Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Ralph Reed, the one-time Republican whiz kid and leader of the vaunted Christian Coaltion, may have had a very public fall from grace, but he showed Wednesday that he is still one of the shrewder observers of American politics. The morning after the election he held a press conference in Washington, where he released the results of a post-election survey conducted through his new Faith and Freedom Coaltion. More on that later, but for now, a few highlights from Reed's assessment of the GOP victory:
The former Christian Coaltion leader posited that in Nevada, Sen. Harry Reid managed to "out-hustle" Angle on the ground. He noted that despite his group's work knocking on 72,000 doors in Nevada the week before the election in support of Angle, Reid still did one better, and that made all the difference. Reed noted that the two candidates spent so much money on advertising, which is relatively cheap in Nevada, that they were even preempting infomercials on late-night cable to find space for ads. "They fought the air wars to a draw," he said, and as people started to tune out the ads, the ground war became that much more important. It was there that Reed's activists reported, "We're getting lapped."
Reed on why Obama didn't do more:
He gave the President a lot of credit for having the "best political team I've ever seen." Which is why he said he is still puzzled why Obama didn't do more to prevent Tuesday's bloodbath, especially because the warning signs were there in 2009, when Republicans won huge victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governors' races, as well as in the race to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. It was in those races, he said, that consultants like him were testing messages, campaign tools and honing their strategies for 2010. But Obama, Reed said, ignored what was going on in those races and failed to counter the opposition. The result? A midterm election that was an "undisputed repudiation" of the president and his agenda. "This was an across the board electoral catastrophe" for Obama and the Democrats, he declared.
To support his assessment that the election was a direct reflection of the voters' feelings about Obama, Reed produced some exit polilng data that showed that Obama is far more hated among midterm voters than even Bill Clinton was in 1994. According to Reed's surveys, 63 percent of voters said their midterm votes were intended to send the message that they were opposed to the president and his agenda, the highest ever recorded. That figure was a bit higher than those opposed to George W. Bush in 2006 and more than 25 points higher than the voters who returned Congress to Republican control in 1994 on Bill Clinton's watch.
Reed's figures, if accurate, don't bode well for Obama, who is going to have a lot of work to do between now and 2012 if he wants to avoid becoming the next Jimmy Carter.