News / USA

    Divisive Election Year Ahead in U.S. Politics

    President Barack Obama smiles during an end-of-the year news conference, Dec. 20, 2013.President Barack Obama smiles during an end-of-the year news conference, Dec. 20, 2013.
    x
    President Barack Obama smiles during an end-of-the year news conference, Dec. 20, 2013.
    President Barack Obama smiles during an end-of-the year news conference, Dec. 20, 2013.
    2013 was a contentious year in U.S. politics, and public approval ratings for President Barack Obama as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress were all down at year’s end.  Political analysts say the prospects for 2014 are not much better, especially since both major political parties will be positioning themselves for midterm congressional elections in November. 

    At the end of 2013, nobody looked good in public opinion polls.  President Obama’s approval rating had fallen to new lows, in large part because of the troubled launch of his signature health care reform law.

    Ratings for Congress and both political parties were also poor.  Democrats were dragged down by the problems with the health care law and Republicans were blamed for an unpopular 16-day government shutdown in October.

    2014 is a congressional election year in the United States, and that holds a measure of risk for President Obama, says John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

    “Certainly the president is falling into the trap that many second term presidents do.  There is divided government.  He is not as popular.  The midterm election doesn’t usually go so well for the president in office in the second term or the first term.  So I think there are some challenges for the president,” said Fortier.

    Obama is hopeful that a bipartisan budget agreement at the end of the year will make 2014 less confrontational.  The agreement came just weeks after a government shutdown that shook public confidence in Washington’s ability to govern.

    “This is not what the American people think is acceptable.  They want us to try to solve problems and be practical, even if we can’t get everything done,” said Obama.

    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.
    x
    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.
    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.
    Republican House Speaker John Boehner also sounded a conciliatory note in the wake of the budget deal.

    “It’s not everything we wanted.  But our job is to find enough common ground to move the ball down the field on behalf of the American people who sent us here to do their work," Boehner said following the budget talks.

    The budget deal has some analysts predicting a less confrontational Washington in 2014, as both parties seek to win back the trust of voters in advance of the November elections.

    But it’s likely that the president’s health care law, which Republicans like to refer to as Obamacare, will remain a point of contention between the two parties.

    The administration is pressing to fix implementation problems with the law - problems that could do political damage to congressional Democrats if they persist close to the November elections.

    Stuart Rothenberg is an independent political analyst in Washington.

    “The problem is, all these Democrats supported and in most cases voted for Obamacare and so they are stuck with this and to the extent to which the president is weakened, the voters tend to say, I am going to send a message to Barack Obama.  He is not on the ballot in the midterm.  The only way they can do that is to vote against Democrats,” he said.

    But Rothenberg is also quick to point out that Republicans remain on the defensive after getting most of the blame for the government shutdown in October.

    “The Republican brand is still terrible.  People think the Republicans made a huge mistake shutting down the government and most Republican strategists will tell you they made a huge mistake.”

    President Obama’s approval ratings of late have been the lowest of his presidency and low presidential approval ratings often signal trouble for the president’s party in midterm elections.

    But Obama remains a potent political force, says analyst Rhodes Cook.

    “The president, regardless of what else he does not have going for him, does have the ‘bully pulpit’ of the White House going for him that commands media attention, commands national attention, and basically can say and do things that force the rest of the government to react,” said Cook.

    The outcome of the November elections could determine whether Mr. Obama will have a chance to enact his agenda in the final two years of his presidency.  All 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be at stake in the election, along with one third of the 100 seats in the Senate and 36 state governorships.  Republicans currently control the House while Democrats hold a majority in the Senate.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora