Democrats are pushing back hard today on the notion that the party is doomed in the fall elections. House campaign chief Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., is holding a press conference today to talk about how Democrats will hold on this fall. If the new video from the Democratic National Committee about Senate races is any indication, Van Hollen will explain that the reason Democrats will be OK is that Republicans are a bunch of Tea Party fringers by highlighting outsider candidates like Sharron Angle and Rand Paul. "They are flawed and as far out of the mainstream as you can imagine. And the Republican Party knows it," says the video "All politics is local, and candidates matter."
But Democrats surely remember that a lot of unlikely members of their party got in to Congress in 2006 and 2008 (Eric Massa, Alan Grayson, etc.) as opposition to the Iraq war and finally the Panic of 2008 pushed voters away from Republicans. Saying the other guy is crazy is something on the order of an admission of failure - "We may not be so hot, but have you seen the alternative?" Bad candidates probably lose anyway, but trying to paint all Republicans with the radical brush suggests that the DNC needs to get out of the echo chamber for a while.
The economic numbers due out today are expected to show that GDP growth has slipped below 2 percent - the level needed just to keep up with population growth. We're also awaiting a rather dire forecast from the Federal Reserve on what the central bank can and can't do to revive the economy. Undecided voters in swing districts may not see the news, but they live with the effects and know how bad the economy is. They don't need Mark Zandi to tell them there's a chance of a double dip recession. Democrats had been using one line of reasoning - that the economy was not good, but getting better. With that argument slipping away, the party seems at a collective loss for what to say about the issue that matters most.
President Obama will be omnipresent following the end of his vacation - an interview on NBC to talk about Hurricane Katrina, a speech at Xavier University on the storm and a Tuesday Oval Office address on the ongoing drawdown in Iraq and the shift to Afghanistan. Republicans plan to answer with some reminders of how Obama, Vice President Biden and others once felt about the war. House Minority Leader John Boehner has already delivered a prebuttal that accuses Democrats of taking credit for an achievement in Iraq accomplished in spite of them, not because of their efforts. Voters notice these other issues, and Obama can expect his own approval ratings to recover a bit from their summer swoon as a result of the PR blitz, but it's the sorry state of the economy that drives voters.
In 2006 and 2008, Republicans wanted to change the subject too. They wanted to stop talking about Iraq and the economy and talk about the global war on terrorism or even gay marriage. But they could not turn the tide. Democrats will make a mighty push this week to turn the discussion to Republican support for Social Security reform and abolishing the Department of Education or the now long-ago mistakes of George W. Bush and other Republicans. They will not likely be able to turn the tide either.
In fact, by trying to paper over the deep problems with the economy and change the subject, Democrats may remind persuadable voters that they don't have satisfying answers on the economy.
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