In a tough economy, incumbency is the one job nobody wants.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Jan. 7 2010 5:27 AM

The Year of Running Dangerously

In a tough economy, incumbency is the one job nobody wants.

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Many strategists believe the best tactic for Democrats to limit the damage this fall is to try to make the election all about the GOP. That may help in individual races where the Republican nominee is too flaky for the state or district, but it didn't do much good this past year in Virginia and New Jersey. When people aren't happy with the way things are, they don't want to hear why it's the other guy's fault. They want to hear what each side plans to do to make things better. That's a debate congressional Republicans don't want to have because it's one Democrats can win.

In 1994, Democrats made the mistake of trying to stop the Gingrich wave by scaring voters about the drastic changes Republicans were proposing in the Contract With America. All voters heard was that Republicans were for change and we were against it. This time around, Republicans are the ones without a compelling change agenda.

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In the long run, the best way to keep the political retirement bug from spreading is to keep making progress on the nation's real problems, from jobs and economic growth to educational opportunity and the national debt. When unemployment is 10 percent, incumbency is the one job nobody wants.

AP Video: Chris Dodd Won't Seek Re-Election

Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at thehasbeen@gmail.com. Read his disclosure here.

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