Are Democrats Too Confident about Midterm Vote? The sectarian violence in Iraq threatens to spin out of control, Republican scandals mount and the political climate seems to favor Democrats this fall -- but are the Democrats too confident? NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams talks with Alex Chadwick about whether the Democrats are being too complacent as the November elections near.
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Are Democrats Too Confident about Midterm Vote?

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Are Democrats Too Confident about Midterm Vote?

Are Democrats Too Confident about Midterm Vote?

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, a new documentary reexamines the story of The Jonestown cult.

First, the elections are coming and national issues do not look favorable to Republicans - the Iraq war, congressional scandals. Many of them are trying to run on local issues. Some are turning to President Bush for help. Here's the president yesterday campaigning for Pennsylvania Republican Don Sherwood.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: He has been a strong supporter of those brave men and women who wear our nation's uniform. He has been a supporter of the Tobyhanna Army Depot. He's a strong supporter of Pennsylvania's dairy farmers.

CHADWICK: NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams joins us. Juan, still a good idea to run on milk?

(Soundbite of laughter)

JUAN WILLIAMS: Always. Milk and motherhood.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: But you know, I'm trying to rise above making a joke about this, but Mr. Sherwood is, let us say, a candidate with a couple of problems, and he's invited Mr. Bush to come into this district.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, Sherwood has a tremendous problem in that he has confessed to having an affair with a Peruvian woman who was 35 years younger than him in Washington. Then she filed some charges against him for abuse. There's been some sort of settlement there. But this is an issue, obviously, that's a problematic one for a guy who has always run as sort of a straight and narrow law and order Republican from the heartland.

And you know, his wife has written letters now complaining that his opponent is making too much of it, saying that the public humiliation - the private humiliation's enough, but the added public humiliation is too much, and so the president even referred to this letter from the wife, Caroline, yesterday in his - Carol, I should say - in the appearance at Keystone College.

CHADWICK: Well, it's not quite this desperate. That is, you don't have to be a confessed adulterer to want to invite the president to come into your district and campaign for you. But how popular is Mr. Bush among Republican candidates who are looking for money and for votes and connections with voters?

WILLIAMS: Well, for money he remains pretty popular because he's the President of the United States, and so they've had a series of very private fundraisers nationally and been pretty successful with it. What's interesting, most fundraisers of this type, when you have Bill Clinton, or President Bush in this case, tend to be closed. But then it's what builds up around it, Alex.

You know, do you go out and stage photographs, have little sessions? And that's what hasn't been happening. Yesterday, for example, when he was campaigning with Don Sherwood, the president did go out to an ice cream parlor and have a kind of family setting type thing. But when it comes to motivating the base and the like, that's where you see the president just not playing a big factor here.

CHADWICK: You know, Juan, I just spoke with this man who's the chair of a series of newspapers in Kansas. And for more than 50 years they've been endorsing Republicans. This year they're endorsing many, many Democrats. They say the Republican Party has gotten too narrow, gotten away from its base.

And I asked this man, are you voting for - are you endorsing Democrats because of what they say or because you're tired of the Republicans? And he said it's mostly that people here are tired of the Republicans. I wonder if that isn't a problem for the Democrats, that you have to have a hugely unpopular and enormous scandals in Congress before these guys can seem to rise to the occasion.

WILLIAMS: Timidity, Alex. Don't you think that's it? I mean, I think that when I'm talking to Democrats here, they're saying, you know, they're still locked into this sort of triangulation theory of President Clinton. You know, you've got to play to the middle. Look at what Hillary Clinton's been doing as she, you know, prospectively launches a campaign for the 2008 nomination.

Just look at the Democrats in general. They are not aggressive. So the timidity becomes an issue and they don't have a coherent national message - on the war, on the economy, on much else. So what it really comes down to is a referendum on the troubles of the Republicans.

CHADWICK: Well, do they - that does seem to be working for the Democrats, at least the polls would indicate at this point that it is. Do you sense a - maybe overconfidence on the part of Democrats at this point?

WILLIAMS: No. In fact, what's going on around Washington over the last several days is a real rush to try to get some money in the pocket and appeals to the big fundraisers who have not put up the money that the Democrats intended. So they had to take out a $10 million loan this week, because they believe they can win more seats. But they're pushing it and worried that, in fact, because of lack of money they may come up short.

CHADWICK: Well, wait three weeks and how things to turn out - I bet the cash will start flowing if they find themselves in control of the House.

WILLIAMS: You've been in Washington before, Alex.

CHADWICK: NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams joining us from Washington again. Thank you, Juan.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex.

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