The Democratic Party is in total free fall, they're about five minutes away from folding up shop or, as ABC News put it, "Democrats are Dropping Like Flies." The 2010 elections are going to be a huge route for Democrats and, once the smoke clears, President Obama is likely to resign in disgrace and his name will be erased from the history books.
That's only a slight exaggeration of the media's reaction to recent announcements that a couple of top Democrats won't seek reelection. It's a sign that the electorate is down on Democrats, we're told. That Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd would retire, rather than lose reelection, reflects every election in every state and district. Democrats are clearly doomed. Doomed!
"You will certainly hear a lot of talk from Republicans that Democrats are beginning to face the reality of just how tough the current political landscape looks for them and they are running for the hills," ABC's David Chalian writes.
Yeah, you certainly will. But Republicans say a lot of things and anyone who's been paying attention knows that the things they say are about 97% BS.
For example, Dodd's retirement doesn't show that people are down on Democrats. It shows they're down on Chris Dodd. Now that Dodd is out of the race, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal -- a Democrat -- leads all opponents by at least 30 points. Dodd's departure actually makes it more likely that Democrats will hold onto that seat. If Dodd's retirement shows anything, it shows that Connecticut is down on Republicans. You really can't use Chris Dodd's situation to demonstrate how much people hate Democrats.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Robert Menendez argues that this isn't an occasion to put up the Democrats' tombstone. When it comes to retirements, Republicans are actually worse off.
[Sam Stein, Huffington Post:]
The New Jersey Democrat, speaking hours after Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced that this year would be their last in elected office, pushed back hard on the idea that Democratic senators were dropping like flies.
"Absolutely not," Menendez insisted in an interview with the Huffington Post. "We recognize the history, that midterm elections of the president's party going back to the Civil War are a challenge for the president's party. Only three times in history since the Civil War has the president's party sustained their present status or enhanced it. So, the bottom line is we have history running against us."
"I can say that while everybody today is riveted on these two retirements, the fact is Republicans have six retirements and they have to run the table across the board just to stay even to where they're at," Menendez added. "And in five of those six states we have some great candidates in very competitive races. So I look at it and say you wouldn't be seeing people getting into races in the senate if in fact it was a bad environment."
Of course, Menendez is paid to make partisan arguments. But the facts back him up here -- when it comes to retirements, Republicans continue to have problems. At this point, it's probably not a good idea for the GOP to play the lowered expectations game, since they'll want to excite their voters, but that game is coming. Republicans will start downplaying their chances, but with close to a year until election day, there's no reason to start now. Their base really needs a boost after three straight electoral disasters, so shake those pom-poms. But Republican triumphalism doesn't mean there's any substance behind it.
"Republican retirements outnumber Democratic retirements in the House, in the Senate, and among governors," writes Steve Benen. "The preferred Republican/media meme of the day doesn't match up well against reality."
To exacerbate GOP problems are the teabaggers. Ideological purists, they've shown no loyalty to what should be their party of choice. "[Republicans] are having some really bloodletting primaries in virtually all of their states. Particularly in open-seats, they are having these huge primaries," Menendez argues. "Whether it is the tea party people or the birthers or others, the reality is that the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, they keep pushing their candidates further and further to the right... So, the bottom line is, they are going to be out of sync of where the mainstream electorate is in the midterm election." This has been a recent problem with the right of the right -- they're good at winning primaries, but not so good in general elections. Right wing purity may be appealing to Republican voters, but Republican voters aren't the mainstream. As a result, their state primaries tend to nominate losers.
So who's likely to win bigger in November? Probably the Republicans, despite all their handicaps. But will they be able to win big enough to make any difference? Probably not. I'm not big on making predictions, but it seems pretty clear to me that the biggest losers in 2010 will be conservative Democrats -- in which case, I'm willing to call it a wash.
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