This should be a huge midterm election for Republicans, especially for the Senate, where they need six seats to seize control of the upper chamber and send Harry Reid back to the business end of his filibuster reform. After all, it just took a little overreach and arrogance for Barack Obama and the Democrats to end up in the 2010 shredder, losing the House in the first midterms for Obama. After lying for five years with the “you can keep your plan” promise and the skyrocketing costs for health insurance set to hammer the middle class, 2014 should make 2010 look like a picnic … right? Larry Sabato thinks so, assuming Republicans don’t blow the opportunity:
I’d argue that three factors are paramount: the president, the economy and the election playing field. And, at least preliminarily, those three factors seem to be pointing toward Republican gains in both houses in the 2014 midterms.
1. The president. His job approval numbers are perhaps the best indicator of the public’s overall political orientation at any given time, a kind of summary statistic that takes everything at the national level into account. In a large majority of cases, the president’s party does poorly in midterms, especially the second midterm of a two-term administration. …
As 2014 begins, the environment for the Democrats in this election year is not good. The botched, chaotic rollout of the Affordable Care Act is the obvious cause, but it is broader than that: the typical sixth-year unease that produces a “send-them-a-message” election. Fortunately for Democrats, the GOP-initiated shutdown of the federal government in October has tempered the public’s desire for a shift to the Republican side, too. “None of the above” might win a few races in November if voters had the choice.
As long as Republicans keep the focus on ObamaCare, the incompetence of its administration, and the falsehoods used to sell it, they should do well against Democrats forced to defend it. Sabato notes that “this year’s Senate slate strongly favors the Republicans,” and that will remain true as long as Republicans keep aiming at Democrats.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing a lot of effort at aiming at Republicans, especially in what would be otherwise safe Senate seats. In my column today for The Week, I point out the stakes involved in this midterm election and agree with Gov. Scott Walker that we risk disaster by redirecting our aim internally rather than externally:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sees the same danger. In an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley, the potential presidential contender warned activists that, while their energy and frustration are appreciated, their target selection is way off. Those unhappy with budget compromises need to aim at Senate Democrats rather than sitting Republicans, Walker explained, so that Republicans gain rather than lose leverage. “[G]o to Louisiana or go to Arkansas or go to North Carolina or Alaska, where there are senators facing real elections as Democrats,” Walker advised, “and go and help in those elections and elect new Republicans to come because a year from now, things will be much different if Republicans hold the United States Senate.”
That’s good advice. Thanks to Harry Reid’s dismantling of the filibuster, just standing pat in the Senate for the final two years of Obama’s presidency won’t be enough for Republicans. The GOP needs the majority to force Obama into compromises on appointments as well as to control the floor agenda on legislation. That will still put Republicans in opposition to Obama, but they can set the table themselves in Congress and force Obama to deal with them directly, rather than have Reid running interference. The GOP will also need to take as many Senate seats in 2014, because the 2016 class of the Senate will be tougher on Republicans.
This isn’t to say that the grassroots activists have no legitimate reasons for their anger with Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, or to suggest that primary challenges are a bad practice. In 2014, though, the opportunity to finally sideline Reid and take command of Capitol Hill is too good to pass up. This last chance to use both chambers of Congress to slow down the Obama administration should have the Tea Party pointing their rhetorical and activist guns outward rather than inward.
In this case, we’re better off getting Republicans elected rather than spending this election in a purification effort. Right now, the majority has got to be the priority.