President Obama is finally right about something, and his own party cringes.
He was right when he told an audience at Northwestern University last week that, although he was "not on the ballot this fall," his "policies are on the ballot." The problem for the president's fellow Democrats is Americans indeed are taking a long look at many of his policies, and they are not liking what they see.
Nearly two-thirds think the nation is headed in the wrong direction. A third say they will use their vote to send a message of disapproval to the president. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Ebola virus top the headlines, and he's not doing well on either front. Republicans enjoy a 23-point edge on national security and terrorism, and any hope the president had of expanding immigration is over now thanks to the virus that has definitively arrived at our shores.
Republican congressional candidates know how to sing this song — they've been doing it for months, trying to tie their Democratic opponents to the unpopular president and his even less-popular policies.
Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia labels Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Intelligence report warns of climate threats in all countries The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan Democrats feel high anxiety in Biden spending conflict MORE a "rubber stamp" for the president, and he climbs in the polls. "Dump Mitch" talk in Kentucky has cooled as the president's fortunes have declined. Rep. Bill CassidyBill CassidyTrump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll MORE (R), unknown in the northern two-thirds of Louisiana a year ago, is poised to unseat Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE, another Democratic incumbent, by linking her to Obama and general Washington arrogance.
Meanwhile, "at risk" Democrats have spent months trying to localize races and establish that they won't be pack mules for Obama's agenda. Voters are increasingly skeptical and increasingly unwilling to take the risk, as Democrats are finding out in debates and on the trail.
Democrats already had little margin for error when it came to stopping the GOP's quest to net six Senate seats and send Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) packing. At this point, we can assume Republicans will prevail in Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota (although South Dakota has tightened in recent days), and hold Kentucky and Georgia.
That means there are only eight competitive Senate races left on the electoral map — Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and New Hampshire — and five of those states went for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. And based on previous midterm turnout models, this means that a voter universe which is slightly greater than half the population of Florida — in a country of 319 million people — will decide this election.
Given these parameters and with less than four weeks to go until Election Day 2014, the Republicans couldn't have dreamed up a better situation, even if they inadvertently backed into it.
O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign and is author of the book Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery.