The government shutdown last October was a national nightmare, but it did provide one precious gift to the Democrats: popularity. Most Americans blamed the Republican Party for the shutdown, and its approval rating nosedived: according to an October 22, 2013 survey released by Politico, only a dismal 32% of citizens viewed Republicans favorably at the time. The Democrats were ecstatic, and they were convinced that they could regain the Presidency and both Houses of Congress.
A great deal can change in a few months, however, and especially in politics. For better or for worse, the Republicans seem to be on the rise. According to a poll released by Gallup on January 19, Barack Obama's approval rating stands at a disappointing 40%. This past Thursday, Reuters reported that a substantial 62% of Americans believe that the nation is on "the wrong track." Finally, on January 13, Rasmussen reported that a solid 53% of Americans remain opposed to the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Democrats aren't so confident, and they shouldn't be.
Why have the fortunes of the Democratic Party fallen so quickly? It's because of a number of factors. One is the fact that Democrats have made so many recent missteps. The Affordable Care Act roll-out was, of course, disastrous. Improvements are being made, but not quickly enough to convince the majority of its worth. Currently, the Obama Administration is awash in scandals, such as the NSA debacle. Meanwhile, many Americans are suffering. The economy remains weak, and job growth remains negligible. With all of the recent missteps, it's not surprising that the public is losing faith in the Democrats.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party finally seems to be learning its lesson. In 2013, it put forth four major Tea Party-supported candidates: Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, Mark Obenshain, and Steve Lonegan. All four of these candidates lost. These bruising elections bestowed upon the Republican Party a valuable insight: the Tea Party, with its stridency and obsession with polarizing social issues, is a dud. Increasingly, the Republican establishment is distancing itself from this controversial movement. Finally, it has put such firebrands as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul on tight leashes. They are nowhere near as powerful or as visible as they were in October. The Republican Party now seems to be going back to its roots, focusing more and more on taxes and job creation.
At the same time, the Democrats appear to be headed into disarray. Yes, they are largely correct when they say that Obama inherited many of his problems from George W. Bush. Yes, the deficits and the recession, to a considerable degree, can be pinned on Obama's predecessor. However, Obama has had years to fix these problems, largely to no avail. Millions of once-prosperous Americans now live desperate lives, and no hope seems to be in sight. Much of the malaise can possibly be traced back to the surprisingly conservative Barack Obama. He seems entirely too cozy with Big Business and the Military-Industrial Complex, two vast entities that he had promised to restrain.
Currently, there's not much good news for the Democratic Party. There is the latest NBC/Marist poll that was released this past Wednesday. It shows that Hillary Clinton now leads fellow Presidential contender Chris Christie by a healthy margin, 50% to 37%. That's clearly an improvement. Only a few weeks ago, surveys showed that she was losing the 2016 Presidential Election to him. This good news may be ephemeral as well, though. Right now, Christie looks vulnerable because of a local scandal. However, since there's little evidence that the New Jersey governor was involved in it, his poll numbers should improve shortly and dramatically. Make no mistake about it, Chris Christie will be tough to beat in 2016. He's moderate, he concentrates on bread-and-butter issues like jobs and the economy, he's tenacious, and he's adored by millions and millions of people. Unlike many Republican candidates, he seems to possess "the common touch." Christie is so beloved that he handily won re-election in New Jersey, one of the chief blue states, and he's sure to take many independents away from Clinton. In short, Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrats are facing some hard years. They will not be insurmountable, but they will be hard.