If 2014 is a Republican wave, where’s the wave?

Shouldn't this be easier?  Photo:  US Senate

Shouldn’t this be easier? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: US Senate

This election season — falling in the sixth year of Barack Obama’s presidency — was supposed to be a Democratic bloodbath.  Read the vast majority of political journalism and that’s still the meme you’ll find. “Bracing for a political wave” is how the National Journal described it in an article this week.  With the president deeply unpopular in much of the nation, it’s supposed to be 2010 all over again.

The trouble is, less than a month out, the national picture doesn’t look like that at all.  If the polling holds up, Democrats could well pick up as many as three net governorships around the country. Those gains could well include a whopper victory in Florida that would bode very well for their presidential chances there in 2016. The latest surveys also show Democrats possibly picking up a win in Pennsylvania, as well as a possible shocker of a victory in red-as-red Kansas, and a real shot at a win in rural-centric Maine.

On the Senate side of the ledger, Democrats are almost certain to lose ground, retreating from the big majority they hold now (their caucus stands at 55 seats currently). But Republicans don’t have anything like a lock on taking power.  That’s astonishing because the GOP is fighting for pick-ups in states that should be a chip-shot in any year, let alone a big-wave season.

In Georgia, in a race for an open seat, the Democrat has held the race to within a few points.  Same goes for Kentucky, where Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, far from strolling to a coronation, is fighting for his political life. Meanwhile, back in Kansas, long-time Republican Senator Pat Roberts is struggling against his Independent opponent, with one poll showing him trailing by as much as ten points. And in New Hampshire and North Carolina, states that have gone comfortably red in past conservative tidal waves, Democrats are consistently polling ahead. There’s even an outside chance that Democrats could squeak to a win in South Dakota, where a three-way race has confused the GOP’s lock on capturing the open seat.

So what gives?  As I’ve written before, the sour national mood doesn’t always register in state-level contests.  Barack Obama isn’t actually on the ballot, though Republicans have tried to make him the central issue. While sticking doggedly to that game plan, Republicans have struggled to come up with clear messages about the economy, healthcare and other pocketbook essentials.

It’s possible, of course, that the tide could still turn against Democrats.  And even without a full-blown blow-out, the GOP could eke out a small majority in the Senate. But it’s reasonable to ask if the whole tidal wave meme still makes sense.

If that is the proper frame for viewing 2014, why hasn’t the GOP hasn’t been able to make a closing argument long before now, especially in places like Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina?

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32 Comments on “If 2014 is a Republican wave, where’s the wave?”

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  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    When your party strategy for victory is to fight any attempt to pass legislation that would make peoples lives better, to improve the economy, to improve infrastructure, to protect the rights of women and workers, to grant the simple right of people to marry the partner of their choice, to protect the environment and the public places people love…what did they think was going to happen?

  2. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    My other thought: when will people in the media stop reading each others columns and talking within their own circle about what the consensus is on any particular topic and explore alternative views with more vigor?

    Sure, reporters will say “oh, but we covered that idea, how else would you have known about it?” But that is just a bunch of self serving bull.
    Look at a couple of the big current issues, ebola and ISIL.

    Ebola, we have had one case in the US. One. ONE! We haven’t even had that many women presidents yet. If Ebola was present in the US we would be in real danger from people peeing their pants over it.

    ISIL, reporters just HAVE to call it ISIS because it sounds cool. It is a word we use and know…sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon god. Nevermind that using the name ISIS creates problems for people who have already been using the name. Journalists justify their use with all sorts of arguments about the derivation from Arabic, but DUH! it is a translation. Either print the actual Arabic or use a translation that doesn’t play into the hands of the enemy. Don’t work to make the terrorists sound cool to dumbass disaffected kids

    And when will reporters figure out that the ISIL fighters aren’t invincible just because they wear black jogging suits? What is the media obsession with airstrikes? When will the media look at American foreign policy and understand that our failure to curtail the sort of violence that ISIL represents stems from the response to the attack of 9/11/2001 when instead of treating the attack as a criminal act by a criminal terrorist organization our government reacted as if it was a war against a sovereign state?

    When will the media start really thinking about the Obama strategy to resolving the conflict? The idea that this sort of conflict only exists because there isn’t a functioning state to control the flow of illegal money, weapons and fighters?

    But I can’t really just blame the media because we only get the media we deserve. It is pretty easy to say nonsense and have many people believe it because most of us don’t really know much and we don’t really think about anything very deeply.

    And we love to be afraid.

  3. Pete Klein says:

    The problem I have with both major parties and even the minority parties is their efforts to have you vote for a party, not a person.
    I think this is why so many people say they are independents.
    If I look at some of the races I see advertised locally, I think to my self I would vote for a Democrat in one race and a Republican in another race.
    All candidates have their pluses and minuses. All you can do is vote for who you think will be the best given the choice or the choices and hope for the best.

