Mat Bai has a great piece today in the New York Times about the “choice” election that Democrats want versus the “referendum” election that Republicans want.  

He describes how Democrats were faced with the same debate now growing in importance in Republican circles. Does the party out of power benefit from providing an alternative legislative agenda, or do they simply become the party of “no” and “change?”  Does specificity hurt or help a party’s electoral chances?

The same problem faced by Democrats in 2006 and 2008 is now the choice Republicans have to make in 2010. A problem for Republicans that the Democrats in ‘06 – ‘08 did not have to contend with, however, is the ambiguity of President Obama’s image.

President Bush was in a popularity trough in 2006 and served as a convenient foil for Democrats running against the GOP opponents nationally. Whether you run against Obama directly or merely against the deeply unpopular congressional leadership may depend on the state you are running in. Roy Blunt in Missouri, a purple state, has come out with an ad linking his opponent to Obama. Missouri, however, like most of the Midwest and mountain sates,

Tom Schaller at FiveThirtyEight sees Democrats raising expectations in Republican’s midterm performance. They believe that when the GOP does not win back the House or Senate, it sets them up nicely to spin results in favor of Democrats puts some needed momentum behind President Obama’s agenda; momentum necessary if immigration reform or climate change legislation is going to be passed in the next two years.

Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at