How do you survive as a Democratic senator in an election year that looks good for Republicans? Neutralize the national and focus on the local. Democrats have been getting a lot of practice at the former. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules limiting emissions at power plants, drawing rebukes and skepticism from Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia. “President Obama’s new EPA rule is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky,” Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes said. “When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my No. 1 priority.”
National trends heading into the 2014 elections are as bad for Democrats as they were before the 2010 election, when Republicans won 63 House seats, six Senate seats, and seven governorships. People think the country is headed in the wrong direction and are not optimistic about the economy, and a majority disapprove of the job the president is doing. In order to combat this sour national picture, Democrats have been following a familiar playbook, trying to show how they can deliver for their voters on the issues that matter most to them while defining their Republican opponents as the people who will harm them on those very same issues.