It might be considered unusual that so little has changed
in the competitive U.S. house and senate races since the
first of the year. But it does make historical sense.
Of course, there has been some movement, primarily to
the Republicans as a number of senate seats, originally
considered “safe Democratic” have become competitive.
At the same time, the number of potential Democratic
pick-ups has dwindled to two, Kentucky and Georgia.
The reason for the small amount of movement, yet the
drift to the GOP, has been the standing and performance
of President Obama. He remains consistently under 50%,
and most often in the low to mid-40%. The primary
impetus for the Democrats’ defensiveness was, of course,
the roll-out and aftermath of Obamacare. Since the first
of the year, new problems have emerged for the Obama
administration, including its continuing block on the
public-supported Keystone pipeline, scandals in government
surveillance of the general public, the performance of the
Veterans hospitals and administration, and the continued
apparent failures in foreign policy around the world.
Supporters of the president and his policies could point out
that these political problems have not further eroded the
president’s popularity, and that, although now 8-10, and
possibly 11-13 senate seats are in play, the Democrats have
not as yet lost a single seat, and remain competitive in most
of the seats in play.
I have previously cautioned readers, regardless of their
political inclinations, to be careful about proclaiming any
premature victories or defeats, and I continue to do so, but I
cannot fail to observe that while many voters are still sticking
with the president, there are signs that this loyalty is wearing
thin. In fact, I have observed over the years that voters will
stick with a president up to a threshold. When that threshold
is breached, however, support quickly erodes at a greater
velocity and in greater numbers. We have seen this during
the White House years of Mr. Nixon, Mr. Ford, Mr. Carter,
Mr. H.W. Bush and Mr. W. Bush. So it might yet be for Mr.
Obama. In the case of Mr. Carter and Mr. H.W. Bush, it cost
them re-election. It cost Mr. Ford his first actual election.
For Mr. Nixon, Mr. W. Bush and, potentially, for Mr. Obama,
it’s a circumstance that prevented the election of their party’s
Until and only if that threshold is crossed, however, no secure
prediction for 2014 can be made, other than the obvious loss of
some Democratic seats in the senate, and the maintenance of
control of the house by the Republicans. Nor can their be a
useful prediction yet be made about 2016.
With Hillary Clinton now dominating the conversation on the
Democratic side in 2016, and Jeb Bush now in the forefront of
the conversation on the Republican side, pundits, strategists
and party activists risk missing any vital signals from their
respective grass roots about who the country really wants to
be the next president. Opinion polls 30 months before a
presidential election are invariably misleading and
incomplete --- and often plainly wrong.
There is no use in rushing these matters. We like to watch a
whole play, not just its ending.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.