1. Will the GOP Take Control of the Senate? It's looking better and better for Republicans in the upper chamber. While some factors are still variable – like how the unusually large number of undecideds break in Illinois – their path to a Senate majority is getting clearer every day.
Consider that the GOP now leads in the RealClearPolitics average in nine Democratic-held seats: Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, West Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois. Nine pickups would yield a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Joe Biden breaking the tie in the chamber.
The Republicans need one more seat, and two Democratic incumbents – Patty Murray in Washington and Barbara Boxer in California – are under 50 percent and face very strong Republican challengers who are good fits for their states. The RealClearPolitics average in Washington has Murray’s lead down to a single point; her advantage now depends in large part upon a three week old poll from CNN/Time that showed her up 6. Factor in the anti-incumbent mood, the tendency so far for independents to break against the Democrats, and the possibility of record-setting Republican turnout, and I think at this point the GOP grabs at least one of these two seats.
There remains very little margin for error for Republicans, and plenty of time for at least one thing to go wrong, so we'll see how things look in a week or so. Still, this is now a very real possibility.
2. Latest Sign of the Dempocalypse. The latest sign comes from CBS News, whose new poll finds independent voters breaking to the GOP by a jaw-dropping 44-24 margin. Looking over the polls in the RealClearPolitics generic ballot average, this is where the independent vote currently stands:
Every one of these polls suggests that Republicans will do at least as well with independents as they did in 1994. Allocate the undecideds proportionally, and we’re looking at an average prediction of the independents breaking nearly 2:1 to the GOP. When we factor in Republican enthusiasm, and the slow-but-steady growth in the percentage of self-identified Republicans in the voting public – it’s likely that a higher share of the electorate will be Republican than in 1994. All in all, this suggests a final popular vote result greater than the 53.5 percent - 46.5 percent GOP win in 1994.
3. New Democratic Strategy: Run As a Republican! This story was making the rounds Thursday:
Rep. Bobby Bright (AL-2) on Thursday became the first House Democratic incumbent to say that he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker if he is reelected and Democrats retain the majority.
"I am not going to vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Neither the leader of the minority party, John Boehner, nor the present speaker, will get my vote," Bright told Montgomery station WSFA.
Bright added that he intended to cast his vote for a centrist "who is much more like me."
Other conservative Democratic incumbents in tough re-election battles have made statements that have fallen short of committing to vote for Pelosi as speaker of the 112th Congress, but Bright is the first to say that he would definitely not vote for Pelosi, the first female House speaker in U.S. history.
Ultimately, if Pelosi wins the backing of the caucus, Bright’s non-vote on the House floor would be as good as a vote for John Boehner. So, in what sense of the word would he still be a Democrat?
I guess that is the strategy you have to pursue this cycle if you're a Democratic congressman from Montgomery, Alabama. Of course, it raises an important question: if Pelosi is such a terrible choice, why did Bright vote for her in January 2009?
4. Obama the Scold. I have been mostly bemused by President Obama’s political strategies since he jaunted off to Europe in the summer of 2008. And I just don’t get this:
President Obama returned Wednesday night to his get-off-your-duffs message, warning Democrats at a low-key million-dollar fundraising dinner against "sulking and sitting back."
"One of the strengths of Democrats is that we don't march lockstep. We like to have internal arguments and we're very self-critical. We tend to look at the glass as half-empty. And that makes us better," he said to a dining room filled with donors. "But that's also a weakness, particularly four weeks before an election."…
Yet as the president's time on the stump has increased, so has discussion within the party about whether criticizing the base, as Obama and other top Democrats have done, is effective.
Biden said last week that "our base constituency [should] stop whining," and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) said this week that liberals unimpressed by Obama's tenure need to "get over it.
The latter remark sent Democratic strategist Donna Brazile to her Twitter account Tuesday to criticize Rendell.
"These attacks are becoming a nuisance. Stop it," she tweeted, adding, "I consider myself a fiscally sane progressive, but the attacks on 'Liberals' or the 'professional left' will not turn out the vote."
What? Why criticize one’s own side like this before an election? I can appreciate doing it after the election. One of Harry Truman’s talking points on the stump in 1948 was that the farm and labor vote stayed home in 1946 and got the “Do Nothing” Republican 80th Congress. But to scold people before an election even happens?
Question: is this just self-indulgence from the president and his inner circle because they see the writing on the wall, or is there an actual political strategy here?
5. Quotes For the Day.
“(Woodrow) Wilson lacked the common touch, and loved humanity in the abstract rather than people in particular. Unlike T.R., he could not descend into the market-place or emulate the prize-ring; throughout his eight years of office he was always aloof and often alone; no one ever called him W.W. or Tommy! His humor and warm affections appeared only to a few intimate friends. 'Wilson is clean, strong, high-minded and cold-blooded,' wrote F.K. Lane, the warm-hearted man who became his Secretary of the Interior...In an era of fierce contention, and without Lincoln’s ability to express himself in simple, homely language, he was certain to be misunderstood.”
-Samuel Eliot Morison, Henry Steele Commager, and William E. Leuchtenburg, The Growth of the American Republic, Volume II.
“[Obama’s] got to connect with the American people. The American people have to feel that the president senses and -- the suffering they're going through, and wants to be a part of the solution. He's got a lot of strength, but that connectivity, that ability to transmit the fact that he feels for people, I think, is something he needs to work on…”