Midterm elections a scary prospect for Democrats

by Kent Covington
Posted 7/15/14, 02:55 pm

Midterm elections are still three months away, and from the president’s perspective, that’s a good thing. 

Though the political party in the White House usually takes a beating in midterm elections, President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings are dragging the Democrats down farther.

Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado last week joined a growing list of vulnerable Democrats who are keeping their distance from the president. When Obama came to Denver to raise money for the senator, the senator didn’t show up.

Democratic voters aren’t showing up at the polls either. Turnout in the primary elections was much lower among Democrats than Republicans, said John Couvillon of JMC Analytics and Polling. 

“I’ve always felt that if you have an unenthusiastic party base in the party primary season, unless you have an extraordinary event that occurs, that lack of enthusiasm carries through” to the general election, Couvillon said. 

The president still has an important role to play in raising funds and firing up the Democratic faithful.

Politics has become more polarized and so the independent segment of the population is shrinking. And so really, elections now are more of an exercise in turning out your base,” Couvillon said. Like many, he sees a good year ahead for Republicans in Washington. But at the state level, the picture is far less clear.

The governor’s race—I’ll actually go out on a limb and tell you the Republicans have more of a challenge there purely because they had a very successful year with regard to electing governors. And some of them have become fairly controversial, so they also have to defend their seats,” Couvillon said.

One of those controversial governors is Rick Scott of Florida, who is being challenged by the former Republican governor who turned Democrat, Charlie Crist. The latest poll gives the incumbent a two-point edge, but Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said Scott is vulnerable.

“The problem for Scott is that his numbers have been stuck in the low 40s, … which is kind of a tough place to be for an incumbent,” Kondik said.

But many Republican governors will be at a financial advantage because the Republican Governors Association, which works on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidates, generally has more money than the Democratic Governors Association, Kondik said.

Of the last 18 presidents, only three—George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Franklin Roosevelt—have had parties that succeeded in midterm congressional elections. Of that group of presidents stretching all the way back to William Howard Taft, FDR and Warren Harding took the biggest clobberings in House midterm elections. Just behind them at No. 3? Obama.

Listen to Kent Covington’s analysis of the upcoming midterm elections on The World and Everything in It: