Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 18, 2014

A Critical Few Weeks for Democrats? It Could Get Worse

Kay Hagan 1 041613 445x277 A Critical Few Weeks for Democrats? It Could Get Worse

A new poll shows Hagan is vulnerable. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

No wonder some Democratic strategists are nervous about the next few weeks.

President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers have taken a dive in two recent polls, and party insiders fear that every other poll released in the foreseeable future will show that the rollout of the president’s health care law has been anything but a success — and has dramatically undermined the public’s confidence in him.

Maybe even more important, they worry that any weakening of the president’s standing will have a significant impact on Democrats’ chances to make House gains and hold the Senate.

The president’s job approval in polling conducted by Quinnipiac University fell from 45 percent in late September to just 39 percent in its Nov. 6-11 survey.

That trajectory generally echoes the drop in his standing uncovered by NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling. In that survey, Obama’s job approval rating was at 45 percent in early September, climbed to 47 percent during the government shutdown in early October and then sunk back to 42 percent in late October.

It would be surprising if other national surveys conducted over the next few weeks don’t show the same trend. The media’s reporting on each survey tends to have a cumulative impact, as if each poll is finding something new.

Of course, each is simply reporting on the same development, but the repeated drumbeat about the president’s weaker standing adds to the buzz about Obama’s problems. That’s exactly what happened to President George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina and the economy’s plunge undermined his standing.

A Nov. 8-11 automated survey in North Carolina by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Sen. Kay Hagan’s disapproval rate spiking in the state, along with the president’s. And the North Carolina Democrat’s position in the ballot test has weakened as well, compared with PPP’s Oct. 14-15 survey, which was conducted well into the shutdown of the federal government.

Some Democrats predict that public opinion changes in North Carolina will appear elsewhere. Democratic incumbents in swing (or Republican) districts and states surely are already trying to inoculate themselves by calling for changes in the health care law or, at the very least, complaining about the website’s problems and blaming either outside contractors or Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But it’s far from clear that those efforts will succeed in deflecting voter anger completely.

Long-time observers of politics know that an unpopular president during midterm elections almost always is an albatross around the neck of his party’s candidates for Congress, and Democratic hopefuls can only hope to minimize the damage, not avoid it completely, if Obama is unpopular a year from now.

Democratic vulnerability in the House is relatively modest, since so few House seats are competitive. But Democrats will have a hard time gaining any House seats if the president’s standing is hovering around the 40 percent mark, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will have to start worrying about net losses, not trying to maximize gains.

Over in the Senate, a damaged Obama could easily cost his party the Senate. It’s as simple as that. With an Obama job rating sitting around the 40 percent mark, it’s difficult to imagine Republican seats in Kentucky or Georgia falling to Democrats, and more difficult to imagine Democratic senators in Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas surviving. Even Democratic nominees in Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire could see their prospects change from good to uncertain.

Of course, it’s important to emphasize that opinion swings very quickly these days. Just one month ago, the Republican Party looked like a political punching bag. Polling was showing the GOP brand in free fall — it has not recovered — and Democrats were starting to get almost cocky about the midterms.

But the past month has proved that the somewhat confusing saying that I have repeated for years remains true: “Elections are about what elections are about.”

A month ago, many people talked as if the 2014 midterms might be a referendum on Republican intransigence, extremism and division. Now, many are suggesting that next year’s midterms will be about Obamacare and the president’s unwise statement that every American who likes his or her insurance will be able to keep it.

Of course, two weeks from now — or 10 months from now — the 2014 elections could be about something else. We just don’t know.

But that should not stop Democrats from worrying about the current narrative, which certainly is hurting the president’s standing and likely eroding Democratic poll numbers and optimism about the midterms. Tea party conservatives, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, could possibly ride to Democrats’ rescue by doing something foolish again, but Democrats can’t count on that.

Somehow, Democrats must try to turn the developing Obama narrative back on the GOP. But at least until the health care website mess is solved, that seems unlikely.

  • papal

    THis is a real “How you liking it now” moment. They could have avoided the entire mess if they accepted the repubs second shutdown offer, but they didn’t.

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Yeah but it was just a postponement. No amount of time is going to soften the ground effects of any of this crap so I say, forward. The quicker the sooner.

  • clayusmcret

    Democrats shouldn’t worry about obama’s ratings. Democrats should worry about how long left media can keep public opinion focused on obama’s lies and off the true architects of obamacare; the democrat sides of the House and Senate. THERE’s where obamacare was crafted and rammed through using parliamentary games and bastardized rules to erase one bill and fill it in with another….100% by democrats. Tick..tick..tick. Democrats are fearing the DING! of America’s memory.

    • Callawyn

      Exactly. Its got Obama’s name on it, but Obamacare is an Indictment of the entire Democrat Party, Liberal Ideology, and their propagandists in the professional media.

