Here’s an interesting interview with Steve Hildebrand, the Democratic strategist who was a national Obama campaign manager:
JONATHAN KARL: So, Steve, how bad is it going to be for the Democrats in these mid-terms?
STEVE HILDEBRAND: I don’t think it has to be bad. I think if our Democratic candidates would actually be proud of to stand for their votes that they’ve taken, not all of them, but some. People who have supported health care shouldn’t run from it. They should be as proud of that vote as any vote they’ve taken in their lives. This is actually going to help people in a pretty serious way. It’s not going to hurt people.
JONATHAN KARL: And is that what you see people doing though because they’re afraid this vote is going to be used against them. In fact it’s already being used against them by Republicans they’re running away from it, running away from the President.
STEVE HILDEBRAND: Yeah, and the fact that they’re cowards in such a serious way. I mean, is this about their reelection or is this about helping people? What are they in politics for? What are they in government for, if they’re not in government to help people? They should simply get out. They shouldn’t run for reelection. And we should put people in there who are strong leaders, who want to do something to help people. That health care bill is going to help young people, old people, poor people, middle-income people. It’s vitally important to this country and any one of them that walks away from it, isn’t proud of that vote, is a coward.
JONATHAN KARL: If the current trajectory remains the way it is for the next two months, and the kind of Democratic strategy remains the way it is, do the democrats lose the House?
STEVE HILDEBRAND: The Democratic strategy right now is to run from the president, run from important proposals that help this country. If we’re not going to do something about health care, if we’re not going to do something about climate change, if we’re not going to do something about the economy, about the deficit, about the war, Washington is going to get punished. The Democrats might get punished more because they’re in power, but Washington in general is going to get punished. And you’ve seen it in Republican primaries across the country. You’ve seen it in Democratic primaries across the country. And you’re going to see it with a lot of just pure incumbents from both parties in November. They’re getting punished because they’re not dealing with the issues. They’re not dealing with the real problems that we face as a country. And they should be punished. Stand up and lead or get out of the way. And you might be replaced with someone worse, but you know, those are the options that are sometimes given to people.
A couple of thoughts: The most interesting thing, to me, is that one of Obama’s top campaign staffers is saying that the Democrats deserve to lose. Right? “They should be punished.” So that’s kind of fascinating, that he’d say that publicly.
Another is that he says the health care bill “isn’t going to hurt people.” This is one of the problems we run into when all the strategy and policy people have a lot of money. The fact is, the bill will hurt some people. It will cost them more money than it should, and for the people who can only afford the bare-bones, minimal coverage that will be offered, it won’t offer them what they need.
The Congress critters understand that. Why wouldn’t they be scared? They know they voted for a crappy, complicated bill that will, yes, improve life for a lot of people — but make it harder for others. I still believe it will be good in the long term, but not for now, not for most people.
JONATHAN KARL: In a year like this when the Democrats are in danger of losing the House, even the Senate, you’d think they could use a guy like you out there.
STEVE HILDEBRAND: (Laughs) No one is knocking the door down to try to get me to help, so I’m pretty set on the fact that I’m not going to go help people that don’t deserve the help they need where they are not standing up strong as Democrats. I’m just not going to do it. I’m not going to encourage other people to do it either.
JONATHAN KARL: How many of the people that are actually running these campaigns, back in Washington, the committees, are they agreeing with your message on this?
STEVE HILDEBRAND: No, I don’t think so. There is a pretty specific strategy of winning a majority at any cost. The Democrats do it. The Republicans do it. It’s winning at any cost. I’m not interested in that. Do I want to hold the majorities? Absolutely. Do I think it’s better for the long term for things I believe in to have the Democrats control the majority in the Senate and the House? Absolutely, no question. But, at a point. they need to be told that: You had every opportunity to hold those majorities, by doing what was right, to stand up for the things you campaigned on, the thing that Democrats elected you for, and they didn’t do that. There were too many of them that took a walk, and the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate allowed them to do that so that they could get reelected. This is where we’re at now. We face a possible loss for both the House and Senate Democratic majorities, and I really believe it comes down to whether or not you chose to lead. And, I don’t think they chose to lead. I think they ran scared from day one. They made it impossible for Barack Obama to get his agenda passed the way it needed to be passed.
JONATHAN KARL: How do you think the President is handling the midterms? Is he doing enough?
STEVE HILDEBRAND: Oh yea, I mean I think he’s doing a ton. He knows the stakes. He clearly knows that it’s very important for his future as president to have these majorities, for a lot of reasons, for political reasons, but more importantly, for policy reasons.
JONATHAN KARL: Is it your sense it’s frustrating to the White House to see these Democrats out running for reelection by running against him, or is it that they’ve signed off to this win at any cost and if you have to criticize us to…
STEVE HILDEBRAND: I think they know these politicians are going to do whatever it takes