After the terrible disappointment of the 2012 Presidential race, one is reluctant to let one’s expectations get too far out in front of the calendar. Reporters want things to be close and uncertain so that you will remain tuned in. Campaign managers want things to be close to wring that final $10 donation out of you. Nevertheless, absentee voting has already begun and much is knowable. Here are some “known knowns”:
The macro climate is terrible for Democrats. The Real Clear Politics average of “country direction” polling has 27% “right track”, and 65% “wrong track” and falling. The president’s polling is 14% under water on the economy and 21% under water on foreign policy. Republicans are up 3% on the generic congressional ballot. As the pollsters transition from “registered voters” to “likely voters” the Republicans will pick up a couple of points, and their base is more highly motivated.
Public attitudes like these are not an accident; they are earned by the party in power.
– Internet videos of ISIS beheading Americans as they have marched across Syria and Iraq have made the failure of the president’s Mideast policy impossible to ignore. There is little confidence in his ability to lead a successful coalition to eliminate ISIS and no coherent plan for dealing with the Syrian civil war. Blaming it on Bush has passed its expiration date. Blaming his previous dismissal of ISIS asa JVs on an “intelligence failure” is receiving easy pushback since the likelihood of the Syrian militants taking over territory in Iraq was in the media a year ago, and the current situation was predicted by the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in February Congressional testimony. It doesn’t help that President Obama has blown off nearly 60% of his daily intelligence briefings.
– For this election cycle the administration has played immigration to the political detriment of both the Left and the Right, first promising an executive order on amnesty before the end of summer, then promising that it would come after the election, and that it would be substantial.Settling the illegal Central American kids in every state may have a long range benefit for the Democrats, but not this November.
– In fairness, many of the economic numbers are improving – unemployment down to 6.1%, GDP is growing at a 2 to 4 % rate. Unfortunately for the president’s party, the percentage of the population out of the work force is at a 36 year high, family earnings are declining, and fully 75% of the voters now believe that their children’s lives will not be more full than theirs – down 13% in two years, and an all-time low on that polling question. Can you say Jimmy Carter.
– A drip, drip, drip of bad news on Obamacare – hundreds of thousands who will have to pay back subsidies (once the government figures out how to administer that); more rate increases for the 2015 sign up period which begins in November; the implementation of coverage requirements for larger companies starting in January; increased fines for those who do not obtain coverage. The president’s signature accomplishment remains any Democrat candidate’s major millstone with approval under 30%.
– Beyond the normal big stuff, the aura of incompetence continues to mount: the Secret Service failures; the viruses spread by illegal immigrants who have not been checked before being distributed; lingering Veterans Administration problems; now fears that Ebola may not be controlled.
So, how about some predictions on the “known unknowns”:
– Democrat-leaning Nate Silver gives the Republicans a 60% chance of gaining the six net seats required for control of the Senate; the Real Clear Politics average of pollsters has recently moved from a gain of five to a gain of seven. Most prognosticators give the Democrats a chance of taking Kansas, while giving the Republicans a virtual certainty of taking Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, a good probability of taking Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska, small but growing leads in Iowa and Colorado, and outside shots in North Carolina New Hampshire, and Michigan.
– The Democrats – other than Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman- Schultz – have long-ago given up hope of retaking the House. While a year ago the talk was of Democrats gaining a few seats, the current perspective is summed up by Stu Rothenberg: “If the breeze at the backs of Republican candidates is strong enough (sweeping in GOP nominees who would not win in a “neutral” environment), then net Republican House gains in the double digits certainly are possible.” While the allegiances of most districts are pretty well set until the next census, there are perhaps 30 that can shift, and several that swung Democrat in the Obama reelection are expected to revert to Republican with the lower turnout of a non-presidential year and the hostile climate.
– Governorships are a mixed bag, tending to be more driven by personalities and local perspectives. Real Clear Politics shows a Democratic gain of two, with a few potential 2016 presidential or vice-presidential candidates in play – Kasich up 30% in Ohio after being close a year ago; Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Nikki Haley in South Carolina safely ahead; and Scott Walker in Wisconsin pulling ahead by low single digits.
If you are superstitious, it may be prudent to avoid the venue of your 2012 election party, but it looks safe to order the champagne.
This week’s bonus video is a short introduction to Wisconsin Governor and potential presidential candidate Scott Walker – in a context other than his clash with public employee unions and the resultant 2012 recall effort. Assuming reelection, he will draw some interest.