As the 2014 elections draw near, despite an outward appearance of confidence Democrats on both national and local levels are bracing themselves for an uphill battle against a resurgent Republican opposition. Beset by coast-to-coast scandals and lack of a cohesive message, Democratic Party officials acknowledge growing concerns of a tarnished public image as the midterms loom ahead.
In attempts to rally party faithful, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) displayed confidence in the party’s chances to not only hold their majority in the Senate but at their prospects for taking the House and returning the Speaker’s gavel to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.). Conscious of an erosion of her party’s popularity, Wasserman-Schultz, who also serves as Chairwoman of the DNC, is hoping that focus on local issues and exploiting internal disputes within Republican circles will derail GOP hopes of unseating vulnerable Democrat incumbents.
Speaking to NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press,” she attempted to paint a rosy picture by downplaying recent polling indicating tight races for incumbents Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich, indicating they are ahead of any of their Republican opponents, albeit by razor-thin margins.
She also stressed the internal friction between the establishment wing of the GOP and its pressure from insurgent Tea Party enthusiasts. While this has been a source of anxiety for many Republicans, polling suggests that this has not hurt enthusiasm among conservatives or its standing with the general public. A recent poll conducted jointly by Democratic pollster Anderson Robbins Research and GOP pollster Shaw & Company in fact shows the GOP brand gaining strength among the public. Whereas in October of 2013 the party was viewed more negatively, with just 30 percent of the electorate giving the Republicans a favorable mark (compared to 63 percent negative) today that has evened out, with 45 percent of the public viewing them positively, equal to its negativity rating.
With many independent voters turning to the GOP, Democratic Party leaders recognize that their midterm hopes rest on high turn-out among their base as swing voters become increasingly concerned over looming scandals involving ranking party members.
In addition to the ongoing investigation into the party’s role in the IRS’s targeting of conservative activists, a number of high-profile Democrats on state and locals levels have found themselves mired in legal troubles, to the point where Democrats are as likely to be listed in the police blotter as they are being quoted on legislation.
Nowhere has this been as damaging as in solidly blue California. The Party finds itself reeling as a seemingly never-ending series of scandals have the Republicans poised to make their first serious political gains in over a decade. Last month State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) made headlines for his alleged involvement in an international weapons smuggling scheme involving organized crime figures and Islamic terrorist groups. The outspoken gun-control advocate is accused of conspiring with San Francisco Triad gangs and members of the Philippines-based Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F) to smuggle high-caliber weapons, including military grade rocket launchers into the US.
Yee is the third Democratic State Senator to face arrest this year, joining fellow defendant Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), also indicted on federal criminal charges, and Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles) who was recently convicted on eight counts of perjury and voter fraud. All the more embarrassing for Democrats is none of the three cases are connected and all have refused to resign their seats, despite Governor Jerry Brown’s repeated requests.
The cases have raised questions as to the extend of corruption within the party. Looming concerns have been exacerbated by graft-related scandals in heavily Democratic Party strongholds of Cudhay, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, Bell, Lynwood, Maywood and South Gate. Cudhay, with a 96 percent Latino population, recently elected its very first Republican Mayor, Jack Guerrero, an ominous warning for Democrats.
The transgressions in California might be less problematic if it not for other Democrat-related scandals elsewhere. The Party also finds itself mired in trouble in Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island and New York, where prominent Democrats are connected in embarrassing headline-grabbing cases involving corruption, money laundering, misappropriation of state funds and personnel, voter fraud and child pornography.
Despite the public confidence displayed by Wasserman-Schultz and others, recent polls suggest a surging Republican brand is more unified than reports of a GOP “civil war” would suggest. With midterms looming, the Democratic Party faces the difficult prospect of selling itself to an electorate already concerned over the Obama Administration’s handling of the economy, while having to fend off the appearance of a scandal-plagued party, with voters left wondering just how deep the corruption extends.
By Paul Winters