Democrats Take Slight Lead In Generic Ballot–But Their Problems Are Far From Over

The Democrats have taken a meaningless one point Gallup’s generic Congressional poll, not long after they came back from a ten point deficit to tie. They lead in other generic polls and trail in others. As I’ve pointed out in the past, these generic polls mean little as we are dealing with a large number of individual votes.

There has been talk today about the Democrats working to nationalize the race by running adds against the Tea Party. The New York Times reported yesterday (later denied) that the Obama White House was planning to run ads tying the Republican Party to the extremists in the Tea Party:

President Obama’s political advisers, looking for ways to help Democrats and alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

“We need to get out the message that it’s now really dangerous to re-empower the Republican Party,” said one Democratic strategist who has spoken with White House advisers but requested anonymity to discuss private strategy talks.

Democrats are divided. The party’s House and Senate campaign committees are resistant, not wanting to do anything that smacks of nationalizing the midterm elections when high unemployment and the drop in Mr. Obama’s popularity have made the climate so hostile to Democrats. Endangered Congressional candidates want any available money to go to their localized campaigns.

Late Sunday night, White House advisers denied that a national ad campaign was being planned. “There’s been no discussion of such a thing at the White House” or the Democratic National Committee, said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser.

Proponents say a national ad campaign, most likely on cable television, would complement those individual campaigns and give Democrats a chance to redefine the stakes. The Democratic strategist said voters did not now see much threat to them from a Republican takeover of Congress, even though some Tea Party-backed candidates and other Republicans have taken positions that many voters consider extreme, like shutting down the government to get their way, privatizing Social Security and Medicare and ending unemployment insurance.

Running ads against reactionary Republican proposals makes more sense than specifically targeting the Tea Party. The Tea Party candidates who have won primaries are now officially Republican candidates. It will do more good to show how extremist the Republicans are as opposed to concentrating on the Tea Parties. Polls show most Americans disagree with the Tea Party and that their support is now dropping, but many voters (including Howard Dean) are still unclear on what the movement actually is.

I don’t buy the Democratic objections based upon nationalizing the election. The election has already been nationalized. Running away from the Democratic Party only leaves many voters wondering why they should vote for them. This is especially foolish (other than perhaps in some conservative districts) considering the many successes which the Democrats have had in office, and as polls show a majority of people do prefer Democratic policies over Republican ones. Democrats need to campaign on how they have improved the economy, even if the job is not yet complete. They need to run on how they have prevented insurance companies from being able to drop people’s insurance when they get sick, and are taking action to help the over fifty million who lack health insurance. They need to run on their support for reproductive rights and stem cell research. If they really had any guts, they would even take credit for supporting the principle of separation of church and state which the Founding Fathers realized was so important.

While the two parties are virtually tied in the generic ballot, Republicans currently have a strong lead when it comes to being enthusiastic about voting. Is it any surprise that Democrats are not enthusiastic when many Democrats are running away from Democratic policies? Negative campaigns do work, and the Democrats very well might increase enthusiasm for voting by showing how awful it would be if Republicans do win. It might do even more good if they gave some positive reasons for voting for the Democrats. I will turn out to vote for the Democrats since they are the only major  party on the ballot which is not bat-shit crazy–but not all that enthusiastically.