Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weeping and gnashing

For a long time, the Democrats have had the reputation as a group that could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and it is not rare to hear the commentariat worry about complacency on the Democrat side. Oh, Obama's going to win, why should I vote?

I think, if anything, it is the Republicans who have to worry about no-shows this year, and particularly the effect that will have on down-ballot races. By all accounts, Obama is killing McCain in states that allow early voting, so I'm not too worried about complacency on the Democratic side. There has been an 'enthusiasm gap' this whole campaign, with Democrats way more energized to vote Obama than Republicans to vote McCain. If Republicans look at all the polls and say screw it, I'm not standing in line next to vote for a guy who ain't winning, then not only will Obama be able to win with a greater percentage of the popular vote (not sure what this is worth) but he will also likely have an even larger Democratic majority in Congress (worth a lot).

Indeed, it now appears that pretty much every close Senate race is breaking the Democrats way -- Begich will almost certainly now beat Stevens in Alaska, Merkely is pulling ahead of Smith in Oregon, and Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia are all close -- Republican disillusion could certainly tip the balance in many of those states, especially where there are a lot of black people who are incredibly motivated to vote. I don't think that having 60 Senators is as magic a number as people seem to think, as there are certainly going to be Republicans you could peel off for certain votes (Snowe & Collins in Maine, e.g.) and there are going to be Democrats who 'defect' on others (Baucus in Montana, just to name one). Plus, there's Joe Lieberman, who at least for now caucuses with the Dems, but a lot of the base want to see him booted. Finally, I was glad to hear of this report, that Reid is laying the groundwork to replace Byrd as chair of the appropriations committee. One of, if not the most, powerful positions in the Senate, it probably shouldn't be held by a 90 year old guy from West Virginia who's environmental record is, um, quite bad, with WV being a major coal state.