“The Sunday Political Brunch” by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

 Twitter:  @markcurtisABC6  

 email: mcurtis@abc6.com  

(Providence, Rhode Island) – The 2014 election is now just under a month away and a lot is at stake. For months I have been handicapping some of the major races in the Senate, House, and Governorships. Today I thought I’d take a look at some actual issues, and assess which party might have the advantage. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” – The latest unemployment rate may be good news for incumbents of all parties. The rate dropped on Friday to 5.9 percent, the lowest level since 2008. Republicans are likely to hold the House, and even make modest gains, so you are likely to see them tout their leadership. The same may be true for Democrats who rule the Senate – and perhaps might be enough to keep control there from slipping to the GOP.
The White House will want to claim credit, but with President Obama termed out, the benefit to him may be nil. I’ll rate it as a slight advantage for Republicans; very slight.

“Overall Economy” – Despite the good unemployment news, public confidence is not high. The unemployment rate can be skewed by people who simply gave up looking for jobs, and are not counted in the true jobless numbers. Unemployment among minorities is usually double or triple the overall national rate. Polls indicate the majority of the public feels the nation is still going in the wrong direction. Again, I would rate this as a slight advantage Republican, but only through this election cycle. If things don’t improve significantly by 2016, Democrats may gain lots of leverage from an impatient public.

“Abortion” – As with many social issues, this no longer is a front-burner priority, unless a candidate tries to make it so and the results can be dicey. Roe v. Wade is now a Supreme Court decision that is almost 42 years old. Even a lot of Republicans are pro-choice these days. There just isn’t a lot of stomach out there in the heartland to make this the top-tier issue it once was. Advantage – Democrats.

“Gun Control” – Two years ago after the horrible Sandy Hook School killings in Connecticut, there was a lot of clamor for new gun control measures at the federal, state, and even local level. But, little has been accomplished legislatively. Just like pro-choice forces have an iron grip on the abortion rights issue; gun owners’ rights groups hold a similar grip on the Second Amendment. Advantage – Republicans (and moderate-to-conservative pro-Second Amendment Democrats, too).

“Foreign Affairs” – On the downside, White House relations with Israel have been a sore spot. On the bright side, the President has convinced reluctant allies such as France to help on the ISIS mission, and has at least five Arab countries backing the effort, too. The U.S. is giving highly visible help to the Ebola situation in Africa. But a foreign relations is – at best – a thin and fragile piece of glass that can fracture at the slightest jolt. Right now the advantage is with Democrats but ask me again in ten minutes and I may have a different answer.

“National Defense & Terrorism” – It’s been a mixed bag for the Obama Administration.  Yes, it ordered the successful strike that took out Osama bin Laden, but then there was the threat of military action against Syria that never came. And when it came to ISIS, at first the President said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” National defense is a “what have you done for me lately” proposition. If the current strikes on ISIS are plentiful and successful, this could be a big boost for Democrats at the eleventh hour. But if beheadings and terrorist attacks persist, the Democrats may wave good-bye to control of the U.S. Senate. Now, I always hate to put life-and-death matters in the context of political advantage, but as I always say, every policy initiative has a political consequence. Right now – advantage Republicans.

“Health Care” – Despite all of the back and forth over Obamacare, the real long-term consequences of that legislation have yet to be felt. The website sign-up fiasco has long faded from the headlines, and, so too, have the horror stories about people losing their doctors. If the issue stabilizes – pardon the medical pun – the advantage may be with Democrats. But as many suspect, the real “cancerous” consequences could be further down the road and that’s when the political fallout may resume. Right now, the issue is neutralized pending further prognosis. Advantage – no one.

“Trust in Government” – The White House looks bad over the recent security breaches at the Presidential home, as well as the continuing IRS scandal. Republicans look stubborn over the inability to craft a significant compromise bill on Immigration Reform, and the repeated efforts to repeal Obamacare even though they knew well enough in advance that they did not have enough votes in the Senate, (in other words, time wasted). The federal government looks like a car driving on two tires that is stuck in a ditch. Advantage – no one!

Who do you think has the upper hand going into the 2014 midterm election? To post your thoughts, just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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