Centrist Democrats are worried that the White House plan to get liberal voters fired up for the fall is a harbinger not just of electoral defeat but also the reduced place for moderates in the party.
A top Democratic strategist and advisors to two struggling Democratic candidates tell Power Play that they see a very different Democratic Party coming out of the fall elections.
"The south is gone," the strategist, a veteran of presidential campaigns, told Power Play as he surveyed his party's chances in the Nov. 2 congressional elections. "And now the Midwest may be too. All the states [Hillary Clinton] carried in 2008. "
Moderate Democrats, mostly Clinton supporters from the 2008 primaries, suggest that the huge projected losses for Democrats in the Rust Belt, Appalachia and the upper Midwest, could leave Democrats as a coastal more liberal party.
In states like West Virginia and Arkansas where Democrats have maintained majorities through moderate fiscal policies and conservative social stances, the efforts to pump up liberal enthusiasm have been disturbing.
In places like Indiana and Ohio where Democrats have prospered in recent years by staking out similarly centrist positions, the anxiety level is just as high.
"When we hear ‘fire up the base,' we know they're not talking about our base," said one swing state Democratic strategist. "They're talking about the president's base."
And while the president has worked hard to save liberal Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio, some Democrats see self-interest there. Without both those states, Obama's reelection is much tougher. Without Ohio, it is all but impossible.
But in the great swath of conservative America reaching from central Pennsylvania to Oklahoma and from Western North Carolina to Wisconsin, Democrats are in retreat this year.
Some Democrats in that region worry that the White House looks at them as casualties of a political realignment that benefits Obama, who seems very intent on remaking the Democratic Party to reflect his community organizer's approach to politics. Instead of a political party, national Democrats sometimes more resemble a movement.
"We're casualties in their march to 2012," said another Rust Belt Democrat. "Health care and cap and trade are just death."
But is it even a good strategy for Obama?
When the party takes shape again after the midterm elections, many of the casualties will be from moderate, swing districts, as expected in any tipping-point election. That means that the small Democratic majority or minority that returns will be more liberal and more beholden in many ways to the demands of the big-city liberals who already dominate the party.
Red state Democrats who say Nancy Pelosi might not be speaker again in a Democratic majority are likely saying so because they are very vulnerable themselves and want to show moderation. But most liberals, with the exception of a few Obama babies who slid into office in the 2008 surge like Virginia's Tom Perriello, are in no danger of defeat.
A Republican wave like the one forecast by Gallup and others would eliminate Democrats in the American interior except for those in large urban centers. A party built on San Francisco, Chicago and New York is going to be even more liberal than one that has to make room for some red staters.
The Progressive Caucus is already the largest in the Democratic side of the House with some 90 members. Few, if any, will be defeated this fall. Their power will only grow inside the party next year.
If Obama hopes to make a pivot to deficit reduction and reform during the second half of his term, how willing will his fellow Democrats be to go along? How much pressure will he face on his Afghan surge and inability to close Gitmo?
President Obama and his team have also focused on capitalizing gains in the mountain west from 2008, but polls indicate that the Rockies have a reddish hue this year. That color will only deepen if the party can't move to the right after a big defeat this year.
Plus, the idea that Obama can pick and choose a few states - Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado and Nevada - to hold even as the regions around them turn away from him and his party is pretty grand thinking.
Democrats can't be a viable party and Obama can't win reelection with a greatly reduced role for Clinton Democrats in the heartland.
Thanks to today's Power Play crew: Kimberly Schwandt, April Girouard, Heidi Noonan, Varuna Bhatia, Molly Mathews and Jason Donner
The Day In Quotes
"All of you know who I am."
-- President Obama joking to the crowd at Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Women Summit after the Presidential Seal fell off his podium during his speech.
"I'm sure there's somebody back there that's really nervous back there right now. Don't you think? They're sweatin' bullets back there right now."
-- Obama's follow-up line about the fallen seal.
"I think what we have to do is focus less on the blame question."
-- Embattled incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) to The Washington Examiner.
"If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them...That's a figure of speech."
Vice President Biden at a Minnesota fundraiser.
"It's on the table,"
-- Reporter Bob Woodward to CNN on discussions in the White House of ditching Vice President Biden for an Obama-Hillary ticket in 2012.
"The president isn't happy about it, but I've got his attention."
-- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) on her pledge to hold up the confirmation of President Obama's budget boss until Obama lifts a ban on offshore drilling.
"I want to single out Sen. (Susan) Collins for her help - I'm not sure I'm helping her political career."
-- David Axelrod, senior White House adviser, at an event at the National Cathedral on the dangers of divisive discourse crediting the Maine Republican for the passage of President Obama's stimulus package.
"This year, we had little choice but to support the candidates we were dealt. In the future, we hope to be more selective."
-- Jamie Radtke, president of the Richmond Tea Party and chairwoman of the Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots, talking about the group's growing ambitions and plans with the Wall Street Journal.
"Democrats don't have the luxury of leaning on their base to deliver wins because there simply aren't enough liberals."
-- Anne Kim, domestic policy program director for Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank, to the New York Times.
"It's time for Gloria Allred to pack-up this circus and leave town."
-- Meg Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Jones Rivera discussing the refusal of Allred, attorney for Whitman's former housekeeper, to discuss contact with labor unions or Democratic politicos before going public with the housekeeper's case.
