Mojo - August 2010

Dems Will Lose House—Unless They Don't

| Thu Aug. 26, 2010 7:39 AM PDT

Today's top headline at Politico: "Democrats privately fear House prospects worsening." An excerpt:

Top Democrats are growing markedly more pessimistic about holding the House, privately conceding that the summertime economic and political recovery they were banking on will not likely materialize by Election Day.

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover — or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe — such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 — are in real trouble.

In two close races, endangered Democrats are even running ads touting how they oppose their leadership.

Sounds damn grim for the Ds. But--wait!--here's the headline from the National Journal's "Hotline": "Why Democrats Will Keep the House." An excerpt:

House Republicans are measuring the drapes in preparation for big gains in the lower chamber, convinced that Minority Leader John Boehner is going to become the next Speaker of the House. On a macro level, that wouldn't be a bad guess -- Democrats are saddled with bad polls and unpopular leaders, and the national mood wants a change from the status quo.

But the Democratic apocalypse isn't guaranteed just yet. In fact, senior Democratic strategists say they're not only likely to keep the House, but they believe the GOP won't come close to gaining the 39 seats they need to take over.

That's not to say Republicans have no chance of taking back the House. Indeed, for every argument Democrats make about their strengths, Republicans have a counterargument. But Democrats have a compelling case.

The piece goes on to detail "four reasons Democrats shouldn't be counted out of the majority, and republicans shouldn't start counting their chickens, quite yet."

What does this show you? That sometimes it's hard in Washington to concoct conventional wisdom.

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Dems to Lose 7 Senate Seats?

| Thu Aug. 26, 2010 7:23 AM PDT

That's the latest prediction from wunderkind pollster Nate Silver, who just made the move over to his new perch at The New York Times' website. A loss of six or seven Senate seats would leave the Democrats with a slim majority of 52 or 53 seats, nowhere near the filibuster-breaking supermajority of 60. And you can all but rule out the passage of any new, comprehensive legislation—i.e., health insurance reform, financial regulatory reform—if Silver's projection becomes reality this fall. After all, Democrats, with a near-supermajority, could barely scrape together two or three GOP votes on major legislation this spring and summer; there's no chance they'll find seven or eight votes if Silver's right.

It could be even worse for Dems. There's a 20 percent chance, Silver found, that the Dems will lose 10 or more seats, possibly putting them back in the minority. 

When it comes to watching the ongoing Senate elections, Silver writes that it's not the headline-grabbing campaigns—Harry Reid vs. Sharron Angle in Nevada, Barbara Boxer vs. Carly Fiorina in California—worth watching. Instead, he suggests keeping a close eye on some of the less-covered races:

Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The last time the Democratic nominee in Ohio, Lee Fisher, held the lead in any state poll, for example, was in June. Representative Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania, has not led any poll there since May, and Robin Carnahan of Missouri has not held a lead since January. The Democratic nominee in New Hampshire, Representative Paul W. Hodes, has not led in any of 17 public polls in New Hampshire against his likely Republican opponent, Kelly Ayotte.

The Democratic candidate lags by single digits in each of these states, and victories there remain entirely possible (perhaps especially so in New Hampshire, where the Republicans have yet to hold their primary). But, at a time when they need to be drawing closer to their opponents as the clock ticks toward Nov. 2, these Democrats instead find themselves falling somewhat further behind. We are now close enough to Election Day that a deficit of as few as 5 percentage points may be difficult to overcome, especially in races where relatively few undecided voters remain.

The odds of the Democrats adding a Senate seat, even regaining their 60-vote majority, according to Silver? Three percent. As we head toward the Labor Day holiday, after which general-election campaigning hits high gear and voters really start to tune in, the Democrats need a pitch-perfect strategy, some good economic news, and a lot of luck if they're going to avoid the kind of result Silver's predicting.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 26, 2010

Wed Aug. 25, 2010 11:59 PM PDT

 

US Army Spc. Russell Altman, with Provincial Reconstruction Team Kapisa, enjoys the view from the gunners hatch of his Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle while traveling through the Surobi district of Afghanistan. Photo via the US Army by Tech. Sgt. Joe Laws.

Corn on "Hardball": Palin the Big Winner in Alaska Primary

Wed Aug. 25, 2010 4:44 PM PDT

David Corn and Pat Buchanan joined Hardball's Chris Matthews to discuss Sarah Palin's role in helping tea party candidate Joe Miller to an all but certain victory over Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska Republican primary.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 25, 2010

Wed Aug. 25, 2010 2:00 AM PDT

 

US and Afghan forces conduct a dismounted patrol near Combat Outpost Mizan, Mizan district, Zabul province, Afghanistan, on Aug. 19, 2010. Photo via the US Army by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon.

Rick Scott's Florida Gov Upset

| Tue Aug. 24, 2010 9:01 PM PDT

Rick Scott, the wealthy health care executive and GOP dark-horse candidate, pulled off a surprising upset on Tuesday in Florida's Republican gubernatorial primary race. The tall, bald-headed Scott edged out Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a GOP favorite and former long-time US congressman, by a slim margin of 46 percent to 43 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The crux of Scott's campaign was his outsider status, his rejection of Washington and career politicians, his appeal to the far right of the GOP. When not bashing McCollum, Scott's campaign fliers and commercials touted his independence and promise to bring a fresh, pro-business, fervently anti-tax perspective to the Florida governor's office. Polls showed Scott with the backing of a majority of conservative Florida voters, including the state's tea party contingent.

Scott may not have the record of a long-time politician, but he does carry a lot of baggage into his general election fight against Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer. Scott was at the heart of the country's largest fraud settlement ever, a $1.7 billion Medicare settlement by a hospital corporation he helped to found and led until his ouster. Another health care company Scott started, Solantic, has been accused of allegedly using medical licenses illegally and billing irregularities with Medicare.

That record, which McCollum highlighted time and again during the primary campaign, has tainted voters' view of Scott as he heads into the general election. According to Public Policy Polling, only 46 percent of GOP primary voters had a good impression of Scott. As PPP pollster Tom Jensen put it, "Five months ago we would have said Alex Sink looked like a dead duck. Now with the way this contest has unfolded she looks like the favorite."