The bed-wetting has begun.
It may not be a pleasant image, but that’s the phrase used inside Obamaworld when Democrats start worrying about their political fortunes. And nine months before the midterm elections, the worry is intensifying, particularly given the latest batch of bad news for the new health care law.
David Plouffe, the president’s former campaign manager and top political adviser, first coined the term ‘bed-wetting’ back in 2008 when Democrats began openly fretting about their political challenges. He said the mood today inside the party is starting to remind him of the same moment.
When asked whether the bed-wetting phase of the 2014 campaign season was starting, he laughed and declared: “Ha. Of course it is.”
Democrats are indeed anxious, particularly with Republicans only six seats away from winning control of the Senate in November. By any calculation, it’s a tough political map. Democrats are defending Senate seats on unfriendly terrain across the South and other states where President Obama either lost decisively or struggled to win.
This sets the stage for a contentious closed-door policy retreat and strategy session today that Senate Democrats are having with the president. In addition to Obama, the guest speaker is Bill Clinton, who is poised to deliver a speech, take questions and try to coach jittery Democrats how to keep their heads up during a rocky midterm election year.
Only a week after the president urged Democrats in his State of the Union address to get back on the offensive in the health care fight, a new CBO report puts them back on defense. While the analysis from the Congressional Budget Office is far more nuanced than some early headlines suggested, some Democrats worry the argument is too complicated to cut through political attack ads that are already in the works.
But Plouffe said today it’s too early for Democrats to panic – or start bed-wetting.
“There will be 10 more moments, at least, that will be declared to be decisive moments that will determine the 2014 election,” Plouffe told ABC News. “And none of them will be.”
He argued that voters across the country do not share the Republican “obsession” with the health care law. He said the report from the non-partisan budget office, which predicted the Affordable Care Act would shrink the work force by the equivalent of 2 million full-time positions, would not automatically spell doom for Democrats.
He said it would be “a big mistake” for Republicans to build their midterm election campaign message solely around health care.
Still, Democrats go into their strategy session with anxiety about their standing. Their concerns are not entirely rooted in health care, but that remains a big share of the apprehension.
Take Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, a two-term Democrat who is facing the most difficult re-election fight of his political career. Health care is one of the key issues in the race.
Asked how big of a political weight the law would be, Pryor said in a recent interview: “Time will tell.”