Republicans are expected to see gains in both the House and Senate in the 2014 midterm elections, if three factors — the president, the economy, and the electoral playing field — align, writes political analyst Larry Sabato for Politico
"[President Barack Obama's] job approval numbers are perhaps the best indicator of the public's overall political orientation at any given time, a kind of summary statistic that takes everything at the national level into account," Sabato explains.
"In a large majority of cases, the president's party does poorly in midterms, especially the second midterm of a two-term administration," he adds.
Sabato is professor of politics and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and has had a 98 percent success rate in predicting Senate, House, and governor election outcomes in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012.
While the political science professor says that Obama's approval numbers could go up by a few points if there is "some unforeseen event" that might occur, "it's just as likely Obama's polling average, currently in the low 40s, will decline further."
The unpopular and "botched, chaotic rollout" of Obamacare is the "obvious cause" of the unpopularity of Democrats in 2014. However, Sabato warns that after pushing for the government shutdown in October 2013, the public may not be quick to put their support behind the Republicans either.
The other major factor in the 2014 midterm elections is the economy, "but mainly if it's bad," he says. Sabato cites the 2006 and 2010 midterm elections as cases where the economy was a major factor.
However, he says that "a good economy doesn't seem to help the president's party much in many midterm elections."
"While economic hard times are likely to hit a president's party hardest, it may be that restless voters shift their concerns and unhappiness about a president to other topics in the absence of economic woes," he explains.
Sabato concludes that the economy could improve and it still may not help the Democrats much in their electoral battles.
The third major factor is the electoral playing field.
Sabato explains that it is unlikely that there will be a major shift in the House as the Democrats already "lost their weaker members in 2010 and failed to add many seats in 2012."
However, "the Senate is a different story."
Sabato explains that Senate elections are based on the number of seats that are up for re-election in each party, the number of incumbents running, if there are any senators who have stepped down in states that are favored by the other party, and candidate recruitment.
When all these components are taken into account, "generally speaking, this year's Senate slate strongly favors the Republicans."
With all these factors combined together, they suggest "a good election year for the GOP."
"The president is a Democrat and his approval is weak. The economy may be improving . . . but voters still don't believe their personal economy, at least, has picked up much. Instead, the major national issue of the moment is Obamacare, which at this point is a loser for Democrats. The structure of the election in the House and Senate also bends in the GOP direction," Sabato concludes.
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