A Democratic victory is projected in Connecticut’s fifth congressional district in Western Connecticut. But Sam Caligiuri, the party-endorsed Republican challenger, isn’t deterred. He insists he can dethrone two-term Democratic incumbent Chris Murphy.
The proportion of Republicans, Democrats, and independents that turnout to vote shape the outcome of every election. Even small shifts in these percentages can dramatically alter political outcomes. And this November’s midterm is no exception.
Last November, as members of the House of Representatives considered the health care reform bill, President Obama made a dramatic trip to Capitol Hill. After closing down sixteen blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue, a half-mile long White House motorcade whisked the presidential entourage past cheering tourists to meet with the House Democratic Caucus.
How does a Republican unseat a conservative Democrat who voted against Obamacare and cap-and-trade? Mississippi state senator Alan Nunnelee, who spoke with me last week in Washington, thinks he has the answer.
Jay Cost has devised a new system for analyzing this year's midterm elections, in which he looks at the quality of opponents to incumbents, the popularity of the president, and voters' notions of the state of the country. Here's the conclusion, though it's worth reading the whole piece to understand his methodology:
President Obama’s behavior over the past year, and particularly the last month, borders on bizarre. The candidate who promised to bring people together and move beyond polarization has morphed into a divisive and defensive president.
Remember when President Obama assured nervous Democrats that "the big difference here and in '94 was you've got me"? Oops. In the last few months Obama worked to get four high-profile Democrats elected: Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine, Martha Coakley, and Arlen Specter. Each of them lost, by an average of 8.5 points.
As liberals engage in one of their periodic celebrations of how open-minded and intelligent they are, it's worth taking a moment to assess just how bad a political situation they've created for the Democrats. Consider:
Rasmussen has the Republicans ahead by 49-37 on the economy and 53-37 on health care. His likely voter poll shows GOP leads on every major issue area: national security (49-37), Iraq (47-39), Education (43-30), Immigration (47-34), Social Security (48-36), and Taxes (52-34).
When Republicans are winning issues like education, healthy care, and social security – normally solidly Democratic issues – a sweep of unimaginable proportions is in the offing.
In a normal year, a conservative as controversial as Michele Bachmann would be threatened. But 2010 is not a normal year. Not even close. Let's just say it's extremely unlikely that Bachmann could lose in this sort of political environment. And the sort of candidates likely to win elsewhere in the country -- the unknowns, the grassroots populists, the anti-establishment figures, the Tea Party-loving conservatives -- will resemble Michele Bachmann much more than, say, Jim Leach. If you think Palin and Bachmann drive liberals crazy now, just wait until the 112th Congress convenes in January 2011, when there will be dozens of Palins and Bachmanns. The reaction will be like a David Lynch movie. Heads will explode.
The Tea Party is more than a year old. It began with Rick Santelli's famous rant against the Obama administration's housing policy on February 19, 2009. As Santelli predicted, that policy failed and the administration announced a new approach last week. It probably won't help either. But the Tea Party endures. It gained steam with rallies on Tax Day 2009, the town hall meetings protesting Obamacare last August, and the 9/12 march on Washington. The trajectory of the Tea Party is upward; the trajectory of the Democrats, downward. And the rising Tea Party tide is lifting Republican boats. The movement is the best thing to happen to the GOP in years. It contributes enthusiasm, cash, and principle to a disillusioned and demoralized party.
More bad news for Democrats in the latest Pew survey. Forty-eight percent oppose the health bill, 38 percent approve. Obama's job approval is down to 46 percent, with 43 percent disapproval. A majority says health care costs will increase despite passage of health care reform. Ask voters what they think of Congress, and the four words you are most likely to hear are “dysfunctional,” “corrupt,” “self-serving,” and “inept.” "Tickle fight" didn't make the cut.
On a brighter note, the public continues to admire and like Obama personally, even if they are deeply divided when evaluating his job performance. And voters also say the war in Afghanistan is improving. Prosecution of the war there continues to be one of the president's strongest issues.
Democrats won congressional campaigns in 2006 and 2008 campaigning as moderates. The party fielded candidates with attractive personal stories who did not stray far from the center. One of those candidates was former Mary Kay cosmetics saleswoman Debbie Halvorson, a freshman elected in 2008 in Illinois's Eleventh Congressional District.
This was no ordinary victory. Illinois 11 is a Republican place. Bush won it in 2000 and 2004. Halvorson's predecessor, Republican Jerry Weller, held the seat since 1994 before retiring in 2008. But the GOP trend did not hold in a Democratic year, with Illinois's own Barack Obama at the top of the ticket. Obama defeated McCain 53 percent to 45 percent. Halvorson defeated her Republican opponent, businessman Marty Ozinga, 58 percent to 34 percent.