Skip to main content

Should poll give GOP hope for 2014? Not yet

By Timothy Stanley
updated 7:52 AM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tim Stanley: CNN poll shows GOP is now ahead for 2014 midterm elections
  • He says it shows voters react to events, in this case Obamacare snafus, are volatile
  • He says shutdown hurt GOP, but Christie and Virginia race offered some good news
  • Stanley: Obama coalition not inviolable; voters fed up with him and Congress, will shift

Editor's note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain's The Daily Telegraph. He is the author of "The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan."

(CNN) -- A new CNN poll shows that it's back to a toss-up for the 2014 midterms elections. A month ago, Democrats were comfortably ahead 50-42%. Now the Republicans are marginally ahead 49-47%: a 10-point swing in public opinion.

Of course, the figures don't actually tell us who will win the next round of congressional elections, but they do remind us of a fact that escapes short-termist political punditry: Voters react to events and are liable to change their mind. The rise and rise of President Obama's unbeatable rainbow coalition is not a historical inevitability but the product of temporary trends.

To recap, the story a few months ago was that the Republicans had proved themselves incapable of governing wisely and, therefore, of winning elections. By trying to use the shutdown to force a delay in the further implementation of Obamacare, they were accused of putting partisanship before country, of pushing America to the brink of destruction just to humiliate Obama.

Timothy Stanley
Timothy Stanley

Their humiliation when the shutdown ended was shown in polling across all demographics. Eight in 10 voters disapproved of the shutdown, including two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican.

But Democratic triumphalism was short-lived. The latest polling showing a turnaround was prefigured by two election results that showed residual conservative strength. In one, Chris Christie won a massive 2-1 victory that saw him make significant inroads into groups thought to be beyond the right's reach: women, Hispanics and African-Americans. In another, an unpopular ultraconservative Republican, Ken Cuccinelli, lost his gubernatorial race in Virginia but only by a small margin, despite being hugely outspent.

Christie's win was probably driven by his personal appeal to voters, but while only 27 percent saw the health law as the top issue, the outcome of the Virginia contest may well have been influenced by public annoyance over the botched rollout of the Obamacare exchanges. And it would be entirely justified by the trouble with the website and the disappointing discovery that millions could lose their existing coverage in spite of what the President repeatedly -- repeatedly -- told them.

Poll: Obama's approval hits all-time low

In other words, while the public turned against the Republicans over the shutdown, they just as easily - and quickly - turned against the Democrats over health care. Crucially, the health care issue has a more direct impact upon their lives, which means its long-term resonance is likely to be greater. Obama's approval rating is now at its lowest since he took office, which also confirms the scale of the disaffection, and gives hope to the GOP.

The conclusion at the National Journal is that, "Race-by-race polling conducted over the last month has painted a grim picture of the difficult environment Senate Democrats are facing next year."

Of course, this doesn't mean things can't swing back the other way. The key word in all this data seems to be "volatility." Voters are fed up with Congress and disappointed in Obama. Who ends up benefiting from the misery will be down to events and good timing.

Either way, the idea that Barack Obama established a new New Deal coalition in 2012 that can't be broken by conservative politicians is clearly nonsense.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Stanley.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT