Which party would benefit from nationalizing the election?

Some Republicans are excited about making this year’s Congressional races a referendum on Barack Obama’s policies. I see their point, since Democrats the president has lost some ground with independents, and Republicans benefit from an “enthusiasm gap” right now. The right direction/wrong track numbers are also frightening for Democrats, and the health reform bill is likely to give the GOP good fodder for attacks.

However, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen told Greg Sargent that he isn’t worried about Republicans nationalizing this year’s House races. (continues after the jump)


“They’ve got a very tough argument to make,” Van Hollen told me, speaking of Republicans. “If you want to nationalize the election, you also bring in Bush and Cheney. If they do that, they open the door to the question: Why would you give the keys to the guys that drove us into the economic ditch and then refused to help get out of that ditch?

“If you want to talk about President Obama’s record, you have to recognize that he inherited a mess that was given to us by Bush and Cheney,” Van Hollen continued. “You can’t argue one without having to address the other. We will ask a simple question: How did we get into this mess and what have Republicans done to get us out of it?”

One tricky thing for the DCCC is that making the election about Obama could help some incumbents by driving up Democratic turnout, but many House Democrats in Republican-leaning districts will prefer to emphasize their “independence” from the president’s agenda. Iowa’s three House Democrats would probably not mind having the focus on Obama, because he easily carried Iowa’s fist, second and third Congressional districts. However, most of the 42 Democrats in the DCCC’s Frontline program represent more conservative districts.

I do think it’s imperative for Democrats to remind voters whose economic policies made the past decade a lost one for the middle class while the wealthiest made a killing. The decade that just passed

was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times, a sharp reversal from a long period of prosperity that is leading economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation’s growth. […]

There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well.

Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 — and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009. The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s.

Although we can’t make this year’s Congressional elections primarily about George Bush, it’s worth remembering that Democrats ran successfully against the “party of Hoover” for many election cycles.

Final note: Republican activists are upset that RNC Chairman Michael Steele predicted his party won’t take back the House majority this year.

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