On Wednesday afternoon, President Obama declared, "I am not on the ballot this fall. Michele’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza called it “28 words that Democrats really wish President Obama didn’t say.”
Why? The assumption is that President Obama is a drain on Democrats desperate to survive his unpopular numbers in key states. Democrats have been anxious not to nationalize the election as a referendum on President Obama. Every Democratic candidate is trying to run, in essence, as an independent. Will it work?
A month out from the mid-term elections and no one knows who will control the Senate in January 2015. All models favor Republicans to varying degrees, but the world changes fast. Who would have thought a couple of months ago that beheading would be a hot topic of discussion in this cycle?
My guess—and it’s just that—is that either Democrats manage to hold onto the Senate or most of these close races break Republican. For my money, Colorado is the real litmus test. It’s been a tough state for Republicans of late and I’d bet that if Cory Gardner beats Udall, the incumbent Democrat, then we’ll see Iowa, Alaska, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana all going Republican—plus one “surprise,” most likely New Hampshire.
If that happens, it will obviously mean this will be considered a major “wave” election. If so, it will be unusual for lack of an obvious unifying national agenda, other than the President’s unpopularity. The most dramatic wave cycles have featured an obvious thematic, like the 1994 “Contract for America,” the 2002 war on terror, or the 2010 reaction to Obamacare.
Two of those also had a leader pushing the agenda. In 1994, Newt Gingrich was relatively unknown, with six out of ten voters having no opinion of him, which gave him the appeal of the most powerful word in American advertising: new. In 2002, President Bush spent the last three weeks of the election campaigning in almost every key state.
In 2010, Republicans gained 63 House seats and seven Senate seats—the largest number of seats changing parties since 1948—but interestingly it lacked a prominent figure articulating a change message. Instead there was the emergence of a Tea Party movement that brought many traditionally low-propensity voters to the polls.
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