We’ve had an avalanche of polling this week that shows Republicans making major inroads on the midterm electorate, both on the national level and in state-by-state surveys. Polling, however, isn’t an exact science but more of an art of approximation. If only we could get some relatively hard evidence that Democrats are looking at a crushing defeat in six days, some way to measure that removes most of the remaining doubt in this cycle …
Perhaps we can consult the Finger Pointing Index. Chris Cillizza reports that the fingers have already started to come out in earnest on the Left, and they’re pointing mostly in the same direction:
Prominent Democratic strategists are growing increasingly nervous that the national political environment is not only bad for their side but is moving in the wrong direction in the final days before the election, a trend that could not only cost them control of the Senate but also visit double-digit House losses on the party.
“The environment has settled and it’s bad,” said one senior Democratic party operative closely monitoring the party’s prospects this fall. The source added that Democratic candidates’ numbers among independents and seniors — two critically important voting blocs — have begun to erode; “they are just not as friendly to us as they once were,” the source explained. …
There were lots (and lots) of reasons given for the difficulties facing Democrats. The Senate map. The historic trends of second term, midterm elections — aka the “six-year itch.” Voter apathy. But the one factor that virtually every person I talked to cited as the biggest reason for the party’s current predicament was President Obama.
“This off-year election has become almost entirely a referendum on the president,” said one Democratic consultant involved in a number of closely-fought congressional races. “It’s not just anger at [the Affordable Care Act]. He has become, in my opinion wrongly, the symbol of dysfunction in Washington. That has led to a demoralized Democratic base, energized Republicans and those in the middle have an easy way of venting their frustration, and that is to punish the president’s party.”
“It is not ALL Obama but a lot of it is,” said another Democratic strategist knee-deep in the 2014 midterms and granted anonymity to speak candidly. “[People] are very upset with government and people think Democrats are in charge, so they are taking it out on Democrats more than Republicans.”
Ahem. People “think” Democrats are in charge? Last I looked, Democrats have been in charge of the federal government since 2009. Democrats have been in charge of the Senate since 2007. Barack Obama runs the executive branch, which is what “people” define as the federal government, and Obama has appointed all the people who run the agencies that comprise it.
In fairness, perhaps the unnamed Democratic strategist meant that no one is in charge, which certainly has been the perception given off by Obama and his fellow Democrats. However, that’s just another reason to vote for Republicans to take charge in Congress, so …
Even the New York Times has noticed that no one’s in charge these days:
One day this month, as the nation shuddered with fears of an Ebola outbreak and as American warplanes pounded Sunni militants in Syria, President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, invited a group of foreign policy experts to the White House Situation Room to hear their assessment of how the administration was performing.
She was peppered with critiques of the president’s Syria and China policies, as well as the White House’s repeated delays in releasing a national security strategy, a congressionally mandated document that sets out foreign policy goals. On that last point, Ms. Rice had a sardonic reply.
“If we had put it out in February or April or July,” she said, according to two people who were in the room, “it would have been overtaken by events two weeks later, in any one of those months.”
At a time when the Obama administration is lurching from crisis to crisis — a new Cold War in Europe, a brutal Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and a deadly epidemic in West Africa, to name just the most obvious ones — it is not surprising that long-term strategy would take a back seat. But it raises inevitable questions about the ability of the president and his hard-pressed national security team to manage and somehow get ahead of the daily onslaught of events.
Part of the reason why the White House is facing these crises is because they didn’t have long-term strategies for dealing with emerging issues. That is especially true in regard to Iraq, Syria, and in a larger sense the entire “Arab Spring” upheavals that undergird much of the chaos in the Middle East. Obama bombed Moammar Qaddafi’s regime without any thought of securing the ground to help shape the outcome, and turned Libya into another Somalia, this time on the Mediterranean. The same thing nearly happened in Egypt until a military coup booted the Muslim Brotherhood out of power. He ignored advice from long-range thinkers like Robert Gates and Leon Panetta on Iraq, opting to seize a short-term political benefit at home instead of maintaining a grip on events in Iraq.
So yes, the problem for Democrats is the incompetence of the Democrats running the federal government and foreign policy. That is the main problem, along with the fact that those Democrats on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue have acted like a cheerleading section and/or a political protection squad for Obama rather than force him to improve his performance, and now voters don’t trust them to act any differently in the final two years of the Obama presidency. They may still eke out enough seats to control the Senate, although that’s increasingly unlikely, but if this continues another two years, they may find themselves locked out of the White House for the foreseeable future. At least someone will be in charge if that happens.