The Note: Leader Hastert?

WASHINGTON, July 24

While the important Middle East story is certain to dominate another week of news coverage, by next Monday, The Note estimates that Election Day will be one week closer.

That means that those who lose sight of what matters (Will George W. Bush be able to salvage the last two years of his presidency by helping to keep his party in control of Congress?) will have no one to blame but themselves.

The Democrats have plenty of their own problems, but here are the latest signs that "GOP" stands for "Got Oversized Problems" in 2006:

1. THE POLLS: As media polls start to come out over the next 90 days showing publicly what Republicans have known privately for months (that many of their candidates are currently in deep doo doo), bad things can happen. (See the Ohio data below.)

First, the Old Media will become even more excited about the "Republicans lose the House -- and maybe the Senate (!)" narrative than it/they already is/are. Second, donors, who are already giving in shocking numbers to the out-of-power party, will start to give even more to Democrats (and less to Republicans). Third, liberals will be energized and conservatives depressed. Fourth, real-life human beings (a/k/a "voters") will start to hear the "Democrats will win" storyline and that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. THE COATTAILS: In a lot of the states with key House battleground races, top-of-the-ticket statewide contests at this point appear to hold the possibility of major Democratic routs. We are talking Northeast and Midwest here: Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, and maybe even (despite the hand wringing in the press) Connecticut. And maybe even Florida (Senate, not governor).

3. THE MONEY: Given Big Labor, Democratic Party fundraising, and those liberal millionaire/billionaire types, where/when/who are the conservative 527 white knights going to emerge? They ARE going to emerge, right?

4. THE BUSTED FOG MACHINE: Republican plans to shatter the glass jaws of Democratic non-incumbent candidates using the lower-taxes-keep-you-safer fog machine just might not work in this fall's environment.

5. THE CALENDAR: The October Surprise sweepstakes still holds a lot of peril for the President's party, including political scandal legal action in Ohio, more possible Abramoff-related indictments, Woodward's book, Iraq, gas prices, prescription drugs, and a few others we are not at liberty to reveal here.

6. MR. SCHUMER AND MR. EMANUEL: These cats are not fooling around.

7. IMMIGRATION: It is still hard to envision a plausible outcome that will help the Republicans in November. Do-no-harm seems their best bet, and even that looks tough.

8. NOT STEMMING THE TIDE: Josh Bolten's weak stem cell perf on "Meet" yesterday has convinced Democrats, now more than ever, that they can make the President's veto an issue in 2006, at least in the Northeast.

9. AFRICAN AMERICAN AND HISPANIC TURNOUT POSSIBILITIES: There are indications in some key races that Democrats might have figured out this puzzle enough to actually make a difference this fall.

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