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Shellacking II: The Sequel
A second midterm repudiation of Obama may soon be at hand.

John Kerry and Barack Obama

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Matthew Continetti

Fitting, I thought, when I saw Air Force One returning to Andrews Air Force Base in the rain the other day. The weather had not only assumed the character of President Obama’s demeanor, it had become a physical representation of the sentiments inside his administration, inside Democratic circles in Washington. Those sentiments are dark, foreboding, cloudy, and gloomy. The president’s foreign policy is under attack, his agenda is stalled in Congress, and his signature program remains unpopular. A second repudiation of Obama, a second shellacking, may be at hand.

Less than a third of the country says America is headed in the right direction. The Democrats maintain the slimmest of leads — 0.8 percent — on the congressional generic ballot, but Republicans are known to do better on Election Day ballots than on generic ones. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Obama’s approval rating at about 44 percent. That’s where it was on Election Day 2010. Disapproval of Obamacare is also about where it was on Election Day 2010. That day saw the best performance by Republicans in a midterm election since 1946, and the best performance by Republicans in state legislative races since 1928.

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Let’s be empirical. The Democrats, according to one political-science model, have a one percent chance of recapturing the House in 2014. According to other models, the Republicans are either “slight favorites” or just plain favorites to control the Senate next year. (On Thursday, the New York Times forecast a 54 percent chance of a Republican Senate takeover.) The models can change, of course. That’s what models do. And models can be wrong — they often are, in fact. But, for the time being, the same models that our educated classes trumpeted during the 2012 election predict a happy day for Republicans on November 4. And so I, in turn, am happy to base my analysis on them.

What brought Obama to this point? The course was set even before Obama’s second term began, when he assumed that the horrific events in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 would galvanize public support for the sort of gun-control legislation that the public had rejected ever since it turned out the Democratic Congress after the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Obama’s assumption was mistaken and, despite millions in outside spending by the liberal billionaire Michael Bloomberg, gun control has gone nowhere.

Indeed, the bad will engendered by the gun-control debate probably had an influence over Republicans in Congress, who otherwise might have supported an immigration-reform bill last year. As it turned out, the oppositional energies of the GOP base, of conservatives, and even of mainstream Republicans in Congress prevented House leaders from bringing the Senate immigration bill, or any immigration bill, to the floor. The president was denied a second-term victory.

Obama’s decision to nominate Chuck Hagel and John Kerry to top administration posts has also brought us to where we are today, with a majority disapproving of the president’s foreign policy. The ferocious struggle over Hagel’s nomination in particular, which occurred during the gun-control debate, had to have drained the administration’s energy. Neither Hagel nor Kerry has performed with distinction. Hagel sees it as his job to bring about the end of American military dominance, and Kerry seems to think it’s his job to fly around the world for meetings with the Russian foreign minister.



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