- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Who says bipartisan cooperation in Washington is dead? The Democrats have decided to borrow a nifty Republican strategy for the autumn congressional elections. They’re going to run against Barack Obama. Why not? It’s working for the Republicans.

If that’s not panic in the streets, it’s a reasonable facsimile thereof. Nancy Pelosi, watching her employment prospects for continuing as speaker of the House slipping steadily away, is crying for somebody to do something, anything. For starters, she’s demanding that Democratic incumbents in safe districts (if any) more or less suspend their own campaigns and send their money to colleagues who look doomed to having to go home to find real jobs.

“We need to know your commitments,” Mzz Pelosi wrote to her colleagues last week, demanding they call her within 72 hours to tell her how they can help save her job. “The day after the election we do not want to have any regrets.” Mzz Pelosi’s desperate pessimism looks to be soundly based. Every public-opinion poll seems to be worse than the one before it. Rasmussen, the most reliable of the polls of recent election cycles, finds that as of Sunday 48 percent of likely voters would vote for the Republican candidate in their districts, and 36 percent would vote for the Democrat. This 12-point spread continues the largest Republican “generic ballot” lead ever. Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, says “voters are ready to deliver the same message in 2010 that they delivered in 2006 and 2008 as they prepare to vote against the party in power for the third straight election [cycle]. These results suggest a fundamental rejection of both political parties.”

This observation, which also looks to be soundly based, tells Republicans they shouldn’t be pleased with themselves. This looks like a Republican year only because the Republicans are the only available alternatives to the Democrats. The Republicans stink, the voters are saying, but Democratic stink is a little more pungent. It’s why the traditional election theme of the Grumpy Old Party, “Vote Republican, We’re Not as Bad as You Think,” works best after a few years of Democratic dominance.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, concedes that prospects are so bad that the party will have to throw a few incumbents out of the lifeboat. “We’re going to have to win these races one by one,” he says. Message to President Obama: “Stay away. Stay far away. Health care? What health care?” The situation seems so dire to some Democrats that they’re waving flags the party kept furled in the closet for decades. Rep. Ike Skelton, who has represented a Missouri district for 34 years and has rarely broken a sweat in re-election campaigns, can’t find his bloody shirt but has begun accusing his Republican opponent of insufficient passion in supporting the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even the professors, who traditionally get their inside dope from reading the newspapers and now have the Internet at hand, concede that the prospects for the Democrats are not rosy. Thousands of the political science profs descended on Washington last week for seminars and stuff and all the buzz was about their computer models — the modern version of crystal balls — showing dramatic Republican gains. Few wanted to say that it looks like a Republican takeover of the House, but a man of even limited literacy could read between the lines.

Professor Alfred G. Cuzan of the University of West Florida, writing in a learned paper, says his computer model, taking into account past elections, economic growth, job creation and inflation, shows the Republicans coming close to taking the House, but no cigar. It all depends on “some combination of random disturbances and systemic factors,” which is profspeak for “only time will tell.” But Dartmouth’s Professor Joseph Bafumi has a crystal ball with no clouds. His model, reports Stephen Dinan in The Washington Times, combines a look at incumbents and “open” seats with no incumbents, against a backdrop of the party vs. party generic polls. He predicts the Republicans will win 53 percent of the vote, which translates to 229 seats, a gain of 50, enough to take back the House with something to spare.

Democrats first tried to kill the Tea Party movement, and when that didn’t work put their hopes on Mr. Obama’s “Recovery Summer,” with lots of hope but no change. That was a dud, too. Their only hope now rests in the sure and certain knowledge that nobody knows better than the Republicans how to blow a sure thing. You grab whatever’s at hand in a hurricane, and pray.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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