Depending upon which prognosticator you like, the Republicans have a 60 percent chance or an 80 percent chance to win the Senate. The Democrats can throw a hissy fit when Nate Silver says aloud what they all know — it is an uphill fight to keep the Senate — but few honestly doubt that the Senate is more likely than not to flip.
The interesting phenomenon to watch is whether the White House will make the Democrats’ predicament worse. Plainly, the White House has the view that the way to minimize losses is to engage the Democrats’ base. They’ll focus on Obamacare, the Koch brothers, income inequality, global warming and immigration reform. As to the latter, the president threatens to take unilateral action if Republicans don’t move on immigration reform. That threat is a revealing example of how the effort to minimize losses may actually worsen the Democrats’ problem.
Unilateral action by the president will, of course, set off another firestorm on the right, where the president’s serial power grabs and executive capriciousness already have the GOP base fired up. Whatever Republicans’ views on immigration, I suspect there is nothing more that all the factions would like than a White House power grab, which will unite elected officials, incense GOP voters even more and give the House an excuse not to do anything further. (Look how untrustworthy the president is!) The White House must know all this, yet it is so panicky about Hispanic turnout and support that it may try it anyway.
It is not just the backlash on the right that undercuts the utility of Obama’s base-pleasing tactics. To be blunt, the president makes red-state Democrats, the very ones most vulnerable this year, cringe. Play to Silicon Valley billionaires on global warming? Watch Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) squirm. If they hawk Obamacare, the e-mails fly out of the National Republican Senatorial Committee lambasting Virginia incumbent Mark Warner. (“When selling ObamaCare to his constituents, Mark Warner repeatedly echoed President Obama’s broken promise that if you liked your doctor, you would be able to keep your doctor. Yet, many Virginians are in jeopardy of losing their doctors, health plans, and will see costs dramatically increase,” decries the NRSC.) The NRSC likes to invoke Charlie Cook’s reminder: “It’s a good bet that the ACA is underwater in the polls in every state with a competitive Senate race.”
Why can’t the White House turn down the volume? The answer goes to the heart of the Democratic Party’s quandary: It has become a far-left party, financed by liberal elites, dominant on the coasts and at odds with a number of traditional Democratic constituencies, such as labor and youth. Its attachment to entitlement programs for the middle class and the rich puts burdens on the young. The president and his advisers believe in the initiatives they are putting forth and would be hard-pressed to call different views at this stage. The Democratic Party is the party of gun control, hostility to domestic oil and gas production, abortion on demand and big government. It is a party that can say with a straight face that pushing people not to work and to rely on government-subsidized health care is a good thing.
That nexus of attitudes and positions, absent the star power of Obama and an easy villain like Mitt Romney, is not going to carry the day in most places. That’s why the Democrats are in trouble, why so many red-state Democratic incumbent senators may get wiped out and why so many liberals are down in the dumps. The voters don’t love them and their views — they really don’t.