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updated 10/23/2007 2:11:22 PM ET 2007-10-23T18:11:22
ANALYSIS

One should expect each of the major political parties to step into a pile of political manure from time to time.

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Of course, that's what keeps things in Washington interesting; it wouldn't be fun if the right call were always made and executed perfectly. House Republicans, particularly those sitting in districts that President Bush carried by fewer than 10 percentage points and who last week voted to sustain his veto of the bill that would have expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program, could be said to have stepped into it.

If one takes a look at the list of districts in which Bush won by a handful of points, there are many Republican members who have never had a competitive race, but who might not be able to rise to the occasion if they end up with real challengers.

For the most part, the ones who had tough races in 2006 voted to override the veto.

But there are others who might be less prepared for a tough race and who just handed their opponents an easy ad: "The congressman thinks it's fine for the federal government to pay for health insurance for his children, but he doesn't want the federal government to help give health insurance coverage for the children of working men and women."

Video: ‘Genocide’ vote in trouble?

It looks like Republicans will get a second bite at the apple with a chance to vote for a second version of the bill , but the ads on the first vote might as well already be in the can.

Now let's turn to Democrats' and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's turn to step in it by pushing their resolution condemning the Turkish genocide of Armenians after 1915 in the face of serious foreign policy consequences.

It's just not smart for Democrats to play constituency group politics and give Republicans ammunition for their claims that Democrats can't be trusted with foreign policy.

The move is arguably only Pelosi's second big mistake of the past year, with her support for Pennsylvania's pork-barrel king, Rep. John Murtha, to be majority leader being the first. Saying no to your friends can be hard, but it's also an important test of leadership. Saying no to Murtha and Armenian-Americans looking to poke the Turks in the eye would have been more impressive displays of leadership.

Yes, it was horrible what happened to the Armenian people in the early part of the 20th century. But is it worth further damage to America's already frayed relations with Turkey to push such a resolution? Aren't there more contemporary problems and issues that our elected officials should deal with, rather than ones that accomplish nothing concrete and just exacerbate existing problems?

To be sure, unlike the Republicans' SCHIP misstep, there probably won't be any killer TV ads focusing on the genocide vote next October that could cost Democratic incumbents their seats in November 2008. The penalty for this move is arguably more generic against the Democratic Party and is more likely to be paid by the eventual Democratic presidential nominee rather than by any member seeking re-election.

It is important to remember that the Democrats' only presidential victories since 1976 were in 1992 and 1996; the first two elections after the Iron Curtain fell and the Cold War was over. At that point, the foreign policy aspect of the presidency was pretty much discounted, and Democrats nominated Bill Clinton, widely considered to be a moderate.

While many voters might disagree with the Bush administration on foreign policy issues, it doesn't mean Democrats get a free pass. They have to be very careful.

It's true that Republicans are facing a growing number of retirements -- 13 so far, compared to only two for Democrats -- with several of those GOP open seats in competitive or potentially competitive districts. And it's also true that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a huge cash-on-hand advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee.

But the important takeaway is that while Republicans might not be a credible threat in terms of recapturing majorities in the House or Senate, congressional Democrats should still be more concerned about the consequences of their actions on their party's chances of winning the White House next year.

Voters seem angry enough at Republicans today to take the presidency away from them, but putting a Democrat into the post can't be seen as a risk.

This wouldn't be the first time that voters will see an election as seeking the lesser of two evils.

Perhaps because Democrats have had so much luck the last year or two, it makes sloppy play and decision-making more likely. Too much good fortune can do that.

Democrats can't expect the luck to continue, while Republicans are long overdue for some breaks.

While the war in Iraq is somewhat better, the slowing economy, coupled with the simple fact that most voters have closed their minds on Iraq and the war, keeps Republicans from benefiting from lower casualty rates and scattered signs of progress. But that can't last.

No party stays snake-bit forever. Not even Republicans. But will Democrats give the GOP a hand in its comeback?

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

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