The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

What really terrifies Dems about NY-9

HOBBITS BOBBITT TWITTER QUITTER! At the end of his analysis of the GOP’s shock win in the race to replace now-resigned Rep. Anthony Weiner, Slate‘s Dave Weigel hits upon what should really terrify Dems, especially Congressional Dems, about the loss.

It’s not that Obama’s ratings are so low that even this historically Democratic district decided to send a message of disapproval. Obama’s ratings may pick up, after all.

It’s not that Israel and gay marriage emerged as medium sized ”wedge issues” (translation: issues) that drove some Democrats in a quirky district heavily populated by Orthodox Jews to vote for Republican Bob Turner. Few other districts look like NY-9. ….

It’s the possibility that the Democrats favorite issue–Social Security–didn’t work to save them because Obama, too, has embraced cutting Social Security and Medicare in “some undefined ‘everything on the table’ entitlement reform,” as Weigel puts it. Could it be that the differences between Obama’s Medicare cuts and GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare cuts–differences that seem so significant to policy analysts in Washington (and to me)–don’t have much salience in the crude argumentation of direct-mail electioneering?  Now that’s scary for a Dem. After decades of pledging not to touch the two sacred programs, it’s beginning to look as if Democrats can’t just suddenly agree to pull trillions out of Social Security and Medicare and expect voters to maintain their reflexive loyalties.

According to the unforgiving traditional Dem appeal, after all, trillions in cuts are trillions in cuts. Dems oppose them because Dems are “fighting” on “your side”!  If older voters won”t abandon that crudely combative formula as easy as positioning politicians, that has dire implications for Democrats running in every district in the land, not just those with 40% Jewish electorates. Scaring voters about Paul Ryan and the Tea Partiers’ entitlement cuts was what was going to save Obama’s party from being dragged down even if Obama himself goes the way of Jimmy Carter. Now it looks as if that life preserver won’t float. …

At the very least, Democrats (starting with Obama) need to do a much better job of explaining why their cuts are so different from Ryan’s cuts. That’s something even Bill Clinton might have difficulty doing, though he’d be better at it than Obama will be. …

Of course, President Obama may be able to save himself without the entitlement issue (if, for example, he draws a flawed opponent). But it’s hard to see how the Dems retake Congress without it. And without a friendlier Congress, Obama’s second term could look a lot like the past 9 months.

Now I’m scared. …

Backfill: Dick Morris argued, as NY-o9 voted, that Obama’s embrace of  ”his own version of Medicare cuts … nullified the advantage Ryan’s mistake afforded him.” …

Update: Weekly Standard notes the Medicare issue didn’t seem to work in Nevada’s special election either. …