Sunday, March 16, 2008

Despite Democratic Presidential Primary Rancor, the Picture's Depressing for Congressional Republicans -- For Now

While the Democrats seem to be doing a credible job of swiftboating each other or -- in the case of Eliot Spitzer -- sabotaging themselves, Republicans on Capitol Hill have not been able to capitalize on the divisiveness and unflattering press. That's because the Republicans have their own troubles -- just in the past few weeks they've had to contend with embezzlement scandals, recruiting failures, and a humiliating loss, not to mention the fact that they've been dropping like flies ever since the Dems came to power. Republicans have simply been too busy trying to put out their own fires to capitalize on the Democrats' self-inflicted crazy-making -- lucky for us.

In fact, just this past week Congressional Republicans have had an amazing string of bad news, which neither the superstitious or the pundit world think bodes well for November. Republicans haven't managed to field anyone to challenge freshman Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), in a purple state where even a mediocre candidate could've garnered 40 percent of the vote and at least forced the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) to throw a little money Pryor's way. But now, the DSCC will get to send its resources elsewhere -- say, Colorado or New Mexico or Minnesota or Virginia -- all Senate seats the Dems can pick up.

Then, the GOP lost their best shots at credible challengers to Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) -- one of the few Dems up for re-election in a purple state. Remember when South Dakotans gave then-Rep. John Thune the nod over Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle? And Johnson had been gravely ill with a brain aneurysm; he's had surgery and rehabbed, but he missed most of 2007. Yep, Johnson was a vulnerable as they come and the Republicans don't have a credible contender to give him a run for the DSCC's money.

Then, of course, there was the humiliating loss of former House Speaker Denny Hastert's seat in an Illinois special election. This district has been red forever, but the Dems picked it off with a political newbie. Ouch.

But wait, it gets worse. Apparently the former treasurer of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has been stealing lots of cookies from the cookie jar -- allegedly diverting as much as $1 million from the NRCC's already sadly shallow, "we're-in-the-minority-now-and-buckage-is-hard-to-raise" coffers to his own personal accounts. What a guy -- he really knows how to hit 'em when they're down, doesn't he? Not exactly something that will instill donor confidence and keep the money flowing, either.

You just can't make this stuff up. Here's a few of the more choice comments about Congressional Republicans' ugly predicament:

"It's no mystery," said retiring Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA). "You have a very unhappy electorate, which is no surprise, with oil at $108 a barrel, stocks down a few thousand points, a war in Iraq with no end in sight and a president who is still very, very unpopular. He's just killed the Republican brand."

"The math is against them. The environment is against them. The money is against them. This is one of those cycles that if you're a Republican strategist, you just want to go into the bomb shelter," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.

But we Dems should not get too comfortable. As we all know, at the presidential level the party is currently engaged in a circular firing squad of epic proportions -- one that could have dire consequences not only for our chances at the White House, but also downticket coattails that could impact congressional and gubernatorial races this fall. Some national polls have Republican John McCain pulling even in matchups with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It seems that the Clinton and Obama campaigns are getting through to voters as they work to undermine confidence in their opponent -- but with unintended long term consequences.
Democrats' forget the Maverick's appeal to independent voters and Reagan Democrats at our peril, and the more our candidates tell the electorate that their primary opponent is not the best candidate to be president -- well, the more likely the voters are to believe it and go looking for an alternative. And Sen. McCain is waiting with open arms.


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1 comment:

rtfirefly said...

I'm not too worried about McCain, for a few reasons.

1) It's all about Congress. The name of the game is to pick up 10-12 more House seats, and 4-6 Senate seats, to be more immune to Bush Dogs and filibusters. And, as you say, the GOP's playing defense all the way.

2) If Obama's the nominee, he can set up contrasts to McCain on both domestic and foreign policy that work to Obama's advantage. (Hillary can only go 1-for-2, having validated McCain's foreign policy cred.)

3a) If Obama or Hillary wins, they can't do jack during their first 2 years, due to filibusters. The goal is 60 Senate Dems in 2010, and good things would then transpire in 2011.

3b) If McCain wins, the coming recession, and the war, all land on him. In a continuation of 2006, Americans increasingly realize that the problem wasn't just Bush - it's Republicanism in general. Our 2010 win dwarfs 2006, and the Democratic Congressional supermajority runs the country in 2011-12.

That's how I see it, anyway.