Are things actually looking up for the distressed Democrats?
Left for dead by a parade of pundits, the Democrats seem to be perking up. Tens of thousands showed up in Washington over the weekend for a progressive rally meant to counter the “Restoring Honor” march and rally conservative commentator Glenn Beck led on August 28. Tea Party movement candidates such as Delaware senatorial nominee (and witchcraft dabbler) Christine O’Donnell are tainting the image of the GOP. Democratic candidates are fighting back with brutal attacks on their GOP opponents, beginning negative campaign ads far earlier than usual. And despite abysmal national approval ratings, Democrats are raising pots of money for the last month of the campaign.
The Democratic National Committee raised a record $16 million in September--80 percent of which, the committee says, came from small donors, the very sort who helped funnel $745 million into President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. The Republican National Committee (which has yet to release its September fundraising numbers) meanwhile, has been beset by its own fundraising scandals and woes. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, himself a former RNC chair, bemoaned recently that the Republican Governors Association he chairs would have to come up with about $10 million for get-out-the-vote efforts normally paid for by the national party.
The GOP’s problem isn’t voter mood (on their side) or enthusiasm (heavily on their side). The party’s problem is overreach, a mistake that has cost both parties seats in the past. The Democrats will surely get hammered next month, but the helium-fueled predictions by giddy Republicans earlier this campaign season--talk of, for example, picking up 100 House seats, well beyond the 39 needed to capture a majority--is looking like another case of overreach. The Republicans are still well-positioned to take back control of the House, especially with the help of well-financed interest groups running ads against Democratic incumbents. But it’s also possible that Democrats could hang onto a wafer-thin majority, especially if the GOP lacks the cash to compete in scores of gettable congressional districts. It’s a sad comment for the Democrats that if they lose only 38 House seats this year, it will be considered a major victory for them.