Carol Platt Liebau: A Lot of Caveats

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Lot of Caveats

Stuart Rothenberg analyzes next year's Senate races, noting that the environment looks more promising for Democrats than Republicans.

But he hedges his bet with a lot of caveats

The best-case scenario for Republicans is that the presidential race is close, the Democrats' ticket both energizes Republican voters and frightens independents, and, for a variety of reasons (including the withdrawal of some U.S. forces from Iraq), voters return to their traditional voting patterns

and rightly so. Note that he contrasts the elections of 2006 with voters "traditional voting patterns." It seems that Rothenberg understands that 2006 was a year when voting were striving to show President Bush that they were seriously disturbed about the trends in Iraq (also rightly so). With steady progress in Iraq, including some troop withdrawals, there's reason for at least some guarded optimism that the public mood may improve over the next 14 months. What's more, the Democrats know it, which is why too many of them are too invested in trying to make Iraq a failure.

Indeed, if there's "too much" progress in Iraq, Republicans may credibly be able to claim that Democrats tried to force an unnecessary and dangerous defeat. Of all the presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton has seemed to be the most aware of this possibility, hedging her bets at every turn. But she energizes the Republican base as no one else does, her flip-flopping plays into the worst stereotypes about female commanders-in-chief -- and leave her open to charges that she's first and foremost interested in politics, not victory.

And if she put Barack Obama on the ticket (as many have speculated), some of his recent foreign policy gaffes (like this and these)are guaranteed to frighten independents -- and/or raise questions about Hillary's judgment.

An interesting question is whether Hillary would feel forced to pick Barack. Certainly, she doesn't need to worry about the African-American vote -- that's already in the bag for Democrats. But she might well need to throw a bone to her party's left wing, many members of which are frustrated and unhappy with the Dems' lack of progress in fulfilling its agenda.

Indeed, with all the careful attention being paid to the conservatives' supposed unhappiness with Republican presidential candidates, comparatively little has been written about what might happen with the lefties should a candidate presenting herself as a "moderate" win the nomination.

Of course, all of this -- Senate races and the presidential elections -- is speculation. November 2008 is still so far away that it's impossible to forecast the future with any clarity . . . which is why Rothenberg is quite right to be hedging his bets at this point.


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