Monday, October 23, 2006

Democratic confidence and overconfidence in 2006

I forget whose quip it was—maybe Kos's, maybe the New Republic's; I'm not sure. The quip was that Democrats have only to worry about money and overconfidence this year—and with the way Democrats have performed these last few elections, it's hard to find such a thing as an overconfident Democrat.

I think confidence this year is merited, but we do have to watch out, lest we lose touch with the facts. We've got to believe that winning is possible every year, even though that's not true. The difference is that we're putting an effort into winning this time, which is making the difference. Instead of just challenging twenty or so seats in Congress, the Democratic Party is going at it with both barrels. And what's the result? Seven Republican-held Senate seats in play (possibly nine,) and 71 Republican-held House seats in play (according to Congressional Quarterly, at this writing.)

It's not reasonable to suggest that we can or will win all of them, but with the Republicans having to play that much defense, there's no way they can defend every single one of those seats. They have to surrender at least some of them. They could defend twenty, though, if that's all we were targeting this time.

Karl Rove's strategy in the 1994 midterm elections was one that he's used throughout his career: if you win by a hair, you call it a landslide; but if you lose by a hair, you litigate until they declare you the winner anyway or you've wrecked the winner's career through a messy fight for his or her job. Rove kept challenging Democratic candidates' victories in the South for state senate seats, judgeships, etc.—dragging things out for over a year in some cases. It was an audacious strategy, but it let Rove widen an already huge margin of victory for the Republicans in 1994.

That's exactly the same tactic Rove and friends used on Al Gore in 2000. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Rove does the same thing with the midterms this year: challenging some Democratic victories, enough to land an ugly smudge on the Democratic victories in general. Rove's strategy depends on being a sore loser while accusing your opponents of being sore losers. That creepy business in Florida in 2000, which we all watched so closely for five agonizing weeks, could come to pass again. And maybe it'll work, too. I won't rest easy until after the election—and maybe not even then.

This folderal was originally posted as a response to this post at Jersey McJones. Click here to see what got the cobwebbed gears of my brain turning this afternoon.


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