I write this as a political independent who finds strengths and weaknesses in both of America’s major leading parties, but just as I observed during the battle against John Bolton’s Senate confirmation vote to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Democrats often declare defeat when they are ahead, and Republicans declare victory even when they are badly losing.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stated what is obvious and increasingly probable: the Dems could lose the House in November. Charlie Cook called it first — but Gibbs is not really supposed to be a truth-teller. He’s got a team whose interests he needs to advance — and acknowledging defeat too early becomes self-fulfilling.
President Barack Obama won an overwhelming mandate in my view — the largest Democratic Party win since LBJ. But through his Presidency, Obama has operated as if he had the slimmest of margins.
Rather than getting kudos for trying to work across the aisle, the Republican opposition smelled weakness, indecision, and inchoateness among key players in the White House and overcame the GOP’s own internal divisions to become monolithically opposed to assisting the White House succeed on nearly any front.
Contrast this with George W. Bush who did win by the slimmest of slim margins in 2000 — and even that is still hotly debated — but yet still performed as if he had won 70% of the vote. Dems, who had a healthy presence in the Congress, crumbled.
Nancy Pelosi has a point. Perception matters — and recent history shows that in some cases, the assertion of strength (at home in America) gets you some yardage. Conceding early probably invites defeat.
— Steve Clemons