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Thu, June 20

Column | Democrats rediscover a losing formula

To all of my friends who happen to be Democrats – and I do have many – I offer the following: If you’re enjoying the presidential stylings of Donald J. Trump, keep doing exactly what you’re doing. And if you want to help cement the GOP majority in the Senate, don’t change a thing. Your current strategy is working beautifully.

Keep harassing Republicans in restaurants. Keep talking about the impeachment of Supreme Court justice Brett “I Like Beer” Kavanaugh. Keeping firing off those profane tweets. Keep producing DNA samples that allegedly prove your Native American heritage (as if anyone really cares). The people are really responding.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll shows that President Trump’s approval rating has risen to 47 percent, the highest of his presidency. That might not be reason for a parade for Trump supporters - and we know how the president loves a parade - but those numbers indicate a shift. In September, Trump’s approval rating was 44 percent.

“The poll results include signs that the widely predicted ‘blue wave’ of Democratic gains in the House in 2018 now is running into a ‘riptide of uncertainty [that] has been created with a surge of Republican intensity,’” according to the Journal.

In many influential Senate races, once-overwhelming Democratic advantages have melted away.

Charles E. Cook, Jr., publisher of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, wrote last week that “the open Republican-held seats in Arizona and Tennessee are two places where Democratic hopes have backslid the most in this post-Kavanaugh period… Democrats had been over-performing but Republican and conservative voters are snapping back into position, a real setback to Democratic hopes.”

Why? Because Democrats went back into their playbook and pulled out a loser.

“One question that keeps coming back up is whether those who led the out-of-control demonstrations on Capitol Hill against the Kavanaugh nomination have any understanding of how much damage they did to Democrats and the party’s chances of winning a majority in the Senate,” Cook wrote. “My guess is they don’t. But Senate Democrats probably do.”

If I were a Senate Democrat, my message, two weeks before an election to my more activism-oriented constituents, would be, “If you really want to help me, stop trying to help me.”

In North Dakota, the race between Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent, and Republican Rep. Kevin Kramer, is now leaning Republican. And, at least according to Cook, it appears Heitkamp will be unable to turn things around by election day. Heitkamp voted against the confirmation of Kavanaugh. If you recall, Heitkamp said she opposed Kavanaugh because of his “body language” during his confirmation hearing.

In a column for Fox News, Democratic pollster and political analyst Doug Schoen wrote that Democrats are failing to acknowledge the, well, elephant in the room.

“Democrats have moved so far to the left that Republican attacks on them for being extremist and too far in the clutches of their tired, out-of-touch leadership have been working,” Schoen wrote.

Where does all of this leave Democrats less than two weeks before the election? What looked like a layup a month ago has now turned into two, pressure-packed free throws. And if the Democrats somehow blow this, one wonders how they will recover, if recovery is even possible.

Misdirected activism isn’t the Democrats’ only problem. The economy is strong. The Democrats can say whatever they want about Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory reforms but they have fueled growth and optimism. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product grew to 4.2 percent in the second quarter of this year. Unemployment is low and small business optimism has reached record highs.

The Index of Small Business Optimism rose 0.9 points to a record-high of 108.8, according to Forbes.com, breaking the 35-year-old record which, “signals a defining moment for the U.S. economy.”  Forbes added that “small business owners have never been this optimistic about the economy in the last 45 years.”

It would be an overstatement at this point to say that the Democrats are in trouble. Barring a total meltdown, they are still favored to take control of the House. They need a gain of 23 seats to take the majority. The Senate, however, is another matter as an increase in enthusiasm among Republicans has made winning a majority a long shot, according to Cook.

We won’t know until election day if the Democrats have found a way to win. But we already know they know how to lose.

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