Your 2014 Choice: President Obama vs. 'War on Women'
A month from the midterm elections, an unusual dividing line has developed in the narrative of each party’s candidates and the national parties.
Republicans are happy to run against President Obama: a new Gallup poll shows a near record number of voters who plan to use their vote to protest against the president. These numbers are in line with those from 2010, when Republicans picked up 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats in the midterms with voter anger focused on Obamacare. The numbers also match up with the results in 2006, when opposition to President Bush over the Iraq War and his handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina led to Democrats taking control of both houses of Congress, winning 6 Senate seats and 29 House seats. In general, voters who are angry are a bit more passionate about voting than those who want to express support, particularly in midterms when turnout is well below what is seen in presidential election years.
Below, Gallup describes the results from its latest poll of registered voters. Note that Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com has argued that Republican support is usually a few points stronger among likely voters than is picked up in registered voter surveys:
Registered voters are more likely to view their choice of candidate in this year's midterm elections as a message of opposition (32%) rather than support (20%) for President Barack Obama. That 12-percentage-point margin is similar to what Gallup measured for Obama in 2010 and George W. Bush in 2006, years in which their parties performed poorly in the midterm elections.
Surprisingly, given these bleak polling numbers of which the White House is clearly aware, President Obama seemed to double down this week, saying the upcoming Congressional elections were in fact a vote on his presidency:
Now, I am not on the ballot this fall. ... But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot -- every single one of them.
In The Atlantic, David Graham argues that, given the current lay of the land, Obama may believe that the Democrats’ best hope is to fire up their base so they are as angry at Republicans or enthusiastic about President Obama as Republican are angry at the president and his party.
The president’s strongest base is black voters. The response among this group to the recent Secret Service problems with a fence jumper at the White House and a potentially dangerous man riding in the elevator with the president in Atlanta at the CDC is exemplified by the comments made by constituents of Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Paranoia seemed to reign supreme, as Cummings claimed he was told that white Secret Service agents were allowing threats to get close to the black president.
That some blacks may see things in such a distorted fashion suggests the degree to which blacks see the president as their own, and remain intensely loyal to him and protective of him. This makes it very likely that they will continue to vote in lock-step fashion for his party, regardless of what he or other Democratic elected officials may or may not have done for them. The administration’s response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson seems to have played well with blacks to the extent it has increased their sense of victimhood, making race-sensitive election appeals more likely to succeed.
A cynic would say that the continued demonstrations in the St. Louis area about this incident are designed to keep the pressure on the Ferguson grand jury, but also to keep the story alive for blacks around the country -- particularly in states with large black populations such as North Carolina and Louisiana, where competitive Senate races are to be decided.