We completed our most recent monthly McLaughlinOnline.com National Survey on February 13. In that poll of 1,000 likely voters, President Obama had a net negative job approval: 44 percent of voters approve and 54 percent disapprove. In almost all our recent polls since the Obamacare website’s crash-and-burn rollout, the president’s job rating is usually identical to the level of voter disapproval for Obamacare.
Many Republican strategists now see this as a parallel dynamic similar to what the Iraq War issue did in 2006 to President Bush’s job approval, costing the Republicans their Senate and House majorities. That year, Democrats for the House got 54 percent of the national vote. Here’s what the 2006 national media post-election survey showed:
42 percent approved of the Iraq War and 56 percent disapproved.
If you disapproved of the war in Iraq, you voted for Democrats for Congress 80–18.
If you disapproved of the job President Bush was doing, you voted for Democrats for Congress 82–16.
The Democrats’ 2006 strategy was simple: Drive up the disapproval of the Iraq War, which drove up President Bush’s disapproval, which drove up the vote for Democrats for Congress.
In theory, that same kind of strategy with Obamacare should expand the Republicans’ House majority and win the Senate this November.
That’s what Mitt Romney’s campaign thought, in theory, about the economy, that it would be a “silver-bullet issue” to the exclusion of security and other issues. It didn’t work.
It seems to be that the same kind of groupthink of Obamacare as a “silver-bullet issue” is dominating Republican strategists in 2014. Because of Obamacare’s woes, then, we wish the election were tomorrow, but it’s not.
With months to go this strategy seems too one dimensional. It severely underestimates the incumbent president’s and the Senate majority’s power to reset the agenda even as late as October.
Here’s the real problem: As mentioned, in our recently completed February national poll President Obama had a 54 percent disapproval rating, but the generic ballot for Congress was only tied at 41 percent for Republicans and 41 percent for Democrats. Eighteen percent were undecided.
Among the undecideds for Congress, only 28 percent approve the job the president is doing, and 66 percent disapprove. In theory, by opposing President Obama, the Republicans have another twelve points available to them — getting them to as much as 53 percent of the national vote for Congress.
However, here’s a problem with the theory: In our poll 20 percent of all voters nationally disapprove of Obama but do not yet say they’ll vote to elect Republicans to Congress. These voters will decide the November election.
Among those who disapprove of Obama but aren’t planning to vote GOP, fully 36 percent are still voting for a Democrat for Congress. The other 64 percent remain undecided.
In other words, opposition to Obama is not a “silver bullet” strategy.