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Incumbents wrestle with own records

Published on October 22, 2010 3:01AM

Last changed on November 19, 2010 7:21AM


Polls show that voters beaten down by the recession and worried about ever-growing budget deficits will return the House and perhaps the Senate to the GOP next month.

Many incumbent Democrats aren't running on the Obama administration's signature accomplishments -- health care reform, financial reform or the stimulus bill. Even those who voted for those measures are reluctant to mention them in campaign advertisements and literature, and some are backing away from them completely.

No less a steadfast liberal than Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, who is facing the most serious challenge of his long career, is talking about repealing bits and pieces of those bills. The requirement in the health care bill that all businesses report to the IRS purchases from all vendors that total more than $600 was a mistake, he now says.

And though President Barack Obama isn't running away from his own agenda, he is working to dampen the expectations of the voters and to put their perspectives on his record into context.

In a lengthy interview with the New York Times magazine, the president admitted that when the stimulus bill was passed the much-touted "shovel-ready" projects didn't really exist -- or at least as he and most taxpayers understood the term. Some of those projects are only now getting under way, so whatever stimulus they provide has been long delayed.

While progress is being made, he has said, it is coming too slowly for many Americans -- particularly those who are without employment or who are losing their homes.

"So there's a lot of anger and there's a lot of frustration and a lot of fear across the country," Obama said last week during a townhall meeting at George Washington University.

While campaigning for Democrats across the country last week, Vice President Joe Biden said that it's difficult to convince people that jobs have been saved and unemployment is declining because it's counterintuitive. And the administration's accomplishments are just too hard to explain to voters, he said.

Success so subtle that it escapes notice, and policies so complicated they defy explanation aren't the stuff of a rousing stump speech. It's a tough sell.

We can certainly sympathize with Democratic incumbents who passed these measures, but now look for a new message to inspire constituents. Like most voters, they know that this is no time to be looking for work.


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