April 25, 2010

"The Democratic disaster scenario would make absolute sense if it did not also require that the Republicans do something right."

"The whole world is expecting a cataclysm for the Democrats in November," Gail Collins concedes. But she notes what is obvious: You can't beat something with nothing. You can't run Not A Democrat. You have to dig up an actual Republican that real people will vote for. It's not so easy.


Also in today's NYT is this Jeff Zeleny/Adam Nagourney piece about how Democrats who've long held seats in the House of Representatives are finding their safe districts not so safe anymore.
Representative David R. Obey has won 21 straight races, easily prevailing through wars and economic crises that have spanned presidencies from Nixon’s to Obama’s. Yet the discontent with Washington surging through politics is now threatening not only his seat but also Democratic control of Congress.
Hey, Zeleny's in Ashland. Welcome to Wisconsin!
In the Seventh District of Wisconsin, which covers 17,787 square miles from the middle of the state to Lake Superior, signs of Mr. Obey’s service in Congress are found in new bridges, highway expansions and countless other projects. Yet there are fewer signs of Mr. Obey himself. At the Democratic Party office in Wausau, his hometown, campaign placards hang in the window for Senator Russ Feingold, but none for Mr. Obey.

When asked to discuss his re-election bid, Mr. Obey declined, saying that it was too early to begin talking politics and that he was focused on his legislative duties. “I have never met anyone who thought political campaigns were too short,” he said.
Can Obey take solace in the Gail Collin's theory about the dearth of Republican opponents?
Mr. Obey, 71, was elected two years before [Sean] Duffy, 38, was born. Mr. Duffy is widely seen as leading in the Republican primary — his opponent is the candidate who lost to Mr. Obey two years ago by 22 percentage points — and his race has drawn support from party leaders in Washington, Tea Party activists and Sarah Palin.

He has been elected four times as the district attorney of Ashland County, but the attention surrounding him began in 1997 when he was on MTV’s “The Real World: Boston.” 
"The Real World"! Were you still watching "The Real World" in 1997? I bailed after Season 5 (Miami). That show peaked in San Francisco (Season 3). Here's a list of all the seasons. Boston was Season 6.
He also is well-known here as a champion lumberjack sports competitor.

He said he decided to challenge Mr. Obey because of his leading role in the economic stimulus bill, health care legislation and the growth of government. “I know that I can have a serious impact on the direction of the country if I could take out Obey,” he said.
Take out?
But Mr. Obey, who has a campaign balance of $1.4 million compared with $400,000 for Mr. Duffy, is also emblematic of a bright spot for Democrats: a financial advantage.
That's something. But $400,000 is not nothing.

ADDED: Duffy is married to Rachel from "Real World" San Francisco. Now, that means something to me. Rachel, whose full name now is Rachel Campos-Duffy, was an out-and-proud Republican on the show. And Rachel and Sean now have 6 children: Evita Pilar, Xavier Jack, Lucia-Belen, John-Paul, Paloma Pilar, and MariaVictoria Margarita.


AllenS said...

It's not how many votes a candidate gets, it's who counts the votes that matters.

David said...

I fully expect the Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, through mediocre candidate selection and becoming mired in social issue politics.

Alex said...

Oh god please stop with this tiring "Republicans can't win being party of No". Of course they can. This year especially people want NO more Democrats!

Anybody but Democrats

Alex said...

David - no doubt if GOP candidates get mired down in social issues again, they're toast because moderates when confronted with a fundie candidate will still vote against their immediate economic interest for the Democrat just out of pure revulsion.

Anonymous said...

Lots of Democrats won in 2006 running as Not A Republican. Not only is it possible to win by not being the other party, it's how parties usually win.

New York said...

Most interesting to me: What will be Obama's reaction if the Republicans win really big in November?

Probably it will mean that Obama will exert the most energy on the areas where Congress can't interfere with him ... especially foreign policy.

