Can You Stand the Rain?

Given the current trajectory of things, I think it is fairly reasonable to predict Republicans will seize control of the Senate on November 2. The RealClearPolitics poll aggregate projects +8 GOP pickups. In addition, I think Linda McMahon will probably beat lethargic fabulist Dick Blumenthal in Connecticut. Rather than saving Harry Reid, Sharron Angle’s weakness will make her the Jim Webb of the 2010 class, who narrowly skated past the terribly flawed Macaque Man. For the time being anyway, Washington state is one to watch.

Consequently, the radicalism of South Carolina senator Jim DeMint is big news. We should ponder what it means for the 112th Congress that convenes in January. In short, I believe Sen. DeMint is nicely positioned to be the shadow majority leader and this does not bode well for the Democratic administration on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Before peeling back DeMint’s recent public statements in BusinessWeek and POLITICO, we should take a moment to look back at “DeMint Condition,” a profile of Sen. DeMint from this past January.

The New Republic:

... DeMint fell into a funk. “There was a period of time after that where he was pretty depressed and eating lunch a lot by himself and didn’t really have any friends in the Capitol,” recalls the former staffer. But soon, DeMint and his people began casting about for like-minded conservatives he could bond with. Traveling around the country communing with the grassroots and hawking his book Saving Freedom, DeMint once more found comfort, acceptance--and opportunity. “It really opened up some doors for him and sort of showed him this was something to pursue and push,” says former DeMint speechwriter Mike Connolly. Realizing he “was never going to be part of the club,” recalls Connolly, the senator had to make a choice. “He looks at himself and looks at the party and asks, ‘What can I do? Am I just here to be the right flank and try to influence a few little amendments here and there, or am I really going to try and change’” the conference? Thus was cemented DeMint’s role: perpetual burr in the butt of his party’s leadership.

It is exceedingly hard not to admire the brazen balls and remarkable political judgment on full display here. It frankly doesn’t matter if you agree with Mr. DeMint’s philosophy or bask in the ascendance of the Tea Party movement (I do not). All of this was fairly predictable. My only wish is that Mr. DeMint had lent some of his fortitude and sense of urgency to progressive avatars like Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. I wonder if Mr. Feingold would have found himself in as much trouble as he presently is had he accumulated more anti-Obama street cred.

Feingold’s lone vote against the Patriot Act makes him morally superior to every one of his Senate colleagues, as far as the current writer is concerned. To the average voter, however, his principled stand in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 probably sounds like some quaint war tale. And while he certainly cast the right votes on the TARP and Dodd-Frank monstrosities, he failed to passionately indict the rotten (bipartisan) system that produced these things. It therefore bears the appearance of political posturing: Casting troublesome but safely inconsequential votes. Jim DeMint’s lonely PB&J lunches in the Senate cafeteria are convincingly portrayed by Michelle Cottle. When Russ does it, it looks a tad bit gimmicky.

There's more...

Structural Factors

A constant refrain from the pundit elite this midterm has been how different things could be if only the President had been able to "connect." If only the President -- like Reagan, or Clinton -- had more charismatically or effectively communicated his economic plan... If only the President had struck a nerve with the electorate...

Salon's Steve Kornacki explains how the "failed to connect" myth fails to really explain:

It's tempting -- really, really tempting -- to watch Bill Clinton on television these days and to say, "Gee, the Democrats would be much better off right now if he were in the White House instead of Barack Obama"...

Clinton, pundits are now telling us, embodies the magic formula that Obama is missing...

This is true, but only to a point. Yes, Clinton was -- and is -- one of the most effective communicators the Democratic Party has ever produced. But his gift for persuasion had sharp and clear limits while he was president, and when he was faced with a political climate like the one Obama now confronts, it was utterly useless... In short, Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton in the 1994 midterms -- and his party still got massacred...

