Some pundits and pollsters are now asking out loud if a
voter wave is coming for the national mid-term 2014
elections in November.
The reasons for these questions is the lack of polling data
with which dispositively to predict there will be one.
So far, there is little question that the traditional boost
for the party not holding the White House is taking place.
Republicans seem on target to win back control of the U.S.
senate (albeit by a narrow margin), increase their margin
in the U.S. house, and to hold their own in state governors
(although almost twice as many GOP incumbent governors’
positions are being contested this cycle}.
If this trend continues to election day, it would be, of
course, a very good day for the conservative party, but
being an off-presidential-year cycle, not in itself a true
wave or landslide election. The Democrats, if this happens,
would still be in a position for a recovery in 2016 with a
new presidential candidate.
A wave election in 2014, it seems to me, would require the
GOP to pick up at least 9 senate seats, 8-10 or more house
seats, and draw even or better in the gubernatorial races.
That’s an imperfect definition, and some might quibble
with my exact numbers, but a political “tsunami” this year
would have no ambiguity. The voters would be sending
“the government” a message.
First of all, with about two months to go, it is not surprising
that poll numbers do not show a wave. Republican
challengers are leading or tied in many races that would be
pick-ups, but the margins are not large. This is because
many likely voters, especially independents, as I see it, are not
yet willing to commit their vote to a pollster. However, since
most of the contested races are seats now held by Democrats,
it is problematic for the liberal party, led by President Obama;
the fact remains that, as an election draws near, undecideds
are less and less likely to go with incumbents. This traditional
rule is compounded by current conditions of economic
uncertainty, unemployment and an uneven modest recovery.
World events are particularly tense this summer, and the
hesitating White House response to international threats does
not help the party in power with voters.
Polls are showing perhaps a larger number of undecided
voters at this point, but I would argue those numbers reflect
problems with polling more than the state of voters’ minds.
Furthermore, if there is to be a wave election, it will be fueled
on election day with a wave of truly undecided voters in the
last two weeks before election day.
I am not yet predicting a wave election, however. World
events can always have an impact. The Democrats,
furthermore, have had the superior ground game
(get-out-the-vote) effort for a decade, and their advantage
in this was powerfully demonstrated in 2012. If the liberal
party can get their voters effectively to the polls, the
results in 2014 would likely not be a wave election, no matter
the final tally.
Republicans have had fair warning about their opponents’
ground game. Supposedly, there are now GOP campaigns
employing the new technologies to identify their voters,
and the means to assure they vote in 2014.
Democrats will not have the advantage of “problem” GOP
candidates this cycle, as occurred in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
In fact, most of the candidates making blunders this year
are Democrats (Bruce Braley in Iowa, now-withdrawn John
Walsh in Montana, et al). Nontheless, Democrats have
outraised the Republicans in campaign funding, and are
laboring mightily to make as many races be determined by
local issues and candidate personalities as possible.
The key, when all is said and done, to a wave election will
be in fact whether or not voters feel their choices will be
made as a reflection of their attitude and mood about
the national situation.
Watch for the signs of this to begin to appear (or fail to
appear) in polls about two weeks before election day. Until
then, the numbers will gyrate within a narrow range, and
several individual race outcomes will be uncertain.
Halloween falls on the Friday before election day this year.
We will by then have a better idea whether 2014 is going to be
trick or treat.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.