The pragmatists in the Democratic Party might then want him to move toward the center, but Megal-Obama is likely to pursue his grand agenda no matter what the cost.

KCFleming said...

The dearth of non-Democrat candidates is in fact frightening.

For example, yesterday I was asked to run. Jesus on ice skates. I kid you not. I would be the single most uncharismatic candidate in history. And if I was who they are looking at, we got nuthin'.

Dammit. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Alex said...

Pogo - it's time to face destiny and lead. I'd rather have the first 500 names in the phone book serve in legislatures/Congress then the current bunch of "pros".

Anonymous said...

I too think not-a-Democrat is weak.

The better position is to run as a not-a-Marx-quoting-Mao-extolling-Pelosi-saluting-failed-economic-policy-spendthrift.

Alex said...

Not-a-Democrat is just fine this year. But in 2012, yeah the GOP will need to have a more positive agenda.

Tank said...

At this moment, is "not a Democrat" any weaker than "not George Bush" was in the last elections? That + "not much more" may be enough.

Rialby said...

His wife is the hot conservative chick from the San Francisco season. I dug her.

Unknown said...

David's concern trolling, or wishful thinking, if you prefer, misses the point, as does Ms Collins. The economic situation probably won't have improved a great deal by November and neither will unemployment, particularly the U-6. There may also be another big collapse if people like Roubini (and Dr. Evil) are right, not to mention increased taxes and inflation.

How much money is in a given Republican's war chest right now may not be as relevant as some would think. A slug like David Obey will run unopposed, so he has a good bit more to play with now. Conservatives, however, are taking a page from the Democrats' book and making a lot of races like this national - sending money directly to candidates outside their state or district, so Duffy may well have a lot more at crunch time.

More to the point, there's a generational issue here. As the piece Ann quotes observes, a lot of these 'safe' Congressmen are old and tired, while the Republicans going after them are relatively young. We still worship youth in this country and it may be, with more bills passed no one wants and the economy sliding further, not to mention any possible foreign policy disasters one can imagine, Ms Collins' column may well be seen as the wishful thinking it probably is.

Lincolntf said...

The only reason the Left won in 2008 was that they had a 5-year campaign of hatred for conservatives to bank on. Now that all the "anti-war"-based hysteria has been mooted (though Obama has expanded the war into Yemen, expanded the Patriot Act, etc.) the Dems have to run on real world issues. They are wrong on virtually all of them, so the only question is what they will use as a distraction for the masses.
Calling the Tea Partiers racists is failing, blue seats are going red all over and the key election numbers under Obama (deficit and unemployment) make the Bush years look like a Gilded Age. We're on the right track and we'll be fine just so long as people continue to pay attention to what really matters.

Titus said...

I love the Nevada Senator who said bring a chicken to your doctor for payment.

Jana said...
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Jana said...

As long as "not a Democrat" isn't a great campaign strategy in 2010, can Gail warn the left that "not Bush" is a weak position as well?

Because that's the plan, I hear.

Pastafarian said...

Althouse said: "You have to dig up an actual Republican that real people will vote for. It's not so easy."

Because the media tells us how stoooopid all the Republicans are, and so many people nod along in agreement as if in a trance.

Pogo said: "For example, yesterday I was asked to run. Jesus on ice skates."

I've read enough of your comments here to say: You've got my vote. We don't agree on everything, but on about 95% of the most important things. And aren't you a doctor? (Or am I confusing you with another commenter?) That's a pretty good qualification right now -- sort of like military experience in a time of war.

Let me know if you need help with your campaign. Seriously.

Pastafarian said...

And by help, I mean stuffing envelopes or canvassing or contributing. That's all I'd be qualified to do.

I'm Full of Soup said...

As Edutcher said , Gail Collins and her MSM buds are doing some wishful thinking.

