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Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuesday might be even bumpier than expected.

The point that many people seem to be missing in the Florida Senate saga is that this whole mess actually has very little to do with Rep. Kendrick Meek or the Sunshine State -- it's all about a much broader fear among senior Democrats that they may be about to lose control of the chamber.

There are some fascinating inside details I've been able to piece together about how and why this Meek story exploded into the public.

In the words of one senior Democratic Party official, the Meek story came to a head because former President Bill Clinton "flew into a purple rage" about the Democratic candidate breaking a private pledge to him to get out of the Senate race and endorse independent candidate Charlie Crist.

But a source close to Clinton said he "never saw anything close" to rage from the former president, who is at peace with how this wound up.

"He always believed this was Meek's decision,' said the source close to Clinton.

As for the Obama adminstiration's role in this, I'm told by senior Democratic officials that while White House aides were in the loop on the Clinton-Meek talks, they were not driving the conversation and were not lobbying Meek to go.

I'm also told that senior officials deliberately kept President Obama out of the loop on these behind-the-scenes conversations because they did not want to get him personally tainted by the Meek story. That came no doubt in part because they didn't want it to blow up in his face like the botched attempt to get Joe Sestak out of the Democratic primary in the Pennsylvania Senate race so many months ago. (Clinton was the intermediary then, too).

But all the jockeying and horse-trading is really just a sideshow. The real story is how bad the broader electoral map has gotten for Democrats heading into the final weekend of this midterm election: Top Democratic officials privately say they believe they are going to lose the House, but as they survey the country they are getting increasingly worried they will also lose the Senate.

These Democratic officials tell me they've reviewed private polling numbers that suggest Sen. Patty Murray of Washington has a razor-thin lead of about two points over Republican Dino Rossi despite all kinds of help from the president and first lady Michelle Obama, among others.

They're also deeply worried about whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada can beat Republican Sharron Angle, so suddenly the "firewall" out West to keep control of the Senate might be more like a crumbling brick wall.  (Continues here)

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