Donald Lambro

Republicans, on the other hand, are attending open meetings in their districts to sharpen the political contrast with their Democratic opponents, who think they don't have to answer to anyone, least of all the people they serve.

But in the end, the voters will have the last word in this election and all of the top election analysts are forecasting a major defeat for the party in power.

The "macro picture still looks bleak for Democrats," says Amy Walter, senior Senate elections analyst at the Cook Political Report.

"Democrats are trailing or tied with Republicans on the generic ballot test. Meanwhile, polling continues to show that Republicans are more motivated to vote this fall than Democrats. And while President Obama's approval rating is hovering close to 50 percent, he's viewed unfavorably by independents," Walter said in her mid-year election review.

"Of the 10 seats most likely to turn over in The Hotline's latest Senate Race Rankings, nine are held by Democrats. At this point, we see a GOP pickup of six to eight seats," she said.

Could Republicans win 10 seats that would give them control of the Senate? To do that, Democrats would have to lose two of three seats that are seen as their firewall: Sen. Barbara Boxer, California; Russell Feingold, Wisconsin; and Patty Murray, Washington -- all of whom have seen their approval polls decline this year.

"That scenario seems unlikely today, but given the incredibly volatile -- and unpredictable -- cycle we've had thus far, it'd be foolish to dismiss it completely," Walter says.

Among the likely GOP pickups, none look more vulnerable than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. While the media herd thinks the GOP's nominee, "tea party" conservative Sharron Angle, gives Reid a 50-50 chance of squeaking through, his polls against Angle have been weak -- 38 percent to 40 percent -- for months.

"It will be difficult for Reid to make the election about Angle, whose demeanor doesn't seem scary to voters, than about Obama, the unpopular Congress, the economy and the Democratic agenda," writes veteran elections handicapper Stuart Rothenberg. "And that's why Harry Reid is still more likely than not to lose."

Here in Washington, the national news media has yet to come to grips with the Democrats' dilemma.

A poll conducted for National Public Radio by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollster Glen Bolger shows that the Democrats have a severe message deficit. They tested messages from both parties on health care, the economy and financial reform in 70 of the most competitive congressional districts and found that the GOP message consistently registered more traction with voters.

Is it any wonder that the Democrats are hiding from the voters and refusing to hear their grievances face to face?


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.