Behold the Running of the Democrats in the sixth-year midterm elections. While the White House insists that their colleagues in the House and Senate run on Barack Obama’s accomplishments, more of them will be running away from his failures and his overreach. That will force many of them to adopt the strategy of Mark Begich, the Democratic Senator from Alaska, who wants his constituents to believe that he’s been a restraining force on Obama rather than an enabler. Begich, who has been trying to sell this argument for a while, told the Washington Post that he’s been “a thorn in Obama’s ass,” although the Post changed that to “side” without quotes for the headline:
When Sen. Mark Begich talks about his role in American politics, he describes himself as a sharp object, sent to Washington to jab at President Obama.
“I’ll be a thorn in his [posterior],” Begich (D-Alaska) said in an interview. “There’s times when I’m a total thorn, you know, and he doesn’t appreciate it.”
That metaphor is at the heart of Begich’s political self-image — and, now, his reelection campaign. Begich is running in an age of congressional weakness. Earmarks are dead. The Hill is gridlocked. So Begich has little hope of doing what Alaska always expects its politicians to do: bring home boatloads of money through legislation.
Instead, Begich is running on his power to nag.
Senate Democrats from Louisiana to, well, Alaska are making that same argument, and not just incumbents. Michelle Nunn has hedged on her support of the Obama agenda to make herself more palatable to Georgia voters, and Alison Grimes keeps insisting she’ll defend coal while holding fundraisers with people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It’s about the only strategy open to Democrats outside of progressive strongholds like Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon.
It has one fatal flaw, though, which National Journal’s Ron Fournier explains to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe:
If Democrats want to sell voters on sending “a thorn in Obama’s ass” to Washington, why choose a Democrat? In the case of Senate incumbents, why send someone whose votes enabled ObamaCare, which is one of the administration’s biggest overreaches? Begich cast his vote for the ACA, as did Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor, and every other Democratic incumbent. Nunn and Grimes still won’t answer the question of whether they would have voted for it at the time.
A vote for a real restraint on Obama’s power would be a vote cast for a Republican, and everyone knows it. When asked to choose between a fake Republican and a real Republican in a general election, people will vote for the real thing. Republicans learned that lesson in 2006 and 2008.