Americans are anything but ecstatic about the work being done on Capitol Hill. Congress’s overall job approval rating is at only 15 percent, the lowest in March of any midterm year, according to Gallup.
In fact, 2014 is the only example in modern times of a midterm election in which there is a divided Congress and a Democratic president. There have been three midterm elections in which a divided Congress faced the voters under a Republican president: 1982 and 1986 with Ronald Reagan, and 2002 with George W. Bush.
The 1986 midterms may seem most similar to this year's elections -- the Republicans, under a second-term Reagan, held a small majority in the Senate and many of the vulnerable Senate Republicans had been elected in Reagan's 1980 landslide presidential victory. Reagan was far more popular than Obama at this point in his presidency; his approval rating in March 1986 was in the 60s, compared with Obama's ratings in the mid-40s. Yet despite Reagan's robust approval rating, his party suffered a net loss of eight seats and control of the chamber, which can't be reassuring for Democrats today.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently wrote he is very concerned about losing control of the Senate. “The Koch brothers are buying our elections,” he claimed, “Without your support, they’ll succeed in kicking Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall.”
The GOP only needs a net gain of six seats to claim majority control. They also have a pretty good chance of accomplishing it, according to Reuters:
Democrats have faced an uphill battle in Senate races from the start of the political cycle. Of the 35 Senate seats up for election, 21 are held by Democrats and 14 by Republicans, so Democrats have more seats to defend.
Beyond that, those Democrats include Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan in North Carolina, who represent conservative states where Obama and Obamacare are particularly unpopular.
The top challengers to all four have raised significant campaign cash, and outside advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, already have spent millions of dollars on ads attacking the senators for backing Obamacare.
With control of the Senate teetering, it is no wonder Reid is desperate to patch the bruises Obamacare has brought on the Democratic party. The fact remains that despite Obamacare's overwhelming promotion to everyone from hipsters and frat bros to geeks and mothers, 57 percent of Americans still oppose it. Is it really so hard to sell a good product? No wonder Reid is starting to sweat.
One thing is certain: if Republicans can take over the bicameral legislature this fall, Obama will find his bills and nominations face a far more critical crowd.