Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hey Dems, Nate Silver's Not Your Problem

"What's Next?"

Jed Bartlett, the fictional President in the series The West Wing, would always pose this question to his staff. It really wasn't so much a question as it was a statement of fact; the fact being we're done with this issue and we're moving on to the next.

Now that Nate Silver has made his dire prediction about this year's midterms - a prediction that, with all due respect to Nate, could've been ascertained by simply looking objectively at the numbers - what's next for Democrats? Moaning about it or calling Silver a traitor - a ridiculous charge considering he was never in the Dems' pocket to begin with - isn't going to change the facts. And digging up some old predictions he made back in 2011 that didn't pan out when the election was still a year away, is futile and equally as pointless.

The problem Democrats have isn't Nate Silver; it's their poll numbers, which, since December, have been heading south. Let's get it out of the way and identify the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

Obamacare.

There, I said it. Guess what? The Republicans are going to be saying it. A LOT! Democrats had better get used to hearing the word, along with, "If you like your insurance, you can keep it." In fact, I got first dibs on the GOP candidate who coins the phrase, "If you like your senator, you can keep him/her."

Let's get one thing straight: the variable in this year's midterms is most certainly not going to be the GOP playbook, which, in case you haven't seen it, has been fairly consistent for the past five years. Let me sum it up for you: "Obamacare, bad; we'll repeal it." In 2010, it was a winner; in 2012, it was barely a factor. The GOP is hoping for two out of three. And if Democrats play into their hands, they can kiss the Senate goodbye.

That's why the only variable in this year's midterms - and, I might add, the best chance at staving off certain defeat - is the collective response that Democrats craft to Republican attack ads on the Affordable Care Act.  Run from the law and it's over; defend it and they can successfully turn the tables on the Republicans.

Michael Tomasky has written about this at great length. He is of the opinion that Democrats should not fear talking about the good things that are in the ACA, of which there are a lot. I agree.

"If Republicans can keep discussion around the Affordable Care Act vague, they’ll win in the midterms. The party of health care should collect stories of success and confront the party of no."

Support for the law's provisions has remained consistently high, even during the Republican wave of 2010. Despite the unpopularity of the individual mandate, only 31 percent favor outright repeal. A majority of those polled want the law fixed. In fact, according to a recent Kaiser poll, 53 percent say they're "tired of the debate" altogether.  This, along with a growing litany of success stories, is the Democrats' best weapon to use against the GOP with swing voters.

The fact that millions of Americans - many of whom vote - now have access to affordable healthcare or that parents can keep their kids on their insurance plans until they turn 26 or that pre-existing conditions are a thing of the past or that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage just because you have the audacity to get sick is no small potatoes. Properly explained, Democrats can effectively corner their Republicans opponents, whose answer to all of the above is and has been ... wait for it ... nothing.

That's right, the party of no has voted 54 times to repeal a law that benefits millions of people while failing to come to the table with anything to replace it. Repeal and replace has been the running canard of the GOP. Truth is, they have no replacement for Obamacare; they never did and they never will. Their base won't allow it.

The Democrats must go all out on the offensive and make sure every single potential voter knows this. They can ill afford to play it safe. The Republicans are masters at messaging. Words like socialized medicine and death panels, like it or not, have become part of the political nomenclature, despite zero evidence to support either.

By comparison, Democrats can't even spell messaging. They're so inept, they can turn a sentence into a novel if given half the chance. Anyone who saw the 2004 debates between George Bush and John Kerry got a bird's eye view of the differences between the two parties. Kerry, for all intents and purposes, won on substance, but Bush scored a TKO on style. Guess which one mattered most to voters. Bush was the guy everyone wanted to have a beer with, while Kerry was the cure for insomnia.

Democrats, throughout their illustrious past, have had a difficult time with the concept of keeping it simple. Their desire to be the party of ideas has often led them to miss the forest for the trees. They have seven months to correct this flaw. If they do, they will hold serve in the Senate; if they don't, they will all but ensure that their president is a lame duck for the remaining two years of his second term.

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