Swing State Pres

Sunday, November 10, 2013

October Month in Review: Republicans, In Cruz Control, Squander a Gimme (November 10, 2013)

One can only imagine what the political landscape might have looked like had Ted Cruz not hatched his ill-fated “Shutdown Over Obamacare” plan, a plan that not only squandered the government funding negotiating leverage for Republicans but torpedoed the debt ceiling deadline as well. 

The shutdown, of course, not only failed, but more importantly, from the Republican perspective, it also deflected attention from the Obamacare website launch fiasco for a solid 17 days.  Obama is under direct fire now for the sloppy launch, but the fixes will come soon and the “front page” nature of the ongoing struggle to fix it was reduced dramatically.

Republicans must be in agony, imagining what might have happened if the shutdown had never occurred…

·        They might have Republican Governor Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia right now, instead of Hillary Clinton-surrogate Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who hung on to win by only three points on Election Day, and who now commands the state apparatus in a crucial swing state
·        The Republicans might well be ahead in the “Generic Ballot” instead of a whopping six points behind, leaving far less realistic their dreams of holding the House and taking the Senate…and closer to losing the House
·        The impetus to create a true “Grand Bargain” might have been ever-rising, front and center for 2014, instead of being virtually dead.  This helps no one.

This is a classic case of overplaying one’s hand, and the amazing thing is that John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, John McCain and the other nominal party leaders all could see it coming, yet were powerless to stop it.  I believe John Boehner and Barack Obama saw the whole battle the same way:  as a chance to humiliate the Tea Party faction of the House, with the hope of weakening if not destroying it.  Boehner knew that he if he offered full support of the Tea Party, he would survive as Leader regardless of the outcome, whereas if he opposed them he risked his position.  And so he allowed Ted Cruz and the House fanatics to take the wheel for a while, in their quest to "defund" Obamacare, and see how the test drive went, knowing full well they would total the car.

What does this portend for the upcoming deadlines in January (expiration of temporary government funding) and February (debt ceiling)?  The conventional wisdom is that Congress will actually come to an agreement in December to shift around the sequester savings, with no grand bargain, no further spending cuts, and no tax increases, and this will be enough to avoid any shutdown/debt ceiling messiness in early 2014.  However, the cynic in me believes that the Republicans have every incentive to continue to slow an economic rebound; they thus may bring us to the brink once again as a means of sowing economic uncertainty throughout 2014, and then blaming Obama for the continued lackluster recovery into the 2014 elections.  Just a cynical thought.

And so the shutdown battle featured no winners but the Republicans emerged as clear losers…

President Obama’s popularity, based on 37 polls over the course of the month, dropped a bit more, down to a net negative 6.9…the shutdown did not help him, and the website disaster has hurt him, but on balance the net was remarkably steady.

Obama Approval Rating
Election Day 2012
5-Aug
5-Sep
5-Oct
8-Nov
  Approve
49.6
46.0
45.1
45.3
45.5
  Disapprove
47.4
48.8
49.6
51.5
52.5
  Net
2.2
-2.7
-4.5
-6.2
-6.9

But the Republicans have indeed lost dramatically in terms of the generic ballot, and the nearly 6-point margin would be enough to swing enough “in play” House districts to give the Democrats a majority if it held through Election Day 2014.

Generic Congressional Ballot
Election Day 2012
5-Aug
5-Sep
5-Oct
8-Nov
  Democrat
46.3
40.5
38.4
41.9
45.2
  Republican
46.0
39.5
38.8
38.4
39.5
  Net
0.3
1.0
-0.4
3.4
5.7

The Affordable Care Act is actually rising a bit in popularity, despite the website disaster.  Opposition has dipped below 50% and the “net negative” is down into the single digits.  Imagine if the website actually worked!  (Keep in mind that virtually every state website actually does work, just fine.)

Obamacare
Election Day 2012
5-Aug
5-Sep
5-Oct
8-Nov
  For/Favor
40.0
39.7
41.0
39.8
41.6
  Oppose/Against
50.8
51.6
52.0
51.7
49.3
  Net
-10.8
-11.9
-11.0
-11.8
-7.6

And the Econometer suffered a modest setback, driven entirely by sinking consumer confidence, which in turn was driven by the chaos in Washington.  A strong jobs report (and an upgrade of the previous two monthly jobs reports) and an uptick in GDP could drive that confidence back up next month, as evidence gathers that the economy may be picking up steam.  The Econometer of 27.5 is still far stronger than it was on Election Day 2012, reflecting a decent drop in the unemployment rate, lower gas prices and a strong year for the stock market.

Econometer
Election Day 2012
5-Aug
5-Sep
5-Oct
8-Nov
Econometer
0.0
33.3
32.1
34.0
27.5






  Unemployment Rate
7.9
7.4
7.3
7.2
7.3
  Consumer Confidence
73.1
80.3
81.5
79.7
71.2
  Price of Gas
3.71
3.72
3.65
3.59
3.40
  Dow Jones
13,330
    15,506
    15,098
    15,308
    15,395
  GDP
3.1
2.5
2.5
2.5
2.8

Obviously we are a full year from Election Day 2014 and much can change.  But this month was a clear win for the Democrats, against all odds, as the Republicans squandered an opportunity to use the Obamacare launch as a gigantic springboard but instead overshadowed the launch with the shutdown – ironically, over a last gasp attempt to “defund” Obamacare.









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