All 435 house seats and a third of the 100 Senate seats -- some in critical swing states -- are up for grabs this year. It will be a long hot summer, with financial regulation and a Supreme Court nomination fight adding to the usual election year pandemonium and panderings. The release on YouTube of "President Obama Announces Vote 2010” to 13 million grassroots supporters via email today is a major event, the start of the midterms. It was sent by Organizing for America, the Democratic National Committee’s political operation, built by then-Senator Obama.
President Barack Obama on Monday launched an effort to get voters who propelled him to victory in 2008 to rally behind Democrats and help turn back Republican challengers in November congressional elections.
Obama, in a video message distributed to his supporters, formally leaped into the election campaigns for November in which Democrats are trying to protect their strong majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
Democratic fortunes have sagged in recent months and most political analysts believe Republicans are poised to make major gains in November.
Obama rode to victory in 2008 with the benefit of millions of first-time voters who had not been involved in politics. He is seeking to recapture that grass-roots appeal for his party this year, specifically reaching out to young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women.
Energizing voters is a potentially difficult step because Obama's name is not on the ballot in November and voter turnout in non-presidential election years is typically much lower than in years when a presidential election is held.
President Obama's message of change has resonated strongly with people of color and women and the young, groups that historically have not had as much access to power as white males. Obama's secret weapon will be --as he imself says -- "the young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women." Of course, there will also be progressive and independent whites in that coalition, many of whom helped the President win Indiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina in 2008. In yesterday's memorial honoring the 29 miners who died in the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia, the President said of the fallen white workingmen in a state that he lost to both Hillary Clinton in the primaries and McCain in the general election:
“How can we fail them? How can a nation that relies on its miners not do everything in its power to protect them? How can we let anyone in this country put their lives at risk by simply showing up to work, by simply pursuing the American dream? We cannot bring back the twenty-nine men we lost. They are with the Lord now. Our task, here on earth, is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy.”
Still, the unusually frank political argument may draw undue attention to the President's white vote deficit in 2008. Demagogues on the right will probably use this as an opportunity to paint the President's appeal in garish brown hues (small closing cough of feigned detachment). Also -- To what degree will National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones's inappropriate joke against Jewish people -- and the President's weakening approval rating among American Jews -- hurt him in 2010 and beyond.
Immigration reform, which arose abruptly last week, might be a polarizing event, recapturing some of the 2008 magic, particularly for young people and people of color disaffected by the growing centrist drift of the administration. The virulently anti-immigrant sentiments of certain fringe groups on the right might just turn off suburban moms and white independents who don't go in for that sort of poisonoius rhetoric.
Electoral momentum, however, has been of late on the side of the opposition. A rising tea party movement coincides with three major electoral losses for the democrats -- in Virginia, in New Jersey and in Kennedy's Massachusetts (all previously true-blue states). It should be interesting.