In fact on foreign policy, Social Security, Medicare and even “representing middle class values” — all previous strong suits for the president — more voters disapprove than approve of the president’s performance. Even worse for the Democrats, a significant plurality blame the president for the current economy (32 percent) than Republicans (12 percent), and vastly more people (23 percent) blame big government over big labor, big banks or big business (all in single digits) for their failure to get ahead financially.
In short, the effort to demonize big business is a bust. That’s a problem for Democrats who have been trying use the evils of the private sector to justify vast expansion of government and to use the rich as a piñata. Americans hardly blame the rich at all for the economy. What they do believe overwhelmingly is that their economic situation has gotten worse (34 percent) or stayed the same (39 percent) over the last four years.
As we saw in 2012, that doesn’t guarantee that a Republican can win in 2014 simply by showing up. It does, however, suggest Republicans should spend minimal time worrying about class warfare attacks and association with the Koches, and much more time stressing the Democrats’ own policy failures and their own solutions. Republicans don’t need to compete in the class warfare game (although Democrats’ hypocrisy on a range of issues is certainly delicious), but they should, as many conservative reformers have suggested, offer a positive message that includes pro-jobs, pro-energy and pro-budget reform items.
There is also an opening on Obamacare, which a large plurality (just under 50 percent) tell pollsters “went too far.” The GOP need not come up with the perfect health-care scheme that will offer reduced costs, universal health care and ultimate consumer choice — since Obamacare doesn’t do all (or any) of that. Rather, it seems, the focus should be on doing no harm (e.g. people can keep and insurers can offer whatever plan they like), retaining popular items (e.g. protection for preexisting conditions) and working to improve access and cost-cutting competition. The bar for a GOP alternative has been helpfully and significantly lowered by none other than the president’s “historic” health-care plan.
In November, decent GOP candidates, policies aimed at working- and middle-class voters, and a focus on the degree to which Senate Democrats have backed the president in his unsuccessful policy hijinks should be enough for many Republicans to claim victory. That might be why Nate Silver is delivering them some bad news. Frankly, you don’t have to be good at math to see his point.