“Top Democrats are growing markedly more pessimistic about holding the House, privately conceding that the summertime economic and political recovery they were banking on will not likely materialize by Election Day.
In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks….
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.
Not all Democrats — or Republicans, for that matter — share this pessimistic assessment 68 days before the election. Republicans need to pick up 39 seats, and polls show most voters still have a downbeat view of the GOP’s ability to govern any better than Democrats. Republicans have been out-raised and outspent at the national level and in many of the key races.
I agree: There’s a decent chance that the Dems could indeed lose the House. And I think the consequences of that would be dire both for the country and, perhaps surprisingly, for the Republican Party. Here’s why:
The results of the primary season have made it clear that the GOP base will reject any candidate who in any way suggests it is possible to compromise with or cooperate with Democrats. John McCain got that message early and survived. Lisa Murkowski, Bob Bennett, Bob Inglis and Charlie Crist did not, and were rejected by their fellow Republicans. The GOP resurgence is being driven not by program or policy but by a primal scream of “NO!”
Republicans both veteran and newcomer will go to Washington in January with that message tattooed onto their brains, and will act accordingly. No cooperation, no compromise, only all-out warfare. Their base has given them no room whatsoever in which to manuever, and they know it. Under such circumstances, reaching accommodation on issues such as the budget will be impossible. The situation will make the Gingrich-Clinton standoff seem calm placid by comparison.
And in that kind of environment, Barack Obama will thrive. He may not get much done, but he will come off looking reasonable and mainstream while the Republicans make themselves look petty and extreme, setting the stage for Democratic successes in 2012.
Time will tell, of course. But at the moment, the GOP is looking like a dog that’s about to catch the car, with no idea whatsoever about what it ought to do next.