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February 11, 2016

Open Your Mind to the Possibility of Another Midterm Mess for Democrats

Democrats might want to consider opening their minds to the potential of another midterm nightmare.

I remember dozens of conversations with GOP candidates and strategists prior to the 2012 elections. Republicans simply couldn’t wrap their minds around the possibility that 2008 could ever be repeated. That failure in comprehension contributed to inaccurate polling and wrong assumptions as the two electorates ended up being remarkably similar.

Now, I’m starting to feel a sense of deja vu when talking with Democrats. Anytime 2010 comes up in a conversation, it is quickly dismissed as an aberration. Most Democrats can’t even imagine another election cycle where President Barack Obama is as unpopular and as much of a drag on Democrats as he was in his first midterm.

But I’m not sure we can rule out the possibility that next November will be a very bad year for Democrats.

In 2010, President Barack Obama’s job performance ratings were 44 percent approve/55 percent disapprove, according to the national exit poll. Today, the president’s job rating stands at 41 percent approve/55 percent disapprove, according to the Real Clear Politics average.

More troubling for Democrats is the evidence that Democrats could be vulnerable in places and races that should not be competitive unless there is an electoral wave.

In a recently released Quinnipiac University poll in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall polled in the mid-40s against a handful of underwhelming and unknown Republicans. This is in a race currently rated by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call as Safe for Democrats.

We don’t have comparable public data for too many other supposedly safe Senate races, but there are at least 10 other Democratic Senate seats that are structurally more vulnerable than Colorado. Of course, as I’ve written before, Republicans only need to win states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 to get back to the Senate majority. The GOP won’t likely need victories in Michigan, Iowa, Colorado or New Hampshire. Those would just be icing on the cake.

Of course the midterm elections are more than 11 months away, and it’s always wise to note that things could change dramatically, as they have since the middle of October. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth noting the difficult position Democrats are in.

As National Journal’s Alex Roarty pointed out, the chances of Obama’s job rating bouncing back significantly are slim.

“Historically, presidents whose approval plummets in their second term don’t recover,” he wrote, “In fact, no president in the last 60 years has watched his approval ratings bounce back during their second term. Either they didn’t make it to another stint in office (Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush), never dipped in the first place (Eisenhower and Clinton) or were removed from office at the nadir of their popularity (Nixon). Lyndon Johnson recovered somewhat, but only after announcing he would not seek another term. Ronald Reagan dropped from the low 60s to the high 40s amid the Iran-Contra scandal, and his popularity never recovered entirely until his last months in office. But it also never fell to lows experienced by Truman or Bush.”

Even if 2014 deteriorates for Democrats, it won’t look exactly like 2010.

On the House side, Republican chances of capturing another 63 House seats is virtually zero. Maybe most importantly, the GOP starts this cycle with 234 seats rather than the 179 seats they had in 2009. And redistricting has further narrowed the universe of competitive races. To have gains the size of the one reached in 2010, Republicans would likely have to win districts that the president carried with about 57 percent in the last election and a couple dozen districts where he performed worse but where Republicans aren’t even contesting right now.

The Senate is where the most dramatic changes could occur if a GOP wave develops next year.

In 2010, Republicans gained six Senate seats including two states that Sen. John McCain carried in 2008 (Arkansas and North Dakota) and four states that then-Sen. Obama won (Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). The only Democrat to win a Senate race in a McCain state in 2010 was Joe Manchin III in West Virginia. A six-seat takeover wasn’t enough for a majority in 2010 but would be enough next year.

Democrats have demonstrated their ability to win close Senate races in the past. But it’s worth noting that the party won six races last cycle with 51 percent of the vote or less in what was likely a more favorable environment than 2014. Incumbent Sen. Jon Tester was re-elected with 48.6 percent in Montana and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown won with 51 percent. Open seat Democratic candidates such as New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin won with 51 percent, and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp just cracked 50 percent.

Readers beware, this is not a projection. It’s too early for that. But Democrats ought not simply dismiss out of hand that 2014 could be another bad year — even a very bad year — for their party.

  • Layla

    If every Democrat is NOT voted out of office in 2014 who is up, we are finished as a country. They are responsible for this OBAMACARE mess. The ONLY MOVE that saves them is impeachment.

    • jimsepa

      Layla, You have all the rightwing talking points down pretty well – apocalypse, obamacare and impeachment. You forgot to mention communist Muslim, though.

      • giltedged

        Or Redliner and Autocue reader.

      • txlakedude

        Well put. Seems the GOPRobots, are still slobbering their toxic crap. Some people have lost the ability to learn, from their mistakes…….lol.

        • ZorrObama

          Why learn from your mistakes if you can BLAME SOMEONE ELSE?

      • Geem

        You certainly have the Obama lies off pat. Are you part of his re-election/faux grassroots team?

      • Layla

        The voters will have the last word, Jim. I am an elected official in a state not too fond of the GOP.