I see a tsunami that will sweep out the many,many baby boomer Dems in Congress. Furure election cycles will purge the Republican baby boomers and the country will not miss the baby boomers. Ever!

That is what Gail Collins fears btw. Her impending irrelevance.

rhhardin said...

Obama voter this morning.

Same house March 2009, Obama sign still up.

Irene said...

Duffy's colorful personal life will help his candidacy, much like Scott Brown's Cosmo spread drew attention to him.

Bonus: two of his children are named "Evita" and "Paloma."

Hagar said...

Most of the Old Guard Republicans are already gone from Congress. I think it will be interesting to see what the new guys will do after the 2010 elections and forward.

The Democrats front ranks are still dominated by the 1960's crowd, who are getting desperate to see the dreams of their youth enacted into law before they pass fom the scene. However, I do not think that their dreams necessarily are Obama's dreams.

AllenS said...

I'm in the Seventh District. I just sent Duffy $25 through Paypal.

John Stodder said...

Collins' problem is that she assumes she understands voters with whom she doesn't agree. Yes, sure, out of hundreds of senate and house GOP candidates, she can cherrypick a few asinine statements, positions or even entire careers, as one could just as easily with the Democrats. What Collins fails to recognize is that, as a die-hard Democrat-lover and Republican-hater, the asininity of a candidate who agrees with her would almost surely be overlooked. So why does she assume that conservative voters won't also overlook the asininity of candidates with whom *they* agree?

In Gail Collins' world, when you vote for a Democrat, you're voting for an enlightened philosophy, regardless of the flaws of the standard-bearer. Except in extreme cases, to Collins, the Democrat is always the superior choice intellectually and for the great masses, the superior choice from self-interest. Democrats, for example, will give you more stuff, like health care, than Republicans will. See? Clear advantage to the Democrat unless you're so rich you don't care about getting more stuff from the government. If you're voting for a Republican, you're voting for the personality, obviously, in her view. So the personality has to be stellar, gaffe- and scandal-free, and probably a liberal deep down. Only then does that GOP candidate earn your vote, and then only if the Democrat is weak or the party is going through one of those rare, temporary spates of unpopularity, like now.

On an op-ed page of stunning weakness compared to what it was 30 years ago, Collins is the shallowest thinker of all of them.

Wince said...

I can just see the bumper sticker now:

Don't blame me, I voted for Puck!

Der Hahn said...

What Paul Z. said.

When you're in a bizzaro world where Democratic fixtures like Representative Obey and Senator Boxer are not assumed to be in safe races, plenty of 'Not Democrats' are going to win.

The problem the Dems are going to have going forward is this rising tide isn't a surprise like the victories in 1980 and 1994. That's when you get the oddball winners that no one expects. Contra Collin's opinion, the GOP is getting good candidates because almost all races are competitive.

SteveR said...

Obey represents everything wrong with Congress. Period

I don't think you have to run as "not a democrat", how about, "I wouldn't have (didn't) vote for Porkulus/Big Ass Gavel Care/Cap and Tax."

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

"Not Democratic" is a winning message this year. People have seen what happened with one party rule during the early 2000s with the GOP, and they see what it has resulted in with the Democrats now. They don't like either case.

If the current 22% approval rating for Congress doesn't improve meaningfully by the elections, I don't know how the Democrats don't lose a whole lotta seats. But Gail is just doing her job providing Hope&Change to the Democratic base so funding doesn't dry up.

Balfegor said...

I don't think Republicans suffer from a lack of candidates at least as good as -- and often better than -- what the Democrats have on offer. The prospect of winning has a way of drawing out good candidates.

What's likely to sink the Republicans, if anything, is the national party or national leaders screwing up somehow -- getting in the way while Democrats shoot themselves int he foot, or something.

Michael Haz said...

Keep an eye on Sean Duffy. He could very well win the election against Obey, especially if a majority of Wisconsinites click the Republican lever in the gubernatorial contest.

Briane said...

