Challenges facing Democrats in up-coming Congressional elections.
It would be difficult to over emphasize the importance of this off-year election for Congress. A return of the extreme conservative-dominated Republicans to control of the House of Representatives will effectively make President Obama’s remaining domestic agenda the lamest of ducks. This would put the economic recovery, tepid though it’s been for the middle and lower classes, in serious jeopardy. With the legislative powers of the President to counter the slowdown effectively neutralized it will be difficult to prevent another recession. And a by-product of such an economic slowdown would surely be a difficult hurdle for the next Democratic nominee for President to jump over.
Many Republican seats are gerrymandered in such a way as to make the election of incumbents almost a certainty. In fact, the main obstacle mainstream incumbents from such districts are likely to encounter will come from challenges within their party primaries from extremist Tea Party type candidates. Because the bulk of Americans self-identify as “midddle-of-the-road,” victories by those Tea Party extremists may offer the Democrats their best chance for victory in those “safe” Republican districts. An example of such in-fighting leading to an unexpected Democratic victory was the Indiana Senate race that saw long-time, powerful Republican Senator Richard Lugar lose. Even though he was the senior Republican in the Senate and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he was challenged in the Republican primary election by right-wing State Treasurer Richard Murdock. Murdock won the Republicans only primary by a comfortable margin, but ignorant and extremist positions taken by him that may have played well in the primary, backfired in the general election, letting Democratic Representative Joe Donnelly score an upset victory. There is much to be learned by both Republicans and Democrats from this example.
The Republicans have a number of advantages going into this Fall’s election. First of all there is the well-established tendency for the party of the sitting President to lose ground in off-year elections. Then there is the fact of lower voter turnouts in off-year elections, which combined with the greater likelihood of Republicans to vote than Democrats, and you have the potential for a perfect storm—from the Republican perspective. Republicans are confident both in the House and the Senate races going into this election cycle.
Adding to these challenges is Gallup Poll’s finding that Republicans are preferred over Democrats on the most important issue in this election–the economy. “The economy” was rated as the most important issue by 89% of voters Gallup interviewed. And, Republicans are favored by 48% to the Democrats 43% as being able to do “the best job on the economy.”
These then are the challenges facing Democrats this coming Fall. There is, however, a strategy that I believe can overcome these considerable obstacles to victory in the Congressional elections, and I will discuss those in next week’s post.