Having spent the last week bogged down with work in my other life, my political hack alter ego hasn't had the time to do much more than tweet my thoughts on a few things to cross the wire. I've decided to recap a pretty eventful week in a single post.
Daily tracking polls act as a canary in the coal mine and this week the President's standing in both Rasmussen and Gallup went dramatically south due to concerns about the economy. At one point, Mitt Romney lead by eight points in Rasmussen and four in Gallup. Obama has held up better in other polls, but the takeaway is his vulnerability on the economy. Every time a headline about sluggish data dominates the news cycle, Obama will take a hit in the polls.
While economic concerns were shaking the public's confidence in the POTUS, Barack Obama was forced to publically endorse gay marriage after Vice President Biden spoke out of turn. Even though the public is more or less indifferent to the issue, the timing of his announcement appears transparently political. Instead of coverage about the historic nature of his support, it is being viewed as calculated and cynical. Romney, for his part, hasn't taken the bait to make this election about social issues. Unless the president is able to put a dent into the former MA governor's Mr. Fix-it image, he will find winning re-election an incredibly difficult task.
Furthermore, William Galston is lamenting the loss of Ohio with this decision. He concludes Obama has increased his chances of winning in western states like Colorado and Nevada (perhaps even Arizona), while this hurts him in Ohio and Florida. His only path to victory is the following. If you believe Galston, the only path to victory for President Obama is to sweep Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia.
We are six months removed from the presidential election and Democrats are already spinning a "thread the needle" strategy. This is not a good sign for Team Blue.
I don't see how anyone objective sees a realistic scenario where the Democrats retain control of the Senate, but this hasn't stopped speculation. The GOP actually has a better chance of winning a filibuster proof majority than they do of being a minority party. While this statement is shocking, and most definitely bucks conventional wisdom, it speaks to the need for the pundit class to change it's eye level. Consider the stream of good news (for Republicans) this week.
IN-SEN: Primaries can be bloody affairs which leave the winner too wounded to contest the general election. Democrats have been touting Rep. Joe Donnolly's chances now that Lugar is out of the way. Lost in the crowing about Richard Mourdock's upset of Richard Lugar has been a discussion of Mourdock's rapidly rising approval rating. Unfortunately for our friends on the left of the aisle, Mourdock is not Sharron Angle or Ken Buck. He's won statewide twice, and he has far more good-government credentials than the disastrous Tea Party candidates of 2010. The NRSC might have to run a few ads here, but Romney's presence at the top of the ticket will make it very difficult for Donnelly to paint the state blue.
MA-SEN: Elizabeth Warren has now spent the better part of two weeks trying to put to rest questions of her academic credentials. Since so much of her resume is her tenure as a Harvard Law professor, allegations she claimed to be Native American to help land the job will be damaging. Her series of incoherent answers are only compounding the damage. I suspect she's been less than forthcoming in this instance, and this issue will linger until she offers a very honest explanation. This is not a campaign killer, but it has completely overshadowed the advertizements she's been running to define herself.
NJ-SEN: Don't let the nine point lead fool you, Bob Menendez is in serious trouble. Every survey shows Menendez well under 50%, while his opponent, Republican Joe Kryllos, is slowly creeping into the race. A twenty point deficit has been cut in half, and it's come from a drop in support for the incumbent as well as an uptick in support for the challenger. Democrats have six months of pain to look forward to in this race. Right now they are only mildly concerned, but expect this race to continue to narrow as November rolls near. I expect this to be a Toss Up before all is said and done.
OH-SEN: The script in Ohio is very similar to New Jersey's, except it's further in the process of breaking Democrat's hearts. After spending the past year in denial, the left is acknowledging that Josh Mandel has turned a double digit deficit into a competitive race. While Sherrod Brown hasn't broken 50%, the Republicans and right-leaning independents are consolidating behind the challenger. Presidential poll numbers in Ohio are starting to mirror the senate race here, and I have every reason to believe the correlation will continue.
VA-SEN: George Allen remains tied with Tim Kaine in Virginia. While this seems obvious to anyone paying attention, let me tell you why it's an ominous sign for Democrats. Allen's collapse in 2006 was epic and I felt it would be impossible for him to recover. When paired against a non-offensive personality like Tim Kaine, it seemed like he would be in trouble or would need Romney's coattails to carry him over the finishline. Instead, Allen has consistently outperformed the top of the ticket and the longer this trend continues the more confident I will be about his eventual victory.