Seriously, this year could not have gone better for Republicans.
Let’s turn back the clocks 365 days. It’s the end of December 2012 and President Obama has just been handily reelected with Democrats easily retaining control of the Senate. The fiscal cliff is coming up and Democrats have all the leverage. On January 1, all of the Bush tax cuts expire. A few months later, sequestration takes effect. There’s also just been a tragic mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut and the nation is eager to enact new gun laws. Finally, many within the Republican Party are calling for immigration reform after Hispanics voted for Obama in huge numbers.
Most Republican politicians opposed all of these policies. They wanted the Bush tax cuts extended fully, sequestration to be left alone, no new gun laws and no comprehensive immigration reform. Yet, those are all extremely unpopular positions. Americans wanted taxes on the rich to rise, want sequestration repealed, and overwhelmingly support both universal background checks and a pathway to citizenship.
- Democrats were huge winners in the 2012 election.
- They had all of the leverage and momentum entering 2013.
- The policies they proposed had mass popular appeal.
Here’s what happened:
- On the fiscal cliff, Republicans were able to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone making under $US400,000 ($450,000 for families) versus Obama’s campaign promise to raise taxes on everyone making over $US250,000.
- The payroll tax cut expired, the estate tax rose back to 40% and capital gains taxes rose to 20% (from 15%).
- No new gun laws.
- No immigration reform.
- Sequestration was in full effect during 2013.
- The Murray-Ryan budget deal increases spending a bit in the next two years in return for a bit more deficit reduction over the long-term.
- No extension of emergency unemployment benefits.
Republicans received everything they wanted except for a slight increase in taxes on the rich and a slight relaxation of the sequester.
Oh yeah, and they shut down the government for 17 days.
After all of that, you would think that the GOP would have a dismal approval rating. What party can kill that many popular policies and even foolishly shut down the government and still have the support of the American people?
Well, it turns out the 2013 Republican Party did just that.
Here’s the RealClearPolitics poll average for the generic congressional ballot over this year:
As the year ends, Republicans are near their high point. They have a 99% chance of retaining the House and have a good shot at retaking the Senate. For a year in which almost every policy stance they took was unpopular, they’re in pretty good shape for the midterm elections.
Of course, the huge exception here is Obamacare. The main reason why Republicans have not seen their poll numbers crash is the Affordable Care Act. The catastrophic launch of the federal exchange website and Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” lie have vindicated the Republican Party’s steadfast opposition to the law over the past few years. Everything else that has happened in the months before has basically been forgotten.
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