  4. Jim Bullard says:

    Why indeed. I could suggest that it is because although the Democrats have ideas (good/bad ideas? We won’t know if they aren’t tried) to solve the country’s problems they are not doing an effective job of presenting them. Or that the Republicans don’t really want to fix anything because the fat cats shovelling cash to their campaigns are doing just fine thank you and don’t want anything changed unless it means more for them and less for the undeserving masses. Or perhaps it is because many, like Pete, are so turned off by both parties that neither party can roust sufficient energy to create a wave.

    KHL, I don’t think we do get the media we deserve. Because it is all owned by major corporations and “news” had become a commodity in the capitalist marketplace, the media now serves to generate profit rather than inform the public.

  5. Elaine says:

    Is it just me? I can’t make the thumbs work……………

  6. Peter Hahn says:

    Its a really low turnout year not a wave. Coupled with voter suppression laws and the republicans have a big advantage. Its not like the republican congress is very popular or that people like the republican “ideas”. The republicans have made the federal government dis-functional because thats what they think it should be. Hardly something to get people excited about voting.

  7. The Original Larry says:

    Who are these Republicans? An evil race of trouble makers from another planet who have insinuated themselves into our government without having a single good idea, a single accomplishment, a single positive thought, no support among voters or any desire other than to destroy the United States? Give it a rest already.

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    No Larry, they are just ordinary people who have been wrong on far too many issues and will even obstruct policies based on their own ideas that Democrats embrace, for example RomneyCare, economic stimulus, immigration reform, cap and trade…

  9. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – you have to admit that the current Republican-controlled congress is one of the least effective in modern history. (At least thats what the statistics say). They aren’t evil.

  10. Peter: Agreed. That’s why I’m not voting for a Democrat or Republican for Congress, the two parties that control that body.

  11. Polls say a GOP landslide in the Senate. Polls say Funiciello has no chance and Woolf little more. What do we need independent thought for, when we can just turn our brains off and be dictated to by polls and “conventional wisdom.”

  12. The Original Larry says:

    It’s hard to be effective when you have a President who refuses to negotiate or compromise. Domestically, you can blame it on the Republicans but we have seen that same attitude applied to foreign policy with similar dismal results.

  13. PirateEdwardLow says:

    I guess we look in our backyard.

    Funiciello — not covered

    Woolf — Spends too much time tell people that he would win if Funiciello would drop out.

    and of course Stefanik should be a shoe winner. She has it all, she isn’t the party of the of the President; she has the Koch Bros and Karl Rove backing her; She is a woman republican; She is a new voice (albeit a bush-ite) that could change the do nothing congress; She has all that but it doesn’t look very good on her.

    All she had to do was talk.. She could take away our Social Security, but she would have to say she was going to do that, not imply it.

    What the great irony is… I think most have had enough of politics as usually, but not the commitment to vote a third party. Too bad, Matt is the fresh voice.

  14. PirateEdwardLow says:

    Org Larry, you really believe that?

    Why did all the republicans — as a unit — six years ago say their mission was to make sure they were going to make sure this president fails.

    Where have you been the last six years… there has never been an offer of compromise from the congress (and this often means alot of democrats), nor have they offered an alternative…to blame the ‘do nothing congress’ on the president, is to turn a blind eye to reality.

  15. Peter Hahn says:

    You Green voters – We are fortunate to live in one of the few competitive congressional districts where either a Democrat or a Republican can win although it leans Republican. But you want to vote for a Green candidate? Its one step up from not voting but really….

  16. PirateEdwardLow says:

    Mr. Hahn…

    You green voters… I will pretend you didn’t mean that to be condescending…

    Just as I hope you don’t see “you goosestep voters” as condescending.

    If people want choice, they need to take advantage of choice when it presents itself. If I want to vote for Matt Funiciello because not only do I agree and believe in his stance on the issues, and I would rather get some politicians into politics who are now owning to the DNC or Karl Rove and the Koch Bros.. that should show there are still people who — when it comes to politics and voting — aren’t in a lockstep formation.

    You can vote for who you like, it is a free country after all… Not sure what the difference is going to be when we get Stefanik in there over Woolf, I do think Matt offers the real choice over those two.

    Would this ‘Green voter’ subject even be part of the rhetoric if he had the money to spend that Stefanik does… or the time both of the status quo candidates have? I think we would be wonder why anyone would vote the party line anymore.


  17. Mervel says:

    I think the South Dakota race is interesting and possibly telling. The reason the whole thing is in a spin is that Larry Pressler has joined the race running as an independent. Pressler was a long time Senator from South Dakota decades ago, and was always a very moderate to Liberal leaning Republican. It looks as if he has about a 1/3 of the vote in polling, the Republican ex gov. Rounds holds a slight lead but pretty slight and the Democrat is trailing but still within striking distance. Pressler’s campaign adds say he won’t be beholden to the extremists in either party. We will see it is an interesting year. Pressler’s main problem is residency, he never really returned to the state after he lost his Senate seat.

  18. Peter Hahn says:

    PirateEd – I dont mean to be condescending. It just seems that the way Washington works is struggle between the Democrats and the Republicans. The Greens dont really play even a tiny role. We have a chance to influence Washington. I dont see how voting Green in this situation plays any positive role at all.

