Annus Horribilis

by Dave Schuler on July 24, 2014

Larry Sabato predicts the 2014 midterm elections will be sui generis and handicaps the results like this:

Last year, and even in the beginning of 2014, we and others were inclined to think that 2014 would be another wave midterm, like 2006 or 2010. After all, it’s the “sixth-year itch” of the Obama administration — always a dangerous time for the White House party — and President Obama’s popularity had been sinking well below the 50% level. Then there was the Senate map for 2014. Arguably, this year features the best lineup for the Republicans since 1980. Almost all — some would say all — of the GOP’s 15 Senate seats are either in the bag or will be by Election Day, owing to the Red nature of the states. By contrast, many of the 21 Democratic seats are located in Red or Purple states, some with shaky incumbents and others left vacant for easy Republican pickup. Finally, midterm turnout usually (not always) favors Republicans, with poor turnouts registered by Democratic-leaning groups such as minorities and the young versus decent turnouts by GOP cohorts, including whites and those over age 60.

Well, it’s late July, and so far at least, this election hasn’t gelled quite the way it earlier appeared on paper. President Obama’s popularity isn’t impressive, but his job approval seems to have stabilized in the low-to-mid 40s — not as bad as President Bush’s level in 2006 (about 37% approval roughly this time eight years ago). Several of the most vulnerable Democratic senators on the ballot are proving more durable than expected, fending off challenges or at least holding their own so far. In 2006, Democrats at this point were up double digits in most surveys of the House generic ballot, a poll measuring the general mood of the country that suggested not only Democratic gains in the House, but also the Senate. Four years ago, Republicans by this time had taken a three-point lead in the generic ballot surveys, a lead that would only grow. Now, Democrats retain a tiny, one-point edge.

Basically, he says that Republicans will hold the House and will pick up between 4 and 8 seats in the Senate. That translates into between 49 and 53 Republican seats in the next Senate. Since I’ve been predicting that Republicans will hold 50 seats in the next Senate which means that Democrats will retain control of that house, I still think it’s a pretty solid prediction.

I also think that barring some cataclysm turnout will be at record-breakingly low levels. That means there could be some surprises.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

... July 24, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Florida doesn’t really have any federal offices up for grabs, so we’re likely to have zero national impact, but I expect a hideously low turnout based on our gubernatorial options.

jan July 24, 2014 at 11:48 pm

I think there is little doubt that Republicans will hold the House. However, while conventional odds are with the Republicans to control the Senate, elections seem to have become less predictable. I don’t know if this is because the populace is less informed, less interested in problems outside of their own personal circumstances, causing them to be attracted to and culpable when a politician gives them pie-in-the-sky rhetoric. Or, if there is simply a heavy moroseness permeating society, clouding the importance of an electorate’s participation, as little changes no matter which party holds the seat of power.

Whatever it is, Independents seem to be growing in numbers, gathering the politically disenchanted from both the D’s and R’s, and becoming a large block of uncommitted people that can upset establishment apple carts of both parties — making elections more speculative events than ones having precisely calculated outcomes.

jan July 25, 2014 at 12:24 am

Here’s another POV from National Journal, in which they see the odds of a GOP wave increasing.

If anything, this year’s environment for Democrats is shaping up to be as bleak. Sizable majorities oppose the Obama administration’s handling of nearly every issue, including the economy, health care, and foreign policy. The administration looks out of its element, lurching from foreign policy crises to domestic scandal over the past year. Even out of the headlines, Obamacare is still a driving force for Republicans and for unfavorable poll numbers. This week, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg released new data showing Obama’s disapproval at a whopping 60 percent in 12 Senate battlegrounds, with half strongly disapproving of his performance. Overall, Republicans held a 2-point edge on the battleground generic ballot, 46 percent to 44 percent.

Those are the numbers that foreshadow wave elections. In the House, the outlook is already decidedly favorable toward Republicans, even with a limited pool of competitive seats. The Cook Political Report only ranks four GOP-held seats as toss-ups or worse, while 13 Democratic seats are in the same category. Perennial targets, like suburban Reps. Joe Heck and Mike Fitzpatrick, are looking in strong shape, while Democrats in friendly seats like Reps. Brad Schneider and Scott Peters are facing challenging campaigns. In Senate races, where voters pay closer attention to individual candidates, Democrats are working aggressively to disqualify challengers from capitalizing on the public discontent, hoping that widespread dissatisfaction with the GOP brand will translate into support for their incumbents.

But in an environment like this, it’s more likely we’ll see more races come into play late than to see close contests fall by the wayside. Republicans aren’t guaranteed a wave election at this point, but those dismissing the possibility are whistling past the graveyard.

For me, the only significant part of this analysis is that Obama’s policies, as well as his handling of them, are disliked in almost every category, from foreign to domestic. Logically this should strike a dour note for the dems in 2014. However, look at how people voted in 2012, in lieu of Obama’s lousy economic record. It’s really difficult to gauge people’s response to disappointing politicians, when they vote them back into power again and again.

jan July 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Here’s yet another analysis, predicated on one metric, which has steadfastly predicted the outcomes of elections during the past decade. That one factor is “is Democrats’ vote share among voters making less than $50,000.”

TastyBits July 25, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I see that the House Republicans once again tied the president’s hands taking military options off the table – first Syria, now Iraq, but I am sure that this is a sign of strength. This shows Putin that the US is strong enough to act as if it were actually showing a sign of weakness. Spin it how you want, but Republicans are no better than President Obama.

I wonder how many Republicans will leave their “principles” at home on election day, and the day after begin spouting about how important it is to have principles.

“Informed voters” are the people who have bought the bullshit and try to resell it. The “uninformed voters” are the people who know bullshit and avoid it. While the “informed voter” is shoving his/her head up somebody’s ass, the “uninformed voter” is going to the monster truck event.

Reading commentary from somebody who has read commentary is no way to become informed. Wikipedia is not an authoritative source. If you want to be informed, read primary sources or well vetted secondary sourced, and then, you can read the commentary.

Stonetools July 27, 2014 at 4:58 pm

My prediction ? Dems hold the Senate 52-48 and USA politics runs in place till 2016. Democrats make significant gains at the state level.

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