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Plouffe plays the expectations game

Trying to set expectations before an Election Day that's 26 days away, Obama adviser (and former campaign manager) David Plouffe today said it would be a "colossal failure" for Republicans if they don't win back control of the House and Senate.

Yet citing polls showing a more enthusiastic Democratic base, Plouffe added that Democrats could win many close races -- if they turn out their voters and improve among independents. "I think we can stave off the worst of predictions," he told a gathering of political reporters.

But while Plouffe gladly set expectations for Republican success on Election Night, he refused to do the same for Democrats. "We are just trying to do as well as we can," he said, drawing laughs from the assembled reporters for his very low bar.

Also at the briefing, Plouffe argued that Republicans' inability to produce new ideas or learn from their defeats in 2006 and 2008 would hurt the GOP -- if not in the short term, then in the long run. "I think that is going to cause them big problems."

(He attributed the Democrats' own problems this election season to the economy, that midterms are traditionally tough for the party in power, that Democrats maximized their gains after '06 and '08, and that opposition is often a more powerful force than support.)

Plouffe argued that the Republican Party -- due to the Tea Party's successes in GOP primaries -- will undoubtedly push the party to the right in 2011 and 2012. "You wait until '11 or '12. All the energy will be around Christine O'Donnell- and Rand Paul-type voters." For future GOP candidates, he added, "the gate you have to get through is farther to the right."

And Plouffe railed against the GOP-leaning outside groups -- like the Rove-backed American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- calling them "the central financial actors" of 2010 and contending that they are "hijacking" the country's democracy with (in some cases) the unlimited and anonymous donations they can receive. "This is a big, big threat to our democracy."

*** UDPATE *** RNC Communications Director Doug Heye responds to Plouffe's remarks: "There is no better place to get mixed messages than from the Democrats. One the one hand, David Plouffe say our candidates are too extreme to be elected. Seconds later, he says it will be a ‘colossal failure’ if they do not. At some point, Democrats should pick a message and stick to it."