Elections are fluid things, and the same factors that can put one party into office can put the opposition party into office. Who would have thought at Obama’s inauguration in 2009 that just over a year and a half later, Democrats would lose 63 seats in an historic midterm shellacking?
Elections are not always the easiest things to predict, but attempt to predict we shall. We already covered why the Democrats could win, so let’s go in the other direction now, and explain why the Republican Party is lined up to take home the gold in 2014.
10. Constitutional Issues
There are really two big Constitutional issues at play for the 2014 election. The first, and least important, is probably the question over gay marriage. Several states have made efforts to make gay marriage legal, but the majority of states have laws and constitutional amendments in support of traditional marriage. There are some people who believe that this will be the linchpin issue of 2014, but if we’re honest, the issue probably won’t be that important. The Supreme Court will eventually take on the issue again after their hands-off decision this past summer, which means that the divisive issue will likely stay low on the radar for most Americans.
The bigger constitutional issue at play is the one that’s already been passed: the lame duck in the White House. The 22nd Amendment limits the President to two terms, which means that his focus on the tail end of his Presidency will be his legacy, which allows Republicans to focus their efforts on limiting the impact of his legacy in their hopes of paving a path to the White House for their 2016 nominee.
Let’s be honest: politics is, more often than not, about who has the biggest bank account, and the Republican Party has big bank accounts. While Democrats are fueled by unions and left-leaning billionaires like George Soros, Republicans are fueled by businesses and right-leaning billionaires like the Koch Brothers. Each side hates the other and life goes on as normal.
In the last quarter, Democrats raised a little bit more money than the GOP thanks to the shutdown rhetoric, but the GOP is also in a position where it doesn’t really have to spend a lot of money right now because they are the party in control of the House, and most sitting House members won’t have to raise money to fight off any serious primary competition, unlike the Democrats who are going to have to raise cash just to figure out who’s going to challenge the GOP in 2014.
Meanwhile, as of October 23, 2013, when you look at the overall picture, out of the $405.5 million raised by parties and candidates for the 2014 election, $208.5 million has been raised by the GOP. In other words: they currently have the fundraising advantage, which means that hey have the electoral advantage as of now.
8. Limited Influence of the Tea Party
The Tea Party’s influence in American politics is, at best, limited to dividing their own party. Setting aside all the political bluster from their enemies, the Tea Party movement is about one thing and one thing only: limiting government. That’s it. No racism, no anti-intellectualism, no aliens. Just limiting the power, scope, reach, and spending of government. Basically, the Tea Party Republicans are the people who figured out that voting Libertarian didn’t actually help the Libertarian cause, and so they tried to take over the parts of the Republican platform they were most concerned about.
The problem is that when you talk about limiting government in a sort of general sense, people like it right up until you start digging into specifics. Those specifics often include limiting big-big-big-dollar items that those people find useful or downright necessary, like social security, education, and aid programs for American citizens like food stamps. These are things that both Democrats and Republicans (minus the TP) tend to support, which means that the Tea Party finds itself as a complete and total minority in the fight over these issues. As a result, even within the GOP, the influence of the Tea Party has been extremely limited, with many of their 2010 winners losing elections in 2012.
Their poor performance in primaries tends to allow more moderate Republicans to present better challenges against members of the sitting President’s party.
7. The Economy
When the economy crashed in 2008, massive efforts were made by both the Bush and Obama administrations to stem the tide of problems, with some limited successes. However, by his signature on the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama took full ownership of the economic recovery – a recovery whose evaluation ranges from weak to an utter failure, to the point where respected studies are now concluding that controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh had a better economic plan than Obama did. Unemployment was promised to be at 5%, but remains north of 7% and even that number is reached using numerical gymnastics that ignore the fact that job creation and wages have been stagnant.
If the economy was in full recovery, Americans would vote accordingly and probably give Obama a lot more credit, but since it’s not, they are more likely to blame the sitting President, especially one who got so deeply involved with the economic recovery early in his Presidency.
6. Sticker Shock
Have you had to buy new health insurance? Has your insurance gone up? How much are you paying in taxes, both obvious and hidden? Have you been cut back from full time to part time so your employer doesn’t have to pay the mandate? Well, welcome to the Obama economy, where the middle class is now forced to pay more to the government, exactly as the opponents of Obamacare predicted back in 2010.
