Fred Barnes: A Most Pivotal ElectionPosted: November 4, 2014
Fred Barnes writes: President Obama is famous for proclaiming a “pivot” to a new issue—to the economy, to jobs, to Asia. By my count he has announced more than 20 pivots during his presidency, invariably to matters that bring political benefits and away from those that don’t.
The story of this year’s campaign in the dozen or so races that will decide who controls the Senate is uncomplicated. Republicans have a single talking point: Their Democratic opponents are partisan clones of Mr. Obama. Democrats often rely on one response: Pivot to an issue that has nothing to do with the president.
The pivot strategy has also been a major feature of Democratic campaigns that conclude with Tuesday’s midterm election. And it is understandable why Democrats have employed it. Redirection is the best response they could come up with to the Republican charge that they are closely tied to Mr. Obama and his policies.
“Watching Democrats struggle to escape Mr. Obama’s ideological grip was the most fascinating aspect of the campaign. They have tried everything from identifying with prominent Republicans to openly rejecting Mr. Obama.”
Democrats would rather not discuss their relationship with the president, much less dwell on it. He is unpopular and so are his major policies (ObamaCare, national security, the economy). So candidates pivot to another issue. We saw this strategy at work in Louisiana’s Senate race last week. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu , trailing Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in most polls, suddenly raised the explosive issues of racism and sexism. She insisted that racism makes Mr. Obama unpopular in Louisiana and sexism causes her re-election to be a struggle.
“Over the weekend, Mr. Obama was still trying to pivot, this time to make the campaign agenda more liberal.”
Pivoting can be a clever strategy—when it works. And no Democrat has been more effective at adopting it than Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Six months ago, she was viewed as vulnerable, even doomed. Not only had she voted for the president’s health-care law, but she had also declared publicly that North Carolinians could keep their current insurance policies and doctors. For a while, she hid from reporters to avoid talking about her vote.
Republicans and super PACs supporting them attacked her relentlessly. But once Thom Tillis won the Republican nomination in July, she pulled off a successful pivot. In TV ads and campaign appearances, she made his controversial role as state House speaker a leading issue in the Senate contest. Ms. Hagan has led in nearly every poll since then. But her pivoting success is the exception.
The story of this year’s campaign in the dozen or so races that will decide who controls the Senate is uncomplicated. Republicans have a single talking point: Their Democratic opponents are partisan clones of Mr. Obama. Democrats often rely on one response: Pivot to an issue that has nothing to do with the president…(read more)
Mr. Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, is a Fox News commentator.