The conventional wisdom and polling to this point has suggested that election 2010 would be a blowout victory for Republicans, one where they were almost certain to win back the House of Representatives and had at least a 50% shot at winning back the Senate. Republicans were so confident they were, as the saying goes, measuring the drapes in the largest offices in the capitol building.
Unfortunately for these Republicans, something unexpected has started to happen in the last few weeks. Two of the last three weeks, including the most recent week, Gallup has had the national race a statistical tie. The last week actually has Democrats ahead by a point.
Individual races have started to show a change in momentum. Rand Paul in Kentucky had a 15 point lead a few weeks ago. Now the race is within the margin of error. The Democratic candidates for Senate and Governor in California were trailing their Republican counterparts. Now, the Democratic candidates have five and nine point leads respectively. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, once considered a lost cause for Democrats, has a five point lead on his Republican opponent. (1)
Why has this trend reversal happened? There are three main reasons.
#1 - This year's Republican Team is Wackjob Central
Republicans have been trying to make the case since a month into the Obama administration that Obama's policies were too extreme left (they aren't, if anything they are center-left). Instead of trying to follow-up that line of attack with center-right candidates, they nominated the most radical right wingnut candidates this country has ever seen. While it seems like I am saying the same things the Republicans and conservative media are saying, from the opposite side of course, unlike the Republicans, I can back up my claim. Consider the following:
While we are accustomed to Republican candidates being against a woman's right to have an abortion, five high-profile Tea Party Republican SENATE candidates, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ken Buck of Colorado, Joe Miller of Alaska, Sharron Angle of Nevada, and Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, are even against a woman's right to have an abortion in the case of rape or incest! Women would have to have their rapists baby. Girls raped by an uncle or cousin or their fathers would have to give birth to a child from a resulting pregnancy.
Christine O'Donnell, the Republican senatorial candidate from Delaware who was one of the five I mentioned above made the rounds on national television talk shows a few years ago claiming that scientists had merged mouse and human DNA and that their were mice running around with human brains. More recently and continuing even today, O'Donnell is on a crusade against masturbation. Masturbation is adultery according to O'Donnell. Such nuttiness prompted Stephen Colbert to marry his right hand on national television in a mocking attempt to avoid breaking what I can only described as the "O'Donnell eleventh commandment."
New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who gives speeches that are 30 minute long variations on "The people are angry" (no, he doesn't use different examples, he just says the same thing over and over again), likes to make racist jokes. Such as:
forwarding an email regarding Obama that contains"a video clip of African tribesmen dancing that characterized the video as "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal." (3)
He also reportedly sent out an e-mail depicting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as a pimp and prostitute and one showing an airplane landing near black men with the caption "Holy Sh*t. run ni**ers, run!" The Paladino campaign claims that most white men and women have sent similar emails at one time or another and are thus not put off by the fact that their candidate likes to depict African Americans this way. (3) I happen to think they are wrong about that. Paladino and his team have a really low opinion of black AND white folks it seems.
The last Republican for whom I voted, former NY Senator Alfonse D'Amato, felt he had to mention in a recent article that Paladino is "a man who leaves a strong distaste in my mouth." If you follow Al D'Amato, you know he is a loyal Republican and a decent human being. If he feels the need to say something like this about a Republican candidate, we better all beware.
In a curious coincidence, another Tea Party favorite, Rand Paul, got caught up in a controversy back in May when he indicated he was against the Civil Rights Act because it was an instance of the government forcing private businesses to do things. In interviews he defended racist businesses freedoms including freedom of speech. Paul later backtracked and said the Civil Rights Act was necessary because of the extreme racism that existed at the time.
