Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Democrats continue their wishful thinking

In the latest attempt to persuade voters that Democrats will be the clear winners in the upcoming mid-term elections, the AP put out an article today listing the reasons why people will not vote for Republicans. And incorrect assumptions abound.

Republicans are three steps from a November shellacking _ each a grim possibility if habitually divided Democrats get their acts together.

First step: Voters must focus on the national landscape on Nov. 7 rather than local issues and personalities that usually dominate midterm elections.
That would sting Republicans, who trail badly in national polls.

Second step: Voters must be so angry at Washington and politics in general that an anti-incumbent, throw-the-bums-out mentality sweeps the nation.
That would wound Republicans, the majority party.

Third step: Americans must view the elections as a referendum on President Bush and the GOP-led Congress, siding with Democrats in a symbolic vote against the Iraq war, rising gas prices, economic insecurity and the nagging sense that the nation is on the wrong track.

That would destroy Republicans, sweeping them from power in one or both chambers and making Bush a lame duck.

Less than six months out, most Democratic and Republican strategists say the first two elements are in place for now _ a national, anti- incumbent mind-set _ and all signs point to the third.

Back to those three steps.

NATIONAL ELECTION: Among the two dozen Republican and Democratic strategists interviewed in the last two weeks, there was unanimity that the fall campaigns will be national in scope. Voters will give local issues less attention than normal, a bad sign for the GOP.
"If we keep it local we win; if they nationalize issues, they win," said Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, head of the GOP Senate committee, seemed resigned to a national campaign. "Obviously, we're going to do everything we can here at the Senate committee to minimize any aspect of that," she said.

Even though the article claims that 24 Republican and Democratic strategists were interviewed and ALL agreed that the national issues will be the focus, I'm not buying it. Everyone has heard Tip O'Neill's quote that "All politics are local politics." It was true in the past and nothing has changed. When most voters head into the ballot booth, they vote for "their" guy (or gal, as the case my be), especially if the opponent has nothing different or new to offer. Incumbents also have the advantage of the office. They can and do fill bills with pork for their districts. The more money you bring home, the better your chances of winning re-election. Case(s) in point, Ted Kennedy and Ted Stevens.

THROW THE BUMS OUT: More than 70 percent of Americans tell pollsters that the nation is on the wrong track. Larger percentages think corruption is a major problem in Washington. Incumbents have been roughed up already this year in Pennsylvania and Indiana, and in both cases Republicans suffered the worst.
If this shapes up to be an anti-incumbent midterm, "we'll lose some members" in Congress, said Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf, "but they have more incumbents."

While the polls are showing growing anger among Americans, I hope that the Democrats aren't relying on this as part of their strategy for reclaiming the House and Senate. Even though the mantra of the voting population might be "Throw the bums out," a lot of voters think that it is the other guy's problem. They lay the blame at the door of all the OTHER Representatives or Senators, while voting for their incumbent. Again, this leads back to what I said before - people tend to vote for the guy who already has the job.

ANTI-REPUBLICAN TIDE: Whether 2006 turns out to be an anti-incumbent or anti-GOP election "is the 15-seat question," said Democratic strategist Dane Strother, referring to the number of seats the Democrats need to win to seize control of the House.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says GOP majorities are "clearly in jeopardy" because the political landscape is both anti-incumbent and anti-Republican.

All of these "reasons" are missing the point. If the Republicans lose control of Congress it is not because of the "anti-Republican" or "anti-incumbent" sentiment of Americans. It will be because they are not listening to what their constituents want. But in order for the Democrats to win a "landslide," they will have to overcome a lot of obstacles. Oh, I know they are looking at the 1994 mid-term elections as proof that it can happen, but they are forgetting a major detail. The Republicans in 1994 had the "Contract with America." They had ONE clear, concise message that resonated across the country. What is the current Democratic party's message. Well, that depends upon who you ask.