WASHINGTON — With two weeks until Election Day, Democrats are focused on two things: shoring up what polls show to be an increasingly dire electoral position and furiously blaming one another for what went wrong.
The first battle is being fought on the ground, mostly in red states with incumbent Democratic senators. The second is raging in the press, where readers have been treated to mostly anonymous barbs from Democrats blaming President Obama, Senate Democratic messaging strategy, Latino voters, the White House, the DCCC, Ebola, the Supreme Court, and/or retiring Sen. Tom Harkin for the potential Nov. 4 doomsday scenario.
Partisans turning on each other ahead of tough elections is not a new concept. But there's just about no one left to blame after a glance at the headlines over the last several weeks.
There are some universal villains, of course. The Supreme Court's decision to let many voter ID laws stand is a Democratic favorite. The electoral map, heavy on red states when it comes to competitive races, and the off-year nature of the race have been touted by Democrats since the cycle began as reasons not to expect much in November.
Top Democratic observers say this is all par for the course, but warn the sound of Democrats pointing at each other before galloping away from bad poll numbers could have an impact on the actual election Democrats are supposed to be running.
"I think this is typical ass-covering, and it always happens in tight elections," said Stephanie Cutter, a top strategist for Obama's reelection campaign. "It's certainly not permeating to voters on the ground. The key is not letting it distract campaigns from getting out the vote and bringing us over the finish line. "
On Monday, the latest salvo of Democratic friendly fire was launched over women voters, a segment of the electorate the party has relied on to push their candidates across the finish line in recent years. "Obama is underwater with female voters — especially women unaffiliated with a political party — and it's making it harder for Democrats to take advantage of the gender gap, according to public polling and Democratic strategists," Politico reported.
Meanwhile, in the New York Times on Sunday, an unnamed strategist allied with President Obama said it was the Senate strategists who were to blame if the Democratic base stays home. "A senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy, said the White House was 'concerned that some of the campaigns are not focused enough on the importance of turning out presidential-year voters, including African-Americans,'" the Times reported.
Both the White House and the Senate Democratic strategists are responsible for what could prove to be lackluster enthusiasm among the Latino base, according to Democratic-allied Latino strategists, the Washington Post reported last month. The DSCC's candidates are to blame for pushing Obama to delay his long-promised executive actions on immigration; Obama is to blame for listening to them.
The AFL-CIO says Democrats failed to capitalize on the economic inequality message that was briefly supposed to be the central theme for 2014. Also, there's Ebola. The White House screwed Senate Democrats by not getting ahead of it more quickly, say some, while others say the Democrats screwed themselves by failing to find their message footing on the virus for weeks.
The blame game isn't just reserved for the nebulous strategist royalty at the top of Democratic politics. Specific people, beyond Obama of course, are also responsible for the bad news, according to Democrats. The most outside-the-box Democratic friendly fire of the cycle landed on retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, who a senior Democratic aide told Politico could cost Democrats the all-important Senate race in Iowa by keeping his remaining campaign cash to start a political institute at Drake University. Harkin intimated Democratic nominee Bruce Braley could be in trouble because of some self-inflicted "bumps" early on in the cycle.
Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean's insurgent bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004, said Democrats fighting with Democrats ahead of Election Day is literally a political cliché. But then again, the shoe could soon be on the other foot.
"Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan," he said. "Look no further than the GOP's victories in 2010 and then their defeat in 2012. The same may happen in 2014 and 2016 in reverse."