For all the talk about the historic nature of the 2012 election – the first time a second Democratic president was re-elected within a 16-year span from the previous Democratic incumbent – the year was more a case of history repeating itself.
Barack Obama earned a second term based in large part on his ability to paint his Republican opponent into a negative corner – specifically, $30 million of attack ads in Ohio during the summer portraying Mitt Romney as a job-outsourcer and clandestine overseas banker (here’s an example).
It was a time-honored tactic. Eight years prior, in 2004, then-President George W. Bush likewise got the jump on John Kerry, portraying his Democratic rival as an opportunistic flip-flopper who legislated as he windsurfed – the senator’s views shifting with the breeze (“which ever way the wind blows”).
And how did Bush settle on this strategy? Perhaps by watching Bill Clinton construct an argument for his reelection in 1996 based on the deconstruction of Bob Dole (here’s one such ad) – “Mediscare” becoming an addition to the political lexicon.
It’s one of the two historical quirks Obama, Bush and Clinton share – different presidencies, similar re-election styles. The other being that they’re the first three presidents to consecutively serve two terms since the Jefferson, Madison and Monroe presidencies of 1801-1825.
Will the 2014 midterm election be uniquely historic? Or will it follow a familiar pattern? You can decide by figuring which of these models best applies to this year’s environment.
That would include:
The Backlash. The obvious of the choices in that three of the last five midterms (2010, 2006 and 1994) played out the same: the incumbent’s party paying a heavy congressional price for a policy course that backfired against the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill (we’re leaving out the 1998 midterm – more on that in a moment). In 1994, the source of anger was Hillarycare (plus assorted Clintonian stumbling and bumbling). In 2006, it was an unpopular war in Iraq. In 2010: Obamacare and Democratic overreach. Is 2014 the second straight time that Obamacare comes back to haunt Democrats, or does another factor emerge by November?
Such as . . .