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February 25, 2014 9:37 AM Fundamentals and Ephemera for 2014

By Ed Kilgore

In discussions of the upcoming midterm elections, there are serious analyses that weigh multiple factors that might affect the outcome, and then there’s just loose talk based more or less on random variables, usually those that seem positive for the Home Team, whoever that is.

We’re very pleased today to publish an original piece by Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, that seeks to separate what we know from what we don’t know about November 2014. He thinks the general consensus that this will be another gangbuster cycle for the GOP is based on shifting sands—or, using Nate Silver’s terminology, on “noise” rather than actual “signals” we are getting from the electorate.

Gans concedes that midterm turnout patterns and the Senate landscape are legitimate reasons for Republican optimism. But beyond those, many of the factors people tend to cite—Obama’s approval ratings, the daily chatter between the two parties, the state of the economy, the current obsession with ACA implementation—are ephemeral, and conditions could change between now and November. Above all, he thinks Republicans are likely to pay a price for their obstructionism, the absence of a positive agenda, and divisions in their ranks.

The GOP, by choice, is offering nothing but attacks on the ACA, scandal-mongering on the Benghazi and IRS missteps and a roadblock against any fiscal initiative that would improve the economy and put the many unemployed, under-employed and out-of-the -labor force to work…..
[I]t is hard to believe that a party whose leader in the Senate would see in 2011 his single most important goal as “to make Obama a one-term president,” and whose leader in the House would say, “We should not be judged on how many laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal,” would be given a 2014 mandate to continue on its present path.

I still think Republicans are going to have a good year overall, though perhaps with some more serious state-level Democratic gains than now seem expected. But Gans raises legitimate questions we need to keep asking ourselves as November gets nearer.

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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