- The Washington Times - Monday, October 25, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now is the time for all good Democrats to come to the aid of their party, and they should look under the front porch to round up all the reluctant yellow dogs they can find.

Even a yellow dog - a Democrat who would vote for a yellow dog before he would consider voting Republican - seems leery this year of crawling out from under the porch. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, all but conceded the House Sunday to the Republicans, repeating the party line that only the Senate seems safe.

The New York Times, which has been trying mightily to cheer up the Democratic troops, now echoes Mr. Kaine’s glum assessment. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee puts up a fundraising letter on the Internet pleading for dollars, quarters and even nickels and dimes to prevent a Senate blowout. “Keeping California blue is just about a requirement if we’re going to keep the Senate,” the committee said. A new poll shows Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, holding a shrinking polling lead, now down to 2 points, over Carly Fiorina.

The public-opinion polls, as they nearly always do in the last days, show some races for both the Senate and the House beginning to tighten, as partisans of both parties settle into familiar patterns, with the yellow dogs remembering where the dog dish is. This year may be the rare exception, with Democratic passion spiked and the party’s candidates afflicted with something called “the enthusiasm gap.” Gaps are cliches beloved by press and tube: Going back to JFK, we’ve had a missile gap, a racial gap, a gender gap and this year the Republicans have the enthusiasm and the Democrats have the gap.

The oddsmakers in Ireland and Britain, where they’re perfectly legal, say the betting gents - “punters,” in the curious lexicon of English as she is spoke in the old country - have made the Republican candidates “hot favorites.” Democratic candidates, not so much. But citing the odds is not a prediction; odds only measure how the bettors think the vote will go, reflecting mostly what they read and hear on the telly and talk about over a pint of bitters at Ye Olde Goose and Down.

This week of the final sprint toward the finish line is a time for consolidating gains and trying to finish with a flourish. This is difficult for the establishment Republicans because they’re sorely tempted to think this remarkable campaign is all about them, when it’s actually in spite of them. Democrats are tempted to recycle mud.

In Louisiana, the Democrats are trying to rekindle public indignation, such as it was, over Sen. David Vitter’s warm and friendly ties to a Washington madam, recalling the story that his name showed up in her little black book. Too bad for Rep. Charlie Melancon, his Democratic opponent, but the “scandal” in the race is his warm and friendly ties to Barack Obama. Mr. Vitter is up 15 points in the late polls, and Mr. Melancon doesn’t have the money to buy television spots.

One broker, seeing an opportunity when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment rights of independent campaign committees, booked hundreds of prime-time spots in districts he calculated would be attractive to Republican candidates, and now he’s getting rich. Many Democratic candidates, like Charlie Melancon, are now locked out of prime time. Time buyers for union clients have done that, too, particularly in Chicago, where the race to elect a Senate successor to President Obama is tight and getting tighter. (Dick’s hatband, the traditional measuring device for close races, may not stand the strain.)

One measurement of how desperate the Democrats may be is how some of them are treating the man who was their messiah only yesterday. The used-to-be messiah gets his feet wet now, like everybody else, when he tries to walk on water, and he visited Woonsocket, R.I., on Monday accompanied by rumors that he would not endorse Frank Caprio, the Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode Island. Mr. Caprio complained to a radio talk-show host that the president “can take his endorsement and shove it as far as I’m concerned.”

“He’s coming into Rhode Island [looking for votes] and treating us like an ATM machine.”

Not very nice, and certainly no way to treat a dog, particularly a noble canine of yellow hue. Yellow dogs are loyal, but a yellow dog can bite, even the hand that feeds him.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.