Subject: 2010

Sept. 23, 2009

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll should keep every Democrat awake all night worrying about this: Republicans lag far behind Democrats on virtually issue in the poll, often with numbers as low as Bush and Cheney. Yet the generic ballot for 2010 elections has the Democratic lead down to a margin of 3 percent, 43-40.

What this tells me is, now matter many voters believe the president is a likable, charming, good man, and no matter how low the Republicans sink on literally every major issue, the voters increasingly want the party other than the president's to control Congress.

A 3 percent Democratic lead translates into significant Republican gains in 2010. This follows the normal pattern of off-year elections. If anything, there could be a higher-turnout drop-off from our voters because the president has distanced himself from our base and first-time voters in 2008 are not inspired to participate, plus a higher-than-average turnout by Republicans and the right, plus our declining support among independents.

Short of staging a hunger strike on the Capitol steps, I don't know how much more strongly I can warn Democrats than I have been doing since the president's popularity was at 70 percent. What has happened since then was entirely predictable. My column today ignores the punditry. I am addressing the whole swath of issues that make voters unhappy at everyone in this town. I am trying to be a voice for their very legitimate grievances, and by November 2010 the president and Democrats had damn well better speak for them, or Sarah Palin will be smiling with her arms raised in triumph on Election Day 2010.