Let’s consider this:
Republicans say the 2014 election will be a referendum on Obama, the controversies that have plagued his second term and the implementation of the new healthcare law.
A referendum is a “general vote by the electorate on a single political question that has been referred to them for a direct decision.” I’m not nitpicking the author of this piece’s usage. The Republicans really do see the upcoming midterms as a kind of referendum. They won’t be decided by a “single political question,” but the battle will be waged over only a few discreet issues. Is the president doing a good job? Is ObamaCare working?
That’s pretty much delusional thinking. The one advantage the Republicans have is that the battle will take place on primarily red turf. For the Democrats to retake the House, they will have to win seats that were drawn to be safe for the incumbent Republicans. And for the Democrats to retain the Senate, they will have to protect incumbents that serve in states that Romney won, some of them very decisively. That means that the Republicans can conceivably do pretty well just by speaking to their base. But there are real limits on how much mileage they can get by limiting their message to a negative one about a president who is not on the ballot and will never again be on the ballot. The electorate is getting very frustrated with gridlock and inaction. The Farm Bill is a good example of how Republicans are alienating the very rural voters who form their strongest base of support.
Democrats passed a multi-year, bipartisan farm bill through the Senate last year, but it stalled because of opposition from conservative House Republicans, a point Democratic leaders repeated in the final weeks of the 112th Congress.
Democratic aides said last year’s battle over the farm bill highlighted Republican obstruction and helped them expand their majority.
Sixteen Republican senators voted for last year’s Farm Bill, including the senators from both Kansas and Wyoming. Don’t think continued obstruction on agricultural issues won’t be a factor in next year’s midterms, especially on the Senate level. People don’t realize how the rural vote played a part in the election of Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota or Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.
The sequestration budget that we’re operating under is frustrating and angering countless people who are culturally inclined to support the Republicans. Contracts are being cancelled and delayed. Workers are being furloughed. Funding is drying up. Runways are being closed down. Electing more Republicans only promises more of this dysfunction. This opens up new avenues of attack for Democratic challengers and incumbents. The 2014 midterms are not going to about Benghazi or the IRS alone. In fact, I don’t think most people are going to be thinking about those issues except when they are reminded about them. In many cases, people are going to be most concerned about why the federal government isn’t doing something.
I think people will be trying to figure out how to change the status quo, and the Democrats are going to have the better argument on that score even in red districts and red states. The more the Republicans try to make it a referendum about the president, the more out of touch they are going to seem.