And when the dust settled, the political world -- Republicans, Democrats and the media -- was united in one conclusion: Clinton was a goner in 1996. The country had tuned him out. He had lost his ability to "connect."

His experience is well worth keeping in mind now. We like to think that personality, message and campaign tactics are what define elections -- that the good politicians are the ones who put all of this together in a way that trumps structural factors like the economy. But that's just not how it works. Clinton's words -- no matter how masterfully crafted and articulated -- fell on deaf ears in 1994, just as Obama's are mostly falling on deaf ears today. It was only when favorable structural factors were again present that Clinton began "connecting" again.

No matter how masterfully crafted or articulated. Voters aren't responding to a lack of polished message or even a rejection of the ideas that do reach them. They aren't embracing the GOP or their economic "plan."  There is even some evidence that they don't think Democrats have gone far enough with reform.  So how is Obama losing them?

The "structural factors" influencing the feelings of voters this election are as much about the perception that Washington is broken, and that Democrats can't get it done in the face of Republican obstruction (another way in which the GOP was succeeding in 1994) as they are about high unemployment.

2010 won't be 1994 again for the Democrats, but to change the political climate, the President and House Democrats need to get in and fight for legislation, bold legislation. Ironically, a small GOP majority in the House might make that happen faster.

Structural Factors

A constant refrain from the pundit elite this midterm has been how different things could be if only the President had been able to "connect." If only the President -- like Reagan, or Clinton -- had more charismatically or effectively communicated his economic plan... If only the President had struck a nerve with the electorate...

Salon's Steve Kornacki explains how the "failed to connect" myth fails to really explain:

It's tempting -- really, really tempting -- to watch Bill Clinton on television these days and to say, "Gee, the Democrats would be much better off right now if he were in the White House instead of Barack Obama"...

Clinton, pundits are now telling us, embodies the magic formula that Obama is missing...

This is true, but only to a point. Yes, Clinton was -- and is -- one of the most effective communicators the Democratic Party has ever produced. But his gift for persuasion had sharp and clear limits while he was president, and when he was faced with a political climate like the one Obama now confronts, it was utterly useless... In short, Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton in the 1994 midterms -- and his party still got massacred...

And when the dust settled, the political world -- Republicans, Democrats and the media -- was united in one conclusion: Clinton was a goner in 1996. The country had tuned him out. He had lost his ability to "connect."

His experience is well worth keeping in mind now. We like to think that personality, message and campaign tactics are what define elections -- that the good politicians are the ones who put all of this together in a way that trumps structural factors like the economy. But that's just not how it works. Clinton's words -- no matter how masterfully crafted and articulated -- fell on deaf ears in 1994, just as Obama's are mostly falling on deaf ears today. It was only when favorable structural factors were again present that Clinton began "connecting" again.

No matter how masterfully crafted or articulated. Voters aren't responding to a lack of polished message or even a rejection of the ideas that do reach them. They aren't embracing the GOP or their economic "plan."  There is even some evidence that they don't think Democrats have gone far enough with reform.  So how is Obama losing them?

The "structural factors" influencing the feelings of voters this election are as much about the perception that Washington is broken, and that Democrats can't get it done in the face of Republican obstruction (another way in which the GOP was succeeding in 1994) as they are about high unemployment.

2010 won't be 1994 again for the Democrats, but to change the political climate, the President and House Democrats need to get in and fight for legislation, bold legislation. Ironically, a small GOP majority in the House might make that happen faster.

Structural Factors

A constant refrain from the pundit elite this midterm has been how different things could be if only the President had been able to "connect." If only the President -- like Reagan, or Clinton -- had more charismatically or effectively communicated his economic plan... If only the President had struck a nerve with the electorate...

Salon's Steve Kornacki explains how the "failed to connect" myth fails to really explain:

It's tempting -- really, really tempting -- to watch Bill Clinton on television these days and to say, "Gee, the Democrats would be much better off right now if he were in the White House instead of Barack Obama"...

