WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2010 -- The map that looked so different -- and so promising -- for Democrats in 2008 has gotten a makeover in time for 2010.
House Democrats begin their summer break this week playing nationwide defense. Last week's announcement by House campaign officials that they've reserved ad time in some 60 congressional districts confirms the obvious: Democrats can lose their majority in the mid-term elections this fall.
Enter President Obama -- or maybe not so much.
Though the president retains popularity in many corners of the country, the places where he's grown substantially less popular happen to coincide with the places where Democrats find themselves most endangered.
That means the president is unlikely to be able to be able to turn around the sagging fortunes of Democrats this fall. Many of the same districts where a big political gun is most needed are exactly where this particular weapon won't be deployed.
Some Democrats are already letting the White House know that the president's presence isn't that welcome. In many other districts, silence from incumbents on the matter speaks loud enough to White House officials who are shaping the president's campaign schedule.
It's a stunning reversal of fortunes for a president who, less than two years ago, confidently strode into virtually any quarter of the country -- to the delight of Democrats virtually everywhere.
Obama re-made the electoral map in 2008, winning in recent GOP strongholds like Virginia and North Carolina, and even picking up an electoral vote in Nebraska.
The Obama tide lifted all Democratic boats in the last election cycle. Democrats picked up an additional 21 seats in 2008, padding their margin in the House of Representatives with freshmen from parts of the country that hadn't been particularly kind to Democrats in recent elections.
Democrats now hold a 39-seat edge in the House. Yet the playing field continues to expand: The Rothenberg Political Report currently lists 88 seats as "in play." Seventy-six of those seats currently are held by Democrats.
Many of the same places that helped build the president's winning coalition in his race against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. -- states such as Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and Pennsylvania -- could be the places where Republicans rack up the gains they need to take back the House.
In many of those districts, the Obama agenda has been widely unpopular. House members are left defending votes on items including the stimulus, bailouts, health care and cap-and-trade that have grown more unpopular with the passage of time.
It means that the president and his agenda will very much be on the ballot -- while the president himself won't be the best position to help Democrats play defense.
Democratic leaders have done all they can to prepare for this moment. They began working to shore up their members almost as soon as the 2008 election was over, adamant not to let a GOP takeover sneak up on them like it did in 1994.
"I'm not nervous at all," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared on ABC's "This Week" today.
Her colleagues are plenty nervous without her.