Watching the polls over the past six months, I can’t help but to wonder whether presidential terms should be limited to one six-year term. Frankly, in the internet age, I don’t think voters have the patience or an attention span long enough to carry through two four-year terms. We’ve re-elected all but three presidents in the last 40 years, which is a relatively new trend unique to the late-20th Century and the early 21st (FDR aside). So, we don’t really care for changing horses mid-stream any more. Yet with the rise of social media and the internet enabling us to self-flagellate with misinformation, confirmation bias, conspiracy theories and just plain nonsense from the world of politics, perhaps two terms is too much.
Take President Obama for example. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows Obama’s overall approval remains in the crapper, while, generally, the Republican Party has a slight edge over the Democrats. Obama’s job approval overall and in key areas such as the economy, terrorism and foreign policy is hovering around 40 percent, and the GOP holds a six point edge over the Democrats. None of it makes sense if you look at the record. Regarding terrorism and foreign policy, the president is generally taking actions that are popular in the polls. On the economy, nearly all indicators are besting pre-Great Recession levels, especially the stock market and the budget deficit. Maybe there’s something else, and maybe that something else is TMI — too much information. The bombardment is relentless, creating anger and fatigue.
But it’s not all bad news for the president and his supporters. If we scan further down the poll results and take a look at specifics, the congressional Republicans are ridiculously unpopular with a 19 percent approval rating next to the congressional Democrats’ 30 percent. Voters are growing tired of the president, but they appear to viscerally despise the congressional GOP with the fire of a thousand suns. As the midterm season throttles into high gear, these numbers are the only ones that really count. No, the president isn’t the most beloved man in the universe right now, but the congressional Republicans — put it this way, Nixon’s approval rating during the height of Watergate was 24 percent, while banks during the recession had an approval rating of 18 percent.
Not too long ago, we discussed how early numbers showing the GOP’s chances for a Senate takeover appeared soft. Well, cautiously speaking, that analysis appears to be accurate. In spite of the president’s 40 percent approval, two leading forecasts are indicating bad news for Republicans in terms of winning a majority in the Senate.
The HuffPost Pollster model shows the Democrats with a slight advantage. Based on the latest state-by-state polls, there’s a 53 percent chance the Dems will retain their majority. According to HuffPost, everything comes down to Kansas and the candidacy of independent “moderate” Greg Orman. Orman is a former Republican who almost ran as a Democrat, and his politics are somewhere in the middle. If it comes down to Orman defeating incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a race which is neck and neck, his choice of which party to caucus with could decide the balance of power. Yes, it could be that close. But it’s much better news than several months ago when Republicans were prematurely celebrating.
Five-Thirty-Eight and Nate Silver
This is the big one. Nate Silver was really the only pollster who nailed the 2012 election, down to the congressional level. So, if you happen to be a poll jockey, you should take his numbers more seriously than any of the others. According to his latest forecast, the GOP’s chances for taking control of the Senate dropped more than ten points from 64 percent to 53.8 percent. Democrats have gained in so-called “purple states,” narrowing the odds and probably forcing the loss of bowel control for Republicans who began chilling their champagne back in June.
Don’t get me wrong, this is far from over, and given the status of the economy, there’s no reason why it should be this close. Not losing the Senate isn’t quite the same as winning something, and there’s very little chance the Democrats can take back the House. Right now it seems the 2014 midterms will either be about the GOP taking over the Senate or the Democrats barely averting disaster. Neither option is particularly pro-Democrat. Then again a majority is a majority.
Bottom line: to repeat what we wrote before, it’s not even close to being over.