It was striking that on a panel at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference on horse-race politics, Democratic flacks Donna Brazile and Paul Begala candidly acknowledged that the Democrats would run an entirely negative campaign in 2014. Asked why they felt confident about 2014 the responses — “Because we’re running against Republicans,” “If we were running unopposed I’d be worried” — did not even attempt to argue that the party would run and win on Obamacare. There was no effort to defend the party on economic grounds, on fiscal sobriety or even on inequality. It was the ultimate give-away — all issues including inequality are but stunts to pump up the base and to generate a swirl of antagonism toward the Republicans.
Both Begala and Brazile seemed to think it was a given that voters need only hear about how awful the GOP is in order to keep the Democrats in the Senate majority. (Even Brazile conceded the House was out of reach.) This suggests a number of takeaways.
First, the party at some level understands Obamacare is a burden, not a strength. Word that the president would delay yet again implementation of part of Obamacare says volumes about how far the Democrats would like to separate themselves from their “historic” achievement. (“The Obama administration is set to announce another major delay in implementing the Affordable Care Act, easing election pressure on Democrats. As early as this week, according to two sources, the White House will announce a new directive allowing insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet ObamaCare’s minimum coverage requirements.’)
Second, there is little in the way of an affirmative agenda left for the Obama administration. His budget released today was greeted with derision. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) summed up: “This budget isn’t a serious document; it’s a campaign brochure. In divided government, we need leadership and collaboration. And in this budget, we have neither.” President Obama has given up on entitlement reform. His term and the Democrats’ message is now totally based on a defense of the status quo and attacks on Republicans.
Third, neither one of them said a word about the president’s foreign policy leadership, the defense budget or the current world crises. Indeed, they didn’t mention the president much at all other than to insist the “six-year itch,” that is the pattern of second midterm losses, won’t affect this president. They didn’t suggest he’d be out their stumping or that he’d be an asset.
Maybe unintentionally, the two Democratic operatives confirmed what Republicans have been saying for some time. Obamacare and the president himself are toxic for anyone with a “D” next to his or her name. And as for foreign policy, Democrats would rather ignore reality, hoping the public doesn’t notice the wheels have come off the bus for the Obama foreign policy team and in turn its defenders in the Congress and the media.