What is it about second-term presidents in their sixth year in office?
Historically, that’s where things begin to unravel, regardless of party.
In 1958 the personally popular Eisenhower saw the GOP lose 13 senate seats plus both of the country’s newest state’s (Alaska) US Senators.
Though Democrats held on to their majorities in the house and senate in Harry Truman’s sixth year, the GOP picked up 28 seats in Congress’ lower chamber and 2 seats in the upper chamber, thus setting themselves up for taking over both two years later.
In 1986, Reagan saw his party’s six years of US Senate control disappear.
George W. Bush watched San Francisco congresswoman Nancy Pelosi seize the speaker’s gavel while the Democrats won control of the US Senate.
And Richard Nixon didn’t even make it to the 1974 midterm election.
The one post-World War II president to defy the trend was Bill Clinton, though even in that unique situation the opposition party maintained control of both houses of Congress.
As Barack Obama shuffles towards the close of his sixth year in office, his prospects of shepherding anything of significance through the legislative process (we must never discount or forget his “pen”) for the remainder of his presidency looks bleak.
The House Democrats, who are already behind the eight ball with a deficit of 33 seats, have little chance of flipping in the 17 Republican spots that would put Pelosi back on the speaker’s rostrum. If anything the Democrats are poised to lose even more seats. Democrats hold 15 of the 20 seats Real Clear Politics has analyzed as likely to change parties.
Not only is Pelosi not going to be speaker come January 2015, she might not even be in charge of her party caucus either.
The real contest in 2014 is the senate, where House Republican proposals go to die.
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has acted as a legislative Hoover Dam, holding up GOP measures, and thus taking some of the heat and pressure off of the Obama Administration for the gridlock, since the president doesn’t have to veto bills that don’t reach his desk.
While Reid isn’t on the ballot, Republicans are going to make him an issue in competitive senate races across the country, linking Democratic senators’ support for the Majority Leader with touchy issues at-risk Democrats have tried to avoid embracing.
Republicans need a net gain of six seats to reach 51, a number that is within reach.
Just as being on the ballot with Obama proved to be an asset six years ago, perceived affiliation with the president will be a liability for those Democrats running in red and purple states in 2014.
Of Real Clear Politics’ top ten senate seats likely to flip, nine are held by Democrats. Of note, the one Republican seat in the ten most competitive races is held by Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell and he will most probably hold on.
And of those ten states, Obama won only two of them (Colorado and Iowa).
Democratic incumbents in Colorado, Louisiana, Alaska, North Carolina and Arkansas face stiff challenges while the Democrats have difficult open seats to protect in Iowa, West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana.
Assuming the GOP manages to retain all of the senate seats they currently hold (though this is not a given due to an anticipated competitive general election in Georgia), Republicans could find themselves at 50 seats or more on the morning of Wednesday, November 5th.
Due to the Bayou State’s unique “open primary” (often pejoratively called the “jungle primary”), the 51st seat could be determined in Louisiana in early December if no candidate wins a majority vote on November 4th.
However what happens in Louisiana might just be icing on the cake for the GOP.
By margins of 42% (CBS), 46% (Rasmussen), and 49% (NBC), polls show that Americans overwhelmingly believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. That two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the status quo is toxic to the party in power.
While the president’s approval ratings are low, they do not match the general discontent with the current state of affairs, though that should be of little solace to the Democrats.
The resounding widespread disenchantment with the direction the country is heading is a roundabout way of expressing disapproval of the Obama Administration without actually disapproving of the man, especially since Democratic activists and the leftist media equate criticism of the president with committing a hate crime.
The anger is there; the public is just venting it diplomatically in surveys.
While the senate polls are relatively competitive and in some battleground “red states”, the Democratic candidate actually enjoys a modest lead, the electorate is likely to take their disaffection out on Obama’s allies and not the public relations challenged GOP.
With the exception of loyal callers to the Mark Levin show, nobody really blames John Boehner for the current state of affairs.
Political wave elections happen not because a party fields a bunch of great candidates, but when a general hostility exists towards the status quo.
And the “wrong direction” tracking numbers have only been getting worse as November draws near.
Come January, it’s likely that the GOP won’t have Harry Reid to kick around anymore while the president will be compelled to finally take ownership of the gridlock in Washington.