RETURN OF THE GOP: IN THEATERS NOVEMBER 2014

While my post yesterday (http://pos.org/2013/05/coming-soon-the-role-of-06-president-bush-to-be-played-by-barack-obama/ ) centered on how President Obama’s second term in office is shaping up to be a sequel of his predecessor’s, there’s a ton of evidence suggesting that the coming attractions of the 2014 mid-term election cycle could mirror what happened in 2006.

While Democrats may get excited about watching a re-run of an election cycle where their party won both houses of Congress, they’re not likely to enjoy this story as much.  It’s considerably more likely that 2014, as we saw in 2006, will be an election where the President’s party loses seats in Congress and maybe even control of the US Senate.  Here’s why:

  • The ability for Obama to raise his approval rating over the next year and a half is going to be quite a challenge for the President.  While the last couple weeks have been very unkind to the President here in Washington (#Benghazi, #IRS, #APTaps), even an American rallying moment – the recent terrorist attacks in Boston – failed to produce any bounce in Obama’s approval score.

    On the day before the attacks at the Boston Marathon (April 14th), the President’s average approval rating according to Real Clear Politics was 49% approve-46% disapprove.  A week after the attack (April 22nd), Obama’s average approval rating hadn’t budged, sitting at 49% approve-47% disapprove.  Certainly no bounce.

    Here at Public Opinion Strategies, we’ve done a lot of research on this topic before: (http://pos.org/2011/05/wheres-the-bounce/).  Nine days after the United States captured Osama Bin Laden, the President received a five-point bounce in his approval.  The lack of any bounce for Obama just one week after what happened in Boston should be pretty startling news to the White House and Democrats running in ’14 across the country.

  • So, why is it important for Democrats running in ’14 that Obama raise his approval rating?  Because history shows that the political party of a President with a sub-50% approval rating tends to lose, on average, 44 seats in the House.  (And, as Patrick Lanne pointed out recently, the President’s party loses over 500 seats in state legislative races if his approval is under 50%: http://pos.org/2013/04/a-look-ahead-to-the-2014-elections-in-the-states/)

    While it’s very unlikely that Democrats will lose 44 seats in the US House in 2014, their chances of winning enough seats to take the Speaker’s gavel are currently pretty grim.  Those seats just don’t exist today.  In fact, according to The Cook Political Report, more of the “lean” or “toss up” seats in the House belong to Democrats (17) than Republicans (12).

    In fact, if I were a Democrat, I’d actually be much more scared about losing the US Senate than excited about winning seats in the House, especially as ALL TEN of Cook’s “lean” or “toss up” Senate seats currently belong to Democrats.

  • Democratic strategists will say that Republicans in Congress are so damaged nationally that they just aren’t trusted enough on the key issues by voters.  While there may have been some truth to that in the past, recent national polling suggests the tide is beginning to turn.  In just the past month, Congressional Republicans have held steady on “handling of the economy” and picked up ground on Congressional Democrats on other key issues:

chart 1

Bottom line – we’ve all seen this movie before in 2006.
But this time, 2014 could be a blockbuster sequel for Republicans.