So maybe Robert Gibbs is a man ahead of his time. Now more and more Democrats are saying privately what he said publicly earlier this summer: that Republicans could win the House, and are within striking range in the Senate. Take a look at this electoral map of Senate races over on FiveThirtyEight.com, and notice how many states are turning red.
Here’s how Politico is reporting the Democrats’ panic:
Democrats kept thinking: “We’re going to get better. We’re going to get well before the election,” said one of Washington’s best-connected Democrats. “But as of this week, you now have people saying that Republicans are going to win the House. And now it’s starting to look like the Senate is going to be a lot closer than people thought.”
A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.” His data show the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. “It’s spreading,” the pollster said.
This would explain the rash of post-primary commentary today on the left that tries to paint all Republicans as anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant angry white Southern men who hate President Obama and want to drag the country backward economically. What the pundits don’t realize is there is a considerable majority of Americans--including a lot of women and minorities and Independents--who have valid concerns about the direction our country is heading under the Democrats. The New York Times unsigned editorial talks about “destructive anger” on the right that plays on “people’s fears”; E.J. Dionne writes of the Republican “lurch right” and says Democrats’ hopes lie in “generat[ing] a backlash against an increasingly immoderate GOP.” The list goes on and on.
There are two lessons here for Republicans. First, it’s clear that the left is loaded for bear, on the hunt for any policy stand or interview statement from a Republican candidate that seems too far right for them. They’ve got certain candidates, mostly Tea Party-endorsed and new to politics, whom they’ve got in their sights. There’s a double standard here, a much higher bar for Republican candidates to meet--especially when it comes to gaffes or ill-considered statements in debates or town hall meetings this fall. Just look at this morning’s example: the vacationing president brushed off pool reporters asking about scores of dead in Iraq. (“We’re ordering shrimp here, guys. Come on.”) If a Republican had done that, the left would have gone nuts.
Second, and because of this mindset on the left, Republican candidates should keep in mind that the primaries are over. They now need to run general election campaigns that will attract swing Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans. A message of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and long-term economic growth and job creation is what most Americans are looking for these days, and they’re not getting that from Democrats. Candidates should take a page from the campaign books of Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie, whose gubernatorial wins last fall were a result of staying away from hot-button social issues and inflammatory rhetoric. (That means no more talking about the mosque. Enough!) Their common-sense message of fiscal sanity carried the day.
All you have to do is look at the new issue of Time, in which various administration sources talk about how great the stimulus spending has been and how we need more of it--as Vice President Biden put it, “This is a chance to do something big, man!”--to see why Democrats are not running on the issues. Typically in politics, when you can’t win on the issues, you switch to personal attacks. That’s why this fall could get so ugly. It was Democrats’ big chance to run the country--the White House and both houses of Congress--and it’s becoming clear that they blew it. All the energy in politics these days is on the right, and that’s fueling the panic on the left.