Andrew Kohut thinks so:
Tucked away in recent polls—which have documented the extraordinary anger directed at the Republican Party during the shutdown crisis—are measures of clear disappointment with the Democratic Party. The disappointment is substantial, and it raises big questions about the 2014 midterms.
The Republican Party’s favorable ratings fell substantially in most every national survey that uses this yard stick, declining to 28% in the Gallup poll at one point. Yet when the GOP was matched up against the Democrats on key political measures, it did not look so bad.
A mid-October Pew Research national poll found that a plurality regard the Republicans as “better able to deal with the economy” than the Democrats (44%-37%). Independents favored the GOP on the economy by a whopping 46%-30% margin in that survey.
The Republicans took most of the blame for the shutdown, yet a growing number see the GOP as “better able to manage the government.” In December 2012, the Democratic Party held a 45%-36% advantage over the GOP as the party Americans viewed as better able to manage the government. By Oct. 15—in the midst of the shutdown and debt crisis—the Democratic lead on this measure disappeared: 42% said the Republican Party is better able to manage the federal government, compared with 39% who named the Democrats.
An early read of voter preferences for the House in 2014 by the Pew Research Center in mid-October had the Democrats with a six-point edge: 49% to 43% among registered voters. In historical terms, this is a relatively modest margin. Six points is the same lead the Democrats had in 2009, a lead that steadily eroded in 2010. The GOP picked up six Senate seats and 63 House seats in that year’s midterm.
The anger over the government shut-down is fading. But at the moment, ObamaCare is the gift that keeps on giving. And, of course, there’s the struggling economy. Neither the economy nor ObamaCare promise to fade into obscurity before the mid-term elections next year. One indicator of how deep the looming trouble is for Democrats can be found in the numbers associated with independent voters:
One clear troubling sign for the Democrats at this early stage is independent voters, who decide most elections. They are evenly divided, according to Pew’s mid-October survey: 43% say that “if the elections for Congress were being held today,” they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, 43% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate.
The reason there’s hope for good results in 2014 for Republicans rests with the two issues nagging Democrats. Healthcare and the economy. Both are very personal issues, i.e. they are issues that effect all voters. They’re not some issue which voters simply have an opinion about. Both effect their lives, sometimes in dramatic fashion. And those are the very issues Republicans, if they’re smart, will focus on:
The economy and ObamaCare’s inauspicious debut are likely the most powerful drags on the president and in turn on his party. In a September Pew survey, 63% of Americans say the nation’s economic system is no more secure today than it was before the 2008 market crash.
A majority of Americans say their household incomes and jobs still have not recovered from the great recession. But pluralities think that government’s policies have helped large banks, corporations and the rich more than the middle-class, the poor or small businesses.
So maybe it isn’t as bleak for Republicans as some pundits would like to believe. That said, we’ve all watched the GOP manage to screw up all sorts of issues in the past. 2014 is going to take a focused effort to lay out those 2 issues for the pubic in clear fashion and with clear and appealing alternatives.
I’ll be interested to see if they can do that.