Election 2010 closing arguments: Is GOP a step back or forward?

With one day to go until Election 2010, President Obama exhorts voters not to give the keys of power back to the GOP. House minority leader John Boehner says Republicans have changed.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden make a final get-out-the-vote push for Democratic candidates during a rally at Cleveland State University in Cleveland Sunday.
Stan Myers/The Repository/AP
Rep. John Boehner (R) speaks to the crowd at a rally in Canton, Ohio, Saturday.

With Election 2010 now only hours away Democrats and Republicans are making their closing arguments. The time for rallies and ads is almost over. To the two big parties that govern America, the thing that matters most now is making a last emotional appeal to voters before the doors of polling places all across the country swing open on Nov. 2.

To try and get an idea of what those emotional appeals are, we’ll contrast the final campaign stops of President Obama and Rep. John Boehner (R) of Ohio, who as the current minority leader likely will become Speaker of the House if the GOP, as expected, wins control of the chamber.

DEMOCRATS. At a campaign stop in Cleveland in Sunday, Mr. Obama employed a metaphor he’s used often this fall. He talked about the US economy as a car – a car that the Republicans drove into a ditch at the end of the Bush administration.

That ditch of a recession is deep, so deep “we had to put our boots on, we had to rappel down,” said Obama on Sunday. But after much hard work and sweat, the Democrats got the car back up to level ground. Republicans did not help, but just stood on the lip of the ditch, criticizing the administration’s efforts.

Now the car is banged up, and running rough, but at least it is pointing in the right direction, said Obama.

“And just as we’re about to go, suddenly we get a tap on our shoulders. And we look back, who is it? It’s the Republicans. And they’re saying, ‘We want the keys back,’ ” said Obama at the Cleveland rally.

This, in an extended visual image, captures the Democratic Party’s final voter pitch. It goes like this: Middle class families have been struggling for a long time, a terrible recession made things much worse, Republicans have just said “no” to all our solutions, and now is not the time to go back to the failed policies of the past.

“This election is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and policies that are leading us out of this mess,” said Obama in Cleveland.

REPUBLICANS. The GOP has a whole different way of describing the events of the last two years, of course. To them, Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have not been pulling that battered vehicle of an economy out of the ditch. Instead, they’ve been rolling the car further down with their own actions, into a pit of nearly 10 percent unemployment, with no job recovery anywhere in sight.

And however that car got down there in the first place, the White House has had plenty of time to make its past promises come true, according to Republicans.

“Americans haven’t experienced the change President Obama promised,” said Mr. Boehner in a weekend response to the administration’s weekly video message. “One in 10 of our fellow citizens is out of work. Our national debt has grown by $3 trillion. Trust in government has fallen to an all-time low.”

This is the GOP final pitch, which focuses on Democratic actions over the last two years. The bailouts have been too much, the spending has been too much, and people are “tired of the government takeover of virtually everything in America”, as Boehner said Sunday at a campaign stop in Canton, Ohio.

Plus, the current Republican Party is not the same organization it was in the final Bush years, according to Boehner. After all, spending rose then too, and the recession began in Bush’s final months in office.

In Canton, Boehner said that if he is lucky enough to be elected Speaker, “it’s going to be different, not just from what Democrats are doing, but from what Republicans were doing last time through.”

How will this all turn out?

Time will tell, in the words of the classic journalistic dodge. Until then, we’ll make do with the prediction of election analyst Charlie Cook of “Cook’s Political Report." He predicts the Democrats will lose 50 to 60 seats in the House, and possibly more. A loss of only 39 seats would hand the chamber to the GOP.

In the Senate, Republicans are now likely to see a net gain of six to eight seats, says Cook. That’s down from his previous estimate of a seven to nine seat GOP gain. It would take a 10 seat gain for control of the chamber to switch hands, and due to recent trends “the odds of Republicans winning a majority in the Senate are now nonexistent,” according to Cook.

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