Salena Zito

When she made her exit on a stage in the National Building Museum in Washington, the emotion was so raw in the room (and in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana) that many pundits decided there was no way “her” Democrats would become “Obama” Democrats.

They did, sort of. With Hillary, they felt an emotional connection; with Obama, they felt connected to a movement, to history. This is probably why support from Democrats for his policies has waned.

Somewhere out there, some pundit will remark that Democrats peeling away from Obama is race related, an old excuse heaped upon anyone who balks at supporting him. It’s a ridiculous, too, considering that Obama the man remains in the high 60th percentile of approval within his party.

One of the problems with long, tough primaries, according to Republican strategist Brad Todd, is that your opponent's voters get vested in your demise: “If their anger against the other side is greater, you can overcome it. But it is something that has to be overcome.”

Obama is losing part of that “other side” – traditional "Jacksonian Democrats" whom Clinton brought back into the party after Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan won them over to the Republican Party. So, if they remain unimpressed with Obama, where will they go?

Todd thinks the 2010 congressional elections will be a gas pedal-brake pedal election, and a problem for the president regarding Hillary Democrats: “The fundamental question is whether or not voters want to send him a Congress to let him go farther and faster … or send him a Congress that will slow him down.

“Given the fact that they had doubts about his preparedness to begin with, I'm betting they send him some supervision,” he predicts.

Todd says the relevant comparison to Republicans happened in Reagan’s successor’s re-election campaign; the George H.W. Bush-Pat Buchanan primary battle left Buchanan loyalists lining up with Ross Perot in the general election.

Back during the town-hall dog-days of August, political handicapper Charlie Cook shocked the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh when he and 538’s Nate Silver gave dire predictions for the 2010 congressional midterms.

Those have only become more dire: Cook said last week that it is "very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don't lose the House."

Analysts can argue effectively that Democrats normally lose Republican and independent support in a midterm cycle.

Add to that the party losing traditional bread-and-butter Democrats, however, and you definitely have a “Houston, we have a problem” moment.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.