Public Opinion Strategies, a Washington political shop, produced a chart last week that got much of the political press buzzing. The chart compared polling questions during incumbent friendly elections and, as they put it, "shellackings." Their data suggests 2014 will be a shellacking for the Democrats. But, contrary to what many say, it will not be a landslide at the federal level.
In October 1994, when the Republicans rode a wave of anti-Democrat sentiment to Washington, 30 percent more Americans thought the nation was on the wrong track than the right track. In 2006, when the Democrats came back, 27 percent more Americans thought the country was on the wrong track than the right. In 2010, it was a 29 percent difference. In April of 2014, 39 percent more people think the nation is on the wrong track than the right track.
In 1994, 1 percent more Americans thought President Clinton was doing a good job than a bad job. In 2006, 18 percent more Americans thought President Bush was doing a bad job than a good job. In 2010, President Obama's approval deficit was at 5 percent. Now it is at an 8-point deficit.
Among white voters, who will be a key demographic in 2014, President Clinton had a 9 percent deficit in approval in 1994. Bush had a 15 percent deficit in 2006. President Obama had a 19 percent deficit in 2010. He now has a 27 percent deficit. In other words, 27 percent more Americans think President Obama is doing a bad job than a good job.
In 1994, the President's party lost 53 seats at the federal level. In 2006, that number was 30. In 2010, that number was 63. In 2014 there will be no landslide.
There will not be a landslide because many of the gains the Republicans could make were made in 2010. They won the House of Representatives solidly.
Republicans will most likely capture the Senate in 2014, but most likely by less than a dozen seats. That could arguably be considered a landslide given that only 33 seats are in play. This, by the way, is where white voter dissatisfaction with the President comes into play. Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies notes that "there are a number of key Senate races where the percentage of white voters could be in the high-70s or higher." Those states include Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and New Hampshire, among others.
But gerrymandering has made a House landslide largely impossible at this point. Most all the Democrats who remain are in safely Democrat seats. The Republicans are in safe Republican seats. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post recently noted there are only nine seats held by Democrats, where Mitt Romney won the popular vote in those congressional districts.
The real landslide for the Republicans could come at the state and local level. In 2010, the Republicans saw a historic shift in their direction in state, county and municipal elections around the country. Some estimates from 2010 were that the sweep of the GOP at all levels had not been seen since the late 1800s.
Seats at the state and local level are again in play. Gubernatorial seats won by the GOP in 2010 are in play again and Republicans are pretty confident they will hold them. Democrats are not as confident. A number of state legislative seats around the country that went for the Republicans in 2010 flipped back to the Democrats in 2012. Those seats could very easily flip back to the Republicans now.
Then there are states like Georgia and Texas. The Democrats have been waiting for those states to change racially and ethnically. In the past year, they thought 2014 would be the year those states finally turn purple. But with a disastrous gubernatorial candidate in Texas and a dysfunctional state party in Georgia, the Democrats may wait longer.
There will be no landslide at the federal level in 2014. But in the states may just see a seismic shift to the GOP.