Barack Obama’s mouth provides Republicans with their best opportunity of the midterm cycle.
In this space two weeks ago, at the end of a broadside against Karl Rove and the national Republican establishment for their infelicitous conduct toward fellow Republicans and tepid presentation of the issues in this fall’s midterm election campaign, your author offered this:
A lack of trust and credibility, both with the voters as a whole and with the conservative base, is what’s dissipating the much-expected Republican wave. And while Rove beats the fundraising drums at the Wall Street Journal, the party is neither working to end the war with the Tea Party nor offering reasons why a GOP majority even matters. As such, control over the Senate majority mostly depends on mistakes by the other side in the next six weeks.
It turns out that the old saw might need to be changed to reflect the current reality: God helps children, drunks, and the Republican Party. In the span of two weeks the mistakes — and they are legion — made by the GOP’s Brahmins have been eclipsed by an orgy of wild pitches and own-goals on the other side.
The most obvious of these, and most recent, came from the President himself. At a speech Thursday at Northwestern University, Mr. Obama dropped the line every Democrat House and Senate candidate least wanted to hear. “I am not on the ballot this fall,” he said. “Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
If ever there was a politician who had lost his magic touch and became a liability, it’s Barack Obama, whose approval ratings have dived into the low 40s nationally and are significantly lower than that in several states holding key Senate races this fall.
Normally, a president in such odor with the public would take pains to do no harm to members of his party by inserting himself as an issue in a Senate campaign. But Obama, whose entire political existence has been marked by a combination of blind arrogance and charmed incompetence on the campaign trail, is no normal president. By throwing his policies in the faces of the candidates he presumably hopes to help elect, when those policies are so demonstrably unpopular, is a blunder that could only come near the end of a career spent failing up in grand style.
The fallout dispersed quickly, as by the weekend both Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts were out with ads slamming their opponents with Obama’s comments. And by Sunday, Obama’s political guru David Axelrod had to sheepishly admit that his old boss had stepped on a rake.
In fairness to Obama, his was not the only major error emanating from the Democrats’ camp in the past two weeks. While the president is engaged in shoveling dirt on his Senate majority he has several members of the Hillary Clinton camp trying to shovel dirt on him. Take Leon Panetta, for example; the former Defense Secretary is promoting his new book by teasing with accusations that Obama has damaged U.S. interests in the Middle East — first by stupidly pulling troops out of Iraq, and second, by failing to act to defend his “red line” in Syria.
Panetta’s exercise in distancing the Clintons from Obama — in an interview over the weekend amid the controversy his book has created he said that Hillary would make a “great” president while also saying “the jury is still out” on his most recent boss — comes to drown Obama’s relief at finally hitting 50 percent in the Washington Post/ABC News poll on his Iraq/ISIS policy last week.
Of course, Obama hit 50 percent by bombing ISIS — something 68 percent of the public was for. Not a particular endorsement of him as America’s standard-bearer. As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey noted, “Getting to 50% approval on a plan which 68% of Americans wanted three weeks ago isn’t really much of an accomplishment. In fact, it looks a little like — how to say it? — leading from behind.”
Meanwhile, Obama has the intelligence community furious at his claim not to have been informed about ISIS’ development as a military force, an obvious lie. And he’s just had to fire the director of the Secret Service after a trio of spectacular security failures — which now have Rep. Elijah Cummings going on Sunday shows to state that “85 percent” of American blacks believe the Secret Service is essentially trying to have the president killed.
It also turns out you don’t have to be a Clintonista trying to sabotage the president or a race-hustling congressman looking for publicity to sabotage the midterms. The Democrat candidates themselves aren’t bad at it. In the last two weeks we’ve seen a host of rake-stomping.
There was Mary Landrieu assisting millennials doing keg-stands at LSU tailgate parties and defending her actions by saying “this is how we roll” when asked about holding a tap as an upside-down reveler guzzled himself into oblivion; a PPP poll on the subject found that only 21 percent of Louisiana’s voters approved.
There was Bruce Braley, who lost a debate to Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst over the latter’s well-founded accusations that he threatened to sue a neighbor over a chicken or two wandering into his yard. The incident in question had actually come to light in July, but it largely lay unexploded until Braley set himself up to be plucked by calling himself a “bridge-builder.” Ernst responded by recounting the fowl tale, and then asking how he can cross the aisle to work with Republicans when he can’t even cross his yard.
Mark Udall hasn’t done himself any favors in Colorado. Amid a campaign in which he simply will not stop attempting to pit women against men, it turns out that Udall pays his female staffers $10,000 less per year than his male staffers. That comes amid one of the stupidest controversies of all time in which Udall became unhinged after his opponent Cory Gardner mentioned that his father had once run for president in an ad laying out Udall’s political pedigree.
In Alaska, Mark Begich has fallen behind Republican Dan Sullivan after having to pull an ad accusing the latter of being soft on sexual assault while serving as state attorney general. The ad used the story of a rape and murder case, but the “Willie Horton” argument flopped badly when the family involved objected vociferously. Their lawyer, according to Politico, wrote Begich to say: “The family directly and without question has told your campaign they want no part of this. You are tearing this family apart to the point that your ad was so shocking to them they now want to permanently leave the state as quickly as possible. Again, to be perfectly clear, it was your ad that shocked them.”
And then there is Mark Pryor. Fresh off tending a black eye he suffered by attempting to paint combat veterans like his opponent Tom Cotton as possessed of a “sense of entitlement,” Pryor is now trying to salvage his Arkansas seat by throwing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid under the bus. Pryor said last week that the “best thing that could happen” would be that McConnell “gets beat” by Allison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and “Harry Reid gets replaced.” But Pryor then touted New York’s famous attention whore Senator Chuck Schumer, regarded by many as the most obnoxious member of that body, as an improvement over Reid. Schumer “does a pretty darn good job there in the Senate,” said Pryor, “and he’s actually, he’s not this crazy wild-eyed, left-wing liberal either.” Does anybody think Arkansas voters will respond favorably to the idea of keeping the Senate in Democrat hands so that federal regulation of grill-brushes and fitness apps can proceed apace?
Don’t forget Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
It’s a veritable smorgasbord of political stupidity. And if it continues for the next four weeks, the GOP will own the Senate. It won’t be so much that the Republicans deservingly won the election, though in some cases that will be true, as that the Democrats very deservingly lost it.