What the Democrats Must Do to Avert Disaster

The tide moving against the Democrats is growing stronger.

As it is all but certain that the Republicans will take over the House in the midterm elections, all eyes have turned to the Senate races, as there is increasingly reason to believe that the anger and dissatisfaction with Obama and the Democrats will be strong enough for Republicans to win the Senate as well.

Real Clear Politics now has control of the Senate at a tie between the Republicans and the Democrats, as poll data has the Republicans currently positioned to gain nine seats, just one short of the number of seats needed for the GOP to gain control.

The Democrats have all but lost key races in Pennsylvania, in the Midwest and in the South. Races in Wisconsin, Ohio and North Dakota, along with races in Arkansas, Kentucky and even West Virginia will almost certainly go to the Republicans.

Even worse for the Democrats is that the few races that have modestly leaned Democrat have narrowed recently.

In Washington, Republican Dino Rossi has moved into almost a statistical tie with Democrat Patty Murray. The Real Clear Politics (RCP) average had Murray in a five-point lead over Dino Rossi last week, but now the average is down to half of a point. The Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Wednesday has Murray trailing Rossi by three points, 46 percent to 49 percent.

In California, Republican Carly Fiorina has moved to within four points of Democrat Barbara Boxer, according to the RCP Average, which had Boxer with a seven-point lead last week. The Reuters/Ipsos poll and the Rasmussen Reports poll conducted this week both have Fiorina trailing Boxer by four points, 45 percent to 49 percent.

And in Nevada, for the first time in several months, Republican Sharon Angle has moved ahead of Democrat Harry Reid in the RCP average, as she now leads by a half of a point. Reid has only led in two of the seven polls taken since mid-September, most recently trailing by four points in the Rasmussen Reports poll, 46 percent to 50 percent, and by two points in the CNN/Time poll, 40 percent to 42 percent.

It is clear that President Obama and the Democrats need to act assertively and quickly to slow the anti-Democratic momentum and stop the Republicans from gaining control of the Senate.

So what should the Democratic Party do?

The Democrats need a national message that emphasizes fiscal prudence and discipline. The White House and Congress must put forth a bold, centrist, pro-growth agenda that emphasizes balancing the budget, reducing the debt and the deficit, and cutting spending and taxation. Given the loss of 95,000 jobs in September, they must promote stimulating the economy through bipartisan, fiscal stimulus initiatives that target the private sector and encourage entrepreneurship and job creation.

Specifically, Obama should advocate policies that support entrepreneurship like reducing or eliminating taxes for entrepreneurs during their first six months or a year of business activity and improving our workforce through better education and training in the sciences and engineering.

In addition to advocating for fiscally prudent policies and private sector job creation, Democrats must be responsive to voters’ displeasure with the health care system and articulate coherent solutions to improve it.

Health care and the economy are inextricably linked; our country’s health sector makes up more than 17 percent of gross domestic product. While most sectors have dropped jobs in the past months, health care has added more than 700,000 since the beginning of the recession.

The White House should try to change the discussion on health care by calling for investments in medical innovation and highlighting the benefits that such investments would provide. Such investments will not only be beneficial to the health of our people by developing life-saving research and treatments, but they will also make our economy healthy and stronger by creating long-lasting jobs.

The White House should also call for a coordinated effort at the federal and state levels to improve our science education at all levels of schooling, adequately fund medical research, especially in the areas most needed or the areas where the benefits would matter most, and remove barriers like litigation and red tape.

Voters are looking for fiscally conservative politics and the Democrats must be responsive to their desire for fiscal conservatism. Americans do not have respect for the Republicans, but they do agree with the Republicans that the Democrats’ current policies are making our country move backwards.

Rather than standing behind spending policies the Democrats have enacted and simply criticizing the Republicans, the Democrats have to offer a positive, centrist message that promotes fiscal restraint and job creation.

The only type of voters whose support the Democrats have a chance of regaining are swing voters. These voters have been moving away from the Democrats, and if the president continues to ignore their frustration like he did recently by saying that despite the announcement that 95,000 jobs were lost in September, the private sector is moving in the right direction, they will continue to do so.

The president needs to embrace a new strategy and a new approach quickly. Unless he can do that, he will lose the House and the Senate, and suffer a defeat that will exceed the defeat the Democrats suffered in 1994.

Douglas Schoen is a political strategist and author of the book "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System," published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.

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