Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Don't look now, but recent polling indicates that the momentum Republicans had going for them only a few months ago appears to be abating. November can't get here fast enough for them.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll had some very interesting results. Almost without exception questions that mentioned Obama showed a clear edge for Republicans. However, when the questions posed pitted Democrats against Republicans, the overwhelming majority of them favored Democrats, some of them by wide margins.
Even worse for the GOP is another recent poll showing that support for the Affordable Care Act seems to be increasing among independents. Back in December 2013, independents favored repeal by 12 points; as of April, those very same independents favored implementing and fixing the law by 7 points. That's a 19 point swing in five months. Making it more problematic for Republicans is that this poll was taken in battleground states, the ones they need to retake the Senate.
The message couldn't be clearer. Voters, particularly independent voters, have moved on. The Republican base can huff and puff all they want, the repeal spiel isn't selling anymore. That might explain why some House Republicans - among them Speaker John Boehner - are shifting gears politically. The word repeal, why not entirely stricken from the GOP vocabulary, has certainly been redacted a bit. In less than six months, they've gone from repeal, to repeal and replace, to just replace.
While not yet ready to cry uncle with respect to Obamacare, the shift in strategy by the GOP is seen by some as an acknowledgement that even they know the law is here to stay. Call them intransigent, call them myopic, call them backwards, but know this much: they can read poll numbers, especially in swing states.
True, if you compare polls taken in April four years ago to ones taken just this month, they are eerily familiar. There is, however, one very important difference. In 2010, Democratic approval numbers were plummeting and Republicans were ascending. They rode the ensuing tsunami into one of the most one-sided midterm elections ever. Just the opposite appears to be happening this year. Republicans seem to have peaked already, while Democrats appear to be catching their second wind.
No matter how you slice it, this isn't 2010; not by a long shot. If the GOP is to retake the Senate, they're going to have to do something they haven't done in six years: come up with a message that doesn't begin and end with repealing Obamacare.
Of course, that's easier said than done. Party leadership can shift gears and change all the messaging it wants, but its fortunes will still rise and fall on the quality of its candidates. Lest we forget, the last two times the GOP set its sights on control of the Senate, it was undermined by the likes of Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Were it not for its own self-inflicted wounds, Republicans might very well be in majority in both chambers of Congress. If history ends up repeating itself this year, the GOP can kiss the Senate goodbye.
According to Real Clear Politics, if the election were held today, Democrats would hold onto their majority, 51-49, by basically holding serve in North Carolina and Arkansas, and picking off Kentucky. Even if Mitch McConnell manages to hang on, Democrats will still control the Senate by virtue of the fact that Joe Biden would be the tie-breaking vote. Keep in mind that even with all the mojo on their side in 2010, the best Republicans could do was pick up six seats.
As things stand now, it's anybody's ball game. With the election just over six months away, a lot can happen. But this much is certain. If the GOP doesn't come up with a viable message to take to the voters this fall, they will go 0 for 3 in their quest.
With 2016 and Hillary Clinton only two years away, this may be the last opportunity Republicans have of wielding any meaningful power for quite some time.