Under-motivated Democratic base makes incumbents very nervous

 

By Dave Andrusko

White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod

White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod

In President Obama’s ever-growing you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up category, former White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod, appearing on “Meet the Press,” told host Chuck Todd it was a “mistake” for the President to say in a speech last week, “I’m not on the ballot this fall. But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”

(Appearing on the same program Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said, “The president said that his policies are on the ballot. If Barack Obama is on ballot and his policies are on the ballot, it’s going to be a pretty bad year for Democrats.”)

But getting back to Axelrod’s mistake characterization…. ah…why? Reading the transcript, as best I can tell, it was a mistake because it took attention away from the “real” issues—i.e., anything that does not poll horribly for the President (and by extension) Democrats running this fall. Axelrod was followed up by reporters such as NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell who then dutifully parroted the party line.

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Okay what else new about the President and the November elections? A very interesting piece in this morning’s Washington Post, written by Aaron Blake comparing Republican prospects under President George W. Bush in 2006 with Democratic prospects under President Obama in 2010 and 2014. Blake writes

“We like to talk about how the 2010 election was a rebuke of Obama and the 2006 election was a rebuke of President Bush. And 2014 is looking more and more like both of them.

“But where 2014 starts to look more like 2006 is when you dig a little deeper and find that it’s not just a motivated opposition; it’s also about the president’s depressed base of support.”

What is Blake saying? When it comes to the percentage of the opposition party saying their vote is in opposition to the President (Bush in 2006, Obama in 2010 and 2014), there’s not much difference in the last three mid-term elections. But

“Where 2006 and 2014 are a little different, though, is in the president’s base. In 2010, 45 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said their votes would be in support of the president; in both 2006 [under Bush] and today, that number was below 40 percent for the president’s party (39 percent in 2006 and 38 percent in 2014).”

Thus, using Gallup numbers as his base, Blake argues it’s not so much that Republicans are especially motivated to vote against Obama (dubious, but defensible), it’s that Obama’s own base is unmotivated. Moreover

“And that’s arguably even more troubling for Democrats in 2014 than it was for Republicans in 2006, because Democrats’ voter base is much more prone to drop off in midterm elections.”