Midterm elections: Obama in non-campaign mode and what’s next for GOP

On November 4, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested.

Questions:

1. Many US commentators have pointed out the fact the President Obama is not a big part of elections campaign- Is he really so toxic for Dems, or not and why?

2. We can only guess, but what if the GOP will win the Senate? What would this mean for the rest of Obama’s presidency and for the US political scene in general?

Answers:

Matthew Eshbaugh-SohaAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas

1. This is correct. Presidential approval, somewhat nationally but mainly in a state or district, is a good indicator of whether a Democrat will ask the president to campaign. If he is not popular, then they will not ask (and, indeed, much of this is the candidate asking, not the president just showing up to talk). You see a smattering of contests where the president has campaigned and most of these might be close enough that the president can help mobilize supporters.

Therefore, there is another indicator. Look at the states that Obama won in 2012. Even if he is not so popular overall, if he can mobilize his supporters from 2012 to turnout, they will vote for the Dem. In close races, turnout can make a difference and it may be a small bump in turnout that can make the difference.

2. Political science models say that Reps will take the Senate and I have no reason to believe that they are wrong. If that holds, then the president has some issues. But keep in mind that he really has not had much luck with anything over the previous two years. A Republican senate will affect his appointments; Reps will seek to delay all of his nominees, much as they have (and had until Reid helped to eliminate the filibuster on some nominations). But it also puts pressure on Republicans. They will need to legislate. They might force Obama to veto a lot of legislation (previous those bills died in the Senate before they got to the president). But they have to try to accomplish something and, so, they face an issue between passing legislation that Obama will sign or being representative of their more conservative constituents. It might even be easier for a Dem to win the presidency in 2016, with Obama being able to hammer away at a do-nothing Republican-controlled (both houses of) Congress.

Steffen SchmidtUniversity Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University

1. Obama and the Democrats have done a TERRIBLE job defending their record on the economy and other issues. The republican have hammered away at “Obama’s failed policies” and Obama and the Dems have not responded at all!

1. Today the Dow hit an all time high.

2. The economic growth numbers today are surprisingly strong.” U.S. Economy Growing at a Healthy 3.5% Rate

3. Obama Care is being implemented and millions of Americans have gotten access to healthcare.The entire insurance industry has reengineered itself for the Affordable Healthcare Act.

4. the us is wrapping up its mission in Afghanistan

5. Putin has been put on notice about annexing more Russians.

6. “A surprisingly powerful surge in hiring pushed unemployment to a six-year low of 5.9 percent in September​” Bloomberg

7. The US border has been significantly secured.
But the Democrats have not talked about any of this so instead they are running away from these significant accomplishments and telling Obama not to come to their state. The DNC is a total failure and Obama has done a horrible job educating American public opinion on these and many other accomplishments.

So by default he is a BIG part of this campaign but I believe unjustly so.
2. If the Repubs have a majority of 2 or 3 in the Senate they will control the flow of legislation and will move bills from the house to the senate and vote on them. the democrats will block important bills by threatening filibuster and since the Repubs will not have 60 votes this can become the mother of all gridlock.  Obama will meet with the repub majority leaders and reach  out to them. he will also tell them that if they insist on sending bad bills to him he will veto, and veto and he may become known as Barack the Vetoer.

Richard BenedettoAdjunct Professor of Journalism, School of Communication, American University

1. President Obama is indeed a big part of these elections. While he is not running, most Republicans are trying out that Obama is in charge while all of these problems at home and abroad are getting worse. So they are tying their Democrat opponents to Obama and saying that they (the Democrats) support his failed policies and therefore will continue them if elected. Obama is so toxic that Democrats in tight Senate races don’t even want him to campaign for them. Nonetheless, he is still the Democrats’ chief fund raiser and he has helped them by providing big money for their campaigns. Without that money, things might be worse.

2. A Republican-controlled Senate means four things:

a) Little will get done for next two years unless Obama is willing to compromise, and he shows little sign of wanting to do that.

b) He will try to circumvent Congress by issuing executive orders on such things a immigration and environmental regulation, which will set off serious separation-of-powers fights with Republicans and possible contentious lawsuits and court action.

c) It will be a very noisy and nasty two years.

d) Obama will come under greater pressure to be tougher and more aggressive on foreign affairs, especially since Republicans have criticized in the campaign what they see as as Obama’s weak leadership on the world stage.

Anne Cizmar, Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Eastern Kentucky University

1. ​President Obama is very unpopular right now. Most polls place his approval rating at between 38 and 47 percent. With less than half of the American public approving of the job President Obama is doing, many Democrats are not anxious to be grouped with Obama during this midterm election year. Since he is unpopular, they want to avoid being linked with him. Whether Obama is “toxic” for candidates, though, partly depends upon the candidate and his/her district as well. Some candidates are not saying much about Obama, but because they represent more liberal and Democratic districts/states Obama’s unpopularity is likely to have little effect on them. Others, though, are actively running against the president and his policies because their constituents are particularly opposed to Obama. The important race between incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell and challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky is a good example of this. President Obama is extremely unpopular in Kentucky, and much of the campaign has centered on whether Grimes will be a rubber stamp for Obama’s policies. In a recent campaign advertisement she says “I’m not Barrack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal, and the EPA.” Obama’s unpopularity will certainly play a role in this race. In competitive races that are likely to be decided by a narrow margin, the president’s unpopularity can prevent candidates from picking up the swing voters they need to win.

2. ​If the GOP wins the Senate next week, which currently looks very probable, the U.S. will experience even more gridlock than currently plagues the system. We are in an era of partisan polarization and it is difficult to get things done in Washington. If the Senate also moves to the Republicans, President Obama will not be able to advance any significant legislation in the last two years of his presidency. With the House already controlled by Republicans, passing legislation would be difficult anyway, but the tension between the president and Congress will be exacerbated. Additionally, the Senate is responsible for approving presidential nominees to bureaucratic agencies and the federal judiciary. It is likely that the president will face increased opposition to his appointees.

Michael Heaney, Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies and Political Science, University of Michigan

1. It is true, as you say, that President Obama is not an active part of campaigning in the midterm elections, at least not in most of the competitive races. It is generally true that the party of the president (in this case, the Democratic Party) has a hard time during the midterm election years. One reason for this is that people have grown tired of the president and his agenda in the two years since he was last elected. In President Obama’s case, this is reflected in lower approval ratings, which are now around 42%. Also, people tend to blame the president for things that go wrong, even if that is not the president’s fault. As a result, the presidents often stay away from midterm elections, especially if is in the president’s section term (i.e., year six of an eight year presidency).

2. It seems very likely that the Republican Party will claim control of the Senate. If they do, it will give them a stronger bargaining position and will enable them to enact more of their agenda into law. Their leverage during the budget process will be particularly strengthened. This outcome will likely affect the strategies that President Obama uses to oppose the Republican Party. He will likely need to resort to vetoes much more often than he has up to this point in his presidency. This likely means the the remainder of Obama’s presidency will be more contentious than the past two years have been.

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