In Wake of Elections, Should Democrats Be Worried?

Democrats remain popular, but analysts see signs that could change without the right action

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This week's elections have spurred extensive soul-searching by Republicans, but Democrats have reason to reconsider their positions as well. Election results revealed an excited conservative base, a listless liberal base, and a swath of independent voters migrating to Republican candidates. Democrats, especially President Obama, remain popular, but as they continue to press an ambitious agenda, should they worry about 2010?

  • Southern Blue Dogs At Risk  Nate Silver suggests the populist tide put them at risk, but few others. "There's not really any evidence that the [conservative populist] movement is yet anything more than an isolated and regional one. It will almost certainly have some implications in the South -- and if I were a Democratic Congressman there, I'd be very nervous. But only 18 of the 52 Blue Dogs in fact come from the South, and if I were a conservative Democrat in California, or South Dakota, or Michigan, I'd be feeling rather relieved."
  • The Enthusiasm Gap  The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne urges a return to "the excite-the-base, win-the-middle strategy Democrats pursued so effectively in 2006 and 2008." Dionne notes "a spirit far different than the buoyant confidence Obama inspired a year ago. And the Obama change-agents, particularly the young, were notably absent from the voting booths this week. In Virginia, a state Obama carried comfortably last year, a majority of those who showed up to vote on Tuesday said they had backed John McCain."
  • Independents Aren't Moderates  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder cautions against interpreting the Republican tilt shown by Independents as a sign that moderates are fleeing the Democrats. "Yes, independents are moving to the GOP. That's a big headline. Bad news for Dems, etc, etc. But. And this is important: these are conservative independents. Many disassociated with the GOP -- at least in terms of what they tell pollsters -- because of the GOP brand problems and because it's cool to be independent in parts of the country and in parts of states. Don't confuse 'moderates' with 'independents.'"
  • Worried? Pass Health Care  Steve Benen blasts "hand-wringing Democratic lawmakers" worried about their 2010 prospects, "nearly all of whom seem to be looking for an excuse not to do any heavy lifting" on legislation. "Most of the panicky center-right Dems who want to slam on the brakes seemed to have no interest at all in generating any excitement within the Democratic base," Benen writes. "If Dems had lost the special elections, the weak knees would be easier to understand. But this year, given a choice, voters sent more Democrats to the Hill, giving the party a better chance at passing its agenda. The party should take 'yes' for an answer."
  • Exit Polls Show No Bad News  Lots of analysts shrugged off yesterday's results as too local or too inconclusive to matter. In the New York Times, Ruy Tuxeira makes the case with extensive poll-reading. "Besides being far older and whiter than in 2008, the voters in Virginia on Tuesday said they had supported John McCain last November by 8 points, meaning they were not favorably inclined toward President Obama to begin with. In fact, given that only 43 percent of these voters said they supported Mr. Obama last November, his 48 percent approval rating among them does not indicate a shift away from him but rather toward him."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.