By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
"I do think that if the results show Republicans have a pretty good night, that probably is going to lead some Democrats to think that, going into next year, we need to take a second look at the way we've done a lot of bills we've addressed up to this point," Rep. Jason Altmire, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, told the Fox Business Network last night.
Given the media's obsession with how the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District affects the Republican Party outside of NY-23, it's of note to see a Democrat openly talking about his party's own internal conflicts.
Altmire, an outspoken congressman in his second term, is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition made up of conservative and centrist Democrats.
To most congressional observers, the Blue Dogs' bark is usually worse than their bite. They tend to make a lot of noise, but in the end go along with the party's leadership. Some of that, on healthcare reform specifically, has changed this year. Altmire, who expressed concerns about various healthcare reform proposals, and who remains undecided on the current Democratic proposal before the House, has suggested his political standing—and that of other Blue Dogs—could be strengthened by Republican gains at the polls today.
In the Fox interview, Altmire suggested GOP gains could come from "a pretty high turnout from Republicans and from people who are concerned about increased spending." By that he means independents. They're the voters who put Barack Obama in the White House—and the voters whose support for Obama has plummeted.
As the election results are sorted through and the hand-wringing (soul searching?) over what it all means continues, Altmire's words—even while critiquing his own party—should remind Democrats and Republicans that candidates who can win the independents are the candidates who will rule Election Day 2010.