For months, as pundits suggested the Senate was poised to be taken over by the Republicans in 2014, some Democrats suggested there really was no need to panic. Now it sounds as if Democrats feel it’s time to panic: it’s sinking in that Tuesday night’s election results suggest Democrats can’t rely this year on madcap Republican candidates to chase voters to them or on President Barack Obama’s popularity or help.
It you hear a click, it’s probably the sound of Democrats pushing panic buttons:
Republicans are in the strongest position to win back the Senate since losing it eight years ago.
Over several months, the party has expanded its range of targeted seats, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has helped defeat insurgents it didn’t want representing the GOP in the midterm elections.
This sober realization came to Democrats on Wednesday, as Tuesday night’s primary results showed they cannot count on Tea Party candidates upsetting more-electable incumbents.
Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin may be angry over the election results and say their party has betrayed them due to events in Mississippi and The Establishment Fighting Back (which would make a great movie title) but the proof of the political pudding is the Democrat’s reaction:
And Democrats are increasingly realizing that President Obama’s approval rating will probably remain mired at 45 percent or lower until Election Day, giving Republicans ammo.
As their difficulties mounted, Senate Democrats met with the president at the White House on Wednesday evening.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), perhaps the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, said she would confront Obama over his failure to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline and expand natural gas exports.
“I personally don’t agree with this White House on everything,” she said. “I have a divergent view on a lot of the energy policies.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), another red-state Democrat, vented her irritation with the administration when she called IRS Commissioner John Koskinen “arrogant.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and other Democrats criticized Obama’s recent decision to release five senior Taliban commanders from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. She is ready to put that dispute into the past, she said Wednesday, adding that Obama made the right move in inviting his colleagues to the White House for talk and cocktails.
“It’s all ancient history now,” she said peaceably, adding, “I think this is a positive thing to do.”
But a Democratic strategist said: “There’s going to be a lot of vocal anger and frustration. They’re going to hear a lot of, ‘You guys [have] got to have your house in order.’”
Details of Wednesday’s discussion were not available at press time.
But it is clear Democrats are nervous.
And there are few signs the economy will help them out:
The United States economy contracted by a shocking 2.9 percent in the first quarter of the year, a much worse than expected number that could undermine hopes by the White House and congressional Democrats to run on improving conditions in the fall midterm elections.
The number is a snap shot of the past and in part the result of a terrible winter slowing down everything from home construction to personal shopping to business inventory growth. The second quarter should be significantly better.
But negative headlines around the contraction – the worst since the Great Recession ended in 2009 – are likely to worsen already deeply negative national attitudes about the economy that have decimated President Barack Obama’s approval rating and led to Democratic fears of big losses in the House and Senate in November.
Numbers this bad can also have a psychological impact on consumer behavior. If people think the economy is getting worse they can pull back on hiring and spending which in turn actually makes the economy worse.
Which means worse heading into election day.
This election year Democrats can’t rely on Tea Party candidates who deny they’re witches or Republicans up for re-election seemingly in a race to show how little they know about or even care about rape or how much they can profoundly offend women.
On the other hand, the political season is still young.
Graphic via shutterstock.com
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.