Let the Precriminations Begin!

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A massive blow to Democrats Tuesday is all but a foregone conclusion. Stats wunderkind Nate Silver is predicting they will lose as many as 52 seats in the House. There's a non-trivial chance they could lose the Senate. How did the party fall so far so fast? The team at MSNBC's FirstRead offers a few possibilities. First, the historical: the president's party almost always loses in the midterms. Second, cultural: Americans just don't like one party controlling everything. Third, economic: voters punish the party in power when unemployment is high. On top of that, Democrats failed to sell health care reform, to both moderates and their disappointed liberal base. "And there's this: Democrats, after two years in FULL control, were unable to deliver on their biggest thematic promise to change the way Washington works." The season of recriminations is already in full swing.

  • Obama Screwed the House on the Energy Vote, reports Gerald Seib at The Wall Street Journal. Only six months after Obama was sworn in, the House pushed through a sweeping climate-change bill that would have regulated carbon through cap-and-trade--a dangerous vote for Democrats from coal-producing states. The Senate declined to take up the measure. "So a handful of brave Democrats put their necks on the line for what has turned out to be a meaningless vote," Seib writes. "Now those lawmakers—Rick Boucher in Virginia and John Boccieri and Zack Space in Ohio most notably—are being pilloried for their troubles. If those Democrats lose, and Democrats lose the House by a couple of seats, they can look back on cap-and-trade and wonder."
  • Denial About an Unpopular Agenda has doomed Dems, David Brooks argues in The New York Times. "Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad," Brooks writes. "It's easier to fixate on buffoons like Carl Paladino than focus on opponents who can actually get elected. Top Dems seem to think they're hurting because "that they are so darn captivated by substance, it never occurs to them to look out for their own political self-interest.... Some low-minded people could look at events this year and tell a dull, prosaic story. They would say that parties that promote unpopular policies tend to get punished at election time. These grubby-minded people would point out that Democratic House members who voted against health care are doing well in their re-election bids, while those who voted for it are getting clobbered." Next Wednesday, though, "as is their wont, Democrats will flip from complete self-worship to complete self-laceration in the blink of an eye."
  • Overconfidence About the Economy led to complacency, The New York Times's David Leonhardt reports. After almost two straight years of job losses, in early December 2009, a report showed that in November, the bleeding had almost completely stopped. Economist Christina Romer was so excited that when she brought the numbers into the Oval Office, President Obama hugged her. Their celebration was premature. "Today, that brief period of optimism looks like one of the worst things that could have happened to the White House, other Democrats and, above all, the economy," Leonhardt reports. Democrats became complacent, and pushing through more stimulus measures dropped down a few notches on their list of priorities. Democrats pushed through many big bills in the last two years, but on the economy, they've "fallen short by any reasonable standard, including their own."
  • People Are Uncomfortable with a Black President, Rep. Terry Moran tells The Washington Post's Robert McCartney. "Moran believes that Democrats are temporary victims of knee-jerk opposition to the 'profound, watershed event' of electing an African American president," Moran explains. "The GOP's current energy is fueled largely by fear and racism, he said, and by manipulation of grass-roots sentiment by a handful of ultra-rich families funding the tea party." Besides, Moran said, "the brightest stars"--meaning attention-grabbing Republicans--"are most often shooting stars which are on their way down."
  • It's Buyer's Remorse, John Podhoretz explains in the New York Post. "We've had 18 months of data points from many different sources that all tell the same story: Americans who vote have radically changed direction when it comes to which party they prefer," Podhoretz writes. "And that buyer's remorse is not momentary or sudden. The shift began 18 months ago," before health care solidified it.
  • No Really, It's the Economy, Mother Jones's meme-slayer Kevin Drum writes. A lot of those redder seats Democrats won in 2006 and 2008 were always going to be tough to hold onto. In fact, political scientist Gary Jacobson has built a model that "predicts about 70 percent of the seat changes from one election to another. Its key ingredients are change in disposable income, the size of the current majority, and the president's approval rating. In other words, maybe a third of this election—at most—has anything to do with Obama's too-cool demeanor or the 'ground zero mosque' or Glenn Beck's histrionics."

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