John Raese, the Republican nominee for Senate from West Virginia has a curious way of attempting to appeal to working-class citizens of his state. He said in a live radio show that "He made his money the old fashioned way, he inherited it" and because of that, he wants to "abolish the inheritance tax so more Americans can make money that way." Raese didn't mention any kind of a plan to make sure all parents have money to leave to their children. Raese also didn't mention that the rest of us who don't have a massive inheritance to which to look forward will have to pay higher taxes so that the wealthy folks to receive their inheritances tax free. Well, its either that or increase the deficit. Which option do you think Republicans will exercise if they win the majority in congress? Isn't that the problem we've been facing the last 30 years with Republicans in power?
#2 - The wackjobs and their leaders have no plan ... AT ALL
Regarding the "Pledge" the Republicans put forth, Republican house minority leader Boehner made the lack of a plan in "the pledge" clear on Fox News last Sunday when he said "The Pledge just lays down the pathway towards the possibility of building a framework for possible plan to have a real plan in the future."
When a High-profile National Republican plan is so light that even some of my friends at Fox News have to not only question it, but ridicule it, you can be assured that it is so light you can see right through it.
#3 - Its the Hypocrisy, Stupid, also known as IOKIYAR or "It's OK if You're a Republican"
The three things you need to know about Republican hypocrisy this year are as follows. First, their spokesperson on family values is former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Yes, the same Gingrich who dumped his cancer-stricken 1st wife. When his pastor criticized him for not supporting his two kids, he left the church. Newt dumped 2nd wife after cheating on her with the Congressional aide who is now his 3rd wife. (2) Gingrich's hypocrisy runs so deep, he was pushing for the impeachment for Clinton for hiding his affairs while Newt himself was hiding an affair.
The second thing you need to know is that while the Republicans have been screaming about deficits for the entire two years so far of the Obama administration, and continue to rail against it during this year's campaign, the one semblance of a plan they do have, cutting taxes, will by their own admission (when cornered) increase the deficit significantly.
Finally, you will note my above mention of the Republican/Tea Party candidates who are against a woman's right to choose to have an abortion in the case of rape or incest. How does that square with the two year long Tea Party talking point that says that government is too intrusive and should stay out of people's lives? How about the continued Republican/Tea Party fight against gay rights including the right for gays to serve in the military and marry? If you do not have the freedom to have consensual sex with other adults and have a choice over whether you reproduce (particularly if raped), I'd say that the rest of the freedoms really don't matter much. Apparently, the new Tea Party slogan is, "Join the tea party, and if you're a man who is having trouble convincing women to bear him a child, just find a woman that seems appealing and rape her, and you get double points if she is a relative!"
All of this has not been lost on my fellow citizens. While most Americans are normally too busy to take note of the latest Republican manufactured outrage or conservative media hyperbole, when it gets down to the 60 days before an election, people start taking a closer look. The trend in polling shows that what the American people are seeing with that closer look is not to their liking. Republicans, of course, see the danger in what is happening and in response, many campaigns are pulling back from media appearances and cancelling debates with their Democratic opponents. I think it is too late and the momentum has shifted. It became too late when the Republicans nominated these wingnutty teabaggers for house and senate seats.
The question isn't, as my friend Al D'Amato put it in his article "In Six Weeks, Will We Throw the Bums Out?" The question is, "In Six Weeks, Will We Let the Bums in?" Will we let Raese in in West Virginia whose big plan to help people is abolishing the inheritance tax?Will we let Christine O'Donnell in who spends her time worrying about whether people are pleasuring themselves. Are we going to let serial cheater Newt Gingrich lecture us about family values? Will we let Paladino in who isn't really a racist, he just plays one in email... repeatedly. Will we let Boehner play House Speaker when he fully admits he doesn't have any plan at all of what to do, just a "pathway towards the possibility of building a framework for possible plan to have a real plan in the future."
The polls say the American people are having second thoughts about putting the Republican/Tea Party bums in the driver's seat. You can almost hear what they are thinking. What are these Tea Party folks trying to sell us? Who are these crazy candidates? Why is a more severe version of the same stuff that put us into the economic crisis we are in better than the policies that have stabilized the economy? With those questions, the Republicans are seeing the Senate slip away and their hope of a Republican majority in the House start to appear in jeopardy.