PPP's coverage suggests that Dems may suffer more from conservative dissatisfaction within their party than from liberal dissatisfaction. The problem is an interesting mirror image of the trouble the Republicans have experienced by driving moderates away... although I would contend that Dems have hardly turned as hard left, even with control of the White House and Congress, as the GOP has turned hard right.
PPP then suggests we'll see more Dems exit stage right for personal political survival... and that such defections might actually help the party:
That said, I don't think Griffith had any shot at reelection as a Democrat given the highly conservative nature of his district and it's probably better for the party to just lose his seat now instead of losing it after blowing a million dollars on it a year from now. I hate to be a defeatist but depending on initial numbers I'm not sure I'd spend a lot of money defending Bobby Bright, Walt Minnick, or Frank Kratovil either. The odds are very much stacked against them for reelection anyway and if they're not going to be reliable votes for core Democratic initiatives it might be better to spend that money elsewhere [Tom Jensen, "Democratic Dissension," Public Policy Polling, 2009.12.22]
I can imagine the national party taking the same view of SHS's re-election bid. If she's going to vote against health care and other Democratic priorities, only to face the same GOP attacks at home and some of her worst poll numbers yet against a couple of ill-known GOP challengers, what's the point in throwing lots of resources into a re-election bid that, even if successful, doesn't strengthen the party? The home crowd partisans aren't excited about her, the national party has little reason to back her... yeesh! That's a recipe for empty campaign coffers.
SHS might be looking across the border to Minnesota, where another Congresswoman who voted nay on health care and climate change legislation has much better polling numbers against her challengers. Rep Michelle Bachman gets to say much nuttier things (see also here and here) than anything SHS so craftfully recites, and she's still a safer bet for returning to Washington in 2011 than our gal Stephanie.
So if I'm a political animal, and I want to stay in office in South Dakota, what do I do? Do I stick with a party which I haven't backed very hard this year and which might return the favor next year? Or do I give up even the lukewarm fight, switch to the GOP, and gamble on becoming a new darling adopted daughter in a second Gingrich revolution?
Or do I say "Wait a minute—Heidelberger and Franken are right!" pin my Obama button back on, and fight like hell for South Dakota and the Democratic Party?
Update 2009.12.23 07:40 CST: David Montgomery from the Pierre Capital Journal takes the sensible position that Herseth Sandlin will not hit the eject button. She's not the "apocalyptic partisan" attack dog the Republicans want right now. Montgomery even speculates that, in the unlikely event SHS did switch parties and the GOP establishment moved mild-mannered Chris Nelson aside to make way for her at the top of the ticket, she'd still lose to outsider R. Blake Curd in the GOP primary. (And now that Curd has learned to strain his face into a smile, he might have a chance.)