Declaration of Independents
The energy in this election season clearly belongs to the Tea Party - a pushback against institutionalized bad government in Washington - even from Republicans. Democrats try to calm themselves by calling the Tea Party extreme.
Many Republican candidates “emerging from the primaries are on the far right of the political spectrum, and many are driven by the Tea Party movement,” Representative Chris Van Hollen told reporters in Washington.
Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe made the argument yesterday on Meet the Press that Republicans will have a tough time nominating an effective challenger to the president due to the Tea Party movement.
On the other hand, Rich Lowry points out that independent voters line up with the Tea Party philosophy on the big issues.
LOWRY: Then there was the cynical opportunism that Charlie referred to, a crisis is--never let a crisis go to waste. Therefore do health care, try to cap and trade, things that have nothing to do with the economy or may actually be harmful to it. And then three, there's the fact that the program has not worked on its own terms. The stimulus has not worked. So you add all three of those things up and you have a very grim picture. And another huge problem, independents are much closer to the tea partiers on the big issues and even on the smaller hot-button ones--spending, debt, Arizona immigration law, Ground Zero mosque, all that--much closer to the tea partiers than they are to the Democrats.
CHARLIE COOK, EDITOR THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Democrats desperately needed three things to happen this year. Number one, they needed unemployment to turn around. And when you look at the, the groups that were sort of the booster, that pushed them over the top, among African-Americans the unemployment rate is 16.3, you know, way more than it was when the president took office; Hispanics, 12; young people, 26, the job market for recent college graduates the worst in 35 years. He desperately needed unemployment to turn around. Number two, he needed attitudes toward healthcare reform to fundamentally change, with people saying, "OK...
MR. GREGORY: And that hasn't happened.
MR. COOK: And that--it just hasn't happened. And they had to get control of the agenda. And right now what they're doing is they're paying a price for having focused so thoroughly on health care for a solid year at a time when the economy was deteriorating. And, for a lot of voters, they just see the president and Democrats as having checked the box on stimulus and then gone to cap and trade and health care leaving the economy to deteriorate.
Notice Cook's use of the past tense. The window to change the dynamic of the November elections is presumed to be closed by many political observers. Between the economy, unemployment, the war in Afghanistan, the cost of health care and the failure of the stimulus to meet stated goals, there is little Democrats can say to convince independent voters that they didn't make a big mistake voting the socialists into power.