With Democrats facing the voters this fall in the sixth year of their eight-year stint in the White House, two veteran pollsters believe November might be the latest case of the "six-year itch" — voters punishing the party in power in the midterm elections.
At a press breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Republican pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake addressed this trend as they discussed their joint survey on voter trends nationwide titled "The Battleground Poll."
"I'm a graduate of the University of Michigan, where the 'six-year itch' was invented," Lake said, in response to a question from Newsmax.
In nearly all the midterm elections held in the sixth year of an eight-year presidency during the 20th and 21st centuries, voters turned sharply on the party in the White House.
In 1938, 1946, and 1966, Republicans made major gains in midterm elections under a Democratic president. In 1958, 1974, 1986, and 2006, Democrats gained major ground in the midterm elections during an eight-year Republican presidency.
The lone exception in modern history to the "six-year itch" trend is 1998, when Democrats under President Bill Clinton actually gained seats in the House and Senate.
Lake said 2014 was unique in that "first, both parties are universally despised, and voters are saying 'pox on both your houses.' Second, where people used to say they hated Congress but loved their congressman, people are now putting their congressman on notice."
Citing figures that show voters liked their own congressman by a slim margin of 45 percent to 44 percent, Lake interpreted these numbers to mean "there's more of an anti-incumbent feeling."
The Democratic pollster also conceded that a decision by national Democratic Party leaders to begin moving campaign dollars into states to support statewide candidates from governor on down "could easily starve House races. So we could see a surprising amount of upsets for Congress."
Goeas said he disagreed with his Democratic counterpart on anti-incumbent sentiments among voters for Congress.
"They like their congressman," Goeas said, noting that support for sitting members of Congress is up 5 points among those likely to vote, "and they know they don't like the president. Obama is on the ballot in a sense because, at the end of the day, they know who is president. And they will vote Republican."
Goeas noted that in states such as New York and Michigan, "any Republican House members who survived the Obama tidal wave that turned out Democratic voters" in 2012 will probably be in fine shape for re-election in 2014.
Goeas pointed to Obamacare as a major reason he feels Republicans will be big beneficiaries of another "six-year itch" in 2014.
Having once hailed Obamacare as something created to benefit young and healthy people, "the administration is now saying it needs more healthy people to register for Obamacare to cover those who aren't," Goeas said.
According to Goeas, this has led to a "drop of support" among historically reliable Democratic voters and particularly among young women.
Goeas also cited a new curve in voter attitudes in the midterm elections: the change in voter attitude about which party can best handle foreign policy.
Republican "advantage among voters on who can best handle foreign affairs disappeared after Osama bin Laden was killed," he said, but added that this advantage has come back recently during the President Barack Obama's handling of the Ukraine crisis.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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