Bet against me, please, on GOP Senate control

05/24/2014 7:00 AM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

Jack Craft — my Bistate buddy from the Union Station campaign — is likely to win our lunch bet made last year, for which I would be eternally grateful.

After I predicted in a December column that the U.S. Senate would remain in the hands of the Democrats after the 2014 November midterm elections, Jack was quick to wager his lunch bet — that the Republicans will take control by winning at least six net seats to become a majority.

Since then, Jack, who is a political junkie, has grown even more confident. He now thinks it will be a virtual landslide for Republicans.

I don’t usually like losing bets. But, in this case, I hope I do. The nation needs a strong check-and-balance to America’s devoutly liberal president. If that means more gridlock, so be it. That is a preferable offset to Barack Obama’s agenda, which panders to his very liberal base.

We also need radical revisions in Obamacare, which the Democrats would never touch.

Jack believes the key to Republicans taking the Senate is the strong distaste for Obamacare.

He is betting that the unpopularity of that program will continue to sink Obama’s approval ratings, and, thus drag down Democrats who are linked to the program.

Every poll I have seen bears out Jack’s instincts. Health care is the No. 1 issue with Americans likely to vote. And the health care issue plays into Republicans’ hands.

The fact that 8 million people did sign up for Obamacare; that people with pre-existing conditions or were uninsurable can now buy insurance at reasonable prices; and that young adults up to 26 can be covered by their parents — all of that appears to be dwarfed by a general disgust with the program.

The president’s approval rating is so low — now 40 percent — he likely will drag down his party. If Obama’s unpopularity were not enough, voters tend to punish the party in power between presidential elections.

Jack has another advantage.

The predictable turnout among the young, single women and minorities — all overwhelmingly Democratic voters — is likely to be far less in a midterm election than in a presidential year. These groups, in particular, tend to sit out midterm elections, while older white voters show up in large numbers. And older white folks vote Republican.

So, why did I even make my prediction and bet against Jack in the first place?

First, I honestly thought Obamacare would fade in importance. I never imagined the persistent anger that has welled up across America.

Second, most incumbents hold onto their seats. This time may be different. While incumbents normally have the edge, tying incumbents to Obamacare may be the undoing for incumbent Democrats.

Third, the economy is getting stronger every day. That is no small matter.

But Obama seems to get no credit for this. I thought his popularity would be higher, based on the economy’s improvement.

But, alas, I believe now I was totally wrong.

There is one more elephant in the room — if Obamacare were not enough. It is the lack of passion Democrats have for their president.

A recently released Gallup poll shows Democrats are far less enthusiastic overall than are Republicans.

Says Gallup: “Typically, the party whose support has an advantage in enthusiasm has done better in midterm elections.”

Nate Silver, the expert political statistician and columnist, who correctly predicted every senate race in the 2012 elections, just gave the Republicans a 60 percent chance of taking over the Senate.

If I knew nothing else but that, I would start to make my lunch reservations to host Jack.

My bet does not look particularly strong.

But, as I said, I really can’t lose, even if Jack wins.

Here’s to a delightful lunch at which I will be glad to pay.

To reach Steve Rose, a longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to


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