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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Anti-Incumbent Fever Won't Oust Many Incumbents

If you think about it, all the ingredients necessary for a political explosion are in place: Congress's unfavorable ratings are at record-high levels, and, according to Gallup, its favorable ratings are down to 9 percent (who knew members had so many friends and family?). A large segment of the electorate is furious with Republicans over the shutdown, and a second group is boiling over about Obamacare (or as the White House once again calls it, the Affordable Care Act), with some of that group angry at the substance of the law and some at the launch debacle. Gallup's weekly presidential job-approval ratings for Nov. 11-17 had President Obama's approval at just 41 percent. And to add a cherry on top, an obscure House member (Florida Republican Trey Radel) has pleaded guilty to cocaine possession. You would think that all of this would add up to a highly combustible political situation.

The big problem with this notion is that, for a variety of reasons, the bomb is unlikely to explode. Few members of Congress will face any remotely credible opposition next year, in either the primary or the general election. This has a lot to do with the ...

Voters Don't Want to See Anyone Win

The day after Election Day 2012, the worst fear for many Republicans was that the GOP’s problems—in terms of the overall party brand and its image among minorities, young people, women, and moderates—would not improve. The biggest concern for many Democrats was that their success had peaked with President Obama’s reelection and that it would all be downhill after that, most likely as a result of second-term fatigue. (It’s worth noting that second-term fatigue has plagued almost every second-term administration in modern history; Democrats were correct in worrying that the dynamic would once again come into play.)

Well, a year later, where are we? The Gallup Organization reported last month that the Republican Party’s favorability rating had dropped to 28 percent, down 10 points from the previous month. This is the lowest recorded favorability rating for either party since Gallup started asking the question in 1992. Sixty-two percent of respondents in the October survey viewed the GOP unfavorably. The Republican Party’s favorable numbers have dropped 15 points since the Gallup survey in November 2012, from 43 percent to 28 percent, with unfavorable ratings up 12 points, from 50 percent to 62 percent.

Obama ...

The GOP Still Hasn't Figured Out How to Get On With the Tea Party

Postmortems of odd-year and special elections often suffer from overly broad generalizations that push a particular narrative while overlooking any arguments that get in the way. The instant analyses also tend to suffer from the impulse to extrapolate results and divine great meaning, as if they foreshadow the future. I’ll try to avoid both temptations in offering a few observations about Tuesday’s outcomes.

Was Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli an ideal candidate for the GOP to run in an increasingly purple state? No, but neither was Terry McAuliffe for the Democrats. Cuccinelli was very strong among the most ideological of Republicans, but less so with the old-line Republicans, the members of the establishment and the business community who were uncomfortable with his long-standing and very strong emphasis on social and cultural issues. In the end, these social issues hurt Cuccinelli in the rapidly growing suburbs of Northern Virginia. Conversely, McAuliffe was very strong among the Democratic Party establishment but less popular among the more ideological Left in the party. The 2008 split between supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama is an apt comparison for describing the internal division that McAuliffe faced early on. But liberals’ antipathy ...

Obama's Credibility Is At Risk

President Obama's allies are alternately wincing over, or shaking their heads at, the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its website, as well as disclosures that U.S. intelligence agencies spied on some of our closest allies. Many of the president's supporters are probably wishing they could avoid watching news programs altogether, hoping the damaging reports will just go away. The eavesdropping on the cell-phone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande (the latter heading the only European nation supportive of the initial U.S. plan for airstrikes on Syria) has been particularly hard to defend because it puts the United States (and Obama) in an enormously awkward position.

What makes these problems more troublesome than some other controversies is that they go to the question of Obama's competence, rather than to differences of policy or ideology. On policy disputes, one side may like a decision and the other may dislike it, often resulting in a political wash. However, competence issues cut across the partisan and ideological spectrum, and they can have a real impact on independents and moderates. These voters, who by definition don't look at issues and ...

This Isn't the First Time Obama Ignored Health Care Warnings

An eerie familiarity attends the stories of warnings to Obama administration officials that the enormously cumbersome Affordable Care Act was having significant implementation problems and that the website about to be launched was in danger of crashing. The disclosures are a metaphor for the history of this legislation, one that could be subtitled, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

Let me first digress. To hear the debate over the health care law, you’d think that all Americans either love it and fully believe that it is a terrific and long overdue program, or that they absolutely hate it and are convinced it will destroy most businesses and the U.S. economy. Those two views often tend to correspond with whether people consider themselves liberals or conservatives. Polls, however, suggest that public opinion is not that clear-cut, and that many Americans, about a quarter, have a much more nuanced view of Obamacare. Personally, I find myself in that middle group.

Think back to 2009, when health care costs were skyrocketing at an unsustainable level. Such costs were weighing heavily on businesses’ balance sheets and were a major driver of federal budget deficits and the national debt. The economy would have ...