- Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 October 2010 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 27 October 2010 00:00
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Fewer than 24 months ago, in other words, a million years ago when it comes to politics, the outlook for the Democrats in Washington D.C. couldn’t have been better. President Obama had won decisively, and in both the House and Senate, the Democrats had powerful majorities. In the House of Representatives they had built on their 2006 successes, garnering a 39 vote advantage. In the Senate, in something that hasn’t happened since the 1970’s, they reached the magic number of 60. This meant that if they all pulled together, they could break any attempted filibuster on the part of the minority. The Democrats were back. But my, how quickly things can change in American politics. The coming mid-term elections, with all 435 House seats up for election and a third of the Senate are shaping up as one of the biggest political routs in American history. Oh sure, there have been worse, but if the trends hold, Tuesday night will be a tough one for the President and his party.
The House, where just a few months ago, the Democratic Party’s edge appeared hard to beat, has been all but surrendered by many top Democrats. Oh, sure, they say they think they can hold onto control of the lower chamber, but the numbers, no matter what spin you put on them, don’t lie. The Democratic majority in the House next Tuesday night, will probably be history.
Initially, the speculation was that a GOP win in the House, if they managed it, would be close. But that’s changed. The Democrats are in serious trouble. In June the total number of Democrat seats considered worth the investment of national GOP campaign committee dollars was about 70. During the last week, the Republicans, flush with cash, and watching their poll numbers improve, have upped that number to over 100. Of course, they won’t win all of these, but where they were once expected to win between 42 and 47 seats, a gain of sixty is now within the realm of possibility. Though that may be pushing things a bit.
With a few exceptions, almost all of the 50 Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 are in trouble. In Virginia, the three Democrats elected in 2008 are on the endangered list. Even seats considered bastions of Democratic strength, held by long term Democratic members, are in doubt. Democrats, in once safe seats, such as Ike Skelton in Missouri, Jim Oberstar in Minnesota and Travis Childers in Mississippi, are in elections they aren’t necessarily going to win this time around. But the potential swing goes further than that. Democrats seem endangered in normally super blue states such as Massachusetts and New York. Even Barney Frank’s seat is considered in play.
Fortunately, for the Democrats, it gets a little better in the Senate, but not by much. The Democrats currently hold 59 seats. Democrats are in trouble in Illinois (Obama’s old seat), Nevada (Majority Leader Reid’s seat), Pennsylvania, and in Colorado. Each of these races has a strong likelihood of going to the GOP. However, one of the big surprises for the Republicans is West Virginia. The Governor, Joe Manchin, is running for Robert Byrd’s old seat. This should normally be a walkaway for the Democrats. But the GOP has succeeded in tying Manchin to President Obama. Obama is deeply unpopular in West Virginia. Manchin’s personal popularity may save him, but it’s not a given. Florida is another seat once thought to offer the Democrats some hope, which is now shifting to the GOP.
Elsewhere and what may save the Democrats are some races where they’re faring better than expected. Senator Barbara Boxer was at one time considered on the vulnerable list, but she has apparently managed to convince a majority of Californians that she deserves another term. In Washington State, Patty Murray, seems to have eked out a lead. And in Delaware, thanks to the GOP’s choice of Christine O’Donnell, who really does have a TV ad claiming she is not a witch (she apparently dabbled in witchcraft in years gone by (no, I’m not making that up)) the Democrats have a seat in their column they weren’t counting on. There could be some other surprises on election night, but right now, the math gives the Democrats 51 or 52 votes in the Senate. That’s a majority, but it still represents a substantial loss in their Senate clout.
Midterm elections are low turnout affairs. Republican and Republican-leaning independents are, as my grandmother used to say, “…in a mood.” They’re going to vote. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents seem to be sitting on their hands. There really is an enthusiasm gap. That’s all sweet music to the Republicans. Barring a miracle for the Democrats, on Wednesday morning, politics in Washington, D.C., “who is in,” “who is out,” “who wields power and who doesn’t,” will be radically different. To borrow a line from Betty Davis in one of her most famous movies, “Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”