Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cruisin' for a bruisin'

According to the Washington Post the Republicans are starting to tally up the potential casualties. No, they suddenly haven't discovered that Iraq is a fiasco. This time the casualties really do bother them. Republicans are counting the possible number of incumbent congressmen who may lose office in the November elections. The Republicans have ruled the House of Representatives since 1994 but the voters have had all of George Bush they can stomach and they are going to take out their anger on his fellow party members.

The US may be stuck with Bush for two more years but they don't have to be stuck with the Republican Party. Originally it was thought the Republicans were worried about losing 20 sitting Congressmen. Now the Post reports that they are concerned the actual number could be twice as high. To lose a Congressional seat is hard to do.

The system is set up to turn almost every Congressional seat into a "safe seat". First the state legislatures draw up districts in ways which they think will guarantee seats for incumbents. So every 10 years the boundaries are redrawn to diminish electoral competition.

Second, incumbents use their ability to create pork for their district to buy off special interest groups. It is a way of running for office using taxpayer funds instead of campaign funds. And when it comes to pork and other forms of wasteful spending the Republicans have proven they can outspend the Democrats.

Third, they passed legislation to restrict campaign donations. This much vaunted "reform" actual benefits incumbents. Since incumbents have access to the pork of the federal budget they have an automatic advantage. Also add in that they tend to have better name recognition with the voters. By restricting campaign funding they reduce the likelihood of some upstart taking away their seat. It was called "reform" but it ought to be called "the Incumbent's Retention Act" instead.

While pundits are trying to figure how big a majority the Democrats will have in the House the Senate is a different matter. All House seats are up. But only a third of the Senate runs for election in any one election year. There the Republicans hold a five seat lead. But the Democrats are expected to pick up some seats. They need to gain six and have good chances in five states. But they still have to preserve seats as well and still need to pick up in some states currently not projected for them. It looks like the Democrats can pick up seats in Pennsylvania, Montana and Ohio. They also are well placed to win in Missouri. Republicans are hoping to pick up Washington, Maryland and New Jersey but I don't think that likely. Virginia is interesting in that the Democrats are running a former official from the Reagan administration which is a boost to their chances. But the Republican is sitting on over $6 million in campaign funds compared to less than $500,000 for the Democrat. Unless Democrats throw serious money at this campaign they won't pick up the seat. Personally I suspect the Democrats will pick up four seats unfortunately leaving the Senate in Republican hands -- barely.

And at the state level the Republicans have a slim majority of gubernatorial seats. If the Republicans lose just three Governors the states will be split evenly between the two parties. And to me it looks like the Democrats could pick up 7 governors come November giving them a 29 to 21 lead there.

Typically the president has used his bully pulpit and the perks of his office to push his own party's candidates. But typically a president is not as hated as the current occupant of the White House. Many Republicans don't want Bush campaigning for them. The Bush presidency has been characterised by incompentency and dishonesty. The one thing that kept him in office was fear. Islamist terrorists are George Bush's best friend when it comes to staying in power.

So expect the White House to turn the anniversary of September 11th into a national campaign event. They will harp about terrorism every chance they get hoping to terrorise --- literally --- the public into supporting the Republicans. They can't expect any good news from Iraq even though the Bush administration is publicly lying about what about is going on there. But the public is not buying those lies. Bush will have to resort to other lies -- and he will.

Also expect huge spending by the Republicans in the weeks before the election. They will buy lots of air time to run viciously negative, attack ads. And don't be surprised if they drag out the "demonic homosexual" as their scapegoat once again in the hopes of rallying Neanderthal Fundamentalists into voting for the GOP. Bush has nothing positive to offer the public. His entire campaign strategy is based on scaring voters. Bush does not campaign on any positives he has to offer and for good reason. He has none. He campaigns using people's fears.

The Democrats could pull things off if they are careful. First, they ignore the terror issue fearing it helps Bush. But does it have to do so? Who engineered 9/11? All the credible evidence, conspiracist theories aside, points to bin Laden. Remember how Bush pledged to capture bin Laden and bring him to justice. No real effort has every been made to do that. Democrats should remind people that after 5 years the man who perpetrated that atrocity is free. But it's no surprise he's free. His freedom allows Bush to hold out the threat that he could attack again.

Americans oppose US adverturism in Iraq by a large majority. Tying in Iraq and bin Laden's continued freedom could be a powerful one-two punch. Imagine an ad starting out with 9/11 and the president's pledge to capture bin Laden. Then it reminds the voters that instead of going after bin Laden the Bush team invented false claims about Iraq. America got bogged down in that desert hellhole while ignoring the real terrorist. I think that coupling Bush's failure in capturing bin Laden with his continual failure in Iraq could destroy the "terror" advantage the Republicans wish to use.

Secondly, Democrats need to shun the extreme Left-wing of their own party with it's tax and spend agenda. These radicals are blinded by their ideological hatred for capitalism. They believe that the voters turning against Bush is the same thing as the public embracing their antiquated socialism. The public has rejected Bush they have not embraced Marx. And if the Democrats allow the radical Left to run around the fringes of their party this will only play into the fear campaign the Republicans need to win office.