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Obama's Negative Coattails?

4:33 PM, Apr 1, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Roll Call reports on the epiphany that appears to have come over Republican campaign strategists over the last six weeks or so -- the realization that a McCain-Obama race is likely to produce a comfortable political climate for Republican candidates:

"Hillary certainly looked like she would help us a great deal when this all got started. But every day this goes by, the more Obama's veneer starts to crack and the more he looks like just another liberal," said Mike Slanker, political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "By the time we get to October, either one of them will help us."...

As the Democratic presidential primary drags on, Cole, the NRCC chairman, is finding company in his position that Obama - not Clinton - is a weaker nominee and the better candidate for Republicans to run against.

Cole bases his assessment on four factors. He sees Obama as farther to the left than Clinton, as a less-plausible commander in chief, as having a thinner résumé and therefore being easier to exploit politically, and as being weaker with key voting blocs, including women, senior citizens and conservative Democrats.

The Roll Call piece is good as far as it goes, but what's interesting is the dog that doesn't bark. Just a few weeks ago, the debate was over whether Obama would sweep in dozens of Democrats in swing districts on his coattails -- not how much he might help Democrats in a few seats in his home state. The fact that no one is any longer talking about a sweeping Obama win is a stunning and rapid change.

Rather, Republican strategists are looking at swing districts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Arizona and others. Those 4 states alone are home to 9 Democratic freshmen who will be vulnerable in their first run for re-election. The list also ignores a number of races where Republicans will be competitive regardless of how the Democratic presidential candidate fares.

Some Democrats continue to regard 2008 as a likely strong year for their candidates. They often point to party identification and the generic Congressional ballot as indicators that Democratic candidates are likely to fare well this year. But if John McCain wins the election -- by a wide or narrow margin -- it's hard to imagine this being a strong Democratic year.