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Dems, GOP need a better bumper sticker

By Gloria Borger, CNN Senior Political Analyst
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gloria Borger: Democrats' record hasn't yielded visible progress so far
  • She says Democrats are saying things would have been worse if they hadn't been in power
  • Borger: Republicans are issuing their platform but are mostly running on "Fire Pelosi" theme
  • She says voters are looking for politicians who can produce solutions

Editor's note: Gloria Borger is a senior political analyst for CNN, appearing regularly on CNN's "The Situation Room," "AC360°," "John King, USA" and "State of the Union."

Washington (CNN) -- It is the fall of the Democrats' discontent or, more accurately, the voters' discontent.

They're anxious, they're angry and, as one Obama defender put it directly to the man himself this week, they're exhausted -- both from defending him and keeping track of all that he has done. In other words: It's too much, too fast, with not much to show for it.

Sure, it's hard for a president who considers himself transformational to admit he needs to play some retail politics. After all, there are election cycles other than his own.

And it can really be a problem when you are doing something as big as health care reform. It's just way too complex to fully kick in tomorrow.

So Obama and the Democrats are instead left with a record hard to tout and an uneasy campaign mantra: If we had not been in charge, things would have been worse. Lacks a certain clarity of message, wouldn't you say?

No bumper sticker in that.

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Now along come the Republicans, who are having a pretty good time of it, particularly in House campaigns. While Senate GOP primaries such as the one in Delaware have been bruising fratricidal affairs -- pitting the Tea Party against the Grand Old Party -- House races are shaping up as a virtual delight for Republicans.

And why not? In an anxious environment in which the voters now trust Republicans more on the economy, don't like health care reform and aren't sure the president understands their needs, there's some low-hanging fruit out there. Sure, the public says it doesn't like the Republicans any more than it likes the Democrats, but the Democrats are in charge -- and that could be enough to tilt control of the House to the GOP.

And so, an easy bumper sticker: Fire Pelosi.

Ah, but there must be issues in a campaign, right? Or, as one senior GOP House strategist puts it, "The voters have to have a positive box to check, right?"

So Thursday, the Republicans aim to put some meat on the bones of their discontent. They're rolling out an update of Newt Gingrich's infamous 1994 Contract with America, sort of. It has some predictable items -- like calling for the repeal of health care and extending all the Bush tax cuts -- but it doesn't say anything the GOP hasn't already said.

The reason: There's no need to rock the boat. "This election will continue to be a referendum on the Democrats," Guy Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told me. "These are all issues our candidates are already talking about."

Besides, why give the Democrats anything to aim at when things are going so well? Indeed, lots of Republicans see this election as more like 2006 than 1994: The voter wave is out there, and the GOP should just get out of the way and let it flow -- in its direction.

That's why, for instance, you won't see any huge photo op on the Capitol steps with all congressional GOPers and new candidates this time: Why go out of your way to tie any GOP candidates to the establishment? Didn't work so well for establishment-endorsed Senate candidates, did it?

Democrats keep telling us this election is a choice between going back and going forward. Republicans say it's a referendum on President Obama and the Democrats.

Actually, the voters I spoke with recently in Ohio and Pennsylvania don't think of it that way at all.

They're voting up or down, yes or no -- on how they feel about their lives and the direction of the country. Safe to say, it's not going to be a vote of confidence. And there's not much patience left.

So the voters' bumper sticker is clear, and it's aimed at the winners: Produce, or lose. Or go through it all again in the next election.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.