The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republicans are pumped up about midterms

The Wall Street Journal reports:

With Republicans aiming to regain control of the Senate, three-quarters of GOP voters say this year’s congressional elections are much more important or somewhat more important than other elections, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg survey finds.
In contrast, 57% of Democrats grade the midterms as more important than other elections.
The polling is consistent with signs that Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this year. Democratic leaders, including President Barack Obama, have warned their party that its supporters aren’t excited enough about going to the polls.
Younger voters, who tend to back Democrats but are less likely than other groups to turn out during midterm years, are among the least interested in the election. In the Journal/NBC/Annenberg survey, only 20% of voters under 35 said they had a keen interest in the election.

This finding should debunk a primary falsehood that liberal pundits like to say about Obamacare–namely that it doesn’t matter so much for the elections, when in fact one of the primary motivating factors for Republicans is President Obama  and his so-called signature achievement as well as his executive overreach, and his support for the liberal welfare state. You can’t separate Republicans’ glee in getting to vote one more time against the Obama agenda without understanding that Obamacare is central to the GOP base’s anti-Obama fervor.

Second, playing to the Democratic base — by promising unilateral action on immigration reform, concocting the so called “war on women,” vilifying the Koch brothers and sprinkling uber-partisan rhetoric in presidential speeches — has served to invigorate Republicans more than it has ginned up Democrats. This showcases a truism of the Obama presidency for the GOP: Republicans would not have unified themselves, taken back lost ground in 2008 and begun to reinvigorate their agenda without Obama as an opponent.

Third, Republicans have hardly harmed themselves — as the mainstream media would have us believe — by “obstruction” or investigation of the Obama administration. To the contrary, publicly questioning Obama’s overreaches has fueled the base’s yearning for further checks on executive power.

The poll, however, should not be held up as a guide to 2016. A presidential election with no incumbent is far different than the last midterm of a failing presidency. For 2016 it will not be enough simply to run against Obama. If the GOP nominee or down-ticket candidates in 2016 want to get rid of Obamacare they will be obliged to offer an alternative, lest they risk being accused of trying to “take away” voters’ insurance. The GOP nominee will not in a presidential year be able to win with the broad electorate merely by motivating Republican voters; a chunk of independents and Democrats will need to join with the GOP faithful to put a Republican in the Oval Office. And those who veered from opposition to Obama to recklessness in shutting down the government, cheering on default and fighting for the sake of fighting are unlikely to come across as presidential material in 2016. The difference between a senator in the minority and a candidate for leader of the Free World is vast one indeed.

With the election six weeks from tomorrow, Republicans will have to work hard to keep their troops engaged. The good news for Democrats is that the ordeal of the midterms and the impossible task of defending indefensible presidential missteps will soon be over., The day after the midterms eyes will turn to the 2016 presidential candidates. For that, the Democrats’ task will be different but by no means easy: Convincing the electorate, particularly young people, to get excited about an “inevitable” nominee who has been around for decades and is weighed down by plenty of her own Obama baggage.