The signs are moving in the direction that the Republicans will be successful in November.
Watching the pendulum of power switch back and forth is an exercise of Washington pundits. For 40 years, Democrats reigned supreme in Congress, controlling the House of Representatives for an unprecedented period that included all but four of the preceding 72 years. But in 1994, the Republicans stormed back by picking up 54 seats in a midterm election landslide spearheaded by Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America. Some 12 years later, the Democrats regained the majority in the 2006 midterm elections amidst an unpopular war in Iraq and the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. What everyone needs to understand is that such momentum shifting elections like 1994 and 2006 are uncommon and largely marked by cataclysmic events in American politics. As the country continues to approach the November mid-term election the question remains – are we headed in the same or new directions? All signs indicate change is in the wings.
By most accounts on both sides of the aisle, America is livid. Based on current polling data, 73 percent of the public holds an unfavorable opinion of Congress while the president’s disapproval rating is just below 50 percent. It’s clear that the American people are unhappy with the status quo of Washington as millions continue to be out of work. It’s a tough time for politicians of all stripes and colors. Playing off of the dismay of the American public, Republicans are taking advantage of the sentiment in an effort to regain the majority. In fact, according to a Gallup poll taken last week, the GOP took an unprecedented 10-point lead on a generic ballot. Leading 54 – 41 among registered voters, the recent survey is the largest lead the party has held since Gallup began the poll in 1942. Then the poll switched again the following week to a near dead-even situation. Most polls do, however, show a clear Republican advantage moving into the mid-term elections. So is public opinion that fluid or is something else going on with the American public?
Though the Gallup poll may be an outlier, it has created an alarm for Democrats. While some pundits claim that a single poll has no implications on the fall’s elections, other polling data released in the last week illustrates that the liberal perspective is in trouble. According to an Associated Press poll, Americans with the strongest opinions on the country’s most pressing issues are seemingly unilaterally opposed to the Democrats’ agenda. Furthermore, the survey shows that Republicans led in 9 out of 15 issues compared to Democrats, which is clearly disappointing news for the incumbent Democratic majority.
Even on healthcare, the crown jewel issue for the White House and the Democrat-controlled Congress, a tracking poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation released last week showed that the Democratic gains made with the American public on health reform have evaporated. Over the past month, support for the overhaul dropped seven points to 43 percent while opposition rose 10 points and stands at 45 percent. These results represent the lowest approval rating on health reform since May and the numbers are certainly not what many leaders in Washington had hoped for in moving to the midterm elections.
The Republicans need 40 seats to take control of the House and are more bullish than ever on their prospects. Even among Democrats in Washington, many have begun to quietly concede the prospect that their party will either barely hang on to or absolutely lose control in the House. However, a GOP takeover of the Senate is much less likely. With 10 seats needed to take back the majority in the upper chamber, many are predicting that Republicans will more likely pick up closer to eight seats.
So should the Republicans prepare to celebrate? The chances are increasingly likely at this point. Though the atmosphere is wide open, it seems the headwinds are more strongly in favor of the Republicans than at any point over the past 16 years. After four years, the pendulum seems about to swing with the ultimate question being “how far?”
The final question that is now making the discussion circuits is whether or not Barack Obama is up to the task of leading a split legislative branch. He’s never served as a governor with legislative opposition or had to manage bipartisan government. His experience prior to serving as president was as a state senator from the South side of Chicago and a junior senator from Illinois. How quickly can he transition to a new world where the give-and-take of bipartisan discussion will be the norm for moving any kind of policy forward? We all live on instinct and experience. The question being asked in Washington now is does President Barack Obama have the capability of a Clinton or Reagan to shift course and move in new directions? We will see…
Kevin Fickenscher, MD
The views and opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Dell Services or its affiliates.