Democrats, declared Evan Bayh in an Op-Ed article on Wednesday in The Times, "overreached by focusing on health care rather than job creation during a severe recession." Many others have been saying the same thing: the notion that the Obama administration erred by not focusing on the economy is hardening into conventional wisdom.
But I have no idea what, if anything, people mean when they say that. The whole focus on "focus" is, as I see it, an act of intellectual cowardice — a way to criticize President Obama’s record without explaining what you would have done differently.
Well, "the economy sucked and we are going to punish someone, anyone" does not reflect well on the voters, so it has to be something else.
The key finding: PPP asked independents who did vote in 2010 who they had supported in 2008. The results: Fifty one percent of independents who voted this time supported McCain last time, versus only 42 percent who backed Obama last time. In 2008, Obama won indies by eight percent.
That means the complexion of indies who turned out this time is far different from last time around, argues Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. His case: Dem-leaning indys stayed home this time while GOP-leaning ones came out -- proof, he insists, that the Dems' primary problem is they failed to inspire indys who are inclined to support them.
"The dumbest thing Democrats could do right now is listen to those like Third Way who urge Democrats to repeat their mistake by caving to Republicans and corporations instead of fighting boldly for popular progressive reforms and reminding Americans why they were inspired in 2008," Green says.
Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin:
Experts and pundits will float many interpretations of the 2010 midterms over the next few weeks, each of which progressives should consider carefully. But the most parsimonious explanation of how 2010 unfolded in terms of lessons for progressives going forward lies in a few fundamental factors: the poor state of the economy; the abnormally conservative composition of the midterm electorate; and the large number of vulnerable seats in conservative-leaning areas. These trends cost the Democrats their House majority but were not strong enough to sweep them out in the Senate.
Independent voters, white working-class voters, seniors, and men broke heavily against the Democrats due to the economy. Turnout levels were also unusually low among young and minority voters and unusually high among seniors, whites, and conservatives, thus contributing to a massively skewed midterm electorate. The Democrats therefore faced a predictable, and arguably unavoidable, convergence of forces.
Tom Jensen/PPP polling:
Barack Obama won the national popular vote by about 7 points in 2008. Republicans look to have won the national House vote by about 7 point this year. One big question about that 14 point shift- how much of it was Democrats going to the Republicans and how much of it was Democrats staying home?
The answer is about half and half.
And the half that stayed home? Back in 2012.
Most of those drop off voters are probably going to be back in 2012, especially after a couple of years watching how the Republicans in the House handle themselves. The fact that Democrats would be running even nationally at this very low point for their party if their folks turned out bodes well for the next election if there's even a small amount of warming up to the President between now and then.
More GOP civil war, courtesy of NY Times:
But [Michele Bachmann's] candidacy vividly illustrates the central tension facing Mr. Boehner and his team: balancing the demands of new lawmakers, some of whom ran against the Republican establishment and advocate a no-compromise stance toward the Obama administration and Democratic policies, against the need to deliver some accomplishments at a time of economic distress.
Ms. Bachmann is by no means the only Tea Party voice moving to exert influence over the new Congress.
In a draft of a confidential memo to be distributed to all incoming House Republican lawmakers, Dick Armey, a former Republican majority leader who is chairman of the conservative group FreedomWorks, and Matt Kibbe, its president, told lawmakers that a repeal of the Democrats’ health care law was "nonnegotiable" and warned that they would face a severe backlash from voters if they did not succeed in reversing the law.
More GOP struggles with reality:
Republicans are standing by their campaign vows to slash spending for domestic programs immediately by at least one-fifth — $100 billion in a single year — even as many mainstream economists say such deep cuts could further strain the economy and should await its full recovery. Republicans also say they will try to deny money to put Mr. Obama’s new health care law into effect, though they have not made clear what they would do to make up the cost savings that would be lost if they succeeded in repealing the law.