As 2009 draws to a close, the politically wonky among us begin to turn our eyes towards the 2010 election landscape. Congressional midterm elections will be taking place less than a year from now, meaning (while some might consider it laughably premature) it is time to pay some attention to the upcoming races.
But as I sat down to write about this very subject, I found that fellow Huffington Post blogger Dylan Loewe had already done a stellar job with the subject. So, rather than taking the angle Loewe has already excellently explored, I will instead merely excerpt his seven pieces of advice for Democrats who are worried about the upcoming midterms. These are just the titles of his seven tactics, I should point out -- Loewe further explains each one, in detail. I highly recommend reading his article in full to see exactly what he's talking about, because all of them are worth the attention of anyone concerned with Democrats' chances next year..
1. Pass health care reform before the State of the Union.
2. Pass a jobs bill.
3. Have an immigration debate.
4. Talk Deficit Reduction.
5. Hang a Lantern on Your Problem.
6. Nationalize and Localize... at the same time.
7. Define victory.
So, since Loewe has already covered the ground of "what Democrats should do if they feel like getting re-elected" so well, I am left with just a few random thoughts and unconnected items. Which means relying on an old trick that used to appear a lot more often in these columns... three-dot journalism! Named by the unquestioned champion of the style, the late great Herb Caen, we string together several random thoughts on next year's political prospects, complete with a write-in contest on how to better spend $660,000, and four crystal-ball-type predictions for next year's midterms at the end. Without further ado...
...Of course, the funniest thing to come down the pike in quite a while is the Republican Party considering a "purity test" to subject their candidates for office, before the national party apparatus donates money to their campaigns. This brilliant idea came out of a chance remark by none other than Saint Ronald of Reagan himself, who famously said that "someone who agreed with him eight out of 10 times was his friend, not his opponent." Following the Reagan logic, Republicans wants to use a list of ten points to measure Republican candidates next year, and if they fail to agree on three out of ten on the list, then they aren't true Reagan Republicans and should be shunned.
The heavy, heavy irony is, of course, that Ronald Reagan himself wouldn't have measured up to the list. John Nichols of The Nation has the full list, titled "Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates" (which is far too long to type, so I will refer to it henceforth as "RUPSuC," for brevity's sake). Nichols also grades Ronald Wilson Reagan using the list. The Gipper fails on an astounding ten out of ten of the RUPSuC's issues.
Perhaps if the Republican Party is looking for "Reagan's Unity," they should take to heart another favorite line of Ronnie's, when talking about the party -- his "eleventh commandment" for Republicans: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Because Ronnie, whether you liked him or loathed him, was all about expanding his party in order to win elections, not shrinking it...
...Other interesting news from Republicanland is a new poll out showing that, given three choices, voters now state who they'd likely vote for in the 2010 election (with no candidate's name given, just party name) in the following order: (1) Democrats, (2) Tea Partiers, (3) Republicans. Even more astounding, this comes from Rasmussen Reports, which is generally considered a Republican-leaning polling organization. Their numbers:
In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
But the news isn't necessarily rosy for Democrats. Because adding together the Tea Partiers and the Republicans (assuming, if there were no third-party Tea Party candidate, that these folks would all vote Republican) would beat the generic Democrat in the race. And the Independent breakdown is even worse news, for both Republicans and Democrats alike:
Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.
This, as I said, is interesting news, although it's likely too early to tell what sort of effect it will have next year. A few snap conclusions are in order, though. The first is that the Tea Party folks can now claim a lot more support than just a few crazy folks waving incomprehensible signs and shouting angry rhetoric. Democrats underestimate the strength (and breadth) of the movement at their peril. The second is that if Tea Party candidates do launch third-party bids in the general election (if their chosen candidate loses a Republican primary, one assumes), Democrats could benefit greatly (see: recent race in NY-23) by the resulting split vote. And the third is sheer speculation, I have to admit. There are two possibilities that have to be at least brought up here. The first is that we truly are witnessing the birth of a third party, which could eventually eclipse the Republican Party itself. Or, perhaps, the Republican Party will continue, but with the Tea Partiers fully at the helm (both of these would result in a similar scenario, the only real difference would be in what the party actually called itself).
In any case, the Tea Party folks bear close watching next year, most especially in Senate primary fights...