  • guestwho2

    “A Nov. 8-11 automated survey” …. good news or bad news, is any sentient being going to put stock in a poll derived from people bored enough to sit through an extended robocall and punch buttons on cue?

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      That’s what every poll amounts to. Whadda you got that’s contrary? Besides, you don’t really need the poll, that is just corroboration. Out here in America we are living this. Forward.

    • Callawyn

      I’ve sat through both types, human and automated, I’ve also hung up on both types (my typical response). Either way, the theory that these polls aren’t reliable because certain types of people refuse to answer them seems to get disproved every election cycle when most of the reputable pollsters come within a few % of predicting actual results.

      Wasn’t long ago I was expressing the same opinion you just did, but hoping polls were wrong has turned out to be wishful thinking too consistently to dismiss them.

  • jvermeer51

    And the liberal media has so far ignored the surfacing of the government study (Fed Register of June 2010) with a mean estimate of about 50% of EMPLOYER plans being cancelled because of Obamacare.

    • Callawyn

      YES, thankyou! That estimate was that 93 MILLION plans would be cancelled as a direct result of Obamacare.

      The entire Democrat-Media has refused to report this fact.

      First, they KNEW, at least as early as 2010, that Obamacare would destroy millions of policies.

      Second, the current Dem Talking Point that its “only 5%” is provably false

      Third, the one year delay in the Employer Mandate has delayed these cancellations (which Forbes, and other sources estimate will be above 130 Million cancellations, btw, not just 93 Million) until this time next year.

  • dmreiter

    The Democrats finally found a grass roots issue not subject to their darlings in the media’s unfetered support: Taking away health insurance, and interfering in the relationship between patients and their doctors of millions of Americans. The best propagandists of modernity can’t spin out this one.

    Bravo, Obama. The smartest man in the world lied 29 times on tape, knowing it wasn’t true, and certain he wouldn’t get caught. Or something. God, I wish I was that smart.

  • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

    Exponential worsening seems to be the Dem consensus. You can tell by the spiraling deadlines. Oct 1st came bringing disaster. Team O asks for a Dec 1st pushback to which everyone assents. With the worsening situation the Dems said they wanted to hear Good News before Thanksgiving. Then they said, 72 hours as if they were some mafia tough guys, which would have been end of the week. Now it’s Thursday morning and by their own admissions, they’ve gone ‘crazy’ (a short trip in any case). And this is just the bare beginnings. REAL fans of Armageddon look forward to the biz mandates being unfrozen. Then the true carnage commences. Forward. Eat it, commies.

  • johnt

    Stuart Rothenberg, a man of principle, “somehow the Democrats have to turn this back on the Republicans”. Why of course you garbage, would you expect the Democrats not to, a 3 1/2 year habit is hard to break , but more importantly do you think they’re capable of being normal adults and admitting to some kind of responsibility? They’re just like you Stuart, they won’t.

  • Roger54

    Why will Rothenberg and the rest of his minions not admit the truth: Obama lied Obamacare into law and now the lies are being exposed? It is not complicated and it is as plain as day what happened: Obama lied and got caught.

  • savannah1234567890

    Democrats are mowing themselves down with fully automatic assault weapons!

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDUvqXK4DEM DCinAZ

      That’s what people with mental illnesses seem to do these days.

  • Roger54

    Obama thought he would isolate himself from his lies by postponing the Employer Mandate until after the 2014 elections. A more cynical political deception is hard to imagine. But it did not work. This law is a trainwreck in so many ways that even the Democrat Media (but I repeat myself) cannot ignore it or deceive the public about it. Much as the Media would like to.

  • ray brosterhous

    Lying in order to secure passage of the bill probably didn’t help.

  • Tom Servo

    Obama’s “new plan” guarantees that the Death Spiral destroys the entire rotten structure.

  • Carolyn Palacios

    My thought for liberals is, you reap what you sow. This is going to be a long pleasant electoral season for conservatives. I suspect the people of the US are sick of being spied on and pushed around. IMHO, this election will be about microwave popcorn and whether or not people want the feds telling them what to eat while blithely ignoring unemployment going up.

  • R squared

    Apparently ruling by fiat in a Republic is sometimes unpopular. Who knew?

  • Arminius

    Hooray for cataclysm. Couldn’t happen to more deserving legislation.
    Nothing is more joyous, to paraphrase Genghis Khan, than to ride over the smoking ruins of your opponent’s signal legislation, and bask in the sounds of their wailing and lamentation.

    Can’t nail their heads to the city gates, though. Sad. I miss the 11th Century…

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDUvqXK4DEM DCinAZ

      Hahahahahaha….

  • mlhouse

    There is a big difference between a couple of weeks ago when the Republicans looked like “the punching bag”. And that difference is the difference between tactics and strategy. The Republican problem was over a tactical issue and the divide between its members was based on the difference in how to go about obtaining a policy goal.

