Greg Sargent dutifully offered his space at The Washington Post to assist Democrats in spreading the good news that hopes for a continued Democratic majority are far from dead. Sargent offers a secret memo obtained through an unnamed source which the reader is expected to accept as "a window on Dem thinking about the political landscape in a difficult year." Sargent notes two key points:
First, Republicans simply can't put enough seats in play to win the House. Second, the Tea Party has become a massive liability nationally in multiple unappreciated ways.Make no mistake, much of this memo is sheer unadulterated garbage intended to calm fears and keep the cash flowing to the massive Democratic war chests.
On the left, Charlie Cook adds up the Democrats' math and finds the scenario plausible if Democrats maintain their financial advantage while Nate Silver tears to shreds the faulty assumptions and desperate math contained in the memo in a post titled, "It's Like Mathematically Unpossible for Republicans to Win the House, or Something."(language warning applies) On the right Michael Barone finds Democrats poised to take a "thumping." Bruce McQuain sums it up:
This memo has Nancy Pelosi – who we all know is a math whiz – written all over it. She took great exception to Robert Gibbs saying a week or so ago it was possible that the Democrats may lose the House in November. This is her wacky reasoning to a tee.Though the first part of the memo seems to be discredited on the left and the right, the argument the tea party is a massive liability enjoys no such agreement. Both Silver and Matthew Sheffield make the point that on a "macro view" the tea party has successfully rebranded conservative ideas. Silver, however, takes some heart in the notion the tea party may be costing Republicans "a few opportunities where inexperienced and/or wacky candidates are nominated," citing Sharron Angle and Rand Paul as examples. Perhaps this inspired Sheffield to caution tea party backed candidates to be careful when discussing ideas that are not widely understood by the general electorate. With or without the tea party, Democrats have little else to offer in the way of substantive debate. They certainly can't run on their accomplishments. This leaves the "we may be incompetent but they're crazy," strategy as their only viable path to avoid complete annihilation in November.
Bruce McQuain points to the most credible argument in the DCCC memo. The greatest risk to conservative hopes Pelosi will be forced to surrender her gavel comes from third party candidates who will surely split the vote and potentially hand Democrats a win in hotly contested elections. In my own district one libertarian candidate decided to drop from the race in order to avoid being the spoiler while another perennial candidate prefers to indulge his narcissistic fantasy, "the country needs him." While this candidate has no serious chance of winning the election he has pulled as many as 6000 votes from the Republican candidate in previous elections. Consider that the Republican candidate Mike Fitzpatrick lost his seat to the current incumbent Patrick Murphy in 2006 by a mere 1500 votes. In the 7th Congressional District Jim Schneller is working to have himself listed on the ballot as an Independent though the Independence Hall Tea Party has wisely endorsed the Republican front runner Pat Meehan. Vulnerable Democratic incumbents everywhere are dreaming they will be blessed with spoiler candidates to split the vote of the enthused conservatives they know intend to vote in November.
At this point in the race, polling information that could provide a clearer picture of the size of the tide Democrats fear most is in short supply. What we have seen thus far gives us ample reason to hope the tide is on our side as Michael Barone seems to believe:
Today a lot more Democratic incumbents seem to be trailing Republican challengers in polls. Jim Geraghty of National Review Online has compiled a list of 13 Democratic incumbents trailing in polls released over the past seven weeks.All is well."
Some of these poll numbers are mind-boggling. Tom Perriello, a 727-vote winner in Virginia 5 in 2008, has been running two weeks of humorous ads showing what a hard worker he is. A poll shows him trailing Republican state Sen. Robert Hurt 58 to 35 percent.
In industrial Ohio 13, which Barack Obama carried 57 to 42, a poll shows incumbent Betty Sutton trailing free-spending Republican Tom Ganley 44 to 31 percent.
As Geraghty notes, we haven't seen polls released by many other Democrats on Republican target lists. Most are conducting polls; many have reason to release favorable results if they're available. This looks like a case where the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.