Analysts: White House Panicking Over Elections

president obama aug. 31, 2010 iraq

With many polls indicating the Republicans may win back control of the House of Representatives (and possibly the Senate as well) in the upcoming mid-term elections, Jim VandeHei, the executive editor of Politico, told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the Obama administration is in a horrible position.

"Does the White House understand this?" asked guest host Harry Smith. "Do you feel any sense of panic or concern" on the part of the administration?

"They get it. There's panic. There's concern," VandeHei said. "The reality for this administration stinks, politically and practically, when it comes to the economy. You're not going to be able to change that 9.6-percent unemployment figure. You can't get anything from Congress in the next couple of months."

CBS Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes said the Democrats are distancing themselves from President Obama.

"Not only are they running away from President Obama, they're running away from being Democrats in some cases. In some races you actually see the Democratic candidates not really mentioning that they're a Democrat in their campaign ads," Cordes said.

Smith asked his guests to try to identify the source of the discontent: "From your experience on the Hill, have you heard any Democrats in private conversations say, 'You know what? We went down the wrong road. We went after health care. We went after so many other things on the Obama agenda as opposed to, in the end of the day, it's all about creating jobs?'"

"Not only have we heard that, but we've been hearing it for months," said Cordes. "We heard it during the health care debate that dragged on for a year when the economy was so bad; they focused on health care and they focused on financial regulation.

"Americans don't feel the impact of those pieces of legislation yet," she said. "There's a lot of frustration on Capitol Hill among Democrats who feel like the President led them down this path. They didn't all necessarily want to deal with health care. This was on the president's agenda, and then they felt like he kind of hung them out to dry."

"Not a single Democrat has run an ad in support of the health care bill since April," VandeHei noted.

Cordes pointed out that Democrats are very unhappy about Mr. Obama's speech last week, only the second Oval Office prime time address in his presidency.

"What does he talk about? Not the economy, but Iraq," Cordes said. "And they say, 'No, we need to own the economy. If you're going to use the power of your office to give a speech like that, talk about the economy."

VandeHei said the Republicans feel more powerful today than they've felt at any point in the last five or six years.

"On top of that, you have this enthusiasm gap that is killing Democrats. If you look at the polling data from Gallup and from others, it shows that Republicans are fired up about this election. The liberal Democrats are not. They're not enthusiastic about it. When you have races that are decided by a couple hundred votes, in a House that can be very, very close, that matters," VandeHei said.

He also suggested that Democrats are much more pessimistic than they were merely three or four weeks ago. He cited a recent Gallup poll that showed Republicans with a 10-point generic edge. "They've been polling for 60 years. We've not seen a number like that."

Cordes pointed out that predictions show the Republicans can win 45 to 50 seats in the House, and they only need 39 seats to take control.

But VandeHei offered a glimmer of hope for President Obama and the Democrats.

"It's never too late," he said. "Think about how fickle we are in everything in life now, whether it's the cell phone that we choose or what we think about politics or what we do in our daily life. People are fickle.

"I still think you can start to pull people back," VandeHei said. "At the end of the day, it has to be that Obama has to find that magic. How can he get liberals to be as excited about him and about Democratic change as they were two years ago?

Given suggestions that right-wing activists are more fired-up to support their candidates, VandeHei added, "I don't understand how liberals can sit at home and feel like Obama has not done enough for them. This has been a breathtakingly activist government for the last two years.

"Some day they're going to sit back and go, 'Wow, look at all they did!'"