Readings for the Fainting Couch

September 8, 2010 7:05 a.m.

In response to my post last night a number of readers have written to say that I’ve either written off the November election or claimed that the Dems are collapsing in advance of it. Neither is the case. My point was only that if you project out to November the current facts on the ground, the House is probably headed for Republican control and the Senate could flip too, though it’s much less likely. Could things change? Of course they could. I’ll get to that in a minute.My point is that in politics realities that you can see coming long in advance, that you plan for, prepare for and so forth often look very different and have far deeper catalytic effects when they actually arrive. The reaction to the Brown election on January 19th was a painful example, and perhaps an anticipation of November 3rd.

Suddenly, you find the same congressman who yesterday was saying we’re going to go head to head with any Republican majority saying, “You know? The people have spoken. Maybe it’s not time for Health Care Reform after all. We really need to think about more market-oriented solutions.” Seriously, it can happen like that. Like I said, after January 19th even Barney Frank had a good week or so as a bipartisan pod-person. So in addition to fighting the election, I think Dems need to be thinking really hard about what the plan is the day after if things don’t go well. Because there will be a period of time where the wobblies will be spreading like Ebola Virus.

Now, is this election set in stone? Of course not. The Dems have two months left in front of them. As weakened as Obama is, the Dems have a high-profile leader. The Republicans have none. That counts. It’s also true that voters level of attention to campaigning ups dramatically after Labor Day. That’s important too. On the other hand, for many months you seem to have a hardening of opinion among the voters most likely to vote in this cycle. And it’s hardening against the president and his party. More important, since the beginning of the summer there’s been a mounting body of evidence that the recovery is not simply sluggish but stalled. That reality seemed to start showing up in the polls about mid-summer. And since then the poll picture has gotten considerably worse for the Dems. Those realities will be hard to counteract.

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