“Are the midterm elections a referendum on the presidency?” Get ready to hear that question posed incessantly on cable news as the 2014 races heat up. The conventional wisdom says the answer to that question is yes. But as Americans vote for their representatives in November, will they really be casting their ballots out of spite or admiration for the president?
Forty one percent of respondents in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll say their vote in the upcoming election is “not a signal either way about Obama.” Twenty-four percent say their vote will be a vote of support for the president, while 33 percent say theirs will be a vote of disapproval. (These numbers were similar to the 2006 midterms, when George W. Bush saw a Democratic turnover in the House.)
So, yes, Obama (whose approval is now at 41 percent) will cast a shadow over the elections this fall. Forty-two percent of respondents said a direct Obama endorsement of a candidate would make them less likely to vote for that candidate. But as the poll reveals, there are other issues weighing more heavily on voters’ minds.
Among Democrats, 81 percent say a candidate’s willingness to raise the minimum wage will make a vote for them more likely; 75 percent say they’d be more willing to support a candidate who will fix the health care law.
Among Republicans, 88 percent say reducing spending will draw their vote, while 70 percent say supporting the health care law’s repeal will do the same.
But an overwhelming majority of both parties — 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Republicans — agree that they want candidates who can compromise with the other side. That might be easier said in a poll than actually done in the voting booth, though. The issues that divide Republicans and Democrats are still polarizing. And, come this November, those issues may be more influential than the shadow of the president.
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President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.
Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures. Related: At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver notes that in 2008, Clinton had a 154-50 superdelegate advantage over President Obama when New Hampshire voted. But “by the time Clinton ended her campaign on June 7, 2008, Obama had nearly a 2-to-1 superdelegate advantage over her,” owing in part to many pledged delegates who switched their support to Obama.
House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).