Clinton, pundits are now telling us, embodies the magic formula that Obama is missing...

This is true, but only to a point. Yes, Clinton was -- and is -- one of the most effective communicators the Democratic Party has ever produced. But his gift for persuasion had sharp and clear limits while he was president, and when he was faced with a political climate like the one Obama now confronts, it was utterly useless... In short, Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton in the 1994 midterms -- and his party still got massacred...

And when the dust settled, the political world -- Republicans, Democrats and the media -- was united in one conclusion: Clinton was a goner in 1996. The country had tuned him out. He had lost his ability to "connect."

His experience is well worth keeping in mind now. We like to think that personality, message and campaign tactics are what define elections -- that the good politicians are the ones who put all of this together in a way that trumps structural factors like the economy. But that's just not how it works. Clinton's words -- no matter how masterfully crafted and articulated -- fell on deaf ears in 1994, just as Obama's are mostly falling on deaf ears today. It was only when favorable structural factors were again present that Clinton began "connecting" again.

No matter how masterfully crafted or articulated. Voters aren't responding to a lack of polished message or even a rejection of the ideas that do reach them. They aren't embracing the GOP or their economic "plan."  There is even some evidence that they don't think Democrats have gone far enough with reform.  So how is Obama losing them?

The "structural factors" influencing the feelings of voters this election are as much about the perception that Washington is broken, and that Democrats can't get it done in the face of Republican obstruction (another way in which the GOP was succeeding in 1994) as they are about high unemployment.

2010 won't be 1994 again for the Democrats, but to change the political climate, the President and House Democrats need to get in and fight for legislation, bold legislation. Ironically, a small GOP majority in the House might make that happen faster.

Structural Factors

A constant refrain from the pundit elite this midterm has been how different things could be if only the President had been able to "connect." If only the President -- like Reagan, or Clinton -- had more charismatically or effectively communicated his economic plan... If only the President had struck a nerve with the electorate...

Salon's Steve Kornacki explains how the "failed to connect" myth fails to really explain:

It's tempting -- really, really tempting -- to watch Bill Clinton on television these days and to say, "Gee, the Democrats would be much better off right now if he were in the White House instead of Barack Obama"...

Clinton, pundits are now telling us, embodies the magic formula that Obama is missing...

This is true, but only to a point. Yes, Clinton was -- and is -- one of the most effective communicators the Democratic Party has ever produced. But his gift for persuasion had sharp and clear limits while he was president, and when he was faced with a political climate like the one Obama now confronts, it was utterly useless... In short, Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton in the 1994 midterms -- and his party still got massacred...

And when the dust settled, the political world -- Republicans, Democrats and the media -- was united in one conclusion: Clinton was a goner in 1996. The country had tuned him out. He had lost his ability to "connect."

His experience is well worth keeping in mind now. We like to think that personality, message and campaign tactics are what define elections -- that the good politicians are the ones who put all of this together in a way that trumps structural factors like the economy. But that's just not how it works. Clinton's words -- no matter how masterfully crafted and articulated -- fell on deaf ears in 1994, just as Obama's are mostly falling on deaf ears today. It was only when favorable structural factors were again present that Clinton began "connecting" again.

No matter how masterfully crafted or articulated. Voters aren't responding to a lack of polished message or even a rejection of the ideas that do reach them. They aren't embracing the GOP or their economic "plan."  There is even some evidence that they don't think Democrats have gone far enough with reform.  So how is Obama losing them?

The "structural factors" influencing the feelings of voters this election are as much about the perception that Washington is broken, and that Democrats can't get it done in the face of Republican obstruction (another way in which the GOP was succeeding in 1994) as they are about high unemployment.

2010 won't be 1994 again for the Democrats, but to change the political climate, the President and House Democrats need to get in and fight for legislation, bold legislation. Ironically, a small GOP majority in the House might make that happen faster.

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