A little over a year ago, voters turned out in nearly record numbers to reelect Barack Obama president. Hopes to overcome what started out in 2012 as an uphill climb for the White House, as it withstood months of pounding by the Republicans through the primary selection process that served as open season on Obama and his failed policies.
Obama overcomes 2012 uphill climb
But by Election Day, a superior ground game by Democrats, that awoke the confluence of voters that elected him in 2008, out performed the better funded Republican air game that mostly won white men, Southern voters and people 65 years of age and older. A month before the 2012 election, Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts and the wealthiest candidate ever to run for president, was convinced along with his top advisers that the White House was theirs, which a Gallup tracking poll performed in October showing voters preferred Romney to Obama 50 percent to 46 percent served as evidence that Obama's days were numbered.
But by Election Day, Democrats had ginned up enough voter turnout enough that Romney and Paul Ryan, his Wisconsin Congressman running mate, lost the nationwide vote by about five million votes. Obama won commanding majorities of women, African Americans, Hispanics and Asians and young people, the changing demographics that stunned Romney and other Republicans and could signal continuing troubles for national elections if allowed to drift further away.
In fact, a review of the 2012 vote by Gallup showed President Obama won the women's vote by 12 percentage points while Mitt Romney won the men by eight points. Gallup said the 20-point gender gap is the largest it has measured since it began tracking presidential vote by subgroup in 1952.
"The 2012 election marked the first time since Franklin D. Roosevelt's last two re-elections in 1940 and 1944 that a Democratic presidential candidate won a majority of the popular vote in two consecutive elections," Wikipedia reported. Moreover, Obama was also the first president of either party to secure at least 51 percent of the popular vote in two elections since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. Overall, the online encyclopedia site said, Obama is the third Democratic president to secure at least 51% of the vote twice, after Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In the Electoral College, where president's are really made, Obama exceeded the 270-win threshold 32 percent or 62 points to beat Romney 332 to 206.
President Obama's job approval rating January 7-9 of 2013 was 56 percent, but according to Gallup, which conducts telephone interviews daily with approximately 1,500 national adults to track the percentage of Americans who approve or disapprove of the job President Obama is doing, by December 21-23 it had fallen to 39, a drop of 17 percent or 30 percent.
With 2014 starting Tuesday at midnight, it appears the president's tumbling troubles could have coattails for Democratic hopes this year to win back Washington or some state capitals. Democrats find themselves again looking up instead of down despite a national turnout last year that defied Republican pollsters who still find it hard to believe that Romney did not win.
Republicans enjoyed big wins in 2010, another low voter turnout year that saw Tea Party governors like John Kasich in Ohio, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida and others win state capital. In the U.S. House, Republicans maintained their Majority Caucus status but their losses shrank their margin back to 17 seats, a number Washington watchers say may dip but not enough for Democrats to take over again. Meanwhile, Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate, where Republicans hope to win six net seats to reclaim the upper chamber.
If Democrats can win Congress back, the presidents final two years could be historic, given the defiance to him and his policies Republicans have demonstrated since 2010.
If Republicans can keep the House and reclaim the Senate, President Obama's last final two years will be a combination of fending off attempts to derail his programs, mostly especially Obamacare, and maybe even himself, as talk of impeachment becomes a reality again. It would also force him to use his executive powers in lieu of asking Congress to collaborate.
But Republican abstinence to the president and his policies have backfired on them, too, as it now has a job approval of 9 percent, its lowest approval rating in history, according to Gallup.
A CNN/ORC International survey released last Thursday suggests Obama's bad year could be a downer this year for Democratic congressional candidates. The 2014 midterm elections could be another low-turnout cycle, as only three in 10 registered voters are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year. One salvo is that the survey was a measure of a generic Democrat versus the generic Republican because congressional candidates were not identified by name.
Republicans took a drubbing for jumping the shark in the bitter battle that ended with the federal government shutting down for 16, at a cost of $24 billion, not to mention the debt ceiling and GOP reluctance to raise it to pay bills due.
The 13-point swing is attributed to the continuing and noisy stories about Obamacare, which included the fumbled rollout of HealthCare.gov and controversy over the possibility of insurance policy cancellations due primarily to the new health law, CNN reported.
"Virtually all the movement toward the GOP has come among men," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Fifty-four percent of female voters chose the Democratic candidate in October; 53% pick the Dem now. But among male voters, support for Democratic candidates has gone from 46% in October to just 35% now."
Holland cautioned, though, that a year before the 2010 midterms Democrats held a 6-point lead on the generic ballot but the GOP wound up regaining control of the House in that election cycle due to an historic 63-seat pickup. "There is just under a year to go before any votes are actually cast and the 'generic ballot' question is not necessarily a good predictor of the actual outcome of 435 separate elections," he said.
Democrats worst enemy: lack of enthusiasm
For Democrats to enjoy any wins in Washington, they have to worry about the fact that only three in 10 registered voters say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for Congress next year, compared to more than four in 10 who felt that way in late 2009. Forty-three percent say they're not enthusiastic about voting, up from 25 percent who felt that way four years ago, according to the CNN/ORC survey.
At 22 percent, Democratic voters seem particularly unenthusiastic about voting. Thirty-six percent of Republicans say they're extremely or very enthusiastic about voting. A big and important differential aggravated more by President Obama's public support. Fifty-five percent of registered voters say that they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who opposes the President than one who supports him, contrasted with four in 10 who say they are likely to vote for a candidate who supports Obama.
"Those kind of numbers spelled early trouble for the Democrats before the 1994 and 2010 midterms, and for the GOP before the 2006 elections," Holland said.
The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from December 16-19, with 1,035 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
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