      • scottthestrategerist

        Obama’s parents were both Communists, his mentor Frank Marshall Davis was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, his mentor as an adult, Bill Ayers, who ghost-wrote “Dreams From My Father” according to friendly biographer Christopher Anderson in his books “Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage,” and most of his other close associates are Communists or fellow-travelers on the Left. But none of that matters to you. Being a Leftist means gloating about a fact-free narrative. You’re just not good people.

    • Lamb Chop

      Secession here it comes.

      • scottthestrategerist

        Secession IS the answer. We’re two nations. Why pretend otherwise? I don’t wish the blue states well, but, if we can amicably split, I’m willing to enter into a non-aggression pact. No mutual assistance, no alliance, and I don’t even want to trade with them. But we don’t have to kill each other.

        • Lamb Chop

          I already spend considerable time poring over maps to figure out the best way to split the county into 2 nations.. The objective is to give the most minimal amount of territory possible to the blue states– not out of any sense of revenge– but from an understanding of the dreadful alternative ,which would be the shameful abandonment of tens of millions of hinterland residents outside the cluster of urban centers, who would otherwise be at the total mercy of the rabidly radicalized residents (along with their puppet followers )that reign supreme within these far-left enclaves.

          More on this later, but I can sense that these ideas are already percolating throughout the nation to an extent that may surprise you.

  • AkGov

    I like “John Q public”, feel partician bickering, grid lock and the stalemate in congress must end. It is time to elect representatives who put the public interest before party. I’m sick and tired of the bickering and for that reason believe the government shut down should never happen again. Like my children, they (congress) sometimes need a spanking to emphasis the point and punctuate the meaning of putting public interest before partisanship when elected.

    • scottthestrategerist

      Shut up, Commie! Those are old astroturf govt talking points. No normal person cares about the shutdown.

  • Nancy Shepherdson

    Oh for god’s sake, Layla. Take your head out of Fox News. Has Obamacare been a problem for you personally?

    • Geem

      So it has to be personal before it is considered a problem. What a stupid comment. Maybe you need to watch Fox news to hear the news instead of Obama’s praise choir.

    • papal

      What have you against fox news? It is the highest rated cable news and that has to be for some reason.

    • retired_sandman

      I got to keep my insurance… with two new obamacare fees tacked on. Same coverage. Higher price. I was lucky.

      • Lamb Chop


    • Layla

      I live in a state where nobody can afford it. They’ve lost their homes, their jobs and now this.

      Nice job, Nancy.

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    Despite claims that individualism opposes altruism, it is egoism that opposes altruism & it is individualism which opposes collectivism.

  • StillWatching2

    My favorite bumper-sticker recently was the “Re-Elect No One!” – Democrats should be worried that Republicans are MORE popular? Look for third parties to win…

    • txlakedude

      The only way, any 3rd party has a chance, it to totally scrap the entire GOP, out of govt. then a 3rd party will have room to prosper. The Voters, still have not figured that out yet, good luck, with 3rd Parties.

    • Layla

      Look for third parties, but they won’t win.

  • mabramso

    Very good piece by Rothenberg. All the prognosticators (Cook, Rothenberg, and Sabato) are currently projecting a 3-7 seat gain for the GOP in the Senate, which is pretty close to a 50-50 chance of flipping the Senate. I think the GOP is going to flip WV, SD, MT, and AR for sure, and then they have a very good chance of flipping AK, LA, and NC. But given the right set of entirely plausible circumstances, there is the possibility of it being worse for Dems. In 2010, Feingold’s seat in Wisconsin was not even on the radar. The polls on Udall in CO are a bit shocking. If more confirmation of these polls materializes, and the Dems have to go all out to defend CO, we may be looking at a 10-seat flip in the Senate. Still doubtful at this point, but certainly possible.

    • quiller51

      Actually Sabato projects a GOP gain of 2. New polling in LA shows Landreau in a stronger position now than she was 2 months ago. The Republican candidates that have surfaced in Alaska are polling poorly. I 10 seat flip is possible but I don’t see it. I see D pick-ups in Georgia and Kentucky and R pick-ups in West Virginia and South Dakota; D holds in AK LA and NC.

      • mabramso

        Not true. Sabato currently has the GOP picking up MT, SD, and WV. Hagan in NC is in deep trouble, and she knows it. If the GOP had a clear-cut candidate with decent name recognition, she would probably be losing in the polls, instead being ahead by less than 5 points (and under 45%, which is the kiss of death for incumbents) against almost every challenger. In AR, Pryor is also in deep trouble, and I suspect he will be the first Dem incumbent to be written off as we get close to the election. Landrieu has never been in a strong position, having never cracked 52% in any of her Senate races, and this is the first post-Katrina election for her that was not during a Presidential election and not during a wave Democrat year. She is a pretty good campaigner, so she might survive, but I think it is a complete toss-up. AK is the most difficult state to predict, and it will depend on who the GOP nominates. If they nominate Miller again, then Begich probably wins. But if LtGov Treadwell wins, I think Begich is in trouble. I think you are delusional about KY and GA — the states are too red. In a wave Dem year, the GOP could lose the KY seat, but wave elections for the President’s party simply don’t happen in the 6th year of his term. I mean, Sabato has this as Likely R, not even Leans R. In GA, Nunn would have a chance in a wave Dem year and only if Paul Broun is the nominee. But that isn’t going to happen because the GOP primary process has a runoff, and Broun is simply never going to hit 50% in ANY statewide election.

