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Congressional Democrats Face Uphill Battle in Midterms

At this point, eight months before the Nov. 4 election, it’s hard to see a lot of good news for congressional Democrats.

No matter how you look at it, the House seems out of reach. Today, Republicans appear a bit more likely to gain than to lose seats; it would take a cataclysmic event for Democrats to score the net gain of the 17 seats they need to take the majority.

What’s changed is that Democrats’ chances of holding onto their majority in the Senate is looking increasingly tenuous. There are now at least 10, and potentially as many as 13, Democratic-held seats in jeopardy. By contrast, only two GOP seats are in any meaningful danger, and that number hasn’t changed in six months.

Things are starting to look grisly for Senate Democrats. President Obama’s approval ratings average 41 percent, basically where President George W. Bush’s poll numbers were at this point before his own disastrous 2006 second-term, midterm election. And the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative and policy achievement, is now even more unpopular than it was in October and November of 2010, when Democrats lost 63 seats, control of the House ...

Uneasy Days for the Economy

Listening the other day to discouraging economic forecasts from Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers, I was reminded of the many polls showing that Americans worry their children won't have the same opportunities they did. To be clear, neither the former Fed chairman nor the former Treasury secretary was predicting recessions or even downturns. But there was little in their words to the National Association for Business Economics to suggest that brighter days are on the immediate horizon.

Their diagnoses and suggested treatments of the economy weren't exactly the same, but both nonetheless left the listener deeply unsettled. Summers argues that it's been a long time since the United States had "healthy, strong economic growth in a full-capacity economy." He argues against current government austerity measures, particularly at a time when the country—he asserts—desperately needs an increase in consumer demand. He also complains that regulatory and policy restraints have restrained economic growth, specifically pointing to the fact that no new oil refineries have been built in the United States in decades. Meanwhile, austerity has led us to a lack of public investment; Summers gives the example of the currently dilapidated Kennedy airport in New York, at ...

The GOP's Talent Gap

Republicans who run campaigns gripe they lose races because of candidates and ideology. It's easy to understand why. Nominees who deny they belong to a coven or confuse—in the most offensive way conceivable—the basic biology of sex aren't ideal nominees. The more electable ones, like Mitt Romney, are forced to adopt such a rigid agenda that they irritate half the electorate before the general election even begins. So victories are hard to come by, just as they would be for a sprinter with two sprained ankles.

But those same Republicans who have shepherded countless Senate, House, and presidential candidates should add one more culprit to their list: themselves. Because there's mounting evidence that the party's political class simply isn't good at running campaigns anymore.

They're certainly not as good as the Democrats. The turnout experts, TV whizzes, and all-around gurus of the Grand Old Party have been outnumbered and outsmarted by their adversaries, who have spent a decade retrofitting their entire political infrastructure. The result is a dizzying talent gap between the two parties' political classes, one that shows few signs of closing as the 2014 midterms begin. In some ways, the ...

Is Hillary Clinton Really a 100 Percent Lock to Run?

At least every week now, there is a new story supporting the narrative of an inevitable 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential bid. Indeed, the conventional wisdom is that it is an absolute certainty that she will run. If anyone is currently saying, flat out, that Hillary isn't running, I haven't come across them. Is the inevitability of her run really as certain as the conventional wisdom suggests, and further, is it unfolding in an optimal manner for the potential candidate?

In all likelihood, Clinton will not make a final, "go-or-no-go" decision until early next year, after the dust has settled from the midterm election. Generally speaking, few presidential contenders make their final decisions before the preceding midterm, and, with the notable exception of Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, most have been laying the groundwork for a long time for a potential run. Most have already been attending countless state and county Jefferson-Jackson (for Democrats) or Lincoln (for Republicans) dinners, meet and greets, and other events to prepare for the potential campaign and the ensuring shakedown (if they do, in fact, decide to run).

The question remains: Is Hillary Clinton really a 100 percent lock to run? I think ...

The Path to Victory in 2014

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza created something of a stir recently with his column headlined, “2014 Senate races may be a referendum on Obama; if so, Democrats should worry.”

Cillizza (a former Cook Political Report staffer) linked to the Gallup Organization’s just-released aggregation of all of its 2013 polling data, with President Obama’s job-approval and disapproval numbers broken down by state.

Cillizza observed that Obama has disapproval ratings over 50 percent in 10 of the 21 states where Democrats are defending Senate seats this year. The disapprovals were over 55 percent in open Democratic Senate seat states in West Virginia (67.3 percent), Montana (60.9 percent), and South Dakota (59.3 percent).

These disapproval numbers can also be seen in the two states represented by the most-endangered Democratic incumbents: Arkansas (57 percent), where Mark Pryor is facing the stiffest of all challenges, and Alaska (55.4 percent), where Mark Begich is fighting for reelection.

While Cillizza’s point is hardly earth-shattering, it is very important and worth keeping in mind. As much as anything, midterm elections tend to be a referendum on the incumbent president. When voters are unhappy, they tend to vote to punish the ...