President Obama has an idea on how to overcome the unprecedented obstruction in Congress: Take back the House.
Speaking at a fundraiser in Chicago Wednesday night, the president said, “We’ve got a great chance of taking back the House. And I’m going to be working tirelessly wherever I get the opportunity to make the case to the American people that our ideas are the right ones.”
Taking back the House has been a preoccupation of the president’s since he was re-elected. He reportedly committed to helping congressional Democrats by both fundraising and recruiting candidates. That was before several “scandals” began swirling around his administration, but in Chicago, he seemed fully committed to the effort — perhaps because he knows sticking with the current House leadership will resign him to dealing with manufactured crisis after manufactured crisis for the rest of his presidency.
Of course, before Democrats can worry about winning back the House — which is gerrymandered to keep Republicans in power unless they lose by a margin greater than 7 percent — they have to worry about holding on to the Senate, where they are defending seven vulnerable seats. But a recent poll showed Democrats leading Republicans by 8 points and the president — whether by optimism or necessity — is looking past the Senate to the dream of a functioning Congress.
“Do not buy into this notion somehow that, oh, these problems are too big or Washington is broken,” Obama said. “Washington is not broken. It’s broken right now for a particular reason, but it’s not permanently broken. It can be fixed.”
Here’s how he could fix it.
AP Photo/Chicago Tribune, Zbigniew Bzdak, Pool
The Economy Keeps Improving
The economy grew at a rate of 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2013. That’s not a great result, and certainly could have been better if not for the sequester. But this is good news for Democrats in the Senate, says Amy Walter of The Cook Report:
Good economic times are good for incumbents. After all, voters are more apt to look for change in tough times than they are in good ones. Significant economic anxiety contributed to the “wave” elections of 2008 and 2010. In 2012, the economy improved just enough to help President Obama win re-election.
This year, Americans’ confidence in the economy is as strong as it’s been in years. If that continues, it would probably mean a status quo cycle; which is the best that Democrats could hope for.
Of course, this would also help incumbents in the House. But even if the economy is improving and voters have the sense that House Republicans are focusing on politically motivated investigations at the expense of job creation, voters could still punish them.
Republicans Run Terrible Candidates
YouTube preachers and Tea Party firebrands make for great AM radio guests, but if Republicans continue the trend of giving away easy wins by running wacky candidates, they’ll never win the Senate. The National Journal‘s Josh Karsushaar reports that the party is having a hard time recruiting viable candidates to compete in swing states. “It’s awfully telling that Republican Senate candidates have already lined up in many of the deeply conservative states up for grabs, but there’s comparably little movement elsewhere,” he writes.
AP Photo/Steve Helber
Obamacare Brings Lots Of New Voters Out
This is the real wildcard. Republicans have always imagined that Obamacare implementation would be a goldmine for them. The Cook Report‘s Walter believes that how voters feel about the president’s signature accomplishment will depend a lot on the economy.
But beyond the effectiveness of the marketplaces and the other reforms, Medicaid expansion could have unpredictable consequences. Millions of Americans who could be getting subsidized health care will be denied it, thanks to Republican governors and legislatures turning down the federal government’s offer to fund an expansion of Medicaid.
The states that accept the expansion will see millions flow into their economies and hundreds of thousands of working families covered for the first time. But in the red and purple states that refuse the expansion, hundreds of thousands of residents will remain uninsured. And of course, the uninsured will be disproportionately black and Latino.
What if these residents show up at the polls in record numbers? What if voters who recognize their state is paying for but not seeing the benefits revolt? What if even poor white voters decide that they shouldn’t vote against their own interests?
The president’s party rarely picks up seats in off-year elections, but Obamacare could create a “once-in-a-generation” event.
The Obama campaign machine was geared up in 2012 for one goal: re-electing the president. But what if it could use its fundraising prowess and technological precision to microtarget down to the House districts and sway the next election?
Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Joshua Green explains:
For all its acclaim, the analytics team’s main achievement is often misunderstood as “microtargeting” or some variant on wooing voters. This reverses the relationship between campaign and voter at the heart of Wagner’s method. Recent campaigns have employed a top-down approach to identify what they thought were vital demographic groups such as “soccer moms.” Wagner’s team pursued a bottom-up strategy of unifying vast commercial and political databases to understand the proclivities of individual voters likely to support Obama or be open to his message, and then sought to persuade them through personalized contact via Facebook, email, or a knock on the door.
This technology is in its infancy and improvements could shake the fundamental premise of “safe seats.”
Photo: DCMatt via Flickr.com
The Exodus From The Republican Party Continues
That red line is the percentage of adults who identify with the Republican Party, and that dive is extraordinary if not unprecedented. Today 5 percent fewer adults identify with the GOP than in November, 2012 when President Obama won his second term in an electoral landslide. Democratic identification is down just over 1 percent. While the GOP can still win over the growing number of independents, the fact that their ranks are being purified means that extremists will have an even easier time of winning primaries.