Some of the crucial races for control of the U.S. Senate are still tight, but if there's any momentum — "the big Mo," as George Bush the Elder once called it — propelling a Democratic candidate anywhere, it's hard to find it.
Evil money and its innocent twin, the enthusiasm factor, are what count in the homestretch, and shadows have fallen across Democratic races everywhere. They're dusting off the panic button at the White House. It doesn't quite feel like 2010, not yet, but the Republicans are fired up, and the Democrats aren't. It's just about time to light candles to the ghost of Harry Truman, the patron saint of candidates on the ropes.
Old guys who aren't yet ghosts are trotted out to reprise the triumphs of yesteryear. Bubba spent the weekend in Arkansas with Democratic candidates, but it was more like visiting the hospital bed of a gravely ill friend than to deliver a full-throated battle cry to rally the troops. He sounded like a refugee from the NPR begging season, pleading that old acquaintance Mark Pryor should not be forgot. Then he skipped next door to Louisiana to try to save a lady in distress. (Bubba, as we all know, can't resist ladies in distress.) Mary Landrieu has watched her slender lead in the polls dissolve and is trailing Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican challenger.
The news for Democrats is dour in unexpected places. Mark Udall, practicing the cowboy two-step on a cakewalk only a month ago, has fallen into a lake, or a drainage ditch or someone's swimming pool, because his nose is bobbing under water in Colorado. The tightening polls are beginning to feel like a noose around Kay Hagen's neck in North Carolina. She was cruising to a coronation only a fortnight ago.
Threatened Democratic nominees in Kentucky and Georgia and the Democratic candidate in West Virginia insist they don't remember or won't say who they voted for in either 2008 or 2012. (Barack Who?) Mark Begich in Alaska is the latest to suffer an amnesia attack and has joined the ladies on the fainting couch.
If you want to find the evidence of something bad or even suspicious, you're supposed to follow the money. The money trail leads to more bad news for Mr. Obama (who watched an audience actually walk out on him over the weekend) and his endangered colleagues. Republican candidates reported outraising Democratic senators by margins of millions, and most of them have more cash on hand to buy television time over the next crucial fortnight.
Rep. Tom Cotton raised a record $3.8 million in the third quarter and has nearly three times as much cash on hand as Mr. Pryor in Arkansas. Eight of the last nine public-opinion polls show Mr. Cotton leading by single digits, but expanding.
Cory Gardner raised more than Mr. Udall in Colorado in the third quarter and has twice as much cash on hand, heading toward Nov. 4. Mr. Udall held big polling leads in late summer, and the latest Quinnipiac poll has the Republican candidate up by 7 points. If any Democratic senator thought she could relax on Labor Day, it was Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. The polls showed her leading Scott Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, with a double-digit lead. The race has tightened dramatically, and Mr. Brown raised more money than she did in the third quarter of the year.
If the money news was not bad enough, some of the most reliable Democratic voting blocs are abandoning ship. The Los Angeles Times reports that Hispanics, who believed Mr. Obama when he told them that he would reform immigration laws before the summer was over, are angry and threatening to stay home in November. The Hispanic vote could alter the result in 30 or more congressional races nationwide, gubernatorial races in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, and Senate races in Georgia and Colorado.
"Obama promised us a lot of things and has not followed through," the publisher of a Spanish-language newspaper in Georgia tells The Los Angeles Times. "A lot of people are upset, and they don't want to vote."
Some Democrats are already getting their excuses ready. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says "the game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it." There's still time for everything to change, of course. Politics, like everything else, is always at the mercy of events. But if a Democrat somewhere knows how to unrig a rigged election, now's the time to get on with it.