With less than a month before the midterm elections, Democrats are in even more trouble than they were earlier in the earlier in the year. Most people assumed that Republicans were already on the path to winning the Senate. But in recent months, several factors put that advantage into question. Strong campaigns from democratic challengers such as in Kentucky with Allison Lundergan Grimes and strange incidents such as the Democratic candidate dropping out in Kansas, began to make Republicans nervous about their prospects of picking up the Senate. While the Democrats have been putting up a fight in many of those senate races, things seem to be breaking down over the past few weeks, mainly due to gaffes and otherwise bad public relations.
We saw a couple of weeks ago, democratic incumbent Senator John Walsh drop out of the Montana senate race due to his admission that he plagiarized years ago for his Master’s Degree. Democrats had previously relied on this seat to stay in democratic hands, but now fear that this seat will now be lost to the Republicans.
In North Carolina, incumbent senator Kay Hagan is being slammed for missing an Armed Services committee hearing in order to attend a fundraiser for her campaign and is being hammered for it as the topic of discussion in that hearing was the growing threat of ISIS. She is in trouble of losing.
Then, we saw this week that democratic candidate for senate in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes make news by not answering whether or not she voted for Barack Obama for President of the United States in 2012. Grimes has been running a successful campaign against Mitch McConnell, that was until this week when asked if she voted for him.
Now, the Real Talk…
Democrats are seriously in trouble this year and unfortunately, will likely lose the Senate. Many of them are getting caught in gaffes that may cost them similar to how Republicans shot themselves in the foot in 2012. Though Democrats aren’t saying crazy things like “legitimate rape”, the fact that they’re getting called on trivial things such as who did you vote for or why you didn’t go to this meeting, versus having the focus put on what their opponents represent, will likely yield them similar results that Republicans had in 2012.
Many of these senators spent the entire campaign trying to separate themselves from President Obama due to his unpopularity in swing or red states. But if these democrats lose, they will have proven that this strategy of distancing themselves from the president doesn’t work. They are spending so much time talking about what they don’t agree with the President on as opposed to why their Republican challengers aren’t good for their states.
In Kentucky, Grimes was doing a good job of telling them why Mitch McConnell is bad for Kentucky. She distanced herself from the president, but focused most of her time on McConnell. Then she gets the question she doesn’t want to answer – did you vote for President Obama in 2012? By not answering this question, she is putting the attention back on one person, which is not a good strategy. She would be better off saying, yes I did vote for Obama because at the time I thought he would be better than the alternative, and maybe list a few good things that he’s done. Kentucky’s governor embraced the Affordable Care Act and it has worked really well in Kentucky. This would have been a great issue to capitalized on and then pivot back to McConnell. But by not answering at all, she may have lost all of the momentum she had leading into the midterms.
But this general strategy is not good for Democrats because it puts the focus on a person as opposed to ideas. While these senators – Hagan (NC), Landrieu (LA), Begich (AK), among others – don’t want to be associated with the president due to his unpopularity, they supported many of his policies. They support his policies because they believe that it was good for their constituents. If it was good enough to support in Congress, it should be good enough to defend in the election. But this distancing from the president is unsustainable and it is likely going to cost democrats the Senate in 2014.
In 2012, Barack Obama was reelected for President. This was after his approval ratings were well below 50% (though he received 51% of the vote), the unemployment rate was above what it was when he took office, and the economy was in a slow recovery. History said he should have lost. But when it came down to it, voters came out and decisively voted to reelect him. This should be a lesson to Democrats that issues should dominate elections, not people. Even those that didn’t like Obama personally, they identified more with his policies than Romney’s.
It may be too late at this point, but if these democratic candidates want any chance of winning, they need to focus on issues like that are popular and policies that have been successful as opposed to making it about one person. They would be wise to heed this advice.
Politico – Montana’s John Walsh quits Senate race
CBS News – Did Alison Lundergan Grimes vote for Obama?
CNN – Obama’s midterm malaise