So will Democrats, seeing the headlines over the last few days, decide to wait for 2016 or 2018 or later?
It’s far too early to guess at that. Barack Obama’s Gallup approval rating today was 48%; that’s not terrific, but it’s not bad. And the Republican Party remains as unpopular as ever. That’s added up, through earlier this month, to a continuing Democratic advantage in the generic ballot question.
Could that change? Sure — in either direction. And we’re still early enough in the cycle that candidates could still wait for months to decide; indeed, we’re early enough that candidates who have publicly declared themselves out could turn around and jump back in. It’s a mistake to assume that a few days of bad headlines will have any predictable effect on either presidential popularity or the perceived landscape for November 2014; after all, the Lewinsky scandal in 1998 wound up helping, not hurting, Bill Clinton and the Democrats that year. Current Republicans seem at least as capable of turning a potential electoral gold mine into a disaster for them (if, that is, they even get the chance; we’ll see whether the current stories grow into more or fizzle).
So Roarty is definitely looking in the correct place for electoral effects. But the first rule of anticipating reactions to Washington scandals should still be: patience.