It’s one thing for the Democrats to talk about taxing the rich, but when the average American starts feeling the tax pinch, then they’re going to look for a boogeyman, and the GOP is more than happy to point the finger directly at the party that voted in all those tax increases. And if there’s one thing Americans don’t like, it’s paying higher taxes – a belief they will carry with them to the ballot box.
Recent Presidents have been extremely divisive along party lines and Obama is no exception. He is easily as divisive as George W. Bush, and Gallup indicates that his polling trend will leave him as the most polarizing President since their polling began.
What you should take away from these polls is this: the Republicans who run for Congress will use Obama in their campaigns, probably even more heavily than Democrats, and they will use his messianic image against his party in every possible way. Every failure of his administration will be brought to bear, and unpopular issues will be paraded on every TV around, especially issues like Obamacare and the stagnant economy. His administration’s behavior during the shutdown (barring veterans from the WWII Memorial in DC, for instance) will play out nightly for every voter to see.
4. Historic Trends
If history has taught us anything, it’s that off-year elections tend to not favor the sitting President’s party. Since 1910, we’ve had nine Presidents whose second terms were given a referendum by the people in mid-term elections. Of those nine, only one – Bill Clinton – had his party gain seats in that election, and that was a direct result of dissatisfaction in a Republican Congress, giving the Democrats a minimal 5-seat gain in a still-GOP-controlled House.
Every single other President lost seats for his party, even when the sitting President was fairly popular. For Presidents with a lower-than-50% approval rating like Obama – the loss averages 36 seats. This means that historic trends favor the GOP in 2014.
Ah, independents. Those without a party affiliation, but who tend to decide national elections. They’re as unpredictable as ever, and Obama’s poll ratings are a great example. As of the most recent Zogby Poll, while Obama’s approval rating hovers around 45%, only 35% of independent voters approve of his performance.
Now, while they aren’t fond of Republicans, either, it’s actually worse for the Democrats. First, it’s a good indication that even well-established and powerful Democrats may have a very tough road ahead of them. Worse though, for the Democrats, Obama’s disapproval among independents also limits the ability of the sitting President to have a positive effect for his chosen candidates in the upcoming election.
Think about it: if you were running for Congress, would you want a President with that kind of approval rating shilling for your campaign?
2. State-Level Moves by Democrats
While the newspapers have focused on the Republican controversies in Texas and North Carolina, there’s been a lot of moves by Democrats that aren’t smart either. Those same controversial issues in those 2 states have opposition that’s just as controversial and extreme. In North Carolina, that opposition has gelled in a group calling itself “Moral Mondays,” a sort of higher-class version of the Occupy Wall Street movement headed up by the state’s NAACP. The problem is: it’s headed up by the NAACP, an organization which is seen by most North Carolinians to be both extremist and racist.
In Texas, while there were efforts to work against abortion by the Texas legislature, it’s important to remember that for every yin, there is a yang, and the abortion supporters in Texas have not been well-behaved. Death threats and vandalism were used by abortion supporters while the debate raged, and none of that behavior plays well to your side.
1. Redistricting and Numbers
One big effect of the Tea Party takeover in 2010 was that it put into place Republican control of the redistricting process following the 2010 census. This meant that in states where Republicans controlled the bodies that controlled the process, they were free to gerrymander districts to help ensure that Democrats would have a much more difficult time getting out of the minority. While statewide and national races may be more balanced, district-level races now favor Republicans in more states than ever.
To be sure, this has been a long time coming. Democrats had a stranglehold on district-level politics for seven decades. It wasn’t until the Democrats waning control in the 2000’s that the GOP had the opportunity that 2010 afforded them. And that’s why the polls are pointing towards … not much. Sure, the broad polls show dissatisfaction with House Republicans, but polls on individual politicians are much gentler, with voters basically saying “I hate Congress, but my Congressman’s doing a good job.” The result is that, as of October 23, there are a total of eight seats that are considered toss-ups by political prognosticator Larry Sabato – and five of those are held by Democrats.
Simply put: the numbers are not there for a Democratic takeover of the House in 2014. Republicans planned out their 2010 victory expertly and, barring any major events, will likely control the lower house of the US legislature for a long time.