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Are Democrats looking better for 2010?


I'm a bit annoyed that Josh Marshall wrote this post suggesting that Democrats are looking a bit better in advance of the 2012 election. Annoyed because I've been toying with becoming an optimist on the matter myself.

Josh focuses on the poll data, but I'd tell the story a bit differently, with a heavy reliance on the graph -- which Nancy Pelosi's office is touting -- above: It looks to me like Democrats are going to pass health-care reform, and the near-death experience has reminded the base that there's a lot to like about the bill. It also looks like the economy is recovering, and there's still a lot of stimulus money left to flood into the system. That's making Republicans nervous, and so they've been breaking ranks on the Senate's recent jobs bills, with a good number crossing the aisle to vote for them. That suggests that the Democrats have hit on a good legislative strategy to push through the rest of the year. Add in that Chris Dodd is moving forward on financial regulation, and now Democrats have a way to put themselves on the right side of anger at Wall Street.

Come November, you could imagine a Democratic Party that's passed health-care reform, can boast about a fragile economic recovery, and can put the Republicans on the defensive on at least one or two key issues. That lends itself to an argument of accomplishment, a warning that you don't want to switch horses midstream, and normal campaigning. Now, I don't want to go too far in this argument: Optimism here means something like Democrats will lose 20 or 30 seats in the House rather than 50 or 60. Losses are assured. But it's increasingly looking like catastrophic losses aren't.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 12, 2010; 4:23 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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If Obamacare passes, the Dems will lose BOTH Houses of Congress.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 12, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2: That's funny. I was about to say the opposite.

"If HCR fails to pass, then it's a demoralized Democratic base, and huge losses."

Pretty hard to make predictions like yours when your incentives lie in opposition to those you presume to advice. That is to say, listening you you would be like taking advice from Exxon on how to wean ourselves from fossil fuels.

Posted by: JERiv | March 12, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't hard making that prediction. Have you read today's WaPo opinion page by two DEM pollsters who basically say the same thing?

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 12, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I'll say it again & again: for those of us who don't care about politicians or parties but care a great deal about fixing what's broke, the Dems have to go into Nov with a record of accomplishment. If they don't, folks like me will vote a straight Rep ticket, in hopes that, after those bozos put everything into the cr*p*er, we'll get a Congress & WH who will do what needs to be done.

Posted by: davidpancost | March 12, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

as opposed to the two of you i prefer to look at the graph. I'm sorry I don't see it. Economic recovery is still very slow and everyone believes it will be for some time. people may get a warm and fuzzy feeling when we think about an end to pre-ex on kids and that's all good. And then we get all giddy about keeping our kids (those that have them) on our plan until age 26 all the while misled that this doesn't come free (but hey who cares, its free for me!!!).

Then come 2011 the TAXES kick in. And when healthcare premiums rise next year as much as this Republicans rightly or wrong will say "How's that hope and change treating you?"

Maybe it won't be the slaughter but Ms. Nancy's day will come to hand over the gavel.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 12, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Typo alert: Ezra wrote 2012 at one point when he meant 2010.

So visionbrkr, as concerns this post new taxes in 2011 will have limited impact on Nov 2010.

Posted by: jdhalv | March 12, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

It has been over a year since Obama took office and the economy is still shedding jobs and the Dems think they are going to be able to run on that? Give me a break. Unless something absolutely miraculous happens, unemployment will be over 9%, with virtually every economist predicting it will be at least 9.5% when the midterms roll around. Even the White House believes it will average 10% for the year. As for the recovery, we have heard claims for months that the recession ended last summer. But here we are, in the middle of March, still losing jobs with a 16.8% real unemployment rate. Even with that supposedly super duper graph, Obama has 61% disapproval on his handling of the economy.

And I don't think any respectable political prognosticator was predicting that the Dems were going to lose 60 votes.

Posted by: Bob65 | March 12, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Just wait until state and local governments start massive layoffs during the start of their fiscal years around July 1 of 2010.

Posted by: lancediverson | March 12, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse


Ya i was thinking more towards the Presidential elections. 8+% unemployment, high taxes, higher interest rates to me make a bad potion for Obama et al.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 12, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2: ... are you being facetious? I seriously can't tell, so if you are, I'm sorry!

In case you aren't, here's a snippet from Jonathan Chait on those two DEM pollsters.

"Schoen.... His role as a pundit now consists largely of appearing in right-wing media making conservative arguments. Here he is following Obama's election win, authoring a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled "Democrats Should Overinterpret A Victory Mandate." Two months after Obama's inauguration, he was writing another Journal op-ed, with conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen, arguing that Americans "support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced." Here he is in January writing another Journal op-ed with Caddell attacking Obama's "unprecedented attempt to silence the media." He seems to appear regularly on Fox News offering agreeable analysis to the likes of Sean Hannity.

