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Joe Guzzardi Can Democrats repel a Republican surge?

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Joe Guzzardi

Posted: Saturday, October 30, 2010 12:00 am

Earlier this week, I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. The Capitol Hill buzz is that as Election Day draws closer, the Democrats are closing the gap against the Republicans. The suggestion is that the Democratic Congressional wipeout may not be as bad as earlier feared.

I don't believe the spin. Democrats control Washington and have a sympathetic press to deliver their hopeful message. The election boils down to two simple questions: Why would the electorate vote for an incumbent? And doesn't almost any challenger look better than the incumbent?

Most voters, I'll wager, share my own attitude, which is dismissive of all the slings and arrows thrown against Republican challengers. For example, in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's camp is having a tough time selling the allegation that Sharron Angle is "extreme." Going into the final days, Angle maintains a several-point lead over Reid.

If I lived in Delaware, I'd vote for Christine O'Donnell for Senate whether she practiced voodoo in her kitchen or not. O'Donnell's opponent is lawyer Chris Coons. Since the 60 lawyers who run the U.S. Senate have done a poor job, I favor trying someone new like O'Donnell. Who knows? Maybe the witchcraft that Democrats claim O'Donnell experimented with is the answer.

In Pennsylvania, where I do live, voters finally got rid of 40-year career politician Arlen Specter, who despite his tenure as both a Republican and a Democrat had no significant Congressional successes to point to.

Several House Democrats are so afraid of being swept out that they have started to campaign vigorously on the promise to remove Speaker Nancy Pelosi if voters return them to office. Two of the most recent on the anti-Pelosi bandwagon are Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Jim Marshall (D-GA).

One Congressional Democrat who may not go back to Washington is California's 11th District's Jerry McNerney, who is locked in a tight race against Republican David Harmer.

Just four years ago, McNerney, then a virtual unknown, ousted Republican Richard Pombo. One of voters' concerns that ultimately dragged Pombo down was that he had lost touch with his constituents.

If Pombo was out of touch with his constituents, the same can be said about McNerney, who has supported all the legislation that voters opposed, including George Bush's TARP, Barack Obama's stimulus packages and Obamacare.

McNerney, who attended West Point for two years and whose son is in the armed forces, also supports the controversial Afghanistan War. If voters are weary of the Obama/ Reid/ Pelosi leadership style, then, by extension, they're tired of McNerney, too. McNerney's voting record indicates that he's been a faithful White House ally.

Analyzing the San Joaquin Valley, it's hard to make a case for reelecting McNerney. Up and down the valley, unemployment ranges from 15 to 20 percent, and the foreclosure rates are among the nation's top 10.

Voters are demanding more of their representatives, and finally waking up to the "throw him out" philosophy that is long-overdue.

Pombo, for example, tried to resurrect his career during the June primary when he ran in the 19th Congressional District to fill retiring Republican George Radanovich's seat. But even a different district didn't help Pombo. Getting only 21 percent of the vote, Pombo finished a distant third.

Harmer's biography isn't that comforting, either. What's best about Harmer's resume is that he's not a Democratic incumbent. However, he's a lawyer, twice defeated in earlier Congressional bids, and a former banking executive at Washington Mutual, sold to JPMorgan Chase during the 2008 bailout.

Voters are looking for someone who will make a difference. They know McNerney hasn't been able to. If Harmer doesn't either, he'll be out of Washington by 2012.

Joe Guzzardi ran for California governor in the 2003 special election. He's a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org

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