John Judis of The New Republic is one of the advocates (along with Ruy Teixeiria) of the “emerging Democratic majority” thesis based on demographics, and the theory looked pretty good for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And it might well be decisive again in 2016. But it’s also the case that issues matter. In Judis’s election post-mortem today, this paragraph stands out:
Could Obama and the Democrats have avoided the voters’ wrath? I think there was an opportunity to do so in the fall of 2013 when many Americans blamed the Republicans for the shutdown of the government. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll from October 7-9, 2013, Obama’s approval rate was 47 percent and his disapproval rate 48 percent, and registered voters said by 47 to 39 percent that they would prefer that Democrats control the next Congress. By the next poll on December 13, Obama’s approval was at 43 percent and his disapproval at 54 percent and voters now preferred a Republican congress by 44 to 42 percent. A Washington Post poll registered the same trends. The bottom fell out of Obama’s approval and of Democrat prospects for November 2014 sometime in mid-October 2013. What happened during October was the administration’s failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act. That was Obama’s Katrina, and it turned out to be the Democrats’ as well. Of course, the administration subsequently repaired the program, but the political damage was lasting. It occurred at just that time when the issues of the coming election were being defined. Obama’s and the Democrats’ popularity never recovered.