Caddell, meanwhile, has shifted even further to the right. Appearing on Glenn Beck's show, he declared that Obama practices "gangster politics that will make Al Capone so happy." You can watch him here with far right David Horowitz, declaring, among other exotic theories, his belief that the environmental movement is a plot to "deconstruct capitalism.""

If you interpret those two as DEM pollsters, then Sen. Bernie Sanders is a conservative republican. :-)

Posted by: JERiv | March 12, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse


Whether they are Dems or not, they could still be right (and I am not joking about that).

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 12, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

If passing the HCR bill was a bad move electorally for Democrats then Republicans wouldn't be warning Dems off. At most they, the Republicans, would be sitting quietly with a look of glee on their faces. That isn't happening.

As far as the numerous opinions I hear from political pundits I say, "So what?" These are the same people who assured us Hillary would be, without a doubt, the Dem nominee for 2008. They make predictions constantly and are wrong constantly. Just because they offer up their opinions for money doesn't mean they have any idea what they are talking about. Besides, the elections are many, many months away and, in politics, things can change quickly.

Posted by: nisleib | March 12, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"and can put the Republicans on the defensive on at least one or two key issues."

Honest question: when was the last time the Democrats put Republicans on the defensive? What was the issue? I honestly cannot remember a time when that was the case. And I'm not being snarky for a change, I'm seriously asking. Maybe I've gotten so used to Dems failing that I can't even recognize when they do their jobs anymore...

@JakeD2: "Have you read today's WaPo opinion page by two DEM pollsters who basically say the same thing?"

WaPo opinion page.. 'nuf said. It's not even worth the effort to see who those two pollsters are because the odds are they're handpicked to misrepresent the left.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 12, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Republican arguments that passing health-care reform will massively hurt the Democrats in the midterm election are based, in some cases, in stupidity and, in others, in bad faith. No other explanations work.

Posted by: thehersch | March 12, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Bigtunatim, subjectively I feel the same as you do, that the Dems are always more on defense than attack. By which I mean, they are not framing the debate but instead parrying Republican framing.

HOWEVER, the fact remains that Democrats have huge majorities in the House and Senate, plus they have the White House. They must be doing something right! And part of what they are doing right is helping labels like "in the side of the rich and big business" stick to Republicans.

Posted by: jdhalv | March 12, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

BigTunaTim and thehersch:

If you are so sure that the will be zero public backlash to Obamacare, then go ahead and RAHM it down our throats.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 12, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

JakeD2 - It can't be rammed down throats. It passed the Senate with 60 votes. That isn't ramming. If the Senate had voted 50-50 and the VP had to cast the deciding vote (see Bush Tax Cut #2 for Billionaires) then the word "ramming" would fit.

Tim - It isn't that Democrats haven't tried to put Republicans on defense so much as the media just won't let them. Republicans love to pretend they are the victims of the media and the media, having the collective intelligence of a fruit fly, have bought into it.

Posted by: nisleib | March 12, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

The Dems were never going to lose the 70 seats that the most extreme pundits saw. (Dick Morris said in August of last year the Dems would lose 100 seats.) Maybe 20 at worst, which is half what is needed to take the House, and a net 4 Senate seats. Barring something now unforeseen, the Dems should be in much better shape, having passed health care, financial regulations, more stimulus as well as their earlier accomplishments like equal pay and S-CHIP. Maybe even something on climate.

As the election draws closer, Dems will return to the fold, with the prospect of crazy GOPers taking over. African-Americans will come out to support Barack Obama.

The Dems will lose ND for sure, likely DE, maybe AR. I can see the GOP losing one, maybe two seats (MO, NH, OH) and CO, PA and maybe even NV coming back to the Dems.

Health care will be better than the critics from left and right assume.

Posted by: Mimikatz | March 12, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Always enjoy reading about Ezra's alternative universe. He and Bob Schrum could actually be kings of their own ideological planet and ignore what actually is occuring before their very eyes.

Posted by: jkilmer | March 12, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse


I said "RAHM".


Did you catch Klein on Colbert?

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 12, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

JakeD2: You seem to come down squarely in the stupid column.

Passing health-care reform will certainly displease some voters--Republican voters, mostly. Failure to pass health-care reform would have 1994-like consequences. Losers and failures don't attract a lot of enthusiastic support.

Posted by: thehersch | March 12, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse


You will note that I never resort to ad hominem personal attacks. Passing Obamacare, with tax and insurance premium increases -- especially if access to healthcare goes down -- will displease more than just Republican voters ; )

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 12, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

JakeD2: I merely observe that your earnest zeal seems to rule out bad faith; all that remains is stupidity to explain your apparent beliefs. Nobody between now and election day will be hit with higher insurance premiums or taxes as a result of the Senate bill + Obama's tweaks to be passed separately. I suppose if the Republicans can convince people of that which is not true, they might pick up some votes as a result.

