More close races expected
The setting is classic for what is often termed a “wave” election, when the opposition party to a political administration gains significantly in the mid-term congressional elections.
What contributes to the wave is first and foremost, an unpopular administration. In that regard the Obama administration certainly qualifies with approval ratings hovering in the low 40s.
Next, what helps a wave occur is public dissatisfaction over the direction of the country. That too is occurring as a new CBS news poll (Sept. 30, 2014) reports that only 27 percent of voters think American policies are going in the right direction.
Additionally, few congressional House seats remain competitive as a result of political parties gerrymandering their districts to allow them to pick their voters. Consequently, it is seen as highly unlikely that Republican control of the House of Representatives could change in 2014.
Even more indicative of change, 21 of 36 Senate seats up for grabs in 2014 are held by Democrats, with many in Red states where Republicans have dominated election victories. Democrats have more seats to defend and many in states hostile to Democratic politics.
All of these contributing factors should point to a Republican sweep of the 2014 midterm elections.
But oddly, given the metrics above, there are instead many very close Senate elections within the margin of polling error a short week before the election.
There have not been the kind of Republican candidates as in recent elections, winners of primaries but too extreme to win a general election; there have been no Republican embarrassments nationally since the shutting down of the government a year ago; and there has certainly been no shortfall of funding since Citizens United became law.
The reason may lie in recent polling that suggests the last Congress may be the worst Congress on record. A September 2014 CNN/ORC poll found that 65 percent of adults polled thought that this was the worst Congress in their lifetimes.
A September CBS poll found that only 21 percent of respondents approved of the job Republicans are doing in Congress. 29 percent reported they thought Democrats are doing their job in congress, a difference of statistical significance in what could now become a close election.
Voters do not believe their Congress represents them; they do not believe their elected officials will accomplish anything; and they do not think compromise is going to be the outcome of the 2014 elections. In short, voters do not believe that changes they seek in policies will actually happen as a result of this election.
Republicans have heard this concern on their campaign trails and Senator Portman of Ohio, on Meet the Press this week, advanced that, if the Senate gives Republicans a majority, Republicans will work with the president to get government working.
Only 38 percent of Republicans in a recent Wall Street Journal poll seek compromise, far fewer than Independents or Democrats, so Portman’s statement has little support among the Republican rank and file.
Will Republicans suddenly embrace Obamacare and fix its flaws? Will Republicans instantly decide that immigration reform must happen? Will Republicans immediately after the election seek out the President to create a bipartisan tax reform bill?
Much more likely is Republicans will try to take credit for the U.S. success in the creation of new energy sources and will undertake enough administration investigations to hopefully help their 2016 election opportunities.
And of course the next two years in Congress will once again not be about the peoples’ business but about the 2016 presidential elections and what Republicans can do in Congress to help their chances to win the White House.
Republicans will likely win a Senate majority, but not until January 2015, when Georgia and Louisiana runoff elections are decided.
Little will change.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.