I’d love to tell you that this strategy is nutty but after the last election I assume it’s already been vetted and deemed foolproof by an elite team of liberal Nobel-prize-winning behavioral scientists and supercomputer-enabled statistical models. Meanwhile, somewhere in Virginia, the GOP’s strategy squad is pushing colored thumbtacks into a paper map of the U.S.
If you’ve been wondering where O’s out-of-left-field push for a minimum-wage hike in the SOTU came from, this is where. It polls well, and right now his only chance to get anything important done in his second term is by pushing dumb yet popular ideas in hopes of leveraging them to reclaim the House in 2014.
In an interview today, DCCC chair Steve Israel told me the party’s House candidates will be running aggressively on Obama’s proposals to reduce gun violence and raise the minimum wage. Both will be incorporated into a broader indictment of the GOP as so imprisoned by ideological extremism that the party has been rendered incapable of tackling the major challenges facing the country.
“Both the minimum wage and reducing gun violence are priority issues in the districts we need to win,” Israel said. “Both are a reminder to suburban independent voters that House Republicans are extreme, and out of touch. On both, House Republicans have rejected solutions and have embraced obstructionism, turning their backs on millions of hard working American families.” Israel said Dems would use both issues in TV advertising against GOP candidates.
Polls show broad support for raising the minimum wage and for Obama’s gun proposals, particularly expanding background checks. Many House Republicans represent safe districts, and are insulated from broader public opinion. But Israel said Democrats had identified at least dozen House GOP districts that Dems believe will be receptive to arguments about issues like the minimum wage and gun violence.
There’s “broad support” for background checks; other planks of O’s gun-control program like banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines do frequently poll a bit above 50 percent but not nearly so much as to make Republican congressmen sweat. But then, per the excerpt, this isn’t really about gun control. It’s about rattling off a bunch of stuff that sounds good or good-ish to the average voter and emphasizing that the GOP is implacably opposed to all of it. We’re back to the “party of no” talking point circa 2009, except this time Obama will have his newly reconfigured campaign organization working hard to turn out his lefty base for the midterms the way they did last year. That’s a tall order but tossing them red meat by making gun control a centerpiece issue will help. Why bother with things like the economy? If eight percent unemployment was no bar to him being reelected, it shouldn’t hurt Democrats much in 2014.
As for the minimum wage, here’s the most depressing poll data you’ll see this year. I thought it was Republican orthodoxy that forcing employers to pay wages above what the market suggests is bound to have all sorts of pernicious economic consequences, starting with higher unemployment due to there suddenly being less money available for new hires. And yet:
You’ve got 50 percent support among Republicans. And you’ve got 60 percent support among non-tea-party Republicans. See now why Steve Israel thinks he can flip a few purple districts next year? There aren’t many left. But there are a few.
Exit question: Why isn’t immigration on the list of Democratic hot buttons here? Is it because O thinks McCain and Rubio will make a deal with him on a bill before then? Or is it because immigration’s just a little too risky an issue on which to go hard-left during a midterm election? If the latter, then look again at those numbers on letting illegals stay. That issue polls about as well lately as the assault-weapons ban does.