  19. scratchy says:

    We want Matt! We want Matt! We want Matt!

  20. scratchy says:

    Peter Hahn,

    Sending Stefanik or Woolf to Congress won’t change a thing. Though I suppose some people are satisfied with the status quo.

  21. newt says:

    Matt Funiciello, proudly rises from his folding chair between the two parties in the House to demand Single Payer Health care, a $15.00 minimum wage, free college for all, and retraining for former Ft. Drum employees. The House is speechless in awe of the wisdom of North Country voters for electing to Congress a man who is too good and pure for mere politics.
    He, and we, are never heard from again.

  22. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    It isn’t as if Funiciello’s ideas are at all original – even his “quirky” ideas about conspiracies.

    Woolf has a balanced progressive agenda to improve the economy starting with improving our physical infrastructure and increasing availability of broadband internet service that will help individuals and businesses with access to broader markets and information, protecting important social services like Social Security and Medicare that people depend on, increasing the minimum wage to help ordinary people pay their bills and buy necessities of life, and to protect and expand the rights of women in the workforce on campus and in military service.

  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    So much focus on Funiciello distracts from serious discussion of the terrible policies Stefanik espouses, policies that will rob today’s younger workers of a social safety net in the future, and economic policies that will drive more economic benefit to the wealthiest among us and more of the costs of government onto the middle class.

  24. Mervel says:

    It’s an interesting comment scratchy. Do we expect any individual congressperson to actually change anything at the national level? How could they as only one member of congress in one side of congress, among hundreds of others. Even the President as Chief Executive has a very hard time making large domestic changes.

    I am not looking for who we send to Congress to make some sort of big change to our national politics or nation in general; I am looking for that person to represent the North Country and our interests. I am looking at that person to protect Fort Drum, to work on Dairy issues, to work on environmental issues as they impact upstate New York, etc.

    What is the role of a congressperson what are we looking for? If you as a voter are sitting around waiting for our congressperson to make large scale national changes or to really even have an impact on large scale national changes you will be continually unhappy.

  25. pirateedwardlow says:


    There is a saying that goes: keep doing what you are always doing. You will get the same.

    Keep doing what you are doing, and expect a difference and you might be locked into your old and tired traditions.

    If all the people who want a difference, quite bringing down the different candidate(s) and started supporting the non-corporate candidates. It would be a tiny difference, it would be a seismic shift in our world.

    Support the status quo, just don’t expect something to change.

  26. Mervel says:

    Well there would be seismic shift in our world if they closed Fort Drum, because we did not have strong enough representation to keep it open.

  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Pirate Ed, thanks for the quote but the idea that both major parties are the same and there is a status quo that both protect is deluded nonsense. Which party brought us the Voting Rights Act, supported the social programs of LBJ, supports the rights of everyone to marry the partner of their choice, works to protect the rights of women in the workplace including the military. Ask Senator Gillibrand if there is a difference between the parties in their action on sexual violence in the military.

    It was a Democrat who brought us CAFE standards for automobiles and another Democrat who stiffened those standards. It is Democrats who support protection of the environment and endangered species.

    I support plenty of ideas that Greens Support, I have even been one. But having been one I realized that the Greens were not going to get the agenda I want to see accomplished enacted.

  28. Mervel says:

    Well one could argue that neither party actually brought us any of those things; those things were brought to public light through grassroots, through movements, the Parties certainly took a stand on those issues one way or the other, but they did not lead.

    But I would agree the parties are different, but I don’t think it is uniform. They are different on some major individual issues. I do believe they are much alike when it comes to protecting our major economic players; starting with Wall Street, protecting the Banking Industry, protecting large corporations. From that perspective I think they are much alike.

  29. The Original Larry says:

    C’mon, KHL, you haven’t even read the Wikipedia entry on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for that matter. If you had, you would know that both bills were developed and/or co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans working together and finally passed over the significant opposition of Southern Democrats, again thanks to the cooperation of both parties. Giving the Democrats all the credit won’t wash; Lyndon Johnson was no progressive.

  30. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry, don’t be confused by labels. The types of Republicans who helped pass the Voting Rights act, etc, basically don’t exist within any sort of power structure of the Republican Party of today.
    Pretty much the same thing with those Southern Democrats.

    As Johnson said the passage of the legislation he supported lost the South to the mainstream, much less racist Democratic Party for more than a generation.

    You’re smart enough to understand that, but you just want to score points.

  31. The Original Larry says:

    Not trying to score points, just make them.

  32. Mervel says:

    Each party has their constituent industries. In general, Democrats protect the Banking, Credit Card, Legal, Wall Street Investment banking and insurance industries plus unionized heavy industry, Republicans protect extraction industries such as oil and gas, logging, other mining, also parts of the banking industry, the broader US chamber of commerce members and industries that rely on cheaper labor, however like the Democrats they protect Wall Street Investment banking, they both have that in common.

    That is just the private sector stuff, each have their own public sector supporters.

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