Congressional elections–Democratic Party must make changes in strategy, and soon!
As we move ever closer to the 2014 Congressional elections, what is most salient to me is the relative silence from the Democrats at the national level. In their effort to run away from the negative poll numbers of President Obama, they have created a national message vacuum that the Republicans have managed to fill. As a result, the favorable advantage that the Democrats had held over Republicans in Congress has all but disappeared, and the Republicans have preempted the issues battle. All but gone is the blame with which the public held Republican congressmen and congresswomen for the budget stalemate that led to the government’s closure. Congress, in general, has received record low marks by the public, but Democrats were disliked significantly less than Republicans. The Democrats’ silence at the national level failed to exploit this advantage. The issue itself has become markedly less important to likely voters, and on the issues that do matter to themselves, the Republicans lead the Democrats in recent polling.
Gallup just reported that of the six most important issues to voters, Republicans were favored on four of them, and Democrats were favored on only one: “Equal pay for women.” Of the thirteen most important issues, Republicans led on seven and the Democrats on only four. The only hope for the Democrats is that the Republicans’ advantage over Democrats was only marginal on the important issues of “the economy” and “jobs.”
To be sure, off-year Congressional elections are historically decided on local issues. Those, however, are viewed against a canvas of national perception.
It should also be remembered that voter turnout is notoriously low in off-year elections. Only those most motivated will turnout. This year the voter turnout may be worse than usual. Gallup found that voter engagement was considerably lower than in 2010 and 2006. In the key categories of: “Extremely motivated to vote” and “More enthusiastic to vote than usual,” numbers were markedly lower today than in 2010. In the first category alone, which is a very good predictor of voter turnout, the numbers dropped from fifty percent in 2010 to just thirty-two percent today. A slim hope for the Democrats can be found in this number, in that less educated ideologues-most notably the Tea Party types-may not feel quite as inclined to vote (a possibility that should be explored in light of the regular Republican party’s defeat of many Tea Party candidates in their party Primary election.)
The overall negative poll numbers for Congress, in general, and both political parties, in particular, has led to a significant rise in the numbers of voters who now consider themselves as “Independent.” This “a pox on both of your houses” phenomenon provides potentially fertile ground for the President’s party, which to date has been squandered. At this writing, voters who now identify themselves as “Independent” tilt towards the Republicans on issues. They are still swayable, however.
Although now holding historically low ratings, The President has what Teddy Roosevelt called, “The Bully Pulpit.” And, it is even more “Bully” in today’s world of mass media and instant communication. President Obama’s team showed their skills with social media in his two campaigns for the Presidency. All of these resources should be mobilized to change what seems like an avalanche of obstacles for the Democrats to maintain control of the Senate.