Yesterday marked what may be a turning point for the Obama administration. The momentum achieved from the quick passage of the stimulus bill, and the release of the President's ten year budget plan with all the big ticket items liberals have long dreamed of -- cap and trade, bigger government health care programs, more money for education, and significant income redistribution, is now gone.
We have seen a stunning drop-off in public approval (Rasmussen's net approval rating of plus 30% has dropped to plus 5%, criticism of the administration's incompetence from both left and right, and now real political defeats on the horizon. Byron York outlines the retreat on several key agenda items revealed in last night's press conference. Then throw in Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Spector reversing himself and now opposing the unions' demand for "card check" -- the attempt to eliminate the secret ballot in elections certifying a union, and require binding arbitration within 120 days for dispute resolution. Spector was the 60th vote the unions thought they had to break a GOP filibuster on the issue.
Unlike the House, where many member are elected by landslides majorities, many Democrats in the Senate come from red states -- 12 come from North Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Louisiana, Alaska and Nebraska. Others come from competitive states that are energy suppliers (and fearful of the job loss impact from cap and trade) -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Democrats have gained their big majorities in the Senate by winning many close races in the last two elections, often with candidates more moderate than their leadership.
While the Democrats are in good position in the 2010 Senate races, due to GOP retirements in Ohio, Florida, Missouri and New Hampshire, and vulnerable incumbents in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, some of the Democrats' seats are at risk as well: Connecticut (Dodd) ,Nevada (Reid), Colorado (Bennett), Delaware (open seat), and possibly even Illinois (Burris) , where half the elected officials in the state seem to be jail worthy.
In any case, the Obama steamroller seems to have been stopped in its tracks due to the growing fear of enormous deficits, out of control spending programs, job losses, and higher energy costs, all associated with parts of the President's overreaching agenda. Even some Democrats now believe much of this agenda is unconnected to the current economic reality.
Republicans must ensure they retain at least 41 seats in the next Senate, or for liberals, there will be dreams deferred, but not lost.