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Midterm Elections 2010: With One Day Left, Democrats On The Defensive

Kevin Douglas Grant |
October 31, 2010 | 3:12 p.m. PDT

Executive Editor

The Democrats are hoping it's not 1994 all over again.  2010 certainly isn't looking good. 

In the '94 midterms, also known as the Republican Revolution, the GOP took the House and the Senate as voters turned on sitting Democrats.

In 2010, the Donkeys will consider themselves fortunate to keep the Senate. The House is long gone.

The Tea Party has tapped into voter frustration about the still-lagging economy and continued the "blue collarization" of the Republican Party.    

At the same time, independents, who helped carry Obama into the White House, are turning away from the Dems en masse this election.

The Christian Science Monitor reports: "Even more dispiriting for Democrats: Fifty-five percent of independents say they'll vote for a Republican, with 32 percent saying they'll go for the Democrat in their congressional district."

Obama set the wrong tone from the beginning, reports the Financial Times, and now it's coming back to bite him:

"[In 2008] Hillary Clinton, [Obama's] challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, tore into him for his disdainful tone towards working-class economic anxiety and, in his words, those who 'get bitter and cling to guns or religion'. Sadly for Mr Obama this same anxious rebellion has powered victorious Tea Party candidates, who now could harry him for his remaining time in office."

Independents are upset in a different way, but are more than ready to punish the Democrats for perceived policy failures. 

Reading American discontentment in the President, GOP strategists framed candidates' messages to harp on Obama's shortcomings - as well as key allies Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The polls indicate the strategy is working powerfully.  

Reuters reports that Reid, for example, "is in danger in Tuesday's election of becoming the first U.S. Senate majority leader in 58 years to be booted out of office by home-state voters."

Obama himself is scrambling through Connecticut Ohio, Pennsylvania and his home state of Illinois to shore up support for Democratic Senate candidates there.  The New York Times sums up the atmosphere of crisis well:

"A sour political environment has left almost no Democratic senator on the ballot immune to forceful challenges by Republicans."

The Wall Street Journal writes: "One nonpartisan prognosticator, Stuart Rothenberg, said Friday he thought the Republicans could pick up as many as 70 House seats—something no party has achieved since 1948."

On Tuesday, the difference between a split Congress and a Republican sweep will hinge on very close races in Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and here in California.  

The latest poll analysis from Five Thirty Eight indicates the GOP won't pick up enough of those states to win the Senate.  But it could happen.

On top of the Congressional battles, gubernatorial races across the country have tended to lean Republican.  With the NYT estimating that Republican governors could take as many as 30 of the 50 states, America's state capitals will get a lot redder.  That's particularly important this year for one reason: the 2010 Census.

The Washington Post reports:  "the prospect of reapportionment and redistricting - the reallocation and then redrawing of congressional seats based on the 2010 Census - at the gubernatorial level makes what happens in the states arguably more important."

With either a full or a partial change of power, things will get more difficult for Obama and the long-term prospects of his party.  But he won't be a sitting duck.  There is doubt the the Tea Party can sustain itself as a long-term movement, Obama still has decent support among Democrats, and he lacks a viable Republican challenger for 2012.

No matter what, Democrats are going to feel the pain on Tuesday.  The next order of business: what are they going to do about it?

 

 

Reach Kevin Grant here.

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