Don’t Count On A Democratic Comeback


Ambinder warns Democrats against overconfidence for the next presidential election:

Obama has noted that he won’t be on the ballot in 2016. Not technically, of course, but every open general election uses as a point of departure the shared wisdom of how the last eight years went. Obama’s approval rating by the time he leaves office needs to be higher than it is now. The collective “sense” that his administration was successful needs to be shared more widely than it is in order for Democratic presidential candidates to have a basic foundation for messaging. And since Obama won’t be on the ballot, it might be harder to replicate the exact “Obama coalition” that proved critical to his election and re-election. Will he be a net negative for the Democratic nominee? How will the nominee work with the White House? Will they run together? Can they run together? Obama won’t be on the ballot, but he’ll be around the ballot, and how voters feel about this will be determined by what happens over the next few years.

My view is that the only way the Dems come back from this is if they embrace this administration and this president, make the case for the progress they have made since 2008, and fight proudly to entrench its achievements. Running away from Obama in 2016 will be as effective as running away from him in 2014. The obvious precedent is Al Gore’s decision not to run as the proud natural successor to Bill Clinton. That alone probably cost him an election he should have won easily. Now, of course, we are no longer living in an elysian late 1990s bubble economy before the 21st Century hit us like a ton of bricks. So you tell that like it is – and make the case for the success of the strategy since 2008 and the need to keep its gains and extend them further. I wish I believed the Clintons could see this. Their unity with Obama was critical in 2008; it will be just as critical in 2016.

Beinart draws a similar lesson from the midterms:

Think about the Democrats who ran in contested seats Tuesday night: Grimes, Nunn, Hagan, Pryor, Hagan, Shaheen, Landrieu, Braley, Udall, Begich, Warner. During the entire campaign, did a single one of them have what Joe Klein once called a “Turnip Day moment”—a bold, spontaneous outbreak of genuine conviction? Did a single one unfetter himself or herself from the consultants and take a political risk to support something he or she passionately believed was right?

He urges Clinton to take a stand (good luck with that):

In general, young people don’t have the same passion for Hillary that they had for Obama. Neither do African Americans. Neither do many liberals. If she’s going to rouse them to the polls in the same remarkable numbers that Obama did, she’s going to have to take the risk of actually saying something. She’s going to have to find a big issue that she truly cares about and speak about it with reckless conviction.

But what if her last moment of actual, genuine conviction was 1994? Nyhan adds:

[T]he widespread Democratic losses weren’t a “repudiation” of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who played a minor role). But despite claims that they actually offer her a useful opportunity to contrast herself with a Republican Congress, she doesn’t face a “great situation” for her prospective 2016 presidential candidacy either.

Historically, midterm results, which are typically unfavorable to the president’s party, tell us relatively little about the coming presidential election … The record shows that the president’s party can rebound from major losses to win at the polls in two years. Bill Clinton, for instance, bounced back from the 1994 Republican landslide to easily win re-election in 1996. Similarly, President Obama, whose party suffered major losses in 2010, went on to defeat Mitt Romney in 2012, and George Bush won the 1988 election after Republicans suffered major losses in 1986, President Reagan’s sixth year in office.

But Andrew Prokop pushes back on the narrative that Dems will easily retake the Senate in 2016:

It’s not easy to defeat a Senate incumbent. Even in this wave election, Republicans will only have managed to knock off five at the most (Mark Udall, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor, and probably Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich). … [T]he most Senate incumbents who have lost in any one cycle recently is six. Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball has a useful breakdown of these losing incumbents by party.

Now, those tallies may be a bit incomplete, because some incumbents who believe they might lose opt for retirement rather than another run. But, in general, the tendency of incumbents to win is well-known. So if the GOP manages to prevent retirements in potentially competitive states, Democrats will have to knock off a pretty high amount of sitting senators, historically.

Albert Hunt sizes up the next Senate races:

In 2016, Republicans will have to defend 24 of the 34 Senate seats that are up; and 17 of those will be in states that President Barack Obama carried in 2012. Even before last night’s vote, Democratic operatives were eyeing Republican targets in blue states, including Senators Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk in Illinois and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, where Democratic strategists hope to persuade Governor Maggie Hassan, who was re-elected yesterday, to run for the Senate in 2016.

Nonetheless, Democrats may have some problems of their own, starting with the Nevada Senate seat held by Harry Reid.

(Photo via Getty Images)