Even before the scandals that have recently hit the Obama Administration, some were already worried that the Democratic Party was in decline. Just last week, Doug Sosnick, a Democratic strategist, told colleagues in a memo that the party is “in decline” and “at considerable risk” when President Barack Obama’s second and final term expires in January 2017.
Sosnick noted that, despite President Obama’s electoral success, “Democrats have lost nine governorships, 56 members of the House and two Senate seats” since he took office. The memo hit before the IRS and DOJ scandals became public knowledge, so there is no measure of the impact of those from the memo. However, there is growing concern from Democrats that the now-scandal plagued White House could cost them next year.
Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, explained the electoral implications of the scandals earlier this week:
The danger for Obama, of course, is that many Americans will start to doubt his administration’s veracity and values. If that happens — and for now it is only a danger, not an inevitability — then the president could well turn into a serious liability for Democrats in next year’s elections.
The recent revelations seem to confirm some of the complaints and accusations coming from some of the GOP’s most conservative elements, and that could both damage the Democratic brand and improve the Republicans’.
In the near term, the controversies could help the candidacies of Gabriel Gomez, the Republican nominee in the June 25 Massachusetts Senate special election, and even Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive GOP nominee for governor of Virginia. Given the administration’s problems, voters are more likely now than they were two weeks ago to use this year’s contests to send a message of dissatisfaction to the White House.
Longer term, it isn’t clear whether the current controversies will hurt the president and his party in 2014. But if the administration’s problems linger or even grow, Democratic enthusiasm could wane, depressing turnout in next year’s elections. Weaker turnout would have serious ramifications for Democratic candidates, particularly in swing and red districts and states. It could also hurt party recruiting and lead to a flurry of retirements.
President Obama’s ability to pass his second term agenda had already come into question, even before the scandals hit his administration. While Democrats did make some gains in the House last year, the odds were stacked against them next year as mid-term elections are historically bad for a president’s party. And with this new political reality, assuming it doesn’t fade quickly or another scandal doesn’t surface, Democrats could potentially lose the Senate.
The only wrinkle for Republicans is that voters have a short-term memory and, from a political standpoint, 2014 is far away. But they’ve been given a lot of ammuntion for next year to put more doubt about President Obama and Democrats into the minds of voters and it’s clear they intend to use it.