WASHINGTON, October 4, 2014 — Last week, President Obama gave a speech at Northwestern University to lay out the economic achievements of his administration. The intent was to convince voters that they are better off today than they were six years ago, when he was elected. He argued that his policies are on the ballot.
Will that help Republicans win the Senate?
Most polls show that Senate races are close in several key states. In at least three races where the Democratic candidate had at least a chance of winning, Obama’s comments may have doomed their chances.
In Arkansas, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Pryor is in a neck and neck race with Republican Tom Cotton. This is a state that the Democrats could have won. Pryor’s campaign had been showing signs of life as he distanced himself from Obama’s policies, which are unpopular in Arkansas. Because the President has put his policies on the ballot, he may have doomed Pryor’s chances.
In North Carolina, Kay Hagan seems comfortably ahead in the polls. Her race has been a bright spot for the Democrats who are trying to hold onto the Senate. Most of her lead seems to be the result of Republican inability to put her close relationship to Obama on the ballot, even though she has been quoted 24 times as saying that you could keep your doctor if liked your doctor. North Carolina’s GOP chairman recently said, “We need to make the issue more about her and Obama and national policy and foreign policy issues.” The President may have just done that for the GOP.
In Kentucky, Democratic challenger Allison Grimes had a small lead in the polls in the spring, but that lead has vanished; incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell now has the lead. Grimes recently recruited the always popular Bill Clinton to appear in ads for her. That should have given her a boost, but Republicans will use Obama’s comments to make sure that Obama is on the ballot. McConnell’s lead will likely grow.
Even in New Jersey where Democrat Cory Booker is extremely popular in a state which has not elected a Republican senator in more than 40 years, GOP hopeful Jeff Bell may be seeing the gap close. According to most polls, Booker has a double digit lead and has a large campaign fund to spend on expensive advertising in Philadelphia and New York. The Republican party has mostly ignored this race, reasoning that there is virtually no chance of winning. But if Bell can tie Booker to Obama’s policies, things may be different. Obama’s comments may enable Bell to do just that.
Most polls taken in the last week show that the Republicans are likely to have 52 senators after the next election. Some pundits believe that number could be as high as 56 senators. Polls in the next few weeks are likely to show that the Republicans may do even better than that.
Americans realize they are not better off than they were six years ago. The economy added 232,000 jobs last month, but most of the job added recently are low paying or part-time, and the new jobs barely kept pace with the growth of the civilian non-institutional population. The percentage of Americans employed hasn’t budged in four months.
Most people believe that Obama’s economic policies have helped only the bottom 15 percent of income earners while making things more difficult for the rest of us. Ironically the top 10 percent of income earners are doing better than they were six years ago, but that is because of the Federal Reserve’s policies.
The wealthy have gained primarily from the stock market where prices have been pulled up by increased demand from investors who were crowded out of the government bond market because the FED was purchasing virtually all of the government debt for the past three years. They mostly will not vote for Obama because they know he wants to raise their taxes to reduce the perceived problem created by income inequality.
As we get closer to the November 4 election, it is increasingly likely that Republicans will gain control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House of Representatives. While the President may be useful to the party to raise funds from their base, he is toxic on the campaign trail. And every time he tries to change that, things get worse. You simply can’t fool all of the people all of the time.