Political Animal


May 14, 2013 3:22 PM Everything’s Always a “Game-Changer”

By Ed Kilgore

So Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg gets himself very excited today and opines:

Forget background checks and gun control, divisions within the GOP on immigration, and Republican intransigence on negotiating a budget deal with the president. The current triple play of Benghazi, the IRS and now the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records has the potential to be a political game changer for 2014.
It’s hard to overstate the potential significance of the past week. What we are witnessing is nothing less than a dramatic reversal of the nation’s political narrative — from how bad the Republican brand is and how President Barack Obama is going to mobilize public opinion against the GOP in the midterm elections to whether the Obama administration has become so arrogant that it believes it can stonewall Congress and the public.
The series of revelations presents an unflattering picture of an administration that just 10 days ago looked poised and confident. Now it looks out of touch and unresponsive.

Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz read this hyperventilation and sent an email to several of us (Ezra Klein published it first) reminding everyone we heard this thing before over and over in 2012:

Here’s why this is very unlikely to be a “game changer.” The electorate is deeply divided along party lines. These partisan divisions are very deep because they now coincide with other divisions such as race, values and ideology. Therefore, events such as these are very unlikely to cause any large or long-term shift in evaluations of the president let alone party identification or voting intentions
We’re still 18 months from the 2014 midterm election. My prediction is that by the time we get to November, 2014, none of these “game changers” will be of great concern to voters any more than the numerous supposed 2012 game changers were on the minds of voters in November of 2012.

This is very important to remember before we get too far down the rabbit hole of scandal politics. There are both real and bogus issues involved in the “triple play,” and Republicans will do everything imaginable to exploit both. There are perils for them in doing so, including most notably the opportunity costs associated with not doing much of anything else. But the midterms are a year-and-a-half-away, and all the hyperventilating in the world won’t blow away real-life issues or significantly change partisan affiliations. And on top of everything else, we’ve heard this before when the day’s or week’s or month’s Beltway obsession gets turned into the Eschaton.

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.


  • Ron Byers on May 14, 2013 3:49 PM:

    I am still trying to figure out why I should be mad at Obama for any of these scandals. Hell I am trying to figure out why they are "scandals" in the first place. The IRS maybe, but the other two?

  • c u n d gulag on May 14, 2013 3:55 PM:

    Well, since their outrage over the tragedy in Benghazi wasn't getting much traction with the public, they were extatic to see the IRS situation come up at the end of last week.

    Now, this AP story seems like another "God-send."

    But, they might want to be careful.

    They need to do something they're fundamentally incapable of doing - and that is be cautious, and let events unfold, to see what, if anything, they can use to the greatest advantage.

    Unfortunately for them, they are now a party of desperate and craven attention-starved shepherds ready to cry "WOLF," without checking whether that's really a wolf out their, or some stray puppy.

    The worst thing they can do, after Bush wore non-Conservative Americans out with real "scandal fatigue," is wear those same Americans out with faux-scandal fatigue.

    But, hey, after all, they ARE "The Stupid Party," so, don't be surprised if they wear out the public with their obsession(s) the same way they did with their relentless chase after Bill Clinton's penis.

    Clinton, of course, disproved the old adage, "The cover-up afterwards is always worse than the crime."

    If he had 'covered up' his bad-boy BEFORE he and Monica committed the "crime," there would have been no evidence for anyone to find.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on May 14, 2013 4:16 PM:

    Watching this is worse than watching a panel full of has-been beyond-their-prime entertainers trying to "discover" the next Whitney Houston or Bob Dylan, trying desperately to have a hand in the next big thing... If it weren't so damnable I'd pity the bastards.

  • Peter C on May 14, 2013 5:03 PM:

    I agree @Ron, the more I know, the less upset I am.

    A diplomat (with a fair amount of automony) leaves the capital of a dangerous country and gets ambushed by terrorists. But, we can't expect our diplomats to always stay safe inside their walled compounds.

    The IRS looks carefully at polical groups trying to maskerade as social welfare organizations for tax and disclosure purposes despite radical court interpretations which all-but gut campaign finance regulations. When a higher-up hears about it, she adjusts the guidelines to assure that they are not targeted by toward one side.

    The CIA investigates the AP for compromising our mole within a terrorist organization.

    It seems more like a 'perfect storm of meh'.