David Plouffe, whose refusal to let poll numbers eclipse electoral realities became the defining feature of the Obama campaign, threw some cold water on Democrats on Monday. The gains made in 2006 and 2008 had left little room for further growth, he said. And right now, the party was a "little over-confident" with their majority status.
The Obama campaign manager, speaking at the Panetta Institute in Monterey, California, alongside Bush strategist Karl Rove, predicted that Democrats could at best only pick up a handful of seats in the 2010 congressional elections.
"Because we've won so many House seats in the last two elections, we have got more Democrat representing swing seats, so the balance has shifted a little bit," he said. "Right now the Republicans are, I think, at a core in the U.S. House, where there may be four or five House seats that you can plausibly suggest the Democrats have a chance of winning. We've won pretty much all there was to win in the last two elections."
Later in the event, he cautioned that "some people in my party" are "a little over-confident now," after recent sweeping victories.
"We had a great election," he said. "A lot of structural things looked very positive about in the electorate. But we live in a very fast moving country and political society where things can turn on a dime. Listen, four years ago we were told it was the Democratic Party that had an electoral problem; that it was tough to see how we could get to 270. George Bush had just gotten 44 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally and there was some sense that maybe the republicans could end up cresting over 50 percent in 2008. Four short years later, we win over two-thirds of the Hispanic vote and more of that in battleground states."
The remarks seemed less an attempt at lowering expectations than a sincere assessment on Plouffe's behalf about the composition of the current political landscape. According to the Cook Political Report, Democrats in the House currently have 24 potentially vulnerable seats, which either only lean their way or are genuine toss-ups. Republicans have seven such seats. The situation is different in the Senate, were a slew of GOP retirements has given Democrats a historically unexpected opportunity for off-year pickups.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Rove -- who bickered with Plouffe much of the night -- seemed to agree with much of the Obama campaign chief's electoral analysis. He argued, however, that the change in the Hispanic vote was not permanent. "One election makes a trend," he cracked.
"Things can change," said the Bush strategist. "The average gain by a non-White House Party is two seats in the Senate and 26 seats in the House. I don't think Republicans will do that well in the House, but we are likely to see American politics change as it often does."
How will Trump’s administration impact you? Learn more