Monday, April 12, 2010

A Bad Week for Democrats

When healthcare reform passed, Democrats were convinced their troubles were over. No more worrying about the midterms - Republicans won’t be able to win on a message of repeal. No more worrying about a disaffected base - we’ve accomplished something that generations of politicians have strived to accomplish.

Except you wouldn’t know it last week.

New Gallup polls find the image of the Democratic Party at a record low, the GOP tying on the generic ballot, and President Obama’s approval rating was down considerably.

The outlook for incumbents is especially bad right now. Only 49% of Americans said they believe their member of Congress deserves to be re-elected - that’s lower than when the question was asked in both 1994 and 2006.

Then there are the retirements. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) announced he would be stepping down, leaving his conservative northern Michigan seat open in a Republican year.

Then Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his intention to retire, leaving the President with the task of choosing a replacement - a task that will no doubt give Republicans a great political opportunity to characterize Democrats as “judicial activists” trampling on the Constitution.

Overall, things look about as bad as they can look for Democrats in the House. The new 2010 model by political scientist Alan Abramowitz projects a 37-seat swing for the GOP.

On the Senate side, things don’t look much better . CQ Politics is predicting eight seats will be toss-ups this year - four of which are Democratic - most of which with polling that suggests GOP take-overs. Arkansas - currently represented by Democrat Blanche Lincoln - is now in the “leaning Republican” column, while North Dakota - currently represented by Democrat Byron Dorgan - is considered a “solid” Republican seat now.

Even in Wisconsin - considered a “solid” Democratic seat - incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is facing a competitive challenge by Real Estate developer Terrance Wall, with former (and popular) Governor Tommy Thompson and former Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce (and well-known beer family heirloom) Dick Leinenkugel considering their own bids.

Despite all of these setbacks, it’s important to remember that one week is only one week.

There is still another 204 days until Election Day this year, and a lot can change over these next several months.

The economy hasn’t been great, but it’s getting better. Hopefully economic confidence is back to pre-2008 levels by Labor Day.

Many of the good things in the recent healthcare overhaul won’t actually be noticed by consumers for at least another two months. Hopefully support for this legislation increases when Americans can actually start to reap the benefits of it.

The average onlooker would say Democrats are in for a bloodbath this year. It certainly won’t be an easy year for us, but remember that politics is a difficult spectator sport, and it’s still to early to say anything for sure.

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