When our illustrious ex-governor (and current head of the Democratic National Committee) Tim Kaine recently appeared on “The Daily Show,” he was probably hoping for 15 minutes of jocular banter and a few pointed jabs from the left-leaning Jon Stewart. What he got instead was the kind of intense grilling that the acerbic host usually reserves for spectacularly incompetent financial network blowhards. (We’re looking at you, Jim Cramer.)
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine’s party caught a few lucky breaks in the Senate races recently. A month-plus from elections, should he refocus concerns on the House of Representatives?
The nadir of the interview came when, pressed to explain the Democrat’s battle plan heading into November’s midterm elections, Kaine fumbled a yellow plastic keychain from his pocket that read “Don’t Give Them the Keys Back.” Stewart promptly held the tchotchke up to the camera and pronounced, completely deadpan, “You’re in trouble, dude.”
Now, to his credit, Kaine performed admirably under pressure. He even appeared, at one point, to give his tormenter the classic “inadvertent finger” while listing his party’s myriad accomplishments. But Stewart’s aggressive skepticism is emblematic of the very tough road that lies ahead for the Democratic Party this election season.
By now, the media’s “Dems are toast” narrative has become so firmly entrenched, it’s easy to forget that Kaine’s donkeys have caught a number of lucky breaks lately. The biggest by far was the triumph of Tea Party princess Christine O’Donnell over Paleolithic-era congressman Mike Castle in Delaware’s Republican primary last Tuesday. While Castle seemed like a shoo-in to beat Democrat Chris Coons and take over Vice President Joe Biden’s old Senate seat, O’Donnell (who has come out publicly against masturbation, and has attacked the scourge of co-ed dorms by asking “What’s next? Orgy rooms? Ménage a trois rooms?”) seems almost certain to lose the First State for the GOP.
This, coupled with tight races in Nevada, Kentucky and even Alaska (where Tea Party favorites Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Tim Miller, respectively, beat well-funded establishment candidates in the primaries) makes Republicans’ chances of taking over the Senate very slim indeed.
The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is very much in play—and a recent New York Times report that Democratic party bigwigs were planning to perform “triage” (i.e., defund low-polling candidates in order to shower cash on competitive ones) certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
But at least one perpetually “endangered” Dem mentioned in the Times story—Tom Perriello, natch—immediately got a vote of confidence from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which released an internal poll showing him down only two points against challenger Robert Hurt, and quickly hustled out a spokesperson to insist that “these results confirm what every reputable pollster has shown—this race is neck and neck.”
But the fact remains: If the election were held today, House Democrats would almost certainly be shielding their eyes against the triumphant orange glow of Majority Leader John Boehner.
So you’ve got seven weeks, Mr. Kaine, to prove that you’ve got something other than amusing trinkets (and a menacing pair of eyebrows) to beat back the Republican horde. If you need some extra inspiration, consider this: Should you screw this one up, you’ll have to answer to Rahm Emanuel. And trust us—a visit from a pissed-off Rahm will make a Jon Stewart grilling feel like a sponge bath from Megan Fox.