Something Democrats should keep in mind in trying to understand the opposition as that while we look at the last few election cycles and see massive discontinuity between presidential and midterm elections, many Republicans think of 2012 as a pure aberration in an upward spiral of support for them that reassume its strength in 2014 and is still building steam. At the Washington Monthly I addressed some fresh evidence that’s an illusion:
A lot of Republicans came out of their 2014 landslide fully expecting to keep the party going right into the presidential cycle. There were a lot of reasons to doubt that optimism, from the change to a presidential cycle with less positive turnout patterns for the GOP, to the end of a six-year midterm dynamic that was sure to fade, to an improving economy. But whatever changed, the evidence is growing clearer that the 2014 party’s over. Here’s some relevant data from Pew just out today:
The Republican Party’s image has grown more negative over the first half of this year. Currently, 32% have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 60% have an unfavorable view. Favorable views of the GOP have fallen nine percentage points since January. The Democratic Party continues to have mixed ratings (48% favorable, 47% unfavorable).
Part of the problem is that Republicans themselves are less enthusiastic, which is a bit strange since they are being offered the largest presidential field in recent memory. Perhaps it is the inability to blame Congress’ fecklessness on Harry Reid any more.
Interestingly, despite or because of all the shrieking among Republicans about the world being this terrible place where no American is safe, the GOP advantage on foreign policy has vanished since the last Pew survey on the parties in February, and its advantage on “the terrorist threat at home” has been cut in half. But perhaps most significantly, views of the two parties on economic policy are pretty stable for now.
Any way you slice it, any thoughts by Republicans that the landscape is tilting in their direction in this cycle really come down to the fairly abstract notion of an electorate that thinks it’s time for a change after the Obama administration. If contrary to that notion this turns out to be a “two futures” election in which voters are simply comparing the two parties and their candidates, the landscape just isn’t tilting Right.
There are some “ifs” in that last sentence, but then again, the last really boffo Republican presidential election performance was all the way back in 1988.