Candidates Complain Parties Aren't Doing Enough

Despite high-profile efforts by President and Mrs. Obama on the campaign trail, some Democratic candidates complain their party isn't doing enough for them. And at least one Republican candidate, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, is voicing a similar complaint.

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Now, despite the high-profile efforts of the president and first lady, some Democratic candidates are complaining that their party is not doing enough for them. And at least one Republican, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, a Senate candidate, thinks her party is not doing enough for her.

Let's go now to the analyst who always does enough for us, NPR's Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve. I'm certainly glad to hear that.

INSKEEP: Why are the candidates complaining?

ROBERTS: Well, the Democrats are doing two things. Some Democrats are just saying that, you know: Hey, that's not my party; those liberals in Washington don't represent me. And they're separating themselves from speaker Pelosi, from the president. The candidate for the Senate in West Virginia is shooting the Cap and Trade Energy Bill in an ad.

INSKEEP: Hey, wait. Where is the party when I need it? And the fact is the resources just aren't there to support every single candidate who's running, and the Democrats are pulling out resources from some candidates who they just don't think can win and putting their money into candidates that they think have a chance.

Christine O'Donnell, the very controversial candidate for the Republican Senate seat in Delaware, the Republican candidate who was yesterday, called by Megan McCain - Senator John McCain's daughter - Megan said that her generation sees Christine O'Donnell as a nut job. O'Donnell said it feels that she's not getting support from her party. She probably has some basis for saying that, but after saying that in Washington and complaining about it on television, then she went back to Delaware and said no, she's independent of her party and she's running on that.

INSKEEP: Well let's remember here, that in surveys voters say that both parties are very unpopular. In fact, Democrats suggest that's one of their few bright spots is that nobody seems to like Republicans. Everybody's saying they're independent from their parties. What does that mean though, for the candidates who finally get elected and will be expected to govern in some way in January?

ROBERTS: This is going to be fascinating to watch. You've got all of these candidates who are saying that they're against Washington, against government, that's hardly unusual. But the difference this time around is that a lot of these people have never served in office before.

They've never been in a position where they tried to get something done in a legislative body, and they think compromise is a dirty word. So that the impulse to get anything done is going to be very small, indeed, and to cross the aisle to get something done is going to be nonexistent - not only, Steve, for the people who are elected this time, but for the people who are up next time. Because they've had the example, now, that even someone as conservative as Bob Bennett in Utah, the fact that he crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on some issues, made him not pure enough ideologically and so he was defeated in his primary. And of course, we can go down the list ticking off all of the aisle crossers who have been defeated or are likely to be defeated. And that makes the people who remain in the Senate, particularly, unwilling to compromise with the other party.

We had something pretty similar after the 1980 election. The difference there was that a lot of those candidates ran as Reagan supporters, so they actually had a program to back. These candidates are just running against, not for, anything. But there's an object lesson here as well, which is that a lot of those Reagan candidates who were elected in 1980 were defeated in 1986.

INSKEEP: Well, of course, whoever wins election to Congress in November will have to work with - or perhaps we should say work in the same city as President Obama, who was expected to transcend a lot of these partisan differences or his supporters seem to think so. And now he's given an interview to the New York Times Magazine seeming to acknowledge that he's made some mistakes.

ROBERTS: He says he's let himself look like the same old tax and spend Democrat. He's come to understand that he has to forge a consensus, not to just bully ahead with what he thinks is right. Quote, "success is determined by the intersection in policy and politics and you can't be neglecting of marketing and PR and public opinion." So he seems to be saying he couldn't sell his programs, not that there's anything wrong with his programs, but I think that he seems amazed that he's considered Washington, and that all these people running against Washington are running against him.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much as always. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts who joins us for analysis each Monday morning. You hear her right here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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