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May 22, 2013 5:15 PM A Vote of Confidence for “The Narrative”

By Ed Kilgore

We will probably never again see anyone in the ranks of “expert” political prognosticators quite like what Dick Morris became last year, blithely basing predictions on what he wanted to happen along with big, vague “trend” assertions based on thin air.

But I gotta say, for a guy who is in the business of very precise election predictions, Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg got pretty unmoored from empirical evidence today. He moved six Senate races a notch in the direction of the GOP, en bloc. So far as we can tell, this shift wasn’t based on any state polls or money numbers, or even on national polls. It’s all about “the narrative:”

While national polls haven’t shown a shift in the public’s opinion of President Barack Obama’s performance, recent controversies have, in my view, significantly changed the political landscape.
And changes in the landscape have led the Rothenberg Political Report to change its Senate ratings.
For the past few years, the public’s focus has been on Republicans’ opposition to the president’s agenda, their desire to shrink (even cripple) government and their conservatism. But the IRS scandal, along with controversies involving the attack in Benghazi and the Justice Department’s collecting of journalists’ telephone records, has change the political narrative.
While the Oklahoma tornado tragedy will dominate media coverage for the next few days, the new political narrative that will re-emerge when journalists return to politics involves questions about what the administration knew, said and did.
The new focus on the Obama administration puts it on the defensive and should boost enthusiasm on the political right throughout this year.
While we don’t know how long the focus will stay on the administration — or whether Republicans will stumble over the investigations or matters of public policy — between now and the November midterms, it is undeniable that recent events have altered, at least for now, the trajectory of the 2014 elections.

That’s “undeniable?” Sorry, Stu, I deny it. “The narrative” suggested here is the one, of course, that the Republican Party is promoting, and maybe that will work out for them and maybe it will backfire, as even some GOPers fear. I sure as hell wouldn’t incorporate it into election odds until there’s a least some evidence that “Narrative” is being bought by the public, which ain’t happening just yet.

Rothenberg naturally tries to leaven his big vote of confidence in a GOP trend with lots of things-could-change qualifiers. But if I were him, I’d be on the lookout not only for a bit more objective evidence, but for any sudden desire to suck toes.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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