Democrats Prepping The 'Blame Game' If Disaster Strikes On Election Day

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Oct 28, 2014 3:10 PM
Democrats Prepping The 'Blame Game' If Disaster Strikes On Election Day

As Guy mentioned yesterday, the polls are looking good for Republicans; some races in the Midwest like Colorado and Iowa are shifting towards the GOP; and it’s possible that the GOP could pick up as many as 9 seats come Election Day. The question surrounding Democrats is who will get the lion’s share of the blame if they lose their majority in the Senate?

Right now, Democrats are not happy with the president’s political team botching the names of candidates–and the offices they are running for–in this cycle. Nor are they thrilled with his interviews and speeches where he says that Democrats in red states support his agenda–and that all of his policies are on the ballot this year.

As Bloomberg  reported yesterday, the blame game protocols are already being set into motion if Democrats experience disaster next week:

The White House, bracing for an escalation of friendly fire should Democrats lose control of the Senate, has begun laying out its post-election defense by arguing that candidates are ultimately responsible for their own electoral outcomes. “The success of many of these Democratic candidates will depend on their own success in motivating voters that strongly supported the president in 2012,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday. “It's their name that's on the ballot.”

But Democrats have a long list of grievances. The most recent item on the list is an interview Obama did this week with Rev. Al Sharpton, in which the president said that even the vulnerable Democrats who are trying to keep their distance are all “folks who vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress.” Though the comment may motivate black voters – a key part of the Democratic base – it infuriates campaign strategists, who say Obama basically fed a major Republican attack line.

“You can't do those things in a vacuum anymore,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, even if “it will help turn out your core voters.”

Democrats also privately gripe that the administration's response to Ebola was too slow, playing directly into a Republican narrative of Democratic mismanagement. In August, the president's decision to issue a statement about the beheading of journalist James Foley by Islamic militants and then head directly to a golf game was viewed as tone deaf, at best, an assessment shared by the president himself.

But Democrats' biggest outrage stems from a speech Obama gave earlier this month, when a remark that his “policies are on the ballot” turned an economic speech into a potent attack ad. The remark was pre-scripted, further enraging campaign strategists when they learned it was not a spontaneous gaffe. Even friends couldn't defend the comment. “I wouldn't put that line there,” acknowledged the president's campaign guru, David Axelrod, on NBC's “Meet The Press,” calling it a “mistake.”

Within 24 hours, the line was being used in Republican campaign spots and has shown up in seven states so far.

Even less substantive gaffes are taken by strategists as a sign of sloppiness – or worse, that the Obamas simply don't care anymore. Campaigning in Iowa, first lady Michelle Obama repeatedly referred to Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley as Bruce Bailey, until she was corrected by an audience member. Her office compounded the problem by blasting out a transcript that referred to Braley as a gubernatorial candidate. It took an hour and a half before the document was corrected.

While Democrats' pre-midterm frustration is being fueled largely by his recent missteps and bad poll numbers, their disenchantment with the president was seeded back in 2011, when Obama kept waiting to strike a bigger debt limit deal with House Speaker John Boehner, one that never happened. Stumbling responses to the Syrian civil war, the emergence of the Islamic State, and a scandal that toppled the head of the Secret Service all contributed to a Republican mantra that the Democrats can't govern.

If Republicans are able to pull off winning 6 seats, it’s going to be interesting post-Election Day on the Democratic side; that is all.  As Nate Cohn of the New York Times wrote last May, Democrats have a huge turnout problem. 

"Not even the most sophisticated and well-funded turnout effort can fix this problem," he wrote. "Strong turnout operations can help Democrats at the margins. The Democratic turnout problem, however, is not marginal." 

Now, Aaron Blake of the Washington Post  has compiled 6 charts illustrating this issue.

Yet, as with anything in politics, we'll see.