Will Democrats Repeat Past Mistakes in 2014 Midterms?

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President Barack Obama spoke at a meeting of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Tuesday, and he had difficult words for Democrats going into the Congressional midterm elections. The prognosis could be better. “I’ll say about Democrats, we are really good at presidential elections these days, if I do so myself,” joked Obama. Democrats are similarly good during Senate and House elections in presidential years, according to the president. “It’s something about midterms,” he went on. “I don’t know what it is about us. We get a little sleepy, we get a little distracted. We don’t turn out to vote. We don’t fund campaigns as passionately. That has to change right here, because too much is at stake for us to let this opportunity slip by.”

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According to a January 2014 PewResearch poll, more Republicans are indeed looking forward to elections than Democrats. Overall, 51 percent of the public is looking forward to the midterm election, but 63 percent of Republicans are anticipating the midterms, while only 53 percent of Democrats are saying the same. According to Pew, a similar pattern was seen four years ago in 2010. On top of that, 53 percent of registered voters who were Republican and Republican-leaning were “‘very enthusiastic’ about voting in this fall’s elections,” whereas only 47 percent of Democrats or Democratic leaning voters said the same.

“I hope you come away [from this dinner] understanding the stakes, and feeling the same passion I do about getting this done this year,” said Obama Tuesday. “This year is really, really important.” Considering what could be on the table for legislation this year — immigration, the environment, minimum wage, tax reform — he isn’t wrong to place so much emphasis on Democrat seats in both wings of the legislature. “The last time we had a midterm in a very difficult situation is we were right at the trough of the recession,” he said, referring to Democrats downfall in 2010. “We paid a dear price for not paying enough attention to these midterm elections. We cannot repeat that same mistake this year.”

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Congress has been under serious fire for stalls in its productivity and output of effective legislation — or legislation at all. Both parties are pointing fingers, blaming the lack of cooperation on the other. “After one of the least productive years in Congress’ history, [Republicans] decided they want to do even less [this year],” said Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) in frustration, according to the Washington Post. “The president said his focus is going to be going around Congress instead of working with it,” said Republican Speaker of the House John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), according to the Washington Post. “So we’ve got two options: we can follow the president’s lead and pack it in for the year and just wait for the election, or we can pursue our own vision and continue to present alternatives.”

Frustration has also been building within for Republican party members as well, with Tea Party conservatives at times creating rifts between conservative interests, as seen with Boehner’s blow up over Tea Party criticism of his efforts during the shutdown back in October. “I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think they’ve lost all credibility,” he said at the time. Ultimately, there’s still a solid chunk of time between now and the midterm elections, but the window for change is steadily closing, meaning both parties have challenges ahead of them in coming months.

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