Polls show that the public disapproves with the way that Republicans are running things. Common wisdom says that Democrats will make gains in the upcoming election and may take one or both houses of Congress. Of course, common wisdom also said that the 2004 election was Kerry's to lose. It is possible that common wisdom is actually wishful thinking.
The 2006 campaign has started in earnest and I'm lucky enough (?) to be in two contested districts. Both my representative, Deborah Pryce and my senator, Mike DeWine, have been targeted by out-of-state Democrats and liberals. This gives me a chance to observe the Democrats' strategy close-up.
Understand that the attacks on Pryce and DeWine are opportunistic, not ideological. Both are moderates, Both have been described as RINOs (Republican In Name Only) because of their past records. The only reason that they have been targeted is because they are seen as vulnerable.
The attacks on Pryce began well before the traditional campaign season. MoveOn ran anti-Pryce ads off and on all Summer. These were very general. Instead of focusing on anything that Pryce did, they focused on things she did not do. These were on the line of, "The world is ending and Deborah Pryce didn't take the lead to stop it from happening."
More recently, Pryce's opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy, has begun airing ads contrasting the budget deficit under President Bush and Pryce with the balanced county budget under Kilroy (Kilroy is a county commissioner). This left her open for a counter-attack pointing out that county sales tax doubled under Kilroy.
DeWine is running against Sherrod Brown. Brown has yet to make an appearance in the campaign (at least I haven't seen him) but an anti-DeWine ad is running. It pictures him with President Bush and complains about the deficit.
That seems to be the strategy so far. The Democrat's only issue is the deficit and links between the Republican and President Bush. the Democrat's strategy is based on several factors. Not all of these are likely to pan out for them.
As I mentioned above, polls show that most people distrust Republicans to run the country. The problem for the Democrats is that nearly as many people distrust them. This could translate into an anti-incumbent election. This gets tricky to predict. Many people distrust the party but trust their local candidate which is why incumbents get re-elected so often.
Democrats are banking heavily on Bush's negative poll numbers. They hope that linking a candidate with Bush will drag the candidate down. Basically they are trying to recreate the strategy that Lamont used on Leiberman. The tricky part here is that Lamont was running in a primary. Associating a Republican with the President in a general election is not the same as tying a Democrat to Bush in a primary. Worse for the Democrats, Bush's approval ratings have gone up.
An additional problem that the Democrats have - the war. Brown and Kilroy are avoiding all mention of it. Voters will eventually want to know what their position is. This is a no-win situation for Democrats. The majority of Americans view an unconditional pull-out as a surrender and this will hurt any candidate who suggests it. On the other hand, the hard-core of Democrats will accept nothing less and may stay at home if their candidate proposes conditions.
So, can Democrats win on little but general voter dissatisfaction and the deficit? Right now the poll say that they can but voter dissatisfaction has a way of evaporating as the election grows close.
On the other hand, neither Pryce nor DeWine has done anything to motivate their Republicans roots. I would have gladly dumped both in 1993 after they crossed the isle to pass Clinton's gun control legislation.