This is coming from a professional predictor of politics, mind you. Just don't buy the smokescreen, and don't let anyone around you get away with it, either. The truth is a powerful thing, and most people will recognize it just fine if just a little bit of the smoke is parted for just a small moment.
The White House is looking to push a storyline about the November elections - and for a job like that, there's nobody better suited than Obama water-carrier extraordinaire, Richard Wolffe:Voters are lashing out at incumbents of both parties--which comes as a comfort to a White House braced for a Republican tidal wave this fall. And the president's political operatives aren't missing the chance to play up that message as they head into the biggest primaries of the midterm season thus far this Tuesday....
Inside the White House, Obama's advisers see a similar dynamic across the country.
"I think a lot of it is going to be hand-to-hand combat," said the senior Obama aide. "It's a weird environment. The real divide isn't between Republicans and Democrats. It's America and Washington. This is a continuation of the last election. But as the party in power, we are more vulnerable."
Dan Balz and Chris Cilizza equate the Specter/Obama debacle to Grayson/McConnell:Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) could be the next incumbent to fall, but by late Tuesday night, everyone from President Obama to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could feel the sting of voter anger that has shaped the election climate and that could produce a dramatic upheaval in Congress by November.
Ok. So, the idea is that the public mood is anti-incumbent in general, which means we should expect lots of "hand-to-hand" combat between Democrat and Republican candidates as they try to position themselves as being the most anti-Washington.
No. This is totally wrong.
It is a false equivalency being pushed because Arlen Specter is probably going to lose today. If that happens, Snarlin' Arlen will make the fourth high-profile pol that Barack Obama embraced in friendship who was later rebuked by the voters of a blue or purple state. Deeds, Corzine, Coakley, Specter. The White House doesn't want this "narrative" to get out - so they're pushing this alternative instead.
This isn't about dissatisfaction with the performance of the 44th President. Oh no. This is about demanding change in Washington - the very same change, by gum, that Barack Obama has been working so hard to bring about!
"Change that you can believe in" has gone from an over-worked campaign slogan to an unfalsifiable hypothesis. Vote for a Dem, you support the President's agenda for change. Vote for a GOPer, you support the President's agenda for change.
But how many Republican incumbents are in severe jeopardy of losing their seat in Congress to a Democratic challenger?
I count one: Joseph Cao of New Orleans.
Meanwhile, I count more than 20 Democrats in the House and Senate who are in severe jeopardy. Lower the threshold from "severe" to "serious" jeopardy, and I count maybe four Republicans and more than 50 Democrats.
The White House is absolutely, positively correct that there is a divide between America and Washington - but what they fail to appreciate (or, more likely, they appreciate it but want to fake-out the press) is that Washington, D.C. now belongs to Barack Obama.
Just as the student radicals of the 1960s became the tenured faculty of the 2000s, so the worm has turned in the District of Columbia. The gates have been crashed and the one-time insurgents are now comfortably ensconced as the establishment. And with the health care bill, Mr. Obama and his band of former rebels have enacted an extremely unpopular law that they cannot possibly blame on the old guard. George W. Bush may have "forced" Barack Obama's hand on the stimulus, but Dubya had nary a thing to do with the health care bill.
This is why President Obama was wrong to equate the election of Scott Brown to his own victory, and why he's wrong to push this story now. He is the ultimate insider now. That snappy "Hail to the Chief" he hears every time he walks into a room should be sign enough of this fact.
The White House likely knows this. They just don't want us talking about how Obama can't save a single high-profile candidate from a purple or blue state. They don't want us to realize that his coattails have been torn and frayed by the choices he's made in the last 17 months.
No doubt that Republican incumbents are being rebuked across the country by their primary constituencies. But it's all about who is closer to the establishment, which is currently commanded by a Democratic President whose job approval rating has been under 50% in the RCP average for five months. In this situation, challenger trumps incumbent, but Republican trumps Democrat. Republican challengers are farther than Republican incumbents from the establishment, so the latter better look out in the primaries. But in general elections, the dynamic will be very different. Republican challengers and incumbents will tar their Democratic opponents with a simple characterization: "A vote for my opponent is a vote for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi's agenda." Democrats will have no such claim to make against Republicans.
This "anti-incumbent" meme is just a smokescreen designed to get the White House through some tough news cycles.
There's my two cents.