Why 2010 May Not Be as Dire for the Dems as 1994

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Democrats had hoped that passing health care reform would give them a much-needed bump in the polls ahead of this year's difficult midterm election; instead, their ratings have dipped, renewing worries about a political debacle in November. The worst-case scenario recalls the ghosts of 1994, when Newt Gingrich's Republicans took control of the House following the failure of the Clinton Administration's attempt at health care reform.

There are certainly parallels. In 1994, Bill Clinton's favorability poll numbers were at 51%, about where Obama's are now. And the Dems were polarized by a series of tough (and strikingly familiar) issues: a carbon tax, gays in the military and health care. But will history repeat itself, with the party in power bearing the brunt of a wave of discontent? Here are five reasons the 2010 midterm scenario is different, and perhaps less dire for the Democrats, than 1994's.

1. Michael Steele

2. Fundraising

3. Tea Parties

While a lot of money is going directly to Republican candidates, they're not always the candidates the GOP would prefer to field. In Kentucky, for example, insurgent Tea Party darling Rand Paul has raked in nearly $2 million, outraising the establishment candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, by more than $100,000. In Florida, conservative insurgent Marco Rubio has raised more than $3.4 million and is leading Governor Charlie Crist, the presumptive Republican candidate, in the polls. To see the potential dangers of the Tea Party groundswell, the GOP leadership need look no further than the debacle in New York's 23rd district — where Democrats won a Republican safe seat after conservative activists put up a third candidate against Dede Scozzafava, a GOP candidate deemed too moderate by Tea Party types.

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