The Republicans aren't just running on "Not Democrats." They're running on NOTHING. Didn't they just vow to be the "Party of No?" So their plan is apparently to just vote against everything the Dems put up -- and not put up anything of their own?

How will they explain that to voters? Will they say that there were no problems that needed fixing, or that there was no governing that needed to be done? That's one reason why you might vote against every single bill that's proposed: because it wasn't needed. But if there's a problem that the public thinks needs fixing, then the GOP is in a pickle.

Will they say that the Democrat solution was no good, a la health care? Where were the proposals to the contrary? The GOP claimed that health care needed fixing, but all they wanted to do was start over with their (in)famous blank page -- or Paul Ryan's disingenous solutions aimed at deciding for seniors what care providers they could use.

If something's broke and you don't propose fixing it, how do you sell that inaction to the public?

Of course, the GOP's "Party of No" may mean something a little different: I didn't hear much in the way of "No" when Obama proposed more offshore drilling. (Unless it was the chorus of "No way, really? He's okay, this Obama!") echoing off the walls of the strip clubs frequented by young Republicans.

All of which may be moot, as the single most decisive factor in elections is the way the public perceives the economy in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of an election year. So the GOP is really the party of "No, don't let the recovery start just yet."

From Inwood said...

In 2006 & 2008 the Dems won with a lot of nothings.

Not generally a good formula, but it worked for them then & .....

I'm not betting on a GOP takeover of either House.

And never-qualified-in-the-first-place guys get re-elected even tho they are old & gray & full of sleep & nodding by the fire. It's called "seniority".

Lincolntf said...

Now that the Congressional Budget Office has discovered that Obama's course has us headed for complete and total collapse (National debt will be 90% of GDP by 2020, which will precipitate a catastrophe unlike we've ever seen), I have a feeling that a lot of Democrats will be running on the "No" platform themselves.
It's one thing to B.S. people with platitudes and hollow promises for a while, but when voters look at their kids and realize that huge portions of their future incomes have been preemptively confiscated, that'll be a wake up call. Deliberately impoverishing the next generation is an Obama ideal, not an American one. Come November, Obama is going to hear "No" for the first time in his charmed and privileged life. Wonder how he'll handle it?

mariner said...
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mariner said...

What's likely to sink the Republicans, if anything, is the national party or national leaders screwing up somehow -- getting in the way while Democrats shoot themselves int he foot, or something.

Let's not overestimate Republicans.

Think kneecapping themselves while Dems are only shooting themselves in their feet.

Tina said...

I think the perfect Republican slogan for this election year is: "No Means No".

Because the people said no to the bail outs - every one of them, from both parties - and they ignored us and did them anyway.

We said no to dissing our allies, and they did it anyway.

We said no to "giving us health care" and they did it anyway.

We said no to passing any health bill without serious strong tort reform in it and they did it anyway.

We said no to refusal to enforce the laws of the land, and they said we were "misguided".

We said no to passing bills that none of the people we elected had read, and they did it anyway.

We said no to never-ending unemployment payments and they renewed them anyway, again and again and again.

I could go on, but you get the drift. ;-)

Someone has to be the parent here.

No means no.

mariner said...


That's good.

Big Mike said...

Overlooked by Collins is that one does not have to run on "I'm not a Democrat." One can easily run on "send a message to Washington."

Heck, the way things are going right now, Republicans can win by running on "hope and change."

mariner said...

Further to "No Means No", here's an alternative.

Oh, HELL no!

I like the quote of the day, too.

1775OGG said...

Well now, if the election wer eto be held today, Conservatives might just sweep all contested races. On the other hand, since 11/2/2010 is still the magic date, somehow, some way, Conservatives need to select good candidates, stay on message, address the facts, and press hard.

Ok, we conservatives might be doomed with our current NRC chairman but maybe we can still snatch victory over defeat.

That's what "Wright'sHouse" is all about.