Politico

By MARK PENN
July 6, 2010

The country is likely to go into the midterms divided and dissatisfied — conditions unlikely to produce good news for the Obama administration.

But just how bad the news could be remains uncertain. Successfully reducing and deflecting the damage could make a huge difference in the political landscape — and the administration’s future.

Many key variables are set: Unemployment is stuck at more than 9 percent, most Americans have a negative view of the health care bill, the deficit continues to skyrocket and the war in Afghanistan is not going well. Independent movements, like the tea parties, are spreading like wildfire, and the president’s approval ratings can’t seem to break 50 percent.

All in all, it could take a political Houdini to get out of this mess.

The administration’s plan, so far, seems to be to blame Wall Street for the economic mess, the health insurance industry for rising health care costs and BP for the oil spill and its protracted damage. President Barack Obama has blamed Republicans for the gridlock and a divided country.

But it is going to take a lot more than the blame game to cut electoral losses to acceptable levels. Democrats could lose 25 seats in the House and four Senate seats and still call it a midterm victory. But the fear is real that unless there are strategy changes, Democrats could lose a lot more.

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