The only thing less popular than a Republican is a Tea Partier
Pundits want to remind you again and again that Democrats should get pounded this year.
That’s what tends to happen in a president’s party after six years of holding the White House. President Obama’s approval is below 50 percent and Republicans have a chance to pick up seven Senate seats in states Mitt Romney won.
The narrative is Democrats are about to get rocked and anything that distracts from that narrative gets ignored.
For instance, Gallup released a poll on Friday that showed the favorable rating for the Republican Party is at its lowest point during any election year since 1998 — lower than 2006, 2008 and 2012 when Democrats won in landslides. And the reactions was: Meh, Democrats are more popular than Republicans but who isn’t? The Sterlings?
The GOP has only gained 6 percent from its all-time low during last year’s government shutdown and the last time it was this low during an election year, Republicans in Congress were in the middle of impeaching and trying President Clinton. In 1998, Republicans were set to gain more than a dozen seats and ended up losing five.
This one indicator should not lead you to believe that Democrats are set for another landslide, though they do lead the generic congressional ballot polls by 1.5 percent. The party would need a lead of almost 8 percent to have hopes of taking back the House given how Americans are both naturally and artificially gerrymandered.
And even if people agree with Democrats on every issue, as voters tend to do, that doesn’t mean they’ll vote for them for a variety of issues.
However, pundits should stop pretending that this election is foregone conclusion. There are numerous reasons to suggest that 2014 may stun the experts.
The Senate Minority leader — who has about a 45–77 percent chance of becoming the Senate Majority Leader, depending on the model you prefer — is running neck and neck with his Democratic challenger. The GOP’s popularity is near all time lows and it it’s still more popular than the Tea Party.
And while Obamacare isn’t popular, repeal of the law — the position of nearly every Republican — is only embraced by about 33 percent of America, which creates all kinds of problems for GOP candidates as The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent keeps pointing out.
To win the Senate, Republicans will likely have to beat at least two of three Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Louisiana and North Carolina. In all three of these states, Republicans are blocking Medicaid expansion.
That means 17,290 Alaskans, 242,150 Louisianans and 318,710 North Carolinians are being deprived health insurance. These numbers resemble each of the incumbents’ margin of victory in 2008. Will people who earn just over poverty level and fall into that Medicaid gap show up to protest Republicans turning down health care on their behalf?
What about the over 2 million Americans who have been cut off unemployment insurance because the House GOP refuses to extend emergency relief, even though they supported extensions five times under George W. Bush?
These are voters who are not likely to show up at the polls, especially in an off-year election. If they did show up, the result would transform congressional politics.
Gallup also released a poll earlier this week that showed that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting than Democrats but far less enthusiastic than in 2010. That enthusiasm could be dulled even more by any sort of immigration reform passing or Republicans backing off their Obamacare repeal message that only resonates with the base.
What I’m saying is: Lots can happen — especially as untested Republican candidates start talking and answering questions.
And the fact that the GOP brand is beyond busted should be a big part of the conversation.
[Image via jbouie via Flickr.com]