Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Such Setbacks II

Jim Taranto offers a characteristically insightful post showing that while Senate Democrats have a clear tactical advantage in their current filibuster of the President's judicial nominees, the Republicans have the strategic advantage.

The OpinionJournal item overlooks one person who will likely be especially damaged by all this grandstanding: Tom Daschle. Senator Daschle is, after all, the Senate minority leader (the capo da tutti Democratti) leading his fellow Democrats as they go to the mattresses in their high profile filibuster against the Republicans and all those conservative nominees - especially the nominees who do not support the abortion rights so sacred to the most liberal Democrats. But Senator Daschle is also in the process of trying to present himself to his rather conservative South Dakota constituency for re-election next year - a constituency 36% of whom disfavor him in recent polls - as "just Tom" who is "just like" them. As I noted previously, Senator Daschle is sufficiently conscious of his vulnerability to have voted for the recent partial birth abortion bill which is now being attacked by exactly the kind of federal judge he is demanding that the President appoint.

The Senate can bring the mattresses and cots onto the floor, but somehow I don't think Senator Daschle is going to get any sleep during this debate.

UPDATE: Senator Daschle's understanding of how currents pulling the national Democratic party leftward can backwash into South Dakota to his disadvantage is evident in passages from his new book, Like No Other Times, which describes the Paul Wellstone memorial that demolished the Democrats' chances of holding his Minnesota Senate seat. In the many words of Senator Daschle that urgently attempt to position him as a reasonable, centrist kind of just-a-guy South-Dakotans can like and vote for:

Not only did Walter Mondale slip overnight from eight points up to ten points down. . . . In South Dakota, where [incumbent Democratic senator] Tim Johnson's people were going door-to-door all over the state, reports were coming back that more than a few South Dakotans were saying, "I am so outraged at what happened in Minnesota that I was going to vote for Tim, but now I'm going to vote Republican."

Republicans brought the Charles Pickering matter to a vote on the eve of the Mississippi election, to their apparent distinct advantage. A repeat performance of this judicial filibuster close to next year's election therefore seems likely. It's not too hard to suspect that after seeing Senator Daschle lead the now-ongoing judicial nominee filibuster (live, this year, and as repeated campaign television spots next year, together with more coverage of next year's judicial filibuster - or equivalent spotlighting tactic), those same more than a few South Dakotans will be saying, "I am so outraged at what happened in the Senate judicial filibuster that I was going to vote for Tom, but now I'm going to vote Republican."

So far there's no word from South Dakota that Senator Daschle's poll negatives are moving one bit, despite all the money he's pouring into the effort. But a year is a very long time in politics.

FURTHER UPDATE: Looks like the overnight tracking polls must be registering positive for the Republicans.

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