With a nearly 80-seat House majority, 60 seats in the Senate for more than eight months, a GOP brand so damaged that the party looked completely incompetent and a charismatic African-American president taking over from a failed two-term Republican president, youd have thought that Democrats were set up for a pretty decent two years.
But only one year after the passage of the economic stimulus that was advertised as the first step to revitalizing the American economy and getting Americans back to work, the outlook for November is increasingly troubling for Democrats.
Democrats are headed for big losses in the House and Senate, but the Obama administration and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill continue to plow ahead on health care reform instead of successfully pivoting to jobs and the economy.
The economic news generally is depressing for Democrats. Recent data on seasonally adjusted first-time unemployment claims and on new housing starts offer no reason for optimism, so its not surprising that two measures of consumer sentiment, the ABC News Consumer Comfort Index and the Conference Boards Consumer Confidence Survey, declined sharply recently.
Democrats have botched their top legislative priority health care reform in so many ways that there is plenty of blame to go around. Yes, they may pass a comprehensive bill, but at a steep cost.
The White House failed to give Congress enough direction on policy, letting each chamber chew over the issue until a wide gap existed between the House and Senate bills.
Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was too interested in laying down a liberal marker from which to negotiate and too sensitive to the concerns of her senior Members, all of whom represent safe seats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the other major player, seemed deaf to his chambers political realities.
Of course the partys most ideological wing wanted a robust public insurance option, higher taxes on the wealthy and abortion-friendly legislation. But it was up to Democratic leaders to bring the base along at some point during 2009. If that had happened, Sen. Scott Browns (R-Mass.) upset victory in January would not have mattered.
And now, you can add to the list of Democratic problems an ethics panel admonishment of House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, the powerful New York Democrat who has given up his gavel, at least temporarily.
Democrats dont have a monopoly on public corruption or personal scandal, as anyone who has lived through the past decade knows. For every former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), there is a South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R). For every former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), there is a former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.).