        • scottthestrategerist

          But Paul Braun is against the Federal Reserve, and that has a lot of crossover appeal. I’m as hardcore conservative as they get. I even advocate that DemonCraps be summarily executed and I’m not kidding! Yet I support Alan Grayson because he’s anti-bank. The bank issue is THE BIGGEST ignored issue, with trade right after it.

          • mabramso

            I understand and agree about the Federal Reserve issue — our economy is propped up by 17 trillion in debt issued by the Fed, and the fall of that house of cards will be very ugly. Unfortunately, not enough people care about the issue to matter. I am conservative, but I am OK with a few Democrats (though not many today). I can’t stand Grayson — he’s a real jerk. I liked Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Senator whose seat Hillary won. I didn’t agree with his politics, but he was a guy with no skeletons in his closet — a decent and honorable man. Not too many of those left in politics.

    • scottthestrategerist

      What about Scott Brown? He’ll pull it out for sure in New Hampshire. NH only went for the Demons in their landslide year of 2008. She’s nothing special and her core constituency of drug-using young voters won’t bother to vote without their master Obama on the ballot.

      • mabramso

        Well, Shaheen is still polling pretty well in NH — last I saw was about a 58% approval rate, and she was pretty well-liked as governor. Brown would certainly make the race interesting, but it is hard to say if he could actually pull out a victory.

        And actually, the Democrats also did very well in 2012, winning back both of the House seats they lost in 2010. Your observation though about Obama is important — the GOP does better here during the off-years. If Shaheen’s approval rate comes down at all, then I will be more bullish about Brown winning. But I think the GOP has a better chance in CO, where Udall is not polling very well, and in MI, where a GOP candidate has actually been leading in the polls (first time since 1994).

  • txlakedude

    As much as the GOP, has trampled, ripped off, and corrupted this country, the ACA, is not going to affect, the masses of pissed voters, this time. The voters are going to be severely reminded of the comings and goings, of the parasiteGOP.

    • Layla

      Sorry, but Obamacare will bury the Democrats for decades.

  • Rob_Chapman

    If people voted without election campaigns this would be indeed a dark time for the Dems.

    But unfolding events and political campaigns will change things between now and election day.

    The Dems did very well in 2013 and in the competitive state of Virginia ran against popular Republicans with proven state-wide vote getting ability.

    Cucinelli ran explicitly against Obamacare and lost convincingly.

    It is not that the American public is stupid, if Obamacare doesn’t work, they will oust the Dems and the Dems will need forty years to recover.

    The American public though, is smart enough to ask, “why does a glitchy web-site make universal health care coverage a bad idea?”

    If the GOP continue to beat up on Obamacare its inevitable repair will turn the public against them that much more strongly.

    • retired_sandman

      No repair. Not inevitable, not even possible.

      Trash heap of history is where this pig is going.

  • BlueAlliance

    Keep hoping!!

  • Victory_for_Freedom_2014

    In this case, it’s the GOPs cycle to lose. However, I can convinced that in be next 10 months, the will probably do stupid things and rest their laurels on how much people hate Obamacare, Obama’s unconstitutional modification of existing laws and lack of integrity. Hopefully, they will clearly articulate free market alternatives to the bizarre Obama hodgepodge socialist, egalitarian, totalitarian domestic agenda. If they don’t America, as a free, constitutonal Republic, will likely be over.

    • Lamb Chop

      You’re smarter than you look.

      • Victory_for_Freedom_2014

        Thanks Lamb Chop…

  • Montesquieu

    Since immorality and irresponsibility are incompatible with liberty, prosperity, and civilization we must see through the ever-shifting mirage of collectivist illusions and we must root out plunder at every turn.

  • Thomas Aquinas

    Since liberty cannot guarantee satisfaction, some people view the challenge of making their own way as more of a strain than an opportunity.

  • papal

    As long as Harry Reid is removed from his position, that is fine. Obama can go golfing for the next years, that is fine. The mess clean up will have to wait until Obama is retired.

  • Lamb Chop

    The hidden factor in 2014 is the distinct possibility of impeaching Stinky Hunsecker. That was not in the cards in 2010, when the full extent of the damage caused by the former Erskine Cooney Jr. was not even imagined.

    The 2014 elections are shaping up as the first one in American history where the chief issue is getting rid of the Destroyer-In-Chief. This may even transcend settling scores with the good Germans–like Hagan, Pryor, and Landrieu–who will try and pretend that when they shouted sieg heil, when they really meant gesundtheit.

  • Rastaz Koon


    • scottthestrategerist

      I LOVE IT!!! We need more comments like that to wake our people up before we cease to exist!!! :)

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