In a perfect world, Democrats would love to the 2014 midterm elections to be all about the economy.
But in 2014, the world has been far from perfect. And Democrats say it’s hard to grab the public’s attention and focus it on a slowly improving economy with crises popping up at home and abroad.
“August was Ebola. It was ISIS. It was Ukraine,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told a small group of reporters Monday morning. “Global issues dominated. And in September, those issues continued to dominate. And so, part of the headwind was it did make it a little more difficult for us to break through on those middle-class economic contrasts when people were so focused on global issues.”
Friday’s jobs report was the latest promising signal that the economy is gaining momentum heading into the fall. President Barack Obama has also touted the slowly-but-surely improving US economy, most prominently during what the White House billed as a major economic address at Northwestern University last week.
But polls suggest many Americans aren’t feeling the economic recovery in their own pockets, something Israel acknowledged Monday and Obama admitted last week.
A recent survey released by the Pew Research Center found that overall, Americans are still pessimistic about the economy. Overall, 56% of Americans say their incomes are “falling behind” the cost of living, which is about the same number who said so during the height of the financial crisis in October 2008. And nearly half — 45% — say they have gone through at least one financial hardship in the past year, such as a job layoff, an inability to pay for healthcare, or trouble with a collection agency.
When asked by Business Insider if there were specific factors he points to as the reason many Americans aren’t personally experiencing economic recoveries, Israel said a good part of it came from the atmosphere of global crises over the past two months.
Last week, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of Ebola within the country, a story that grabbed leading headlines nationwide. Since the US launched airstrikes in Iraq in early August, meanwhile, Americans have been focused on the fight to combat the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State, and also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Israel said the key to electoral success was getting Democrats’ economic message through the rest of the noise.
“Voters intuitively know that Democrats have the backs of the middle class,” he said. “And Republicans support the special interests. And if they believe that the special interests are getting ahead faster than they are, they’re going to vote for Democrats. Our imperative is to make sure that that message is amplified in our battleground districts. And when it is, we’re competitive.”