A year out, conservative columnists are giddy with the prospect of taking over the Senate. They point to Obama’s falling approval ratings and the health care debacle as the beginning of the end. One conservative writer even said the current polling numbers are what “wave elections are made of.”
Look, the Obamacare roll out has been a mess. Nobody disputes that. The danger, as Charlie Cook points out, is that the public begins to see the entire administration as incompetent, not good for the party that says government can help. But it’s a long way from George Bush’s second term and the Democratic wave election of 2006.
By this point in 2005, we were still deeply embroiled in the Iraq War. Despite assurances from the administration that the war would be short, it wasn’t going well, with increasing casualties and the admission that there were no weapons of mass destruction. The economy had also begun to falter, with housing starts in the tank and a stagnant economy. With that backdrop, Katrina hit. The war in Iraq did not get better over the next year, neither did the economy and Katrina exposed more than incompetence. It laid bare racial divisions and an aging American infrastructure.
Pundits are using poll numbers to make long range predictions. While polls are useful tools, they’ve become too ubiquitous and given far too much predictive power. They don’t tell the future. They are a snapshot in time.
Maybe Obamacare is the beginning of the end for Democrats. But I’m betting that what happens over the next 12 months has more influence on the 2014 election cycle than what is happening today. The American attention span is at an all time low and what we are worrying about now may be irrelevant in a very few months.
At some point, most Americans are going to wake up to find that Obamacare has actually had very little impact on their day-to-day lives and all that Republican howling was just crying wolf. If the economy continues to improve, the deficit continues to drop and more people are finding themselves employed, I bet Democrats do alright. In contrast, if Republicans continue to nominate wing-nuts and the party is seen as obstructionist, they could find themselves on the short end of the electoral stick.
Really, though, who knows? I’ll make my predictions next summer.