Traditional political wisdom pushes the notion that a president has a magic wand bestowed upon him once he gets into the White House, a wand that should be able to grant members of the president's party an extra shiny glow that hypnotizes voters into showing waves of support for their local and statewide races, a wand that the president can replenish effortlessly from the well of national public opinion.
But what many Democrats are finally realizing this fall is something I've been saying ever since Barack Obama won the presidency—that Obama has changed the game for his colleagues in a way many of them are not willing to face. The unintended consequence of the Democrats having a president who pulled out all the stops and ran the best organized, best financed campaign in the history of political campaigns is that the opposition got better, even as they lost. And the public got used to seeing what a real campaign looked like.
Raising the bar so dramatically back in 2008 should have been a wakeup call to every Democrat in the country to realize that they couldn't run the same old campaigns they had in the past, because in getting out the vote to oppose Obama, the GOP and the grassroots activists learned a few things themselves. They learned how to use the internet better. They learned how to push the operations decisions down to the field level to be more responsive more quickly to the neighborhood by neighborhood quirks that define all local politics.
The TV pundits, sadly, do not seem to believe that hard work on a day to day basis means anything in politics anymore. To hear them tell it, the American public is as fickle as the wind, when any professional vote counter worth his salt can show you how little people actually deviate from their historical voting patterns. To the punditocracy, all the GOP candidates have to do is show their pearly whites and shake their heads "no" whenever "Obama", “government spending” or "healthcare reform" comes up.
But I noticed a curious thing yesterday while perusing the most recent House races polling chart put together by Nate Silver, the new polling expert at the New York Times who was the darling of the 2008 presidential election for his highly accurate election predictions. If you simply subtract the 204 Democrat likely and Democrat leaning districts in the 2010 House races from the 218 total number of seats necessary to maintain Democratic control of the House, you will find that the Democrats need to win only 14 of the 37 so-called “tossup” races to do so.
Add to this the fact that despite the tens of millions in cash flowing into their political action committee coffers, the GOP is having dog fights all over the country with its own Tea Party offspring while millions of emails a day go out to Organizing For America supporters and all I can say at this point is “nigh the clock ticks for Democrats who dawdle.”
So Democrats, it’s time to get back on the grind of body-on-body politics, and smell the breath of your enemy. It’s time to tattoo “Get Out The Vote” on the inside of your eyelids so you think about last minute ways to get more of those people who registered to vote in the 2008 presidential election back to the polls. It's time to keep shaking those hands and kissing those babies until your bodies become numb, because enough of you still have a chance to make a victory speeches come Election Night this November to keep the House gavel in your party's possession.