"Change is inevitable and my priority is to make that change positive."
-- Peter Lewis, chairman of Progressive Insurance, to the Wall Street Journal explaining why he is involved in the marijuana legalization movement.
"My opponent has said over and over again he wants to take back America. So many of these tea baggers have said over and over again they want to take back America, and it's true. They want to take back America to the 18th century."
-- Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) discussing his opponent, Dan Webster, on MSNBC.
Trail Riders - Deadly Debate; Obama's Blackberry in an Ad; Dared to Vote Democrat; Dems' Wife Busted in Gambling Probe; Chamber's Surprising October?
Penalty Debate in Connecticut
Connecticut Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Molloy wants to repeal the state's death penalty, so having his big debate with Republican nominee Tom Foley on the same day that a state jury convicted Steven Hayes of the hideous 2007 crimes against the Petit family proved difficult.
FOX News colleague Carl Cameron moderated the debate, hosted by local affiliate FOX CT and the Hartford Courant. There was much talk about spending, taxes, government unions and Foley's record as a businessman, but the Petit case was the emotional focal point.
Malloy argued that his plan wouldn't undo a potential death sentence for Hayes or his alleged accomplice in the sadistic murders of a mother and her two daughters, but Foley said that the experience in other states shows conducting executions after repeal for new crimes is unlikely.
"It's almost certain that Steven Hayes and his accomplice in this crime will not be put to death (if Malloy is elected governor)," Foley said.
Fight Night -- Alexi Out
Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias has bailed out on a debate that was to be held Oct. 21 at Southern Illinois University.
The school announced that the debate was off because Giannoulias wanted a libertarian candidate invited. The rules for the debate said that only established party candidates would be invited, which would include Republican Mark Kirk, but also a green party candidate who has been siphoning votes away from the troubled campaign of Giannoulias.
Recent polls have shown Giannoulias trailing slightly behind Kirk with Geenie LeAlen Jones bringing in more than 5 percent.
Ad Watch - Obama's Call
Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul has launched a new ad in his Kentucky race with Jack Conway that features an actor impersonating the voice of President Obama.
The spot opens with the actor saying "Jack Conway has, ah, given me his stamp of approval" and then goes on to extol Conway's support for the Obama agenda, including the president's national health care law.
The spot closes with Conway's face popping up on Obama's Blackberry, vibrating on the fake president's desk.
Ad Watch -- Feingold's Touchdown Ad Gets Called Back
Sen. Russ Feingold's campaign has agreed to take down and alter an ad that uses NFL end-zone dances to try to get Democrats motivated to vote against Feingold's challenger, Ron Johnson, who has held a large lead in polls for many weeks.
The campaign was not licensed to use the footage.
It's the second unusual ad for Feingold who last week debuted a spot touting his support for the president's unpopular national health care law.
Ad Watch - Bleeping Tough Election
Democrat Taryl Clark, running against Rep. Michelle Bachmann in central Minnesota, is out with a new sarcastic ad that pretends to be a positive ad for Bachmann but highlights votes and statements in support of corporate America. Then the spot closes with this line "Michelle Bachmann: Not doing @#%! for the people of the sixth district,. But doing plenty for special interests in Washington." The @#%! Is represented as a bleep in the audio track.
The West Virginia Republican Party is handing out thousands of yard signs and mini-billboards with the message "Obama says: Vote Democrat" on them. Obama's job approval in the state came in at 29 percent in the latest FOX News battleground state poll.
Alaska liberal Web site The Mud Flats purports to have an email from Todd Palin, husband of the former Alaska governor, ripping into Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller for ducking a question in a television interview about whether Sarah Palin was qualified to be president.
Palin's email tells Miller that his wife will withhold a Facebook note in support of his candidacy as a consequence of the answer.
Scandal Sheets - Congressman's Wife to Plead Guilty in Gambling Case
The wife of Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) has agreed to plead guilty to charges she helped her brother conceal what authorities say was an illegal offshore gambling business that generated millions of dollars, federal prosecutors said.
Patrice Tierney is set to plead guilty today in U.S. District Court in Boston to four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns related to her fugitive brother, Robert Eremian, prosecutors said.
The congressman said in a statement that his wife believed Eremian's income came from a career in selling or licensing software to legal Internet gambling businesses.
Tierney faces Republican Bill Huda in next month's election.
Pelosi's Frustrated Ambitions
The House passed 420 bills that have stalled in the Senate since January 2009 according to a new list obtained by The Hill. The great frustrations for the more liberal House include global warming legislation - one of the most politically costly votes of this election cycle.
What is the Chamber Up To?
Democrats are anxious to know what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is up to. The business group pledged $75 million in spending this election cycle, but Roll Call reports that the business group had only reported $9 million in federal election spending and $4.6 million in political contributions so far.
But federal reports don't cover grassroots organizing or state-level work. The real concern among Democrats, though, is that the group is getting ready to unleash a torrent of ads in the final three weeks of the campaign.
And Now, A Word From Charles
"They have been there so often that either of them could take out a driver's license in Ohio. Ohio is an absolutely critical state. If you are a Democrat, you probably can't win the presidency if you lose Ohio. The presidential election six years ago hinged on Ohio. So they know it."
-- Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier" discussing the president and vice president's frequent travel to Ohio
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.