Nov 05, 2012
Whether Barack Obama finds reelection victory on Tuesday or falls short to Mitt Romney, one thing seems increasingly clear: the House of Representatives will likely remain in Republican control.
The dynamics of House races are highly localized given the size of districts, but several national trends go a long way to explain why the Democrats seem unable to capitalize on the failures of their opponents to win back the chamber. They are: One, an aggressive redistricting strategy; two, a huge spending spree from traditional and non-traditional groups; three, a presidential campaign that largely left many Democratic challengers to fight against GOP incumbents on their own; and four, a party-wide strategy that time and again failed to adequately articulate and challenge the Republican's policy proposals and legislative agenda.
As The Huffington Postreports:
..It appears that even in the best case scenario for Democrats, they are only poised to gain a net of about 10 seats, well short of the 25 they would need to take back the majority. In fact, it is possible that the composition of the House of Representatives in January will look nearly identical to how it does today.
In addition to massive (indeed, unprecedented) amount of outside spending, the more significant reason for GOP strength comes from strategic redistricting that came in the aftermath of sweeping Republican victories in state legislatures if 2010.
Huffington Post explains that many Republican incumbents, "especially those who were first elected in 2010 from swing or Democratic-leaning districts, were redrawn into safer Republican districts, insulating them from what would have otherwise been competitive reelection races."
Associated Presstakes a look at the financial figures which took spending on Congressional races over $1 billion:
Current House GOP candidates have spent $500 million from their own campaigns, reinforced by $99 million from outside groups like American Crossroads and $65 million from the House Republican campaign organization, according to the center.
Democratic candidates have spent $374 million, plus $71 million from outside groups like the Service Employees International Union and $61 million from the House Democratic campaign committee.
Added together, that's given the GOP the upper hand by $664 million to $506 million.
Politico explores why Democrats semed unable to turn to their advantage even the most draconian policy proposals put forward by the GOP House, writing:
After Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his No. 2 in August, Democrats were elated -- DCCC Chairman Steve Israel even dubbed the Wisconsin congressman a "majority maker."
The argument from Democrats: Ryan's controversial plan to rewrite Medicare would scare seniors, who would rush to the polls to pull the lever against Republicans. It's a bet that Democrats were willing to stake their hopes on: Sixty-four of the 123 TV ads the DCCC ran between Aug. 16 and Oct. 29 focused on Medicare.
Nearly three months after the Ryan pick was made, it's clear that these attacks never really took hold.
Democrats credit Republicans -- some of whom had been initially concerned about Ryan's impact on down-ballot candidates -- with launching a vigorous pushback on the issue, accusing Obama of including cuts to Medicare in his health care bill. By the time October was up, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found Mitt Romney leading Obama on the question of who's more likely to protect Medicare.
Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader last week lambasted the Obama campaign for running a "lone ranger" campaign instead of running with the Congressional Democrats as a team. Because Obama "already has the liberals, progressives, unionists, and the minorities well in hand," argued Nader, the campaign's advisors long ago decided to focus on the "right-of-center" voters they think he needs to win.
The problem, continues Nader, is that instead of moving ahead on their own to offer progressive policies like a minimum wage increase, a transaction tax on the banks, or a public works program to put Americans back to work, most of the Democrats have followed the president's lead by treading softly on Obama's more centrist platform.
When I spoke to other leading progressive Democrats to assert themselves, jurisdictional turf presented itself. No senior Democrat in the House runs first with any labor issues other than Cong. George Miller, from the progressive San Francisco area, no less. Nor do any other senior Democrats run first with any energy and environmental issues other than ranking Committee member, Cong. Ed Markey. Markey and his allies privately wring their hands over Obama's silence on climate change during the President's daily campaigns. But the word from all quarters of the Democratic Party is not to move if Obama doesn't move. You would not want to show up the President's inaction, would you?
Yet, the Democrats have their own interest in winning their own Congressional elections, whether or not Obama cares about them. Doesn't seem to matter. Following Obama means they may follow him as a party over the cliffs of defeat while he rides to the top of the Hill. You see the vast majority of incumbent Democrats are in safe districts and their seats are secure. Retaking the majority in the House is another matter. Personal career complacency does not vigorously propel a party drive to win back the House, regardless of what Obama chooses to permit.
What do the House Democrats owe Obama anyhow? He raises no money for them. He campaigns without them, thereby depriving them of mass media coverage. Even the Congressional Black Caucus is replete with indignation at how Obama has dissed them and their poverty issues since day one of his presidency.
After Election Day, November 6, contemporary historians will write that the Congressional Democrats waited too long on Obama and wasted their chance to win back the House and gain more seats in the Senate.
This is the politics of presidential personalismo run riot - inexplicable precisely because it has become so suicidal to the Congressional Democrats and to justice for the people for whom they claim to speak.
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