CURL: Fear and trembling for Democrats on Capitol Hill

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

How bad are things in Congress right now for Democrats? So bad that a guy who has been there 58 years is calling it quits. I mean, c’mon, where does he have to go?

They’re dropping like flies up on Capitol Hill. So far, nine House Democrats have announced they’re retiring; two just flat-out resigned, see ya’, we’re outta’ here.

That 58-year congressman, John Dingell, had this to say about the modern-day American legislature: “I find serving in the House to be obnoxious. … The enormous expense of money made by people in the course of the campaign has not been well spent in the interest of the public.”

Shocker. Congress is a dismal dystopia loaded with disgruntled dyspeptics. Huh. And it took him 58 years to figure out that?

With winter giving way to spring, all the talk is now turning to the 2014 mid-terms, who’s up, who’s down, who’s in, who’s out. The consensus across the board is that Democrats are most decidedly down and definitely out. None of the lofty political pundits sees the party of the president picking up enough seats to take over the House. Most predict Dems lose seats; some say they lose a bunch.

More, talk is beginning to swirl that Democrats might just lose their majority in the Senate. Already, two longtime legislators have bailed — resigned, not retired. They looked at the landscape, may have even gazed into the future, and said, “nuh uh.” And inside the chilled Senate halls, those too afraid to run are frozen in fear, with nowhere to turn.

None, for instance, are turning to the leader of their party, President Obama. Gallup puts his approval rating at just 44 percent, with disapproval at 53 percent (he took roughly 53 percent of the vote when he won in 2008). He’s toxic and, in record time, already a lame duck. No one needs him as an ally and, frankly, like your kids on a trip to the mall, no one wants to been seen anywhere near him.

The playing field is clearly tilted toward Republicans this time around. Sean Trende, who not surprisingly covers electoral trends for realclearpolitics.com, says there are “17 competitive Senate races, 15 of which are held by Democrats, two of which are held by Republicans.”

In a complicated analysis called a “Monte Carlo simulation,” Trende sees this trend: Democrats lose, big. “This is a grim picture for Senate Democrats, suggesting that the president would have to get his approval above 50 percent by Election Day before they would be favored to hold the chamber,” he wrote in a piece titled “How Likely Are Democrats to Lose the Senate?”

Sure, there are scenarios and simulation models in which Democrats hold the Senate, or even gain seats. But, he notes: “There are also, however, situations where the election turns into an absolute debacle for Democrats.”

“The most common outcome” in the Senate, Trende says, “is Democratic losses of between seven to nine seats.” The current makeup is 55 Democrats (including two independents that always vote D) and 45 Republicans. In “the most common outcome,” Republicans take over the Senate.

So on to your next question: How will Republicans manage to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Will they begin talking non-stop about “legitimate rape”? Will they bash lesbians and gays and bisexuals and transgenders? (Who cares? Move on.) Will they keep pushing an unpopular amnesty for illegal aliens? They’ve lost winnable elections before and could well again. It’s early.

But the Grand Old Party does appear to see the important issues on which 2014 will revolve. They bailed on the even more unpopular notion of shutting down the government over the debt ceiling, and even agreed to a budget outline that includes more spending than they’d like, just to shove the issue off the table.

And as Mr. Obama rolls out his new 2015 budget (pledging, as the Washington Post reported, an “end to austerity”), Republicans may just be able to focus voters on the out-of-control federal spending, along with the Obamacare disaster, which is already the gift that keeps on giving.

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