    The Democratic problem is way worse. It is their signature policy and the main policy of the progressive wing. It is being demonstrated a failure. And, what makes the failure worse is that this failure was predicted by their opponents.

    ObamaCare is a disaster. The GOP knew it. The government shutdown almost offered them a chance to avoid, or at least mitigate some of the issues by delaying the individual mandate. Then at least they could have conceivably rolled out a working interface. The GOP also offered this measure to mirror the delay in the employer mandate.

    AND HERE IS THE CAMPAIGN ISSUE FOR 2014…..If the Democrats refused to delay the individual mandate because everything was going along swimmingly in their opinion, WHAT THE F IS UP WITH THE DELAY IN THE EMPLOYER MANDATE????????? The millions of cancellations, the utter technological incompetence, the “sticker shock” of real premiums, they are just a drop in the bucket for the real problems caused by the employer mandate.

  • stan

    “Tea party conservatives, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, could possibly ride
    to Democrats’ rescue by doing something foolish again, but Democrats
    can’t count on that.”

    Umm, Stuart. Cruz isn’t looking so foolish any more. You may have jumped to that conclusion watching from inside the liberal cocoon. Come Nov 2014 being known as the guy who did everything he possibly could to stop the people from being wrecked by Obamacare might actually be regarded as a smart move.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDUvqXK4DEM DCinAZ

    Ted Cruz’s strategy was brilliant. He has solidified himself as the lone warrior who tried to stop the entire thing before it hit the American people and he will only grow more powerful as this disaster continues to unfold.

    • SupplyGuy

      It will certainly make for good presidential campaigning in 2016. Who’s the whacko bird now?

  • JeffG

    The words the Dems need to turn Obamacare back on the GOP is a joke as everyone knows it is pure Dem 100%. The Dems passed it without reading the bill and now Obama is putting it into action not as written. Obama continues to act without following any law. Now he is trying to back peddle on his lies and say you can keep plans without changing the law. Unfortunately the states, the companies, and lawyers the law cannot be changed by the word of the President.

  • http://www.picsofcelebrities.net/blog/2012/05/08/voice-season-finale Cromulent

    “if you like your plan” was not an unwise statement. It was a lie.

  • SupplyGuy

    So genius, how do you turn this around on the GOP when they were fighting tooth and nail to stop this monstrousity? They’ve already tried the GOP sabotaged it strategy and it’s not working.
    Good luck chumps (I really don’t mean that either except for the chumps part).

  • Callawyn

    Pretty much has to get worse for Democrats, and the Obamacare problem is not going away until the law is repealed (and even then they’ll be stigmatized by it for a generation, at least).

    Lets say a miracle happens and they get the website working sometime around next March. Then what? People will be able to go online and see what these Exchange Plans really offer: ~40% higher premiums, >100% higher deductibles, and copays of 40%, or 30%, for most of the plans, and for what? Policies that offer LESS coverage than the policy that got cancelled.

    Specifically: 1) You CAN NOT keep your Doctor. This is another HUGE LIE that will haunt Obama. In most states only about 20% of doctors accept Exchange Plans, and they are for the most part the worst of the lot: the ones who can’t make it on their own and accept Medicaid to get by. Same deal with hospitals: the good ones opted out, the crap ones in the Medicaid system accept Exchange Plans.
    2) ALL of the Exchange Plans are State based and very, very few of them offer more than 0% out of network coverage, and NONE of their in-network providers are out of state. So, have a health issue out of state? You’re paying 100% out of pocket.
    3) The added costs mentioned above do NOT result in better coverage. Rather, most of the added cost is a pass-thru of the >$1 Trillion in new indirect taxes in Obamacare. They tax medical devices, pharmaceuticals, etc, that pass those costs to the insurers, who pass them to you. They also tax the insurers, who pass the cost to you. SOMEONE has to pay for the >52 new bureaucracies/agencies/boards that Obamacare creates to make all our healthcare decisions for us. Someone has to pay the 10 Billion cost of the added IRS agents that will be enforcing the mandate. Turns out that ‘someone’ = YOU

    The what happens?? If Obamacare is still around next year, the cancellations in the employer provided insurance market start happening. We’ve seen, so far, 5 Million of the Individual Market’s 30 million policies cancelled. The employer provided market is 500% bigger, and the HHS rules make virtually all (around 98%) of those policies illegal due to the way they chose to write the “grandfather” rules (eg. ANY change to your plan after Jan 1, 2010 and your plan is no longer grandfathered. Sebelius confirmed this on national TV last week, the host affirming that “even a $5 change to your copay” would result in your policy becoming illegal and getting cancelled).

    Those cancellations will start going out in October ’14, with elections a month later.

    NO ONE is going to get distracted from this. Canada could invade Michigan and people will still be voting Democrats out of office over Obamacare. Obama could personally patent a method of bottling unicorn farts, sell them on E-bay, and pay off the entire national debt with the proceeds, and Democrats will still lose control of the Senate over Obamacare.

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...