Democrats are fond of pointing out that the president has an approval rating higher than Congress. But there is unpopular, and then there is really unpopular. Gallup reports:
Thirty-one percent of Americans view [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi favorably and 48% unfavorably. Her resulting net -17 image score compares with -11 for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, -10 for Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, and -8 for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Pelosi also rates as the most polarizing of the four congressional leaders, a distinction she also held the last time all four were rated, in May 2010. . . . More specifically, 62% of Democrats view Pelosi favorably, while 83% of Republicans view her unfavorably — a 145-percentage-point spread. This compares with a 109-point spread for Reid, a 102-point spread for Boehner, and a 90-point spread for McConnell.
To be clear, Democratic leadership is less popular than GOP leadership. A couple of consequences may flow from that.
First, the Republicans will likely try to nationalize the 2014 election, pointing to the danger of entrusting Pelosi with the House and the uber-liberalism of Reid, which has resulted in historic unproductively for the Senate. Vulnerable Democrats in red states will insist they are independent and more representative of their home states, but so long as they support Reid the argument falls flat. Moreover, red state Democrats have nearly uniformly rubber stamped the Obama-Reid agenda on everything from the stimulus to taxes to Obamacare.
Second, it behooves Senate and House Republicans to lay out what they are for, not merely what they are against. That means specifics on an Obamacare replacement and tax reform. It also suggests that they not been seen as obstructionist themselves on items like immigration reform. In this regard it would be helpful to lay out an agenda with a number of reform items (e.g. Sen. Rand Paul’s drug law reforms, Sen. Marco Rubio higher education and college tuition reforms, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s proposals on flexible work hours and other quality of life issues).
The success Republicans will enjoy in 2014 will be directly attributable to casting the Democratic Party as too far left and too inflexible, with Reid and Pelosi as the poster children. That only works if Republicans themselves don’t appear extreme an instransigent.