Dem's fall plans look desperate

Dan Balz:


The Democrats might be speaking with bravado, but they're acting defensively. On Wednesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine offered his version of what a 2010 Republican Contract with America might look like.

It was a 10-point list culled in part from things some candidates with ties to the "tea party" movement have said. Kaine and the Democrats tried to portray that as GOP dogma and argued that the American people will reject Republican candidates in November.

Meanwhile, the DCCC's purchase of advertising time for the fall showed just how difficult Democrats expect the races to be. They will fight to hold the House -- and they may well be successful. Republicans could squander this opportunity. But for the Democrats, the battle is almost totally one of trying to build a levee high enough to hold off the worst of what they see coming.

Look at the list of the 60 districts where they've purchased time. Republicans currently hold just six of those seats. The other 54 are districts Democrats already hold but know they could lose in November.

Many of the targeted districts are now occupied by Democrats who won their seats in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and therefore are especially vulnerable to a shift in the political pendulum back toward the GOP. About two dozen of the targeted Democratic-held seats are in districts that were carried by Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

That means some inevitable losses among the classes of 2006 and 2008. But there are enough veteran Democrats on the list to suggest that this is no ordinary first midterm of a new presidency, when the party in the White House almost always loses some seats.

They include Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, John Spratt of South Carolina and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota.

"Targeting 50-plus seats, the Democrats are telegraphing their clear intention to play defense this fall," said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster. "And, look at who they're spending money on. It's not just the usual freshman and sophomore suspects, but also longer-term members. They are signaling their fear that this is definitely not your run-of-the-mill midterm election."


The districts where the DCCC has already committed money for television ads may not be all encompassing in defining the battlefield for the fall. Nate Silver of notes that if you compare the forecasts of prominent independent handicappers -- Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, Larry Sabato and Congressional Quarterly -- there are about 100 Democrat seats in some kind of jeopardy.

A 100 seat swing would be sweet, but the GOP needs less than half that to take control. One of the problems with the Democrat ads is they are tough sale to even most Democrats who happen to have a whiff of integrity. They have tried to cobble together a "Republicans are scary" campaign from some things some people in the Tea Party have said.

That is a misleading and fraudulent presentation of what the candidates themselves are saying. It is part of the old Democrat playbook of saying something outrageous about and opponent to get them off message by having to deny the wife beating charges.

The main issue for most Tea Party members is the out of control spending by the Democrats and the failed stimulus. They also oppose the health care monstrosity. Democrats know they will lose is the election is about those issues.

The bottom line is that these Democrats are just like the ones who bring the bogus signs to the Tea Party rallies.


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