When it comes to State of the Union addresses, the opinions of the chattering classes are usually wrong. For one thing, for all the predictions of its potential to change the political landscape, the speech tends to have only the tiniest effect on the president's approval ratings. For another, though the wags always complain that the speech was terribly long, the public never seems to mind (the one president who regularly got a bump from his SOTUs was Bill Clinton, who could drone on with the best of them).
There are a lot of reasons to feel despondent at what's been going on with Democrats in Congress and the White House over the last week. What's remarkable is just how easy it was for them to get sent into this spiral of fear. I shouldn't have to keep repeating this, but all of this chaos – talking about abandoning their agenda, the president seemingly reconfiguring his entire political strategy – is happening because their 20-seat advantage in the Senate was reduced to an 18-seat advantage. Can you imagine what would happen if they suffered a really big defeat?
This is most likely a case of reporters taking a couple of comments made by senators, and over-interpreting them to come to a dramatic conclusion. But it seems designed to make liberals' heads explode:
Democrats Put Stop On Health Overhaul
WASHINGTON — With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama's top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The midterm elections for Congress are a little more than nine months away, and they can go one of two ways. Democrats can lose some seats, but not so many that the fundamental balance of power in Congress is changed. Or they can be obliterated, lose the House, and maybe even lose the Senate as well. If they're going to avoid disaster, they have a few things they need to do.