...This one is too funny for words, so we're going to present it as a write-in contest. The grassroots movement to draft Lou Dobbs for a presidential run has suspended its support for Dobbs after he not only went on (gasp!) Telemundo, but actually attempted to soften his anti-immigrant and anti-amnesty stances. Meaning that, as Democratic Underground's recent "Top Ten Conservative Idiots" column put it:
Congratulations Lou -- ten minutes into your presidential campaign and you've already lost the only people who were going to vote for you. Way to go!
Two websites urging Dobbs to run (I refuse to link to them, if you'd like you can go to the previous link and scroll down to item nine to find one of them) have put up a letter un-endorsing Dobbs and cancelled their other operations. But they've raised "over $660,000" so far! Leaving us to wonder... was it another $6,000 "over," making the true total $666,000? No, wait, that's not what we were wondering... we were wondering instead what better use that money could go to, if it's not going to try to get Lou Dobbs elected.
Be creative in your answer to the following: What would you use $660,000 for, rather than electing Lou Dobbs president? You can answer in the form of lampooning the intent of the donors ("Build a moat on the U.S./Mexican border, and fill it with alligators"), or perhaps suggest something that would make the donor's heads simultaneously explode ("give it to La Raza").
So warm up your keyboards, and let us know how $660,000 could be better spent than funding President Lou Dobbs' election...
...And while you're at it, take your own crack at reading what political climate Democrats will face next year. Using two criteria, we've come up with four possibilities. But I've left the definitions of the criteria so broad that you can decide for yourself what they mean.
The first criterion is the economy. Pick whatever numbers you like to measure this -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the unemployment rate, the foreclosure rate, the GDP -- or whatever else strikes your fancy. Simply choose whether the economy will be "up" next October, or "down."
The second criterion also has a broad definition -- healthcare reform. Choose whether healthcare reform "succeeds" or "fails." Now, you can define "a bill passes and is signed by President Obama, but is so watered down that it is virtually meaningless" as a "fail" if you'd like -- or as a "success." It all depends on how you define the relative success or failure of the effort.
I realize this is oversimplification, but hey, we're still a long way out from this election, so attempting to get much more specific at this point would be kind of foolish. The last four "three-dot" items here are how I see all four possible outcomes, also in rather broad form. Pick which you think is most likely, or feel free to make up your own...
...Economy down, healthcare reform fails. We'll start with the most dismal, and work our way up to the most optimistic. If the economy is down next fall, and if Democrats' efforts to pass meaningful healthcare reform have failed in one way or another, then Democrats are going to face a slaughter at the polls next November. Since the ballots will have neither the names "Bush" or "Obama" on them, Democrats are going to have to stand on their own accomplishments... or lack thereof. If the economy still sucks rocks next fall, and if healthcare reform is seen as a failure, Democrats lose 45 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate. Washington grinds to an absolute halt as a result, for the next two years...
...Economy down, healthcare reform succeeds. Democrats, even if the economy is still horrible, will at least have a big issue to run on next year if they succeed in getting healthcare reformed. Which will help counteract the normal losses in most new presidents' first midterm election. Democrats lose 20 seats in the House, and three seats in the Senate. But this could actually help the party, in a way, since Harry Reid is one of those three -- forcing Democrats to elect new leadership in the Senate...
...Economy up, healthcare reform fails. This one is really only marginally better than the last one, since the voters will be more optimistic due to a rising economy (which normally boosts the incumbent party's chances), but will also see Democrats in Congress as ineffective. Especially in the Democratic "base" -- who is so disgusted at the failure of meaningful healthcare reform that they stay home in droves, giving a lot of races to the Republicans almost by default. Democrats lose 30 seats in the House, but only two in the Senate. One of which, is (once again) Harry Reid...
...Economy up, healthcare reform succeeds. Everyone got their rosy-colored glasses on? OK, then we'll begin. If the economy has recovered in tangible ways to people's lives, and healthcare reform is seen as a smashing success for President Obama and Democrats in Congress, and if the opposition is having a vicious knife fight between third-party Tea candidates and Republicans, then the Democrats could actually come out of 2010 in fairly good shape. Democrats lose five races in the House, but pick up two in the Senate -- making Joe Lieberman and one generic Blue Dog completely irrelevant. The only down side to this is that Harry Reid will likely stay at the helm...
...OK, those are my random thoughts for 2010, presented laughably early in the election season purely for your enjoyment (or abuse). I now ask you to share your random 2010 thoughts with everyone in the comments....
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com