A recent advertisement slogan reminds us “life comes at you fast.” In 2008 Barack Obama was swept into office as the 44th President of the United States on a wave of Democratic optimism. Running on a campaign of “Hope and Change” he won nearly 53% of the vote, the largest percentage of the popular vote for a Democrat in nearly half a century. He won 365 electoral votes to John McCain’s 173. Democrats were ascendant and nothing seemed unachievable in their quest to enact their liberal agenda.
But as I write these words in November 2014, for the second time in four years, Republicans have ridden an equally impressive wave to capture control of both Houses of Congress in the mid-term elections. There have always been ups and downs in the fortunes of political parties but rarely have we seen such a dramatic change in so little time.
The principle explanation for this dramatic change of political fortunes can be attributed to President Obama’s “signature legislation” – ObamaCare.
A careful analysis of the 2010 mid-term elections conducted by five political scientists revealed at least 25 members of Congress lost their seats in Congress because they voted for ObamaCare. Such a sophisticated analysis took 17 months after that election was over, so it’s much too soon to report on the impact of the 2014 mid-term elections. But the evidence is quickly mounting that ObamaCare was also responsible for the huge victories Republicans enjoyed in 2014.
Chris Conover, writing in Forbes, suggests five reasons ObamaCare played an important role in this election:
- First – Public opposition to the law actually was slightly stronger in November 2014 than it was in November 2010. The Real Clear Politics average of polls can be seen in Figure 1 below:
Figure 1: Real Clear Politics average of polls and the polls separately.
The RCP average shows nearly 52 percent opposed with 38 percent in favor of ObamaCare. The Gallup poll shows as much as a 19-point difference with 56 percent opposed and 37 percent in favor. The historical trend of ObamaCare disapproval can be traced on the graph illustrated below in Figure 2.
Figure 2 clearly shows the trend is getting worse for ObamaCare. Rather than growing in popularity, as then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi famously predicted, ObamaCare is gaining opposition. Despite economist Paul Krugman’s claims to the contrary, the law is failing.
Figure 2: Real Clear Politics average from 11/27/09 to 11/21/14
- Second – ObamaCare is a deciding issue among those voters who are most passionate about voting. A recent survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (POS) for Independent Women’s Voice revealed this before the election.
- Third – Exit polls confirmed this survey with 49% indicating they thought ObamCare “went too far”. (25% thought it did not go far enough; 21% thought it was “about right”.) Of those who thought the law went too far, 84% voted Republican and only 14% voted Democrat.
- Fourth – Every new Republican member of the U.S. Senate promised to “repeal and replace ObamaCare”. This issue probably was the swing issue in closely contested races in North Carolina, where Senator Kay Hagan defended the law, and Virginia, where Republican Ed Gillespie nearly pulled off the upset of the night by offering a credible, detailed alternative to ObamaCare.
- Fifth – Even with two elections undecided, Republicans now hold 31 governorships, just one less than their historical record. The campaign pledges of Republicans regarding Medicaid expansion seem to have been crucial. Even The New York Times concedes: “the election results did not replace any expansion-opposing governors with expansion advocates.”
The Republican wave of this election has achieved historical gains. The GOP now controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers – the highest in the history of the party. They have majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time since the 109th Congress of President George W. Bush and the largest margin of control since 1929. As George Will said on Fox News recently, “Barack Obama is the greatest builder of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan.”