The Looming Democrat Disaster
The second presidential midterm has historically been a disaster for the political party whose man is in the White House. In 2006, Republicans lost both houses of Congress as Bush fatigue not only led voters to vote against Republicans, but also led many Republicans to stay home. Although there have been a few anomalies -- like 1998, when the Senate Republicans' cravenness in Clinton's impeachment trial opened the door for modest Democrat gains; in 1986; in 1974; in 1966; in 1958; and in 1942 (a third midterm, but in a four-term presidency) -- the party in power generally suffers dramatic losses.
Democrats are beginning to realize that there simply is no sleight of hand that will shift the attention of energized Republicans or raise the spirits of disheartened Democrats in 2014. That would suggest that in House races, which happen every year, and in state government races, which are generally set to coincide with midterm elections rather than presidential elections, Democrats will lose many races for seats that they currently hold.
House Democrats can only look with dread at the current presidential polling data. It is worse than in 2010, when Democrats suffered tremendous losses. Rasmussen, for example, shows that on Election Day in 2010, 28% of Americans "strongly approved" of Obama's performance as president, while 44% of American "strongly disapproved," for a difference among voters with strong opinions of -16% for Democrats. What does Rasmussen show today? Only 22% of Americans "strongly approve" of Obama's performance while 44% "strongly disapprove," which is a difference among voters with strong opinions of -22%.
There is no reason to doubt that those numbers will leak into state legislative races -- that is just what happened in 2010 -- and Republicans could actually come out of the 2014 election with control of more state legislative chambers than they had after 2010. This could easily reach the greatest disparity in state legislative support between the two major parties that Republicans have enjoyed since their party was formed in 1856.
Secondary statewide elective offices, which often get little attention, should produce similar results. The number of Republicans who are lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor, and the like could also reach a historic high. While governor's races often stand on their own, a few percentage points could easily tip five or six gubernatorial races.
If this happens -- if Republicans have a tsunami as in 2010 -- then a whole range of changes in state law that affect big labor, education bosses, voter fraud and voter ID issues, abortion laws, tort reform, and the like could produce before the 2016 presidential election sweeping Republican reforms at the state level which will weaken the Democrats' traditional allies and create many success stories that show how sensible conservative policies work.
As if that were not enough, the Senate class of 2014 has turned into a nightmare. Seats in Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana are all vulnerable, and in states like Iowa, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado, the seats could easily flip in a strong Republican tide. Even Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Oregon cannot be considered completely safe for Democrats.
If Republicans make major gains in the House, win a working majority in the Senate, and hold a clear preponderance of power in state government, what will Obama's last two years in office be like? His nominees will face grilling and, depending upon how radical they are, rejection by the Senate. More and more states could pull out of the ObamaCare catastrophe, rendering Obama's keynote issue gutted and despised.
The House and Senate, if the filibuster rules are modified, could force upon this hapless "leader" one popular bill after another, leaving him the sole and lonely option of vetoing (or signing and allowing Republicans to govern). Assuming he haughtily and angrily vetoes these bills, Obama faces an even worse fate: many Democrats, already saddled with an increasingly unpopular president, may feel forced to join Republicans in overriding the veto. Few images in American politics are as pathetic as a president who cannot even sustain a veto with the support of his party.
In the end, Barack Obama, who dreamed of being a transformative president like Ronald Reagan, may end up being a transformative president of an entirely different kind. Obama could end up being the Democrats' version of Richard Nixon.