Posted by: thehersch | March 12, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse


once healthcare is "the dems" and no longer insurers "fault" when next year's round of inevitible increases comes around and its even worse than this year's Dems will be linked to it. Oh and healthcare policies renew year-round. Add in the taxes to it, the state's budget deficits etc and it'll look UGLY.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 12, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

One of the critical considerations is that the initial economic stimulus bill was both too small and inefficient -- too small initially and inefficient because it was roughly a third in the form of tax cuts, which have a smaller multiplier effect than direct jobs creation for the unemployed, or even extensions of unemployment payments. These deficiencies were evidently the result of a failed effort to gain bipartisan support.

It seems we're heard a great deal from the deficit hawks, but very little from those most affected: in the case of HCR the uninsured, and the unemployed. Perhaps they may feel motivated to vote after reviewing the tape of Senator Bunning (R-KY)explaining that he was forced to miss a basketball game, or reading the letter from Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) to the New York Times, explaining that extension of unemployment benefits would reduce their motivation to find a job (Senator Kyl did cite Paul Krugman's textbook to back his theory, but Prof. Krugamn was hardly writing about a condition where there are 6 people unemployed for every job vacancy.)

A lot of us have been disappointed by the policies of the Obama administration, having hoped it would be more forceful in reversing the abuses of the Bush years, but it's hard to believe that proper display of these two examples of Republican indifference ( "I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00 and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year" ) won't offer a convincing reminder that there is a real difference between the two parties, and a Democratice majority, in spite of its serious flaws, is essential.

Posted by: su10 | March 13, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Ezra... you are at your best when you are not trying to be part of the clique. Who cares what Josh Marshall wrote or thinks? He's just another blogger. Big whoop.

If "liberal" bloggers, pundits and columnists weren't so busy trying to outnegative meme each other on the Obama administration, they'd be able to rationally discuss events and issues.

The economy is steadily improving, healthcare will get passed, the "public option" will be added in a separate bill later, Obama doesn't need fancy backdrops and stagecraft or need to mimic Bill Clinton to "connect" with the white voters who didn't vote for him in the first place, Scott Brown's election didn't have anything to do with healthcare nor is it the harbinger of gloom and doom for Democrats, Tim Geithner isn't the boogeyman, Washington isn't broken and neither is our government (you might not like how it works, but it is fully functioning).

Posted by: jade_7243 | March 13, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I continually amazed at Ezra's parroting the Obama line that passing Obamacare will meant great things for Democrats this fall. I think passing it will just give the Republicans more to bash Democrats over their big spending big government ways with trillions of dollars added to the debt by Obamacare on top of the other debt the Demcorats keep piling on. With Obamacare the American voter will get big tax increases and more government regulation long before the paltry benefits of Obamcare kick in.

Posted by: RobT1 | March 14, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I think that Democrats will be a lot better off in November if they pass the Health Care Reform, b/c not doing so would be political suicide. That's not to say that they'll be well off (don't take me out of context), they'll suffer some losses, but not catostrophic losses. They'll still control the House and Senate with lesser margins.

I don't think it's the Health Care Reform bill that's the most unpopular with the American people, it's the process. Whether you like the bill or hate it, there are some very popular provisions in it (from Republicans and Democrats) and the principles of the bill have a lot more support than the bill itself. I think the people are just tired and frustrated with how long it is taking and the fact that Congress has dwelled on this for an entire year now in the midst of a bad/recovering economy. They are frustrated with the hyper-partisanship and negativity associated with the bill, and the sooner Congress moves on from this debate the better it is politically for Dems. Think about it: if passing Health Care Reform is really as bad politically for Democrats as Republicans suggest, they probably wouldn't be going above and beyond to stop it at this point in the game. The notion that they are standing firmly against this "purely out of principle" is ridiculous; there has to be some political motivation, and probably a lot of it. They don't want to kill the bill, they want Congress to drag on with this bill as long as possible so issues like the economy and unemployment can go unaddressed (until next session)and they can blame the Dems for being "out of touch" and not tackling issues like the economy. In the mean time, they are making being unproductive their political agenda b/c that is what works for them and that's what is in their best interest.

If the GOP wants to be successful in November, it will take more than just opposition to the Dems; they have to have a real message and a real alternative, a compelling counter-narrative. Can you say what their message and alternative is at this point? If you can, then maybe you have an idea of how to display that message so the rest of the world sees it, b/c right now the only clear message is opposition. The Democrats had the same problem in 2004.

November is going to be like that analogy of two people running from a bear: neither of them has to be faster than the bear, they just have to run faster than their opponent. If Republicans can't make a case that they're the "lesser evil", I wouldn't count on too much success.

Posted by: ScottChalleezy | March 14, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

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