On Friday’s Situation Room, CNN forwarded an idea proposed by The New Republic’s Peter Beinart- that Democratic losses in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey this year would result in the reelection of President Obama in 2012. An on-screen graphic during a discussion of Beinart’s hypothesis read, “If The Dems Lose Next Week: How it might help them in the long run.”
Anchor Wolf Blitzer read the New Republic contributor’s idea during a “Strategy Session” panel discussion with Republican Mary Matalin and Democrat Paul Begala 53 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour: “Peter Beinart, writing in The Daily Beast, says...it might be good for the Democrats if the Republicans win both Virginia and New Jersey, the governors’ races next Tuesday. ‘Let’s imagine,’ he writes, ‘that Democrats lose next week because the GOP’s conservative base flocks to the polls while liberals stay home. For Obama, that wouldn’t be so terrible. The more confident right-wing Republicans become, the more likely they will nominate a Palin-like zealot in 2012.’”
Beinart sounds like he’s channeling ABC’s Clare Shipman, who, after President Obama’s trip to Copenhagen failed to secure the Olympics for Chicago, bizarrely argued that this loss was actually good for the Democrat.
Both Matalin and Begala didn’t buy this hypothesis one bit:
BLITZER: You like his [Beinart’s] logic there?
MARY MATLALIN: It’s an argument supported neither by logic nor data. He argues that off-year elections are not predictive for mid-terms or subsequent presidential elections unless there’s a Republican victory which portends a negative impact on the next election. That’s illogical on its face, but it’s not supported by data either. These are not conservatives of any ilk, either, of his description, ‘kooky’ conservatives or [unintelligible] common sense conservatives. It is independents that are flocking away from the Democrats because they do not like the - those very voters that swept Obama in and expanded the Democratic majority- they do not like the aforementioned expansive government.
MATALIN: They do not like the debt. In New York 23 [the New York 23rd congressional district race], there wasn’t a run on conservative social issues. It was on the debt, and that’s why Hoffman got in and that’s why independents are flocking to him.
BLITZER: All right. Very quickly, Paul- go ahead.
PAUL BEGALA: Well, the debt, of course, was created by the Republicans, and Bill Clinton, who I worked for, left the White House- he handed President Bush the greatest surplus in American history. But the interesting- I think Peter Beinart is wrong. He is a very smart guy, but he’s wrong. Mary is correct about that. It’s never good to lose, and Democrats shouldn’t think it’s good if they lose.
I’m watching Virginia, because it’s a test run of what a lot of Democrats like to do. They seem to believe in the politics of differentiation: ‘Oh, I’m different from Obama.’ Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, says- would not say that he’s an Obama Democrat. He, in fact, then came out and said if the public option is passed and states can opt out, I would probably opt out. So he’s running away from Barack Obama, in a state Obama won by six points. Let’s see how that works out for him. My guess is he loses by ten points or more by trying to separate himself from his party’s president.
Neither Matalin nor Begala addressed the second part of Beinart’s theory, which concerned the viability of a “Palin-like zealot,” or, more plainly, a conservative presidential candidate for the Republican Party. But it’s certainly interesting to watch the two of them throw cold water on the hypothesis CNN seems to be forwarding.