white voters and voters under 30, are both feeling disproportionate economic pain and are both disproportionately represented within drop-off voters.

In order to perform well in the 2010 elections, Democrats needed to deliver a much more robust economic recovery by this time. That simply has not happened. If they get pasted in the 2010 elections, the economy will be the main reason why.

Chris Bowers is the Campaign Director for Daily Kos.


Landscaped has changed since 2008

by Dan Riehl

The biggest liability for Democrats is the Obama administration, for two reasons. The campaign they ran to elect Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAssange hit with 17 new charges, including Espionage Act violations Progressive commentator says Obama was delusional thinking he could work with Republicans Obama makes surprise visit to Washington Nationals youth baseball program MORE was extremely focused on him. He was marketed almost more as a personality than a politician. But as happens with the American public, they are fickle when it comes to celebrity. Meanwhile, Obama has not helped himself.

At every turn he seems to intuitively do almost precisely the opposite of what your average American might prefer he do and has made some disastrous decisions in the White House. America was concerned over the economy, Obama and, consequently, the Democrats became obsessed with healthcare reform.

While your average American prefers we appear proud and strong overseas, Obama has conducted apology tours instead. The man simply seems incapable of connecting with the average American. What he always relied on as a trump card during his campaign, his speeches, have turned into almost something of a drone coming out of Washington while the economy remains sour. And people are fed up with his, now, home base.

The man who promised Democrats he would make a difference in 2010 absolutely will. They are likely to lose more seats to the GOP than they would have, say, with a more pragmatic Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Poll: Nearly half of Clinton's former supporters back Biden Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE having been elected.

As long as the election remains nationalized, and our still-struggling economy indicates that's all but unavoidable now, the Democrats' would-be messiah has turned into their Achilles' heal.

The greatest vulnerability for Republicans has to do with their attitude and world view. Over the decades since Ronald Reagan, they have gone from being seen as a party of the people to just the other political party in Washington.

They often seem just as out of touch with the American people as does Barack Obama -- relying primarily on Beltway-focused consultants and message developers. Their chief weaknes is a seeming lack of ability to hear and assess feedback coming from the people to Washington.

Over the last two decades, Reagan's party of a shining city on a hill has become a party of Capitol Hill. There, not out among the people, is where they sense their power base and obtain their world view. Also, through compromise, they've often looked as willing as Democrats to use Washington's heavy hand to dictate policy to several states. Finally, having held majority status and the White House in recent years, they cannot completely divorce themselves from being seen as having contributed to the challenges of an economic and fiscal nature America now faces.

At the same time, even with all their current challenges, the Democrats have remained the party with the best roots in cities and states around the country. If Democrats can exploit that advantage to localize races as much as possible, without the GOP having a comparable game to counter it, it could be exploited by Democrats to save just enough seats to make 2010 more of a train wreck than an airplane crash for them.

Dan Riehl is a political consultant and